Photographer Profile

My name is Melissa Howell and I specialize in custom portrait design for your home. You can visit my official photography website at to view more of my work and to contact me to set up a consultation.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Blue Prints Photography Gives Back

Today I'm going to highlight another group from Kiva that has been helped by Blue Prints Photography. But before I do, I wanted to share something exciting that I participated in last night. It has been two months since Haiti was devastated by an earthquake. Many of us have moved on with our lives, but the people of Haiti will need long-term help. With this in mind, my Young Women's church group got together last night and made twenty skirts to send to women and children in Haiti. We have fifty more cut out and ready to be sewn! Here is a picture of the skirts we made:

Why skirts? Well, I was inspired by a little girl from our church who decided to make skirts because she figured the people in Haiti probably lost all their clothes in the earthquake, and she wanted to make something lightweight and cool because the weather is so hot there. I think she was inspired. When I look at the varied patterns and bright, happy colors of these skirts, I imagine the people receiving them, and what joy they will have. Besides giving them something to wear, I think it will help them know that they have not been forgotten. We still care, and we still love.

Now to our featured Kiva entrepreneur. The Mrs. Sophos Khon Village Bank Group in Cambodia received funds donated from a Blue Prints Photography session fee. This is a group comprised of seventeen women engaged in various industries. Mrs. Sophos Khon owns a grocery store in her village. Her husband is a motorcycle repairman, and she has six children, two of whom work in a garment factory. She used the loan to buy more inventory for her store so she can expand and provide a better future for her family.

To find out how you can help others like Mrs. Sophos Khon, visit

Monday, March 15, 2010

Mrs. Douglas County vying for Mrs. Colorado

Valentina Anderson grew up as an orphan in the Ukraine. She got a masters degree in Physical Education from St. Petersburg Sports Academy and worked as a sports trainer. After meeting her husband, she moved to America and has lived here for almost 12 years. It's an unlikely story for a candidate hoping to become Mrs. America. On the other hand, it's the perfect story for illustrating the American Dream.

I've had the opportunity to photograph Valentina on several occasions in preparation for the Mrs. Colorado Pageant coming up on May 15th. (I have access to tickets to the pageant if anyone is interested). She must submit several portraits to the magazine they print up for the pageant. This is the original color image she was going to submit:

Then she was able to get sponsored by two incredible stylists at Solera Salon. Her hairstylist was Leigh Ann Clark, and her makeup artist was Alicia Ryan.

I met Valentina at Solera Salon after these two incredibly talented stylists were done working their magic. Just look at Valentina now!

Holy cannoli! Would you look at that gorgeous woman! Even Valentina was shocked at how she looked. The transformation was amazing. We had such a great time taking pictures both inside and outside the salon. To top off the wonderful experience, I accidentally knocked a really expensive lamp off a table as I swung my purse over my shoulder. It shattered into--well, not a million--but very many tiny pieces. It was one of my proudest moments as a photographer, let me tell ya! I immediately told the owner of the salon to bill me, but she very kindly refused and cleaned up the mess. She was so nice to me, and even if the stylists there weren't fabulous, I'd still recommend Solera Salon, just because they don't get mad when you break their really expensive decorations and accessories. I'd recommend it to YOU. I am too ashamed to darken their door ever again. As Valentina and I walked out together, she said to me in her charming Russian accent, "I will give them something" (to make up for me breaking the lamp). She was so funny and so sweet. I really hope she wins the title of Mrs. Colorado. Then maybe her cash prize will be enough to replace the lamp :)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

How to choose a great photographer part two

If you missed part one of this topic, you can read it here.

All of us like to get pictures taken of our kids. Let me rephrase: All of us like to have fabulous pictures of our kids. Not all of us like going through the whole process of getting them ready, taking them to a photo studio where we have to wait, all while our kids are getting more and more restless and messing up their clothes. Then after all that, we get maybe 10 minutes in the studio and six whole pictures to choose from, and that's it. Sounds like a bit of a letdown! That was my (repeated) experience when my two oldest children were young. I thought there had to be an alternative. Luckily, there is! Unfortunately, a lot of other people have come to this same conclusion and are offering sub-par photography. Did you know that you don't have to go to school to become a photographer? Anybody can claim to be a "professional photographer." All you have to do to gain that distinction is charge money. There is a HUGE range in the quality and service these photographers offer, and it's up to you to decide who will give you the best portraits. But how can you tell who is a great photographer who still needs to work on their craft? Here are a few things to look for:

1. Beware if your friend says, "Hey, my cousin just got a great new camera! She can take awesome pictures!" This is like saying, "Hey, my cousin just got an Electrolux oven! Now she's a gourmet cook!" Or, "Hey, my cousin just bought some really expensive scissors! Now she is a fabulous hair stylist!" Yes, you need a nice camera, but you also need a knowledgeable and skilled photographer. The nice camera alone won't do it.

2. Take a careful look at their website. (If they don't have a website yet, this almost surely means that they have not worked with enough people to be able to post any images and definitely need more experience). As you look through their pictures, do you see the same people over and over? This is also a sure sign that they are just starting out, and those people are probably their children and relatives.

3. Are their pictures clear and crisp? Cuteness doesn't count if the picture is out of focus. Consider the following (click on this picture and the next one to really see the difference):

Super cute, right? But look at the eyes. They are a bit blurry and out of focus. If you see pictures like this, the photographer still needs more work. (By the way, I am not busting on any other photographers here. All the pictures posted are my own. You will be able to see that in the past, you definitely should not have hired me!)

Compare that last picture to this one:

See how crisp and clear the eyes are? This is what you're looking for.

4. Do their pictures have color casts?
This is something that not everybody notices, but a seasoned professional should not have pictures like this on their site:

Do you see how blue she looks? Environmental pictures (pictures taken outside) often have this problem because of how the light reflects off the grass and trees. It "cools" everything down. Notice the difference in the next picture, even though the girl is surrounded by green:

See how warm and natural her skin looks? No blue cast here! Other common casts to watch out for are red and yellow casts.

5. Does the photographer have exposure problems?
In other words, is the picture too dark or too light? Are there parts where no detail can be seen because the picture is exposed improperly? In the following example, I exposed improperly and you can see that the hair blends into the neck on the girl on the left. It's way too light and I can't make out anything there.

Contrast that with the following picture where the side of the baby's face is very light, but you can still tell it's skin.

There are more things to look for that I will discuss in a later post. I hope now as you surf the web, you'll be able to tell good photography from, well, not-so-good photography. Your money and time are worth the effort to seek out those who are truly professionals--not just those who will do your pictures on the cheap with their nifty new camera.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Mother's love

There is nothing more precious than a mother and her children. Here are some favorites from a recent session with a beautiful mommy and her two sons.

I think this one is so funny. I asked the mom to hold her baby up by her face, and the baby immediately started looking for something to eat. "Hmm, Mommy's ear looks good!"

"Alright. I guess I'll try my thumb instead."

Blue Prints Photography

Monday, March 1, 2010

And the winner is (for reals this time)...


Congratulations on winning a free session and 11x14 portrait! I will be contacting you to set up your session. Thanks to everyone who became a follower. I'll have more specials throughout the year, so keep coming back!

Blue Prints Photography