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.


Actor Headshots: What Makes The Best Headshot?


If you’re an actor, your headshot is your single most important marketing tool. If you want to be taken seriously by casting agents, and when it lands on that decision maker’s desk or computer monitor you want the reaction to be “Wow! Let’s see that person!”

When shooting headshots for actors, I often get the question “What are they supposed to look like?”  or “how do you know you are getting the best headshot?”

The simple answer is… the best headshot for you is the one that fits your style and the look you are achieving.  Headshots can be on black or white backgrounds, and in natural or studio light. The standard white backdrop is gradually being replaced with a cinematic outdoor (but well-lit) setting, but both are acceptable as long as the image highlights YOU.  The focal point here is your personality. As long as you are not upstaged by a busy background the setting is not as important as the quality of the photograph and its ability to present the image you want.

Yes, there are some rules when it comes to actor headshots – and these fluctuate according to the type of work you are trying to get – stage, commercial, TV drama, etc.  Do some research in the field for which you are auditioning and make sure the technical details are there (print vs. file, cropping, etc). Bring all this to your photographer and make sure you leave your session with what you need.2017-01-16_0001

Christian Webb,  a renowned NYC Headshot photographers points out what I believe is the most important criteria for selecting a photographer for you actor headshot, “…make sure that the photographer is actually BEST for you regarding comfortability.  When searching for someone to shoot your headshots, it’s important to get a sense of the photographer’s personality and their way of working.  Checking referrals,  reading their info on their website,  asking around from others who have shot with them before can help in making the decision as to whether a particular photographer is BEST for YOU to work with.”

Because ultimately, you want to be comfortable in your session. After all, you may be living with this shot for quite a while and you want it to showcase you and your ability.

When I photograph actors I discuss the type of roles they are going for, whether they are looking for the commercial “I can sell cereal and cars” image or you want that big part in a then next hit Netflix mystery drama.


A headshot session should be a fun, collaborative process with your photographer. Killer images will make the casting agents stop for just that extra second to pause and consider your image.



Paige’s Senior Session: Peak Fall in the Park


If you are over 40  like me, you may remember the the “Brek Girl” shampoo ads back in the day in your “Seventeen” Magazines. They were usually beautiful blondes with the sun backlighting their long hair and a wide smile. This is what I kept thinking as I shot this stunning senior, although the antiquated reference was lost on her.

I also know that Paige is much more than a pretty face, since I’ve practically watched her grow up – a fierce competitor on the soccer field and basketball court. I enjoy seeing these girls out of ponytails and their varsity uniforms, and she is just as comfortable in the wedge sandals as in cleats.


Another small world story: her mom, Debra and worked together “BF” (before kids) and although our paths have wandered back and forth throughout the years, it was so fun to have her along on the shoot: to hold a reflector when needed and catch up on the old days.  You can see where this senior gets her looks!



We rescheduled this session back from a September date and managed to land on a warm November morning, and although a little past peak foliage – this park had so many great locations and backdrops that we got some stunning fall color for her session!

2016-11-26_0004Debra captured some photos of me in action, and Paige took one of us together.