My Zero (advice for photographers)

I have received a lot of e-mail from other photographers asking how I achieve my style. I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to explain my inspiration and shooting philosophy. I wish I could spout off a handy list of tips and tricks, but I'm afraid it's much more complicated than that.

If I could offer ONE tip, I would say shoot what inspires you. Find your voice as an artist. Keep shooting and experimenting until you feel yourself swooning through the viewfinder.

To help you understand how I discovered my style, I'd like to introduce you to an artist who has inspired me.

Several months ago I stumbled upon a collection of portraits from Henri Cartier-Bresson. He was a french photographer from 1930s to the 1960s.

His work seems effortless and candid. His photos are timeless and I was very inspired by his work. Every single photo tells a story. (Like this portrait that is going for $19,000 right now. Dang!)

The foreward of this book explained a little about Cartier-Bresson's photography philosophy. He believed people should be photographed at their "zero." Natural and not posed.

I have thought a lot about this idea of shooting people at their "zero" and why it's so much harder than shooting posed photographs.

Think about it. When someone pulls out a camera, what do we do? We sit up straight, we hide parts of us we might think are unflattering and we give our practiced camera smile. No WONDER it looks fake. It IS fake! Breaking people out of this mode is SO hard. It makes people feel vulnerable and requires a tremendous amount of trust. And it requires PERFECT timing.

Cartier-Bresson said, "There is a creative fraction of a second when you are taking a picture. Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera. That is the moment the photographer is creative," he said. "Oop! The Moment! Once you miss it, it is gone forever."

I keep the "zero" philosophy in mind every single time I pick up my camera. "Your life, through my lens" isn't just a catch phrase. It is my shooting philosophy. It is what inspires me.

(sometimes it backfires on me. Every time I point the camera at my husband he yells, "zero!" and gives me a serious face usually accompanied with nostril flare.)

This is the only pic I have where I feel like I am at my "zero". We were driving home from the beach. My boys were chattering in the backseat, my husband and I were taking in the North Carolina coastline, and I started to feel the prickle of a sunburn on my cheeks.
I was happy.
No make up, sandy hair, and my big roman shnoz front and center.

But you know what? It's ME.

Please keep in mind, you might be inspired by something totally different. You might love the elaborate set up and post processing of Nichole Van, or the urban, stylized photos from Angie Monson.

Whatever it may be, find your voice and stay true to it.

I would love to hear your feedback, and keep the questions coming!


Easiest 20 Minutes (Durham Children's Photographer)

of my life.

Either Iris is the most smiley little girl I've ever met, or I am hilarious. (okay, okay. she smiles like this for everyone.)
Either way, it's a win-win. She is edible-y adorable.


Utah Session Schedule

Okay. We have finally hammered out our Utah trip schedule, and we are beyond excited. I can't wait to see everyone!

Sessions are 25 minutes long and include a full resolution disk of ALL of the images from your session.

Session fee (includes disk): $250

The first day of sessions will be on:

Saturday June 5th:

Mini "Day in the Life" sessions: (I have had a lot of people ask about these sessions. If you would like a full session, PLEASE let me know.)
10:00 *booked
1:00 *booked

Evening Mini Sessions at Wheeler Farm
5:15 *booked
5:50 *booked
6:25 *booked
7:00 *booked
7:35 *booked

Claim your time while they last! I will be crossing off times as I get comments and e-mails.

(St. George, I'm coming your way, but my trip there depends on when my sister goes into labor. As you can see, that's pretty tough to plan around. :) If you're interested and have a flexible schedule, we might be able to work something out!)


Kaylee: Age 2

Could she be any cuter?
Shooting in JPEG instead of RAW is rocking my world.
These pictures are straight out of camera (and resized for web), people!


Claire (Durham Newborn Photographer)

Sweet, sweet Claire.

10lbs of chubby goodness. Between hiccups, peeing, and eating combined with a tight shooting schedule, we only got about 30 minutes of actual shooting time. It turns out 30 minutes was all we needed. She is beautiful.


Birth Story Models Needed!

my pretty sister.. shot with my old Rebel
Hello everyone,

I'm on the lookout for more birth story models. My last one didn't work out because the momma's labor went so fast.

(For the record, I will GLADLY sacrifice photographing your babe if it means your labor is quick and easy!)

Models get the session fee waived ($150), and a $25 gift print.

I promise we will make those hospital gowns look good! :)

And if you decide to get pregnant JUST so I can shoot your birth, I promise I will give you a spectacular gift. In 9 months.


I need one more "Day in the Life" model as well. (Session booked, thanks for the interest!)

Spread the word, and I'll love you forever!


Composition 101

I talk too much.

I blame it on being the youngest in a family of 9. (When hanging around 6 loud, funny, crazy siblings, one learns to speak up in a crowd.)

Fortunately, for me (unfortunately for everyone else), my body takes the energy of a group and multiplies it exponentially until I'm a complete spaz. Consequently, I usually wake up the morning after a girls' night feeling the need to call everyone and apologize.

Also, my brain lacks a filter. You know.. the filter that sorts out stories that might be inappropriate, uninteresting, or not relevant? Yeah.. I'm pretty sure mine is gone.

For example, someone might be talking about having trouble with their cell phone plan, and I'll launch into a story about the time I answered the phone like Chewbacca when Aaron's prospective boss was calling him about a job interview. (He got the job.. don't worry.)

You can imagine my feelings about teaching. I LOVE it. Really. But I'm always worried that the thrill of it might send me over the crazy edge.

This week I taught a composition 101 class for a youth group from my church. I'm happy to report that it was all fun, with no crazy attached. It was thrilling, actually. Watching the girls GET IT when I was talking about good light vs. bad light was priceless.

I didn't touch these pics in photoshop. Good light doesn't need to be fixed!!
So watch out, world. More photo classes to come.

I absolutely loved it.


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All images by Melissa E Photography are protected under copyright law. Reproductions of any kind are strictly prohibited. Melissa E Photography reserves the right to use images for display, publication and promotional purposes of its business. All images remain the property of Melissa E Photography.

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