A Time of Transition | Massachusetts Senior Photographer

It’s always important to me, regardless of who I’m photographing, to find the personality of the session. To get to know my clients and to find out what’s important to them. What makes them laugh? What moves them? What are they afraid of? What inspires them? It might seem strange to ask those kinds of questions as a photographer, but I would counter that thought process.

I see it as my job to capture the heart of my clients. And I can’t do that without knowing them. Having your picture taken is a vulnerable act. It’s trusting that the person holding the camera is going to capture you authentically. Honestly. With care. Every time I am working with a couple or a family or a senior, I am acutely aware that they are trusting me. With their wedding day, with their newborn baby, with their excitement of starting a brand new chapter in their lives. I don’t take that lightly. I am always humbled and thankful for being allowed to do what I love and to provide real, honest and emotional memories.

Seniors are no different. Here you are, standing on the precipice of something new. Whether that is college, work, travel, starting a business, moving out – it’s a time of transition. Of excitement. Of anticipation. Of trepidation. Of being unsure. Of not having it all figured out. And I think that this time for you is one of the most important times to capture in a real way.

Admittedly, I’m probably not your typical senior photographer. I don’t have a studio, I’m not into posing my clients a lot, I am most definitely not going to take your pictures while you look at me and rest your chin on your hands (which was ALL the rage when I graduated high school). I just want to hang out with you. Get to know you. Make you laugh, feel relaxed and actually have a good time during your session. Capture you. Authentically. If this sounds like the type of experience you’d like to have, I’d love to work with you.

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Learning Film – Massachusetts Family Lifestyle Photography

Last September, I registered for a photography conference that was going to be held in Utah and I signed up for a film workshop. I dusted off my film canon slr that I received senior year of college and it looked completely foreign to me. I had no idea how to use it on manual.

It took me until December to put a roll of film in it. And I thought once I did I would just fall in love with it. Feel this rush and this sense of accomplishment. All I felt was frustrated. It wouldn’t focus well. I could barely see through the viewfinder. I couldn’t figure out how to change the settings. I took about 10 frames. And then I put it down.

All of a sudden, the conference was happening in 2 weeks. I reached out to our instructor and asked her for help. She steered me toward a new(ish) film camera – a canon rebel 2000. The body cost me $40.00 on amazon. I received it in the mail, took a deep breath and put another roll of film in it. Took a few frames and it was a completely different feeling. I was excited. Still completely unsure of what the heck I was doing, but I felt a surge of creative energy.

Then I was standing in the beautiful salt waters of Antelope Island in Salt Lake City, Utah, with Rachel Nielsen and I had my digital camera and my film camera and I shot an entire roll of film. And the next day, I sat with Stephanie Bryan and learned so much and realized that likely NONE of my shots from the day before were exposed correctly and probably unusable and then shot 4 more rolls with her. I came home, and took my boys out and shot another roll. I was hooked.

And terrified. I’m a photographer. And in my younger years, I shot only on film. But I shot on auto. With no concept of anything technical. Here I am, several (many) years later and I was scared to send my film in to be developed. What if it was all horrible? What if my skills didn’t translate on film? What if the people at The Find Lab just laughed outloud when they developed my film? I couldn’t wait anymore though, I had to send it in. So I did. All 6 rolls. And I waited.

And this past Friday, I received my scans. The Find Lab will provide you technical feedback on your images if you choose basic + processing, which I did for all of my rolls of film (do it. seriously. it’s so incredibly valuable). So as I sat in the pre-school drop off line, I read through their very detailed email and I saw this “Wow, those silhouette/sunset shots blow me away.” And I think I let out a big breath. Those were the images I took at Antelope Island. So at least a few were okay.

Waiting for your film scans is like being a kid on Christmas Morning. I haven’t seen film images in a long time. I was fascinated. In love with the texture, the grain, the mood, the feel of it all. And lets be honest, I took 136 frames. And only about 75 were okay. So, my keeper rate is not fantastic right now. But I love that challenge. And this journey.

Shooting film forces you to be intentional. To really look for your shot. To pay attention to the light even more. To focus on quality over quantity. And it’s a really welcome and nice change of pace. I’m doing a 100 days of summer film project. One exposure a day. Of my kids. On film. I cannot wait. It starts tomorrow. So stay tuned. This feels like the start of something new. And I like it.

Here are some of my film favorites from my first few rolls.

Boy in snow jacketsnow covered treessnow blowing through the treesAntelope Island Sunset Couple DancingAntelope Island, Utah, Couple Sessionantelope island couples embraceAntelope Island Utah sunset sessionsalt lake city urban family sessionsalt lake city urban family sessionSalt Lake City Urban Family Session Parking Garagesalt lake city urban family session portraitSalt lake city family walking downtownUpwards through the treeschalk drawing on drivewayrunning down hill at east brimfield damlittle toes on a stoolself portrait on filmice cream at rice fruit farmice cream ordering at rice fruit farmwoods at brimfield dameast brimfield dam rocks

Fresh 48 Session

Babies. Oh man, do I love babies. My boys are now 5 and almost 8, so the days of babies in my house are long gone, so any chance I get to snuggle a newborn, I’m there. I’ve been wanting to do a Fresh 48 session for a long time, so I was thrilled to get the call for this session.

This sweet girl was born at the same hospital where I had my twins at 5 years ago, and I hadn’t been back there since, so there was a bit of nostalgia walking into the maternity ward. And it just so happens that Caraline and I share a birthday, so I was so smitten with her even before I met her.

There is just something so special about capturing a baby in the first 48 hours of their arrival to earth. I swear, even as a newborn photographer, I forget how small they start out. Their little fingers, the marks of birth, this brand new person who you’ve just met, yet somehow it feels you’ve known forever. What a joy to be able to be with this brand new family on her second day of life.

I would love to be able to capture your brand new little one (or ones!). To give you memories of those hours after your baby arrives earthside. When you don’t want to put them down. When you spend hours watching them sleep. Counting their fingers and toes. Brushing their cheeks with your fingertips. Memorizing their features. Feeling their skin on your skin. I’ll come to you, spend an hour capturing all those details you want to remember and letting you do what you should be doing; snuggling, kissing and savoring this new little person. Email me at melissaortendahlphotography@gmail.com to schedule your session.

World, meet Caraline.



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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