Why Summer is the Best Time for Family Portraits!

It’s summer! The days are long, the nights are warm, the kids are relaxed and maybe even the parents are feeling a little more calm without the after-school rush to multiple activities.

It’s the perfect time to plan your holiday portraits!

Sounds crazy doesn’t it? But did you ever think about scheduling family portraits during the summer?

I can immediately name 4 good reasons to do so:

  1. Everyone is home!  Many families are contacting me right before Thanksgiving trying to schedule a session in that small block of time when the kids are home from college. Why not celebrate your time together (and think about grandparents and cousin visits too!) and send them back to school knowing that the Holiday picture box is checked.
  2. You all have that “just back from vacation” look and feeling. Whether it’s just the school break, or you have returned from a week at the beach, that summer break feeling usually results in a less stressful session and makes for relaxed, happy expressions.
  3. Options…Options! I can photograph in the studio throughout the day  – so no one needs to know it was summer when the pictures were taken if that matters to you – But why waste the beautiful greenery and flowers that abound  in one of our many beautiful parks and gardens,  or the modern look of an urban setting. And with the luxury of the late setting sun in the summertime, no one needs to leave work early to catch the “golden hour.”
  4. Check that off your List!  We all know how crazy it gets in those brief fall and winter months, so let me help you take one thing off your list. My schedule is more open in the summer too (except for my two weeks in Cape Cod – but I’m open to photograph there as well if anyone is longing for some beach shots) when I’m not photographing seniors, and the corporate sessions are on hold until all are back from vacation. I love that feeling of “done that task, let’s relax at the holidays” and I’m sure you do too!

This is Carolyn

Regretfully, I have not been keeping up with writing my blogposts about women I photograph who inspire me. This was a commitment I made back in 2018, when I took a deep breath and wrote a very personal blog, This is Me.  In this post, I described how I felt turning 50, pursuing my passion in portrait photography, my commitment to my health, and my desire to meet and profile people around me who inspire. Back then I stated that I have the opportunity in my career to meet many women who have courageously embarked upon a new career later in life, have found their life’s purpose in helping others, and in general whose spirit and spark drive me to be a  better person. However, as much as I try to keep to a schedule, life gets in the way – and although I met (and photographed) an abundance of inspiring women, I have sadly allowed other tasks get in the way of writing these posts.

If one person could bring me back to documenting and sharing her profile, Carolyn is the one. I have known Carolyn as a friend for over 10 years, as a mother in the community, a parent of children my own kids’ ages, a kind and gentle soul who taught preschool had a massive group of little children in  town who worshipped her.  We used to run together in the mornings, and I loved to hear little stories about the children, and could tell that she cared about the welfare and felt responsibility for every little soul that came into her classroom.

One day, Carolyn announced that she was going to start training in yoga therapy. I had heard other moms talk about that before. We dabbled in this or that, yoga was a little trendy and fun activity. But as I learned about Carolyn, she doesn’t go partway on anything. She strategically planned out the next 5+ years of her life, incorporating her 1,000-hour yoga therapy certification while continuing to teach preschool.  Once she completed her training, she was ready to embark upon her new passion and business of Heart Tree Yoga.

I had a Personal Branding Session with Carolyn earlier this year and I got to see first hand, her studio, how she works with clients, and her extreme dedication to helping people find greater ease of movement, balance, stability and strength through personalized  yoga therapy. I also experienced her desire to be authentic as she commented on the fact that she was growing out her grey and was fine showing that to the world.

It fills me with joy to see these images on Carolyn’s website because I felt that I really was able to capture her gentle soul, her intense desire to help others, and her general joy and appreciation of life and nature.

But what got me to sit down, write this post and share it with the world, was a facebook post I saw that Carolyn had just written about her “Hello Station.”

While it doesn’t surprise me that she wrote it and will be doing what she said she would, I know that it is a stretch for her – emotionally and physically (9am-8pm!), so with her permission, I am going to copy the post in her own words – because, it is emblematic of the type of person she is, and why she was my next logical inspirational portrait session:

My Hello Station

Heads up: This is going to be a fairly long post. I really hope you will read it anyways.

Six years ago when I turned 45-years-old I did something that for me felt a little far-fetched and out of my comfort zone. I invited anyone who might like to come to a free yoga class at the community center to raise money for Crisis Link. I was a new yoga teacher at the time.

This Wednesday I turn 51. (Last year I was in Canada when I turned 50- so this sort of nutty thing wasn’t possible.)

Recently, I’ve been thinking about human connection. As background, this sort of thing happens with me fairly frequently: I’ll be out somewhere and I will see a stranger and the thought will pass through my mind – “I wish I could have a conversation with that person.” It will just be that there is something in them that draws me to them. For example, this past week as I drove along I saw a woman walking with her family, crossing the street and the thought came – “wow, that woman has so much vibrancy in her.” A little later I was walking out of a coffee shop and I saw her again, sitting outside. I started to head to my car – but then I stopped, turned, walked up to her and said, “I don’t know if you have strange people coming up and saying strange things to you very often, but earlier I saw you walking along with your family as I was driving past and this thought passed through my mind – ‘Wow, that woman has so much vibrancy in her.’” When I shared the story, the woman smiled and thanked me. It was a lovely moment – connecting to another human being and speaking truth.

So, I was sitting in meditation yesterday and this thought crossed my mind – “you should set up a Hello Station.” Huh?

And there it was. My out-of-the-ordinary, totally random, far-fetched and out-of-my-comfort zone idea for being 51. So here I go.

This Wednesday, I’m going to set up a small table along the bike trail, near Church Street and the red caboose. It will simply have a sign that says The Hello Station. I’m going to sit there and if you are around, please stop by for a hello, handshake, hug, or even a holler. I think of it as a social experiment. I’m hoping that strangers and friends alike will wander by and stop- that I’ll get to meet new people and catch up with folks I know. What I think will be interesting is noticing how it feels to be there – doing something totally random and vulnerable. (And for those wondering, I have cleared this with my boys. They already accept their mom, strange as she is. God love them.)

Why am I doing this? In some ways, I have no earthly idea. LOL. People who may have always thought I was a bit random will completely think that even more than before. Yet, the thing is, I want to continue to be random as I get older. I want to open myself up to human connection and off-the-wall ideas when they come from my heart. And connection—human connection—is really why I think we are here.

If you are around, please come by for a Hello on Wednesday. I’ll be there 9am-8pm. Whew. That is a long time. This is going to be a challenge, but a good one.

 

Thanks Carolyn, for reminding us of the human connection and why we are here on earth.

My 2018 in Review

For portrait photographers, it’s hard to wrap up the year before the year is over. I was taking family portraits right up until the new year!

But January is my time to breathe. To reflect and to plan for the next year.

Every year I say I need to niche and to specialize in one genre. And every year, when I cull my portraits and make my year end video slideshow, I realize I would really miss my seniors if I did only headshots, or my families, or my kids and babies. But I also love going into businesses and having fun with a group of lawyers or accountants who need simple headshots for their website. Or that realtor or nutritionist that wants a branding session – or a branding subscription (my new for 2019 offering) to keep sharing updated and compelling images with their audience.

So I will continue to shoot what I love  – which is basically…portraits. In any name and genre.

Here are just some of my images from 2018 sessions

Melissa_Maillett_Photography_2018_1080p from Melissa Maillett on Vimeo.

 

These Women are 2Unstoppable!

This is Michelle and Ilana. I recently photographed them in preparation for the launching of their online matching service. But…this is not just any matching service.

Ilana and Michelle had been friends for many years, but the bond between them grew with their shared experience of having breast cancer. Although their personal cancer stories were different, they both realized that staying active during treatment and long after treatment ends was more important than ever — and helped more than just the body. 

As Ilana said, “It gave me the strength and energy that worry and treatment took from me.” Michelle and Ilana know firsthand how difficult it is to summon the energy to be active during this time, and their friends were instrumental in keeping them moving.  “Everyone can benefit from a partner to inspire and motivate us to move, and that’s whay we founded 2Unstoppable!” Michelle told me.

2Unstoppable is a non-profit organization that these enterprising and caring women  created to help women with a cancer diagnosis find the right exercise partner. Using a free online matching program, women are paired based on needs, interests, abilities, and other criteria. The goal of the program is to help forge powerful, motivating and supportive partnerships to encourage physical activity during treatment and long after treatment ends.

Studies have shown that: Physical activity plays a critical role in improving breast cancer outcomes, enhancing the recovery process, and facilitating secondary prevention.

 

I was so pleased to help out Michele and Ilana with some professional headshots for their website. We met for coffee a few weeks before the session, and as I listened to them talk about their personal stories, I was reminded of my mother – who for the 5 years she dealt with ovarian cancer, walked on the beach almost every day, even when it was the most difficult. I also think of my own running crews  and the Moms Run this Town organization that I have been a part of for a few years – that gets me up and on the trail every morning, despite extremes of cold and heat – it’s more than running, it’s running therapy!

I can’t wait for the matching to begin and to watch these women who have gone through something that could have been such a negative actually turn it into making a positive impact both for themselves and for others.  Please pass on this information to anyone in the DC area (and beyond) to let them know about 2Unstoppable and the free fitness buddy matching service! You can learn more and stay in touch with 2Unstoppable by subscribing to their newsletter at their website and follow them on Facebook.

 

This is Susan

Meet Susan Niebergall of SusanNiebergallFitness.com. Susan runs personal training and strength coaching business in the Northern VA area, and what’s super interesting about it is that a large number of her clients are coached online – so she can reach out to anyone in the world, including clients in Australia, Israel and Engand!

What I also find interesting is that Susan is on her second career.  After retiring from teaching and being a school counselor in her early 50s, she decided to combine her enjoyment and feeling of empowerment from lifting and fitness with her desire to help others achieve their fitness goals.

A confessed previous gym rat and “yo-yo dieter,” Susan learned that even when she was power lifting in her younger years, there were basic things that she didn’t understand about fitness, nutrition and training.  Then, as she began hitting the menopause years, she learned more about the changes that happen to womens’ bodies and how strength training can “kick middle age square in the face” (her words).

Susan invited me to follow her through a gym routine workout the other day and by the end of the session I was exhausted from watching her lift, row, pull up, squat and pushup (and I maybe made her repeat a few more times than usual to get shots from all different perspectives…)

Susan’s body is a work of art and the result of many hours, reps, effort and commitment – I must admit I was so taken with  her muscles that I ended up with a lot of images of her back – but what impresses me even more than the way she has shaped her body, is her passion and desire to share her knowledge and expertise with her clients.

Susan is one of those women that has reinvented herself – and in the process, is helping others to reinvent themselves.

Thanks Susan for all the work you do – I also want to “kick middle age in the square in the face” and you inspire me!

If you are interested in private coaching, you can contact Susan here and if you are would like a fitness photo session, you please contact  here  or reach me by phone: 703-850-7212.