Mother’s Day and how I’m kind of an accidental hypocrite

YIKES. That title is harsh, right? I must be an awful daughter. Let me explain.

Mother’s Day is just a few weeks away and tends to creep up really fast each year. I’ve got married sisters with kids and since I take their portraits throughout the year, I’ve put together a few photo books with images of all the grandkids and family photos for her for Mother’s Day and birthdays. And I add portraits of my dog to the book since I don’t have kids. She’s not super excited about having a grand dog, but I digress…

I wanted to blog about the importance of family photography and promote some Mother’s Day portrait sessions. I mean, really, wouldn’t your mom or the mother of your children love some beautiful updated portraits of the whole family to decorate her home with? Or wouldn’t it be great to surprise her on Mother’s Day with awesome images of the children? Or just a you and mom session? I’ve seen some adult child and parent photography and it’s wonderful, but not a lot of people do it, which is a shame!

Earlier this year, I documented with photography a Celebration of Life for a friend’s mother, lost in one of the most tragic ways imaginable. I was thankful that I had the opportunity to photograph her a few years ago- once with her sweet little dog, and once with her first grandson when he was a toddler. These images were shown at the celebration, along with a bunch of other photos that took those attending on a journey from when she was a baby through her entire life, and I know that these images, the professional ones and the snapshots, are going to be cherished by her family for generations. And I was glad to see several mother-daughter photos as well. While we will always have special memories in our hearts, these visual reminders can take us back in time and keep those moments bright in our minds.

I take photos of a lot of people. It’s what I do. I put their special moments on a piece of paper or a canvas, and it’s a treasure for them to hold on to and enjoy. But since I’m behind the camera most of the time, I don’t really have ANY photos of my mom and I. The last one? It’s an iPhone photo from almost a year ago, and no amount of Instagram filter is going to hide my sweat and lack of make up. Not to mention, my mom isn’t a fan of being in photos anyway, so she’s probably not super thrilled I’m sharing this photo!


It was a fun night- my family’s first night on our first family vacation in FOREVER. We rented an awesome beach house in Florida, and we were having a great time at the pool. The moment is captured, for sure, but dang, I would really love to have some professional photos of my mom and me! It’s just something photographers never really think of doing for themselves since we’re always photographing other people.

And the photo books I’ve given my mom? She’s barely even in the photos. Maybe a few here and there, but like basically ALL women, including me, there are always insecurities. I think I have a cheesy smile that makes me have fat chipmunk cheeks. But I don’t see that when I photograph other women. I see love and happiness. I love photographing people in mid-laugh. I love photographing a genuine interaction between people that shows real personality and love. It’s authentic and it’s beautiful and that shows through much stronger than the extra ten pounds ladies sometimes ask me to “Photoshop out” for them. Those ten pounds are imaginary. YOU are real and YOU are amazing.

So my call to action here is to take some great photos with my mom, like ASAP. And I can’t just stop there. I need some great photos with the rest of my family- my dad, sisters, brother. These will be what we hold on to a long way down the road.

And what about you? Think about the last awesome photo you took with someone you love in your life. Some people are great about it, and some not (like me). So, with Mother’s Day fast approaching, take the time to at least get some snapshots of the woman in your life- your mom, grandma or the mother of your children- and PRINT them. Don’t keep ’em on the phone, silly!

If you’re in the Kansas City area and would like to give the gift of special memories captured in print, contact me to schedule a custom portrait session. The weather is warming up, flowers are blooming and everything is getting really green and beautiful! Outdoor afternoon sessions are available in the next few weeks leading up to May 14th (check out my blog on “The Art of Light” to see why afternoon/evening outdoor sessions really rock), and I have available studio space in the West Bottoms or in my home studio in Lee’s Summit if you’d like to do an indoor Mom and Me session! Check out my website for portrait session information and to contact me.


Special thanks to Junik Studio for the floral watercolor elements seen above.

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The Art of Light in Portrait Photography

Any photograph capturing a special moment is beautiful, I think we can all agree on that. But what makes one better than another? The light.

The word “photography” is based on the Greek words phos meaning light and graphê, meaning drawing or writing. Photography, therefore, is “drawing with light.”

Sometimes you just get the most gorgeous light and it turns a photograph into a piece of magic. And sometimes it’s cloudy and rainy and that’s what you deal with, and it doesn’t mean you can’t still get great images, because you can still show emotion on a cloudy day, and often you can’t reschedule a session last minute.

But when that light hits… it’s amazing. Late afternoon and evening is when you hear about the golden hour or magic hour. It’s true! That nice warm light in the afternoon can take an image from good to downright beautiful.

These images were all taken in late afternoon and early evening and show gorgeous golden light spilling onto the subjects from behind.

I’m not saying you can’t shoot in the middle of the day or in the morning. There’s a little bit of a golden hour REALLY early when the sun just comes up (but the dust and pollution that builds up during the day helps make the afternoon light a little more golden and special, ironically!), and if you’re shooting in open shade, a midday shoot can work. But sometimes it’s difficult. I have shot in midday before because it’s convenient for the client, and I don’t think I’ll budge on that again unless I’m really familiar with the session location and I know we have some nice shaded areas to work with. Don’t shoot in an open area unless you’re prepared with heavy lighting… which can definitely take away from the beauty of an outdoor natural light session.

These images were taken in the middle of the day, but I had lots of open shade to use to my advantage to make nice images. Notice that nobody has harsh light in their face and there aren’t any dark shadows under chins or noses, or black shaded eyes, and every person has a nice catchlight in their eyes, which gives soul to the images.

Now, I could try to dig up old portraits I took before things clicked (ha!) and I realized how important the surroundings are- not so much your backgrounds, but the quality of the light around the people you are photographing- but I won’t embarrass myself and my clients from so long ago.

Next time you get out to take some portraits, remember these tips and see the difference!

Want to schedule a beautiful light session with me? If you’re in the Kansas City area, check out my website and contact me. Don’t forget to follow me on Facebook and Instagram!


More fun with the Mitchell Family

I’d be surprised if you haven’t already seen images from past sessions with the Mitchell family. Ben and Jenny really value the importance of documenting their memories with professional photography, and I’m so grateful to be the one invited into their lives to help them celebrate these special moments!

My first portrait session with the Mitchell’s was a maternity session when the couple was expecting Ella, who has grown into such an adorable girl!

This particular day was, well, cold. And windy! And cloudy. But we did it! We braved the chill and made it happen! Baby Haley had just celebrated her first birthday the day before, joining older sister Ella and Jenny’s mother, brother and sister-in-law.

Although not much had started turning green yet, dad and husband Ben found this location with a nice bridge and a really cool creek. We threw a few rocks into the creek from the bridge. When Ella was asked if she wanted to be thrown in too, she said, “No! I am not a rock!”

Good reasoning, Ella!


Here’s the whole group. The cold is starting to really get us, but both girls were cooperating, and you might notice Ella helping to make sure Haley was looking toward the camera if you look closely. 😉



We ended the afternoon with a few quick photos in this chair, just as we had done a year ago when Haley was brand new. Look at how much they’ve grown… and how much faster they move!


Thanks for reading!

You can view images from the Mitchell’s previous portrait session here.

Check out my website for more portraits and to connect with me.



Hello, baby Ruth!

I got to photograph sweet little Ruth recently, and I’ve never seen a more adorable mermaid! (Read on for those photos!)

Meet Ruth. She’s wearing a bonnet that belonged to her mom, Laura, when she was a baby. She cracked a little smile for the camera after taking in the strange surroundings with all the lights.



Ruth’s grandma made this owl hat and the sign AND the beautiful mermaid tail. What a crafty lady!


Here’s the sweetest mermaid ever. Ruth was awake for most of the shoot, but decided to get comfortable and take a nap for her last set of photos. Modeling is hard work, guys!


Let me know what you think of these images of Ruth!

Connect with me on Facebook, Instagram and my website.


All images © Melissa McGhee Photography 2017.

Jackson is ONE!

I first took photos of this family last fall, and mentioned to Julie, Jackson’s mom, that we should definitely schedule a cake smash photo session for his first birthday. Cake smashes are fun- the kid gets to enjoy some cake, and I get to take some cute and messy photos to celebrate a milestone first birthday. Julie put all the props together for the shoot and we were ready to go!


Except when the birthday boy doesn’t like his cake. That’s right. Julie ordered an adorable cake and Jackson did not know what to do with it. When he tasted a little of the icing, he made a face like he had just eaten something more along the lines of sauerkraut or pickle juice!

This was quite a surprise to Mom and Dad, who noted that he puts everything in his mouth. Leaves, dirt, you name it- much like every other kid his age. Maybe he just doesn’t know what to do on the floor. Maybe he’ll start eating if we put him in his high chair?

Jackson started out being really excited, but his attitude changed when he realized he was getting that same old cake in the chair. He wasn’t having it… Although, Dad was kind of proud of him for not tearing into the cake.

And if he had gotten all messy with the cake, we might not have gotten these adorable photos with the red balloon.


Happy Birthday, Jackson!

P.S. I hope your mom and dad enjoyed your cake!

Contact me to book your baby’s one year portrait session- cake or no cake! 🙂

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Melissa McGhee


Meet Baby Vera

Sweet little Vera entered the world less than two weeks ago. I was so excited to photograph her and her beautiful head of dark hair, which is quite the contrast to her three siblings when they were born! I had the pleasure of taking each of their newborn photos, and it’s so awesome to see traits of each of them in her.


I was happy to have the opportunity to put this flower wreath to use, and the photos turned out so darling. Look at the sweetness!


Vera was sweet and sleepy for the most part- a perfect newborn model! I had MANY ideas for her photos, and we got to most of them before her sisters and brother arrived for the sibling images. But I still have a swing prop I’m hoping to use soon on my next newborn girl for another garden-like look.

When I planned for the shots below, I had it pictured perfectly in my head. The oldest girl will hold the baby in her lap, the little boy on the left will lean against his big sister and the little girl on the right will cheerfully lean against her sister’s legs and everyone will look at my camera at once and I’ll get the perfect shot! …And then I laughed to myself, because that was probably a pretty far fetched idea for children so little.

And you can’t blame the kids- they’re kids, of course! Short attention spans are perfectly normal. When you’ve got little toddlers with minds of their own, it’s easy to feel a bit overwhelmed, wondering if you’ll ever catch a shot where each kid is cooperating at the same time.

What I do see in these images is a connection between siblings. I see interaction and- obviously-  adorable faces. But the best part was when I showed their mother the preview images. She saw these and an “Ooohhhh!” came out of her mouth. That’s what makes it special.


I’ll leave you with that! Enjoy this? Visit my website and follow me on Facebook!

If you’re in the Kansas City area, contact me to learn more about my photography sessions. eight-one-six 522.4678


Melissa McGhee



The Forgotten Tween?

Do you remember being a tween? I sure do.

I don’t remember every detail, but I remember being self-conscious about everything. I was really scrawny and skinny (once a relative even told me I looked anorexic, which was such a punch to the gut since it was just the way I was- I couldn’t help it!), I was taller than every other girl in my class by age 9 so I hunched my shoulders to seem shorter, and I was bullied and left out so often because, well, I had a lot more arm and leg hair than the other girls my age and it was easy for everyone else to make fun of me. I mean, if you have ever met my dad, you know where I get it from. It was another one of those things I had no control over, except that my mom let me start shaving my legs when I was in fifth grade. Oh GEEZ, I must be crazy for divulging all this information! But I do have a reason…

I’m a portrait photographer- I make beautiful images of babies and toddlers. They’re so cute and chubby and funny. And then I take portraits of your families when the kids are still pretty young. And then life gets pretty crazy, right? After school activities, gymnastics and dance and little league. And before you know it your child is a senior, and that’s another important milestone in her life and we go all out for her senior portraits.

But… what about all those years in between? Almost all of the photos I have of myself from about 10 years old through most of high school (which number WAY fewer than the ones when I was a cute little kid) are just some of the most awkward photos I’ve ever seen! Mouth half open, retainers, that unfortunate perm that gave me “Michael Jackson” bangs when I was 11. Yeah, that was real. Hello, 1995. Can you relate? Think back to the crap you went through at that age.

Now, imagine the impact a single beautiful image of you could have had when you were going through that stage of your life.

I can’t begin to imagine the pressures kids face today. I’m so thankful there was no Facebook or Snapchat or Twitter when I was a kid, as much of a helpful tool as it is to me today (well, let’s face it, I’m no good at Snapchat and I’m not sure I can learn).
I’m not a mother, but I know if you are, that you know more than me. Maybe you’ve felt your daughter’s pain when she came home from school crying because someone told her she was fat, or made fun of her freckles or her glasses. I remember crying to my mom. And you know your daughter has so much to offer if the tormentors of her world could just let her, and if she would just understand that there is SO much more out there beyond the bullying.

Or maybe you’re just frantically looking through the family albums for the photos of the kids between the ages of 9 and 15??? Of course, I don’t think many families actually keep albums today. Most of the photos are on our phones and our social media. I’d like to bring back the tangible photograph. It’s so much easier to enjoy.

So, from now until the end of February, I’m going to offer $50 Tween Sessions at my studio for girls age 9-13. These aren’t cheesy, let me see that big smile, click, click, click sessions. We’re going to show your girl’s personality– her strength, poise and confidence. Every tween will get an 8×10 of choice in a hand-painted frame from the session as a reminder that she’s beautiful and confident and has great things in store for her future.


Contact me today RIGHT HERE to schedule your daughter’s Tween Portrait Session!


Melissa McGhee Photography



It feels like spring… a reflection on fall

The weather is gorgeous on this January day in KC! It’s 59 degrees, which basically feels like a perfect 72 after the snow and frigid temps we had last week. I know this won’t last.. tomorrow’s high is only 32, but I am itching to get back outside to shoot! I love the freedom of outdoor portraits, and outdoor portraits in colder months aren’t impossible either with the occasional warmer day nature gives us.

Last fall I hosted some mini sessions and never shared anything since lots of the families were using the image for Christmas gifts, so here are a few of my favorites from each family. Finally!

Miranda & Allison

The Jeffery Family

DebDeb and Parker & Lilah

The Koffenbergers

The Farrar Family

The Merchant boys

And the Reades!

Lots of fun and silliness all day long! And each of these collections (plus more) were shot in 20 minutes or less!

Thanks for reading,

Melissa McGhee


Connect with me: Website   Instagram

The Stoddards: Four Generations

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of photographing a beautiful group of ladies… and Parker! We captured four generations at Debbie’s home in Downtown Lee’s Summit.


All of the beautiful ladies with Lilah and Parker: Gloria (Mimi), Debbie, her daughters Danielle, Courtney and Taylor, and Danielle’s two little ones.

Check out these gorgeous sisters!img_2644-bw

Danielle and her two kids.


Lilah, Parker and Mimi.




img_2777Here’s our four generations!


I have a habit of making everyone squeeze and snuggle throughout the shoot. It really shows the love this family has for each other and also provides plenty of opportunity for giggles, and I love to capture those silly moments!


Thanks for checking out the blog, and thanks, Stoddard family, for letting me document these special memories!


-Melissa McGhee

Connect with me: Website   Instagram 


Marshmallows and the Mitchells!

My first photo shoot with the Mitchell family was a few years ago for maternity portraits when mom, Jenny, was pregnant with their first child, Ella. I’ve been documenting this beautiful family through photographs ever since. They’re now a family of four with two adorable little girls.

We started in the studio, and Ella warmed up to the camera after a little bit with marshmallow rewards for every smile. (Thanks, Mom and Dad for that ingenious bribe! It worked like a charm!)

Ella soon became the marshmallow keeper and even rewarded her mom for being such a good smiler!img_6842

We recreated one of Ella’s six-month photos with the necklaces for now six-month old Haley. img_6888

And we took lots and lots of one on one photos with Mom and Dad. Look at those smiles and precious moments!


Finally, we took a short drive to a nearby park and snapped a few last photos with a very special prop. This LOVE sign, has been incorporated into photos with the Mitchell family since our very first photo shoot, and it will continue to be an ongoing theme (obviously!) for many more. Thanks, Ben and Jenny, for this wonderful time!img_6926