Fall Mornings

I’ve known Bill for 20 years. We went to high school together, started hanging out and since then, he’s been stuck with me. His family is beautiful. His wife has one of the best laughs ever and their kids are chuck full of energy. In short, they’re my kind of people.

I had the privilege of capturing their family on a cool October morning, dew still in the grass, sun still rising in the sky. It was the first time I’ve done a session for them, and I was, to be honest, a little nervous. I wanted to do right by them. I wanted to capture the essence and vivaciousness of their personalities.

The funny thing about capturing your best friends family is that you get a chance to show them what you see, what you love about their family, what they mean to you. The images from their session are some of my favorite images I’ve ever taken. But, they loved them too. And that’s good enough for me.




Click Pro

As a photographer, I want to work on my craft. I want people to feel something when they see my images, but I also want to be technically good at what I’m doing. I am completely self-taught. I have scoured books, and websites and taken webinars and workshops, attended conferences and I have put my camera up to my eye a million times.

I learned how to shoot in manual on my Canon Rebel XS through a course I took by Cori Derksen (@derksenphoto). I wanted to be able to control my depth of focus, how much light I was letting in to the camera, how quickly my shutter was going, I wanted to be able to create the vision I had in my head and I wanted to understand how to do it. And I practiced. Over and over and over again. For years.

I have a master’s degree in Student Affairs and Higher Education, but have no formal degree in anything photographer related. About 3 years ago, I stumbled upon the Clickin Moms website. The work I saw there was incredible. Polished. Professional. Award winning.

Around the same time I had started participating in a P52 project through Sarah Cornish (@myfourhensphotography) and was trying to absorb everything I could through the talent in that group. While I was in that group, I kept seeing images that just jumped out at me. I took note of the photographer’s name: Elise Meader (@elisemeaderphotographer).

(Sidenote: Elise has taken our family photos the last two years – she’s AMAZING. But, if she doesn’t already think I’m a stalker, she probably will now. Sorry, Elise!)

Elise’s work moved me and I loved the captures she had of her children. I started following her on Facebook and I saw her post about having earned the status of Click Pro. It was the first time I had heard about it and I wanted to know more.

Click Pro is an application process. You submit an online portfolio of 150 images and they are critiqued and evaluated by professional photographers in 6 different areas:

  • Exposure Triangle
  • Use of Light
  • Color and White Balance
  • Composition and Posing
  • Processing, Cohesion and Polish
  • Technical Basis (Focus, Depth of Field)
  • Creativity, Expression and Intention

Each area is rated on a scale of 1-6. You have to score at least a 4 in the exposure triangle category. And you have to earn a minimum of 32 points to earn your Click Pro status.

It was the closest thing I could find to a certification or degree that would be able to give me an indication of how good a grasp I had on the technical side of photography. How much I understood about how to create images that evoked emotion and what made an image technically sound. There’s a lot of sub-categories and specific criteria that you have to meet within each of these areas. It was overwhelming, and three years ago, I was nowhere near ready to apply. But I put it on my list of goals and I started working toward it.

In the fall of 2016, I had the amazing opportunity to find a photographer power partner in Megan Boggs (@hello_meganboggs). I am so incredibly glad our paths crossed. She has been an amazing partner, supporter, motivator and friend. We both shared that we had a goal to apply to and make click pro.

In April of last year, I applied. I put together a portfolio of 150 of my favorite images and I hit send. And I was hopeful, yet tried to remain realistic about my prospects of getting in. I didn’t make it. But it gave me a framework of where I was and what I needed to work on and improve. You can only apply every 3 months, so I set my sights on the fall.

And for the last 8 months I have been working my tail off to create images that are set worthy, meet the criteria, and that were shot with intention and skill and focus but that also moved me. I planned to submit at the end of September, but life and my fall season got crazy and the time got away from me. Megan applied again and she made it and I was so incredibly happy for her and it pushed me to bring that goal back to the forefront.

I asked other photographers whose work I admired for their feedback on my set. Carrine Powers (@jupiterhuephotography) and Erin Mufford (@erin.mufford) are wonderful artists in their own right and had already achieved click pro status. And man, let me tell you, it is HARD to have someone go into your hearts work and tell you that there are images that don’t work. Don’t make the cut. Aren’t technically sound. And I had to let that sit, eat my piece of humble pie and allow myself to grow through their valuable (and correct) feedback rather than be defeated by it.

I made a goal that I would submit by the end of the year. And in typical Melissa fashion, I hit the submit button on December 31, 2017. It takes at least 14 days for your set to be reviewed.

Yesterday, I received the email that I had been accepted as a Click Pro. I am so incredibly excited to have earned this distinction through my hard work. To know that I have a strong grasp on the technical aspects of photography. That my work has reached a level where it is valued and appreciated by those that I look up to in this business.

To those of you who have supported me in this journey; my family, friends, clients – thank you for giving me the space and the grace and the time to dive into this passion of mine and for encouraging me along the way. I have been able to turn this love I have for storytelling through photography into a thriving, growing business and I couldn’t have done it without you.

Below, are the 150 images from my set. They tell a story of my journey, a snap shot of my last year of work. Of my grit and determination to be the best photographer that I can be. I am so proud of these images. I wanted to share them with you.



Frenic Lifestyle Newborn Session | Central Massachusetts

I had the wonderful pleasure of meeting this beautiful family on a cold, brisk day in their beautiful home with their delightfully cute baby boy. I love doing in-home sessions, and I love doing laid back, lifestyle newborn sessions even more. Everything is so hectic and new and (sometimes) stressful in those first weeks of have a new baby. Your photography session should allow you to sit back, relax and soak in those precious moments with your baby.  Let me come to you, where you can sit on your couch,  in your bare feet, snuggling your baby, with your coffee cup nearby and we can just hang out. That’s just what we did on this day and it was perfect.

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An Adoption Story

I’ve been blessed to have been able to witness and capture two adoption ceremonies in this past year. What an incredible gift! For a family to let me enter in to a day that is so momentous, so emotionally charged and so amazingly special and to have the chance to capture all of that for them – it’s incredibly humbling and moving. It was a beautiful spring day when this family of 2 officially became a family of 3 and from the moment I walked into the courthouse, you could feel and see the love between all of them. There aren’t enough words to be able to explain, so I’m going to let the images share their story. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for letting me be present – the gift of love that you have given is beyond compare.

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Telling The Story of your Family (in 30 minutes)

Mini Sessions. The name brings along with it a certain connotation. And there are many photographers who do these typical mini sessions, do them well and their clients are thrilled that they have at least one “good” picture where all the kids are looking and no one is crying and their husband is happy the whole session was done quickly. And as a mom of 3 boys under the age of 7, I get it. I totally do. And this type of cookie cutter set up works for a lot of people. But, as a photographer, it doesn’t work for me.

My passion is creating portraits that evoke emotion. Showcasing connection. Capturing all the details you don’t want to forget from this crazy time in your life as a parent. Your son’s crazy long eyelashes, your daughter’s dimple, the chubby little ankle rolls your baby has, the way your wife’s hand fits so well in yours. All of these things that tell your family’s special and one-of-a-kind story.

And some may argue that it’s not possible to do that in a mini session. It’s only 30 minutes, what kind of emotion and storytelling can you actually accomplish in that time?   And I would counter that you can actually accomplish quite a bit. Can you get everything? No, of course not, and that’s why I always encourage my families to book a full family session, so we can spend more time together and really capture your story to the fullest extent.

However, if you book a mini session with me, you need to know that it is not going to be cookie cutter. It’s not going to be posed. There’s not going to be props (other than, maybe a quilt). It’s not going to be anything other than authentically you. You have one job when you come to a session with me: play with your babies. That’s it. For 30 minutes. You just need to play. And laugh. And snuggle.

I’m going to have you running after your kids, dancing with your husband, tickling the bellies of your babies and hopefully, forgetting that I’m there. Because my job is to make you comfortable, put you at ease so that you can be real. I don’t want your forced smiles or your stiff poses. I want the real stuff. All of it. And yes, that means the meltdowns, the tears, the not listening, the doing-everything-but-what-you-want-them-to-do kids. I except that to happen. I anticipate it. I have three of those kids at home. That’s my wheelhouse.

But, can I tell you a secret?

When you are having fun, when you are relaxed, your kids will follow. Maybe not right away. Maybe not at first. But they’ll get there. “But we only have 30 minutes!?!?” you exclaim. Yup. And we’ll still be able to get them to come around. Trust me.

Below are the moments from my mini sessions in October. All 37 of them. And if you were a client of mine, thank you – THANK YOU for trusting me to capture your family, and thank you for going along with my ideas. I am most proud of this work. And I am most humbled to be able to share your stories.





Sadie and Jim’s Wedding at Munich Haus in Chicopee, MA

Sadie and Jim celebrated their wedding on hands down, THE most beautiful day in September. Shining sun. Not a cloud. Blue skies forever.

These two are just so good together. Their love and joy radiates like few others I’ve seen. I’m not sure I’ve seen bigger smiles or more laughing at a wedding before.

P.S. These kids know how to PAR-TAY! Their day was straight up, side splitting laughter and true tears of happiness from start to stop.


         Hair: Belucci    

        Tuxes: Men’s Wearhouse

        Shoes: Converse

       Wedding Cake: Coffee Kup Bakery  

       DJ: TC Disc Jockey Service

      Ceremony: St. Cecilia’s Catholic Church

      Venue: Munich Haus Restaurant

      Photographer: Melissa Ortendahl


Stephne and Jason’s Wedding at Stanley Park

Stephne and Jason had an absolutely perfect day for their wedding at Stanley Park. Blue skies, beautiful gardens, surrounded by family and friends with smiles that didn’t leave their faces all day. What an honor to capture their love!

Wedding Dress: David’s Bridal         Shoes: David’s Bridal           Tuxes: College Formals

Flowers: McClellands Florist             DJ: Paul St. Amour                Photo Booth: Viral Booth

       Venue: Stanley Park   Reception: Elk’s Lodge, Chicoppee        

Caterer: Anthony’s Catering    Cake: Patty Cakes               


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