The Story of One Amazing Girl (and my favorite photo subject) and her Family

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Eight years ago, I did a newborn session for one of my good friend Sharon’s 16-day-old daughter.  I had photographed her two older sons in prior years and I was thrilled to be the historian for newborn images of this little girl. We had a nice session, although little Shaylie slept through most of it and I focused on shots of a tiny hands, feet, and a sleeping infant who already had eyelashes to die for.

Although Sharon seemed a little concerned at her daughter’s excessive drowsiness, no one could have imagined that within twelve hours, I would receive a phone call from the family saying that Shaylie was in intensive care after they found she was not breathing and had blue lips.

I’ll use Sharon’s words here to describe what happened next:

Brian gave her some rescue breaths and called 911.  In the first 24 hours at the hospital, Shaylie died and was brought back nine times.  She was misdiagnosed for the first week and a half; we were told that there something catastrophic happening in her brain and it was possible she was brain dead.  Brian and I never believed that as we saw her vitals change when we talked to her or read to her.  Shaylie was on life support for a little over a week, they diagnosed her as having a left MCA-M2 stroke, then after a week her lungs collapsed and she required blood transfusions – which luckily Brian was a perfect match. 

So began a new life for Sharon and her family.  After two weeks in the hospital, Shaylie came home but her challenges were ongoing.  At five months of age, she was completely blind because of a cortical visual impairment.  By one year of age it was also apparent that she also had Cerebral Palsy.  It was determined, at age four that she had been living with a staph infection she got from her hospital stay;  treating this helped ease her seizures and discomfort.

Despite her trauma, challenges and diagnosis, Shaylie has been thriving under her parents’ and siblings’ love and meticulous care, a support group of doctors, therapists, teachers and care givers, an unending search for new and non-traditional treatments, and as her parents say, “…people all over the world praying for her, including Catholics, Jews, Buddhist monks and more…”

Shaylie is quite a remarkable little girl.  She toilet trained herself by age two, spoke on time, although her articulation is just getting clear now, she went to a regular preschool (with her mom’s support) and was loved by her teachers and classmates.  Like her brothers, Shaylie also has natural musical gifts–perfect pitch and rhythm since a toddler.  I remember in many of her photos sessions, Sharon would sing to her and let Shaylie finish the son, or we would play a tape of her favorite songs.  The music calmed her,  I could see she was always listening and it was obvious the delight she had in the music.  (I learned a lot about photographing a child that doesn’t often look to the photographer but but responds to audible cues.)

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Her visual issues have mostly, but not completely resolved itself and she taught herself to read and use a computer although the doctors had doubted she would ever be able to see a keyboard.

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Shaylie even became a great equestrian and independent horse-back rider who loved to trot and jump bareback.  Just last spring she was beginning to walk independently when her horse was spooked and bucked, throwing her and resulting in a broken right femur (lher knee was actually upside down and backwards), broken right radial bone and soft tissue damage to her back.  Shaylie is right hemiplegic–so this is her weak side that was broken and in casts for months.  This set her back in her walking, although she still did yoga in her casts.  I was so happy to to hear just yesterday from her mom, that she walked unassisted again.

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These days, Shaylie has vision at Camelot Elementary with FCPS one hour a week; music therapy/piano twice a week; hippo therapy (riding) once a week; speech (once a month consultation at Fairfax Inova); yoga once a week; Anat Baniel physical therapy once a week; acupressure once every two weeks; and homeschooling with her tireless and admirable mother.  Note: At a future Shaylie photo session,  I need to make sure Sharon gets in the picture as the two are so connected, and I love photographing that relationship.  That goes for the whole family.  I believe Shaylie has accomplished so much because of her whole family.

Hopefully the photos I’ve taken of her and them throughout the years demonstrate that love.  I have enjoyed being able to help this family document their life and their love.

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Tips to Prepare for Your Senior Portrait, Melissa Maillett Photography

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I am what is considered a “lifestyle photographer,” which means that I want my photographs to reflect the subject as they truly are, not some stiff “school portrait” or a representation of what people think a portrait should be.  I like to make the sessions comfortable and relaxing, have fun and capture personality; which is more important than making sure a hand is placed in the proper direction.

That being said, there are certain preparations I tell my clients will help their session be successful, most are for the girls, but some are tips for boys as well.   Here are a few:

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Clothing. Wear what you are comfortable in, but also remember that colors make an image pop – whether it’s soft pastels or bright primary colors.  We will discuss the location of the shoot and the style or colors that will complement the location, but ultimately you want to wear an outfit that reflects who you are and you’ll have fun posing in.

Layers are great also.  Bring a light denim jacket, a cardigan, a blazer, or for guys, a button down shirt over a tee shirt.  These are good for visual interest, an opportunity to change the look quickly and it gives you something to do with your hands – holding the edge of the clothing, or placing your hand in a pocket.  Scarves, necklaces, belts also help to quickly change a look and give you something to touch in a photo.

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I also encourage seniors to bring something special from high school that can be included in your shoot; a baseball or soccer jersey, golf clubs, an instrument or another prop or uniform could be included in a few shots to commemorate your primary extracurricular high school activity.  You have options to change into multiple outfits in your session, but be prepared to change fast and bring your clothes on hangers so they aren’t wrinkled.

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Makeup:  Although I like a natural face, this is an important point for the girls. Makeup that is well done is one of the best preparations you can make for your session.  It will even out skin tones and help give your photos that extra pop for a model-like look.  Translucent powder will help with any reflective shine on your face.  Even if you don’t normally wear makeup or wear very little, take the time to do it well and your photos will look the best.  Bring along extra lip gloss and powder for on-the-spot touch ups.

Hair:  I suggest you don’t make any drastic hairstyle changes prior to your session so you feel comfortable during the session.  Hair changes can be accommodated, as long as they can be done reasonably fast, so come prepared if you want do that.  Guys should be clean-shaven, stubble is difficult to retouch and may look unnatural.

Rest: Lastly, get a good night’s sleep before your session to avoid tired-looking eyes, and drink water to stay hydrated. Make sure you allow enough time into your schedule to feel relaxed during the shoot and don’t worry about the weather.  Grey or threatening skies are usually great for photo taking and if it’s blinding sun, we will find some shade to shoot in!

In summary, relax, have fun and enjoy the session; we will get some great shots!

Photographing in the Snow

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For those of you who saw this shot on my Facebook page…

 

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The person behind the mittens

My daughter graciously posed for some snow portraits yesterday.  It was fun.  Until our feet froze and then it wasn’t.

The sun decided to appear from behind the clouds at the end of our time outside.  We both needed to get inside and warm up.  The last shot shows a nice golden glow of the sun peeking through the clouds.

I’m starting to be ready for spring….

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Holiday Family Portrait Session!

I’m way behind in posting peaks at some of photo sessions from 2013….I can’t get to them all, but wanted to highlight this fun family that I have been photographing since their kids were babies.  It’s been so fun to watch them grow up and we’ve explored many fun areas to photograph.  Credits here to the owners of Murray Hill Farm who kindly let us photograph on their beautiful grounds.  We had a great time, despite some wintery winds; and even survived Jen tossing her wedding rings off her fingers while throwing some leaves in the air to get that action shot – luckily it was soon found – below you can actually see the shot where the ring flies up in the air with thousands of leaves!

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The Year in Recap – both Personal and Professional

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It’s been a great year, both professionally and personally.  Above are a few of my personal highlights; a wonderful trip to San Francisco and Yosemite and an opportunity to photograph some beautiful sights and my favorite people.

Below are some examples of fun photographic moments: I truly love photographing all my models, be it headshots, high school seniors, friends, and families.  I’m looking forward to continuing in 2014.

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