How long have you been a photographer? Where did you start and what got you into it? What kind of subject matter/events do you shoot?
Melissa: Growing up with an Aunt as a professional photographer and mentor, I began taking classes on photography at a young age and continued my education and practice ever since then. I received my Bachelor of Art specializing in photography along with a Minor in Business and have been a professional working photographer since graduation. I have been photographing portraits and lifestyles of kids and families for 16 years. After my Fulbright Scholarship, where I implemented a photography program in the schools for the Deaf & Hard of Hearing in Ireland, I returned to run a photography studio in New York City. In 2013, I opened my own studio, A Little Photo Studio, and have proudly grown from a one-person studio to a team of 5-7 creatives. We all work together to provide a full-service portrait studio experience from shoot to print. Beyond kid-focused photography, our team has launched Field Creatives, a brand-focused commercial photography studio. Our strength is in the diversity of skill sets between our team, we are able to service large and small companies alongside independent families. Our studio continues to grow as a lifestyle brand, we create community gatherings (pre-covid) along with children and adult workshops. It is beyond a studio space, it is a space for families to gather and be comfortable. What that will exactly look like going forward is hard to tell, but we have maintained that community spirit throughout COVID in other unique fashions.
Have you taken and photoshoots during the COVID-19 pandemic? What precautions did you take?
Melissa: Our studio reopened in May, 2020 and we started shooting with social distance sessions that included birthday surprises. We collaborated with 3 local businesses to provide balloons, cake, and food options. We brought the party to our clients! We thought this would be a fun way to document an outdoor session beyond a quick stoop photo. Once we started re-offering normal outdoor and indoor sessions, we took (and are still taking) many precautions. One method is encouraging our 1-hour outdoor sessions with a promotional rate. When a client books in-studio, we ask for grown-ups to wear a mask when they aren’t being photographed. In addition, we are scheduling only one in-studio session a day (typically we had up to 5 pre-covid) and we clean the space, toys, and equipment before and after each in-studio session.
What are some questions a person should ask a photographer before booking them during the coronavirus pandemic?
Melissa: The most important question during this time of health uncertainty is just being sure that you as the photographer and family/kids who are being photographed are on the same page. It is important to have discussed all comfort levels for mask-wearing and touch (fixing clothes, tickling toes, sharing toys, etc) before the session takes place. We ensure that we explain what we will be doing and what our expectations are from the family to make sure that we don’t have any awkward conversations once the session begins. And more importantly, to keep everyone safe.
Are there certain locations that may work better for a photoshoot? Any places to avoid?
Melissa: My preference is always heading to a spot that doesn’t seem obvious. Those tend to lead to the most interesting and dynamic photos. For example, two girls in bathing suits running around outside of an old bowling alley or kids dressed up in suits walking down a city street. All you really need is a small spot that is visually interesting for strong photos - the whole area doesn’t need to be picturesque. I always try to avoid the cliche spots or areas that are busy with people. When photographing outdoors, you are already up against the light, weather, or pretty much anything that could be potentially more entertaining than you (look a ladybug!) Therefore, I try to avoid places with other kids and tons of people to add to the formula.
Are there some clever/unique socially-distanced poses you have seen or recommend for a larger group?
Melissa: Shots from above. I have enjoyed the idea of the photographer getting elevated and the family below. We had a photographer friend take that angle of our family during shelter-in-place and I have also exercised that in my own social-distance shoots.
Do you have a favorite memory or two from any photoshoots?
When asked about a good story or two, I mean, I have about five stories a night when it comes to working with kids. My husband constantly says, “I can’t believe you still love your job so much - how do you still enjoy talking about it?!” One of my favorite stories is from about 10 years ago when I asked a kid to give me something funny that mommy or daddy did (usually getting an answer about tickling or singing in the car), instead I got “well, daddy was out of clean underwear so he went to work with no underwear.”
Any other final words & tips?
Melissa: The 2020 theme word for small business owners is “pivot”. You have to be willing to pivot and think outside of your comfort zone. This is a time to challenge yourself and your creativity and just because you can’t perform a photo session in the same way you did in years past, if you evolve along with the situation, you will thrive, learn new techniques and come out on the other side of all of this!