This is me (in 2018)

(warning – longer than usual post, and probably far more about me personally than I have ever shared).

My friends and I have had a running joke involving  New Years resolutions this year. We make declarations and pronouncements and then it all goes awry… we eat that sugary food, we don’t go to the proclaimed exercise class… and then we say “Next week starts the New Year…”  (at this point I think our New Year is officially beginning on March 1st). January has slipped by, with it’s frigid weather and concentration on family and home issues, but ignoring myself and my business.

But now, it’s February 18, and I have procrastinated long enough – I have finally reached the point where I can’t keep putting things off.  I’ve been a professional photographer for years now, but I feel the need to re-pronounce who I am, what I’m about and where I stand –  now that I’m officially not a new 50-year-old.

So this year, 2018, I want to declare who I am, where I am in my life and business, and what my intentions are.  To go along with this declaration, I took a quick “selfie” after working out with my messy hair and without makeup, because this is how I usually look.

With portrait photography as my passion and livelihood, I watch myself and others as we start to look and feel our age (I refuse to say “get older.”)  Portrait photography is so often about prettiness;  with glamorous outfits, full makeup applied, hair all done up, but at the same time some of us are starting to comprehend that the reflection in the mirror day to day, is more what we look like, less like our outdated Facebook or LinkedIn profile, or our doctored-up filtered Iphone selfie.

We are starting to wonder if because highlighting hair, getting facials and doing nails have become mainstream, maybe that one shot of botox isn’t going much further.  I struggle with that. Years of holding a camera up to my face has caused extreme crinkles in particularly my right eye and I look like I have a permanently worried or angry face with the vertical line on my forehead. Should I wear this as a badge of experience or should I try to look like the magazines and movie stars? (not all of them I should say – l love me some Frances McDormand)

I believe that everyone should do what makes them happy and feel good. I love wrinkles on my subject’s faces, I truly see beauty in every person I photograph, but I don’t judge. I will wipe away wrinkles in photoshop and smooth skin if the client desires.  Although I do hope that less people desire and normally aging skin becomes mainstream. 

But what I have become more interested in with my portrait subjects – particularly women – and what is encouraging me about entering the second half of my life (yes, I’m determined to live to 100) is what they are doing with their lives, how so many of us are creating a second (or third or fourth) chapter for ourselves. What’s holding us back? In fact with kids on their way out of the nest, means that many of us are finally able to fully concentrate on ourselves.

So as my first goal this year I am going to be seeking to take portraits of and telling the stories of these women who inspire me with their entrepreneurship, or their philanthropy and focus on helping others. If they don’t seek me out, I will seek them out. I am surrounded by so many inspiring people (I don’t exclude men, but am exposed more to my own gender and see more of their stories). When I have the opportunity to photograph these people, I will also share their story and hope you all become as inspired as me. I am already excited to tell you about my most recent client, Susan Niebergall who in her mid 50s, has reshaped her body into a lean, mean machine and  started a successful on-line fitness coaching business, Susan Niebergall Fitness (and btw, also has 24.7k followers on Instagram).

My Second goal this year:  because I feel prevention and health is our best insurance option in the future (can’t count on pharmaceuticals and insurance coverage to solve our health problems) I am committing to be as HEALTHY as I can, from working my body, muscles, bones, tendons, and heart health. Even after running a marathon in 2017, I never felt my body was as healthy and fit as it could be. With this in mind, I have started off 2018 taking classes at GrassRoots Fitness, which has conveniently opened a studio steps away from my home – and run by another entrepreneurial woman and former portrait subject, Joann McGinley. I am working on strengthening my core, arms, flexibility and overall strength. It frustrates me that I can’t touch my toes as I did in my younger days (as  a past gymnast). In fact I documented it here photographically – so I can see if I improve throughout the year. I really hope by the end of the year I will be touching those toes…

And because I also value the fact that my body does still allow me to run long distances, mostly pain-free, and mentally feel fired up by it, I have decided to run the Chicago Marathon in October 2018 – which most likely will be the last marathon I run. The training and pounding on the body is pretty intense and I want this body to last me for another 47 or so years. This will be a special marathon for me also because I am running to raise money for Alzheimers Research. I will talk more about that later, but I am happy to putting my body and money where my mouth is in supporting causes I believe in – this year I will be more about action than discussion when it involves issues that I value and support (or reversely, actions where I want to show my disapproval).

Finally, because I understand that there is more to health than being strong and fit. I will share with you my attempts to stay healthy with nutrition and my increasing comprehension that whole foods are so important; the value I am placing on the environment and how my food is grown and raised – that I need to look twice at everything I am putting in my body, my family’s body, on my skin and in my home. I have learned a lot this past year and I am continuing to learn about the importance of healthy whole, non-chemical foods.

OK, rant over. 2018 is just beginning! If you are someone that lives in the Northern VA area and is interested in being part of my photo journey this year, or who just wants to be photographed by someone who will take your portrait as you wish (from glamorous to natural, to highlight your physical achievements, or just for fun) you can contact me at or 703-850-7212.



En Garde, Pret! This High School Senior is Ready for her Future


This was a new experience for me as a  Senior Photographer. When I asked Hannah and her mom if she had any high school hobbies she might like to include in her senior portrait, and she answered fencing, I encouraged her to bring her uniform and we would try some fun shots out at the end of the session.

It was hard for me to believe that this beautiful and sweet girl had a skill that involved waving a steel weapon at an opponent. Hannah was laid back and  a natural in front of the camera, resulting in a number of different types of shots and we had fun exploring downtown Vienna with her friend and sister (who were helpful at bringing out natural expressions).

I was eager to get this post out today, in honor of Hannah’s mom’s birthday. Happy birthday Judy, this is going to be a special year for both you and your daughter. Enjoy it all!

A Sunny Senior Session in Old Town Fairfax

Erin’s mom and I have been planning for a while to get this session in, and we did – just days before the actual high school graduation! I’m not complaining since I had a vision with this senior to have the perfect bright day and sunset and all the stars aligned.

And bonus that I found the perfect wall to complement her second shirt!

Congratulations Seniors, Class of 2017 – Senior Portrait Sessions

Seniors Portrait SessionHow has this school year come to a close so quickly? This has been a particularly special year of shooting senior sessions, since I too have a graduating senior (who’s senior session is still to come!)

Some of the seniors I remember from playgroups and playgrounds; some from travel soccer or girl scouts. It’s sentimental for me, but I try not to show it because these guys and girls are all focused on the future. In their heads, they are not highschoolers any more, they are finally seeing their life plans come to actualization; I can see it in the way their eyes light up when they speak about the next phase of their life and their ability to move on.

When I photograph these seniors I try to depict that excitement – sometimes I like to photograph them in motion, because that is what they are doing – they are moving on forward…to their future.

I believe that is why we capture our teenagers at this crucial crossroads. We still have the ability to convince them to be part of this session and they have the strength, the maturity and the self-awareness to be a participant in the session. I will help them get a good shot, but I am always aware that they are adults now, they lead the session.

Yes, I sympathize with the parents – it’s hard to see them move on without us. Yes, I will be crying along with you when Pomp and Circumstance is playing and they are doing their walk down the aisle.  But I know it is time, and I look forward to hearing about their progress as they begin their new lives.

In this sentimental mood, I quickly cobbled together a “highlights reel” of some of my senior sessions from the class of 2017. Enjoy, and thank you to all who allowed me to take part in this special session.

All About Senior Portrait Sessions

While I have a good number of clients who have booked me years ahead for their son or daughter’s senior portraits, I still get many people who are a little confused about the how and why of portraits for their high school seniors.

What I tell parents – is what I think about for myself, as I have my second high schooler reaching her senior year this year. While there are many reasons for outdoor, personalized senior portrait sessions, my main reason is this: it may be your last chance as a parent to convince (or demand) they spend some time with a photographer who can capture this precious moment in their life. On the edge of adulthood, but still your responsibility (for a brief time) and “child.”

When I meet with parents and their seniors for pre-session meetings, and then spend some time on location taking the pictures, it always seems to be a special time for both the parent and child.  Or, even when the senior comes on their own – the tears that I see in parents’ eyes when they see the final image…well I know that feeling all too well, and am so happy I can help share it with others.

Here is a short video I made, with some suggested answers to the question “why a senior portrait?”

Why Should I Book a Senior Portrait? from Melissa Maillett on Vimeo.