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.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Getting Baptized

My daughter, who just turned 8, will be getting baptized on Saturday. (In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we baptize our children at age 8 rather than in infancy). We got a gorgeous dress for her and had a photo shoot with her wearing it. She also wanted to have some pictures in her new swimsuit, so I made up a fun montage of her jumping. She is a willing model, and a natural in front of the camera. I love the black and white where she is just staring into the camera. We are so proud of her, and so excited for her upcoming baptism!

Friday, January 27, 2012

What's Wrong 4--Discussion

This is from the second wedding I ever did. A friend of the bride called me up at 8:00 the morning of the wedding, said that the other photographer had bailed, and would I do the wedding pictures at 12:00. Since it was a desperate situation, I agreed. I did this wedding for only $100 or $200 (I can't remember) and gave them all the images on disk. This image just goes to show you that you get what you pay for!

I had no clue what I was doing at this wedding. Quite a few images came out like this, and at first, I couldn't figure out why. It all has to do with the sync speed of my on-camera flash. What this means is that my flash will only fire at a maximum 1/200th of a second. When your ambient light requires a slower shutter speed than this (say, 1/60th of a second) there's no problem. But in my case, I had my aperture set to f 2.2 (very wide, thus letting in a lot of light) and my corresponding shutter speed should have been something like 1/2000th of a second because of the outdoor light. However, since I used my flash, this automatically set my shutter speed to 1/200th of a second, thus letting in WAY too much light. So I did what any amateur photographer would do--I changed it to black and white and pretended I did it on purpose to be "artsy."

Now, do you want to trust your wedding pictures to someone like me? (I mean, someone like I USED to be?) Make sure you get a PROFESSIONAL who has lots of experience, and who is preferably a Certified Professional Photographer. Yes, you will pay more, but it's your WEDDING. It will happen ONCE, and when it's all over, your photographs are all you will have left. The flowers will die, the cake will be eaten, and you'll probably never wear your dress again. But you'll look at the images of your special day over and over and over. If you have to, skimp on the cake and the flowers--NEVER THE PHOTOGRAPHY! (Since I don't do weddings, I can refer you to fantastic wedding photographers. I do bridals and engagement shoots, though, so don't hesitate to ask me about those!)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

What's Wrong Wednesday

Here's where I once again embarrass myself by posting a "professional" picture from my early days in which I really screwed up. It's up to you to discover how! Tell me everything that is wrong with this picture, and for a bonus, how I achieved this "artistic effect." Just leave a comment at the bottom.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Music I Can't Stop Hearing in My Head

I don't know if any of you saw these guys on The Sing Off on NBC, but they are AMAZING. I got our family their latest CD for Christmas and we have listened to it pretty-much non-stop since then. This means I can't sleep at night because a different song from the cd is stuck in my head every night. But oh, what songs!

The CD is called "Back in Blue" and the group is Vocal Point. They are an all-male a capella group from BYU. If you are thinking "amateur," think again. These guys are polished and professional and just a joy to listen to. Just click on the link to listen to samples.

Track 5--Remember When it Rained (Tribute to Josh Groban). Just close your eyes and channel Il Divo. So rich and luscious.

Track 9--Opera #2 (Tribute to Vitas). I had never heard this song before. Be prepared to be amazed. My girls cannot believe it is a man singing.

Track 6--Grace Kelly (Tribute to Mika). What the heck kind of a song is this? It makes absolutely no sense. But it is so much fun and I must admit this one has kept me up at night more than any other on the cd.

Track 13--Telephone Opera (Tribute to Sesame Street's "Telephone Opera.") This one is aboslutely hilarious. It chronicles a young man's efforts to get a date and all the ridiculous excuses the girls give him as they decline. Be prepared to laugh and laugh a lot.

The whole cd is uplifting, and you will be amazed at every turn by the vocal gymnastics being performed. Catch the base line in Track 4 and wonder how a human can do that, and do it in tune!

Vocal Point is not paying me for this endorsement. Vocal Point has no idea who I am. But I have an idea who they are, and I love them! You will, too! Guaranteed.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Thai Chicken Satay

I don't know what I ever did before I knew how to make this. My life was incomplete and I didn't even know it! This is an amazingly delicious combination of chicken, vegetables, peanut butter, honey and ginger. Are you salivating yet? You should be. Even my kids love this (well, all the ones who aren't allergic to it). Make this for dinner tonight and you will be a star!

Stir Fry
2 cups chicken cut into bite-sized pieces
3 tsp. garlic or 3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed (can use less if desired)
1/2 cup sliced yellow onion
1/2 red bell pepper, cut into chunks
1/2 green bell pepper, cut into chunks
6 green onions cut at an angle in 2-inch pieces
1 cup shredded carrots

1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
6 Tbsp soy sauce
6 Tbsp honey
1 tsp ginger (I like to use fresh ginger if I have it)
1 tsp garlic (or one clove, minced or pressed)
1/4 to 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper (I used red pepper flakes)

For stir fry, heat skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 Tbsp. of oil if desired. Cook vegetables, garlic and onion until tender-crisp. Remove from pan and add chicken. Stir fry until cooked through. Add the vegetables back with the chicken just before pouring on the sauce. For sauce, heat in a separate pan over low heat until combined. Pour over stir fry just before serving. Serve over rice.

Monday, January 16, 2012

And the Winner Is....

Congratulations Andrea and Dallin! You just won $100 to spend on another session, more prints, or accordion albums!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Top 10 of 2011--Vote For Your Favorite!

I went through all the images I took last year and picked my 10 favorite. It was a very difficult task, but I made myself narrow it down. I decided to have a contest to see which image would get the most votes. The subject of the winning image (or parents of the subject) will win a gift card worth $100 that can be applied to a photo session, prints, or accordion albums! You may only vote once on my blog, but you can also vote on my Facebook page, giving you two votes total. To vote, just leave a comment indicating which number is your favorite. Contest ends midnight on January 15th and the winner will be announced on Monday the 16th. So start voting!

1. This baby was the most smiley, happy baby I think I have ever photographed. Every single portrait of her has a wide smile. She made the session so easy! I love the hat and tutu. This just screams "girl" to me.

2. This was taken at the one year session of this little boy. I just love the diagonal line created by his mother's arm and how it creates a frame, and also a feeling of security while he is sucking his thumb and staring directly into the camera. One of my all-time favorite images.

3. This was from a session where everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. Except for the fact that I got this completely adorable portrait. It looks like this baby knows something funny that she isn't telling the rest of us. This is complete sweetness.

4. I got to do the engagement portraits of this couple, and then the reception images after they were married in Utah. The setting was gorgeous, and I love the kind of "Gone With the Wind" feel of this image. The sky, the grass, the kiss.... Ahhhhh.

5. We went out on a windy day in October to one of my favorite trailheads. After getting some really great images, we crossed the bridge and saw this field with all this gorgeous fall foliage. The sun obliged us and hid behind some clouds so I could get this quintessential Colorado portrait. The colors, the composition--everything is just perfect.

6. This is from an shoot I did with twin 15-month-old girls. As you might imagine, they were not so interested in getting their pictures taken! I brought out some beads, and that did the trick! This little girl wrapped herself up completely with them, and then stared at the camera just long enough for me to get this endearing shot.

7. In February, I went to Oregon for my father's 80th birthday. While there, I went down to the beach with my sister-in-law to do this amazing photo shoot. Any of you who have been to the Oregon coast know that it is WINDY and COLD! (Especially in the middle of February!) But this image looks like we were in the Bahamas or something. What a great actress my sister-in-law is! She really suffers for her art :)

8.  This was one of those "happy accidents." I was shooting family portraits with the kids, and when I was doing some mother/daughter shots, I got this look on the mom's face. When I saw it after the shoot, I could not stop staring. There is something so intense and beautiful about it. I couldn't decide if I liked it better in black and white or color, so I included both.

9. Oh my gosh, what a little darling! This was a shot from a 2-year shoot, and I love everything about it. The soft, creamy colors, the pearls, and especially the tongue! It's classic cuteness!

10. This is a gorgeous, completely un-posed shot I got at a summer session. The backlighting, the roses, the soft, flowing dress and hair (and the pink toenails!) just make this a stunning image.

Friday, January 6, 2012

I Am a Certified Professional Photographer

In December I took the exam to become a Certified Professional Photographer. I just got news that I passed! This was the second requirement to gain this certification. With less than 8% of photographers worldwide being certified, this is quite an accomplishment! The first part of the certification process is submitting 20 images taken over the past 2 years to a panel of judges. These images must be from paying clients (no cute pictures of your own kids allowed!) and must meet a strict standard of excellence in order to pass inspection. It's quite nerve-wracking to wait for your results in the mail, but I was thrilled in April when I received the news that I had passed.

So what exactly does this mean? Well, it means that I get to put "CPP" behind my name and that I join an elite group of photographers who are recognized by the photographic community as attaining a standard of excellence. Does this mean that I know everything and am the best photographer in the world? Absolutely not! If anything, this process has just taught me how much more there is to learn! The photography world is always changing with new equipment and techniques, and I am constantly inspired by other photographers who are doing absolutely amazing work. I will continue to learn and grow as a photographer. And maybe after a while, I'll go for a more advanced photographic degree.

Are certified professional photographers the only ones who are good photographers? Absolutely not! I have many photographer friends who are amazing, but have not yet taken the steps to become certified. My friend and mentor just became certified last year, but before that, she won second place in the cover contest for Professional Photographer magazine, and later had an article published about her in the same magazine. She had won numerous other contests and had images selected for the PPA Loan Collection (Professional Photographers of America). Clearly, she was amazing even before becoming certified, like so many other photographers. But when you're looking for a photographer, the CPP designation gives you added assurance that this photographer has the experience and knowledge to truly give you an exceptional product. (For more suggestions on how to choose a good photographer, please see this post).

I am so excited to have accomplished this goal. I look forward to continuing my education and to becoming the best photographer I can be!

(For information on the CPP exam and what subjects are covered, click here. For information on image submission, click here.)

Monday, January 2, 2012

Turning 40 and Doing Good

This year I will turn 40. This is shocking to me. It has made me take stock of my life and review what I have accomplished thus far, and what I still wish to accomplish. I decided that I should make a goal of something special I would like to do this year. Like maybe train for and run a 10K (the Boulder Bolder--or vice versa), write a book, cook all the recipes in a particular cookbook, etc. Then I thought that in addition of doing something for myself, I should do something to bless the lives of others. Whether this means significantly helping someone I know personally, or choosing a charity to work with, I would be happy knowing that in 2012, I had in some small way made the world a better place. I invite you to join me, and make just one goal to help others in a meaningful way this year.

Below are a list of charities to give you some ideas:

Latter-day Saint Charities is the humanitarian arm of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Through this charity, they provide wheelchairs, clean water, immunizations, neonatal resuscitation training, and more to people in developing countries. Last year, they helped over a million people gain access to clean water through building wells and spring water systems.

International Princess Project. This is a program to help rescue women in India who are enslaved in prostitution. Their mission, as stated on their website is to "Establish self-sustaining enterprises in partnership with indigenous organizations that provide for physical, emotional and spiritual needs of women formerly enslaved in prostitution." One way they do this is to have the women make Punjammies, gorgeous pajama bottoms made with traditional Indian material. The women are able to sustain themselves and make a life outside of prostitution.

Kiva. This is an organization that provides micro-loans to people in developing countries. A woman can sew to provide for her family, if only she could afford a sewing machine. A micro-loan will get that for her, and she will pay back the loan as she is able. On this site, you can actually choose the entrepreneur that you lend to, and loans are only made in $25 amounts. This is doable for everyone and is a way to help people who are trying to help themselves.

Helen Keller International is an organization started by Helen Keller to help prevent blindness and malnutrition. Operating in 22 countries around the world, they help people raise their own nutritional food, provide free eye treatment, and do a host of other things to improve the lives of some of the most impoverished people on the planet.

Against Malaria is a charity that distributes nets to protect people from malaria. Only $5.00 will buy a life-saving net. With 1-3 million people dying from malaria each year (and the hardest-hit being pregnant women and young children) this is such a simple way to help. You can see exactly where your nets are distributed and see videos and pictures of distribution.

The Citizens Foundation is an organization that builds schools in Pakistan and provides opportunities for impoverished children to attend. They strive to maintain a 50% enrollment of girls, believing that everyone is deserving of education, regardless of gender or social standing. Pakistan has an alarmingly high illiteracy rate. With radical fundamentalists offering free meals to entice students into their camps, alternative and healthy education is sorely needed.

GEMS is an organization in the United States that helps girls who have been sexually exploited and trafficked. From their website, "GEMS is committed to ending commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking of children by changing individual lives, transforming public perception, and revolutionizing the systems and policies that impact sexually exploited youth." They work to both prevent exploitation, and help those who have been victims.

There are, of course, many more charities to work with. If everyone does just a little, it will make a big difference.