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This isn’t the big final farewell post that I’ll have on this wedding… but it’s been a couple of weeks and the bride deserves a teaser! The way I’m working this one though, it REALLY a tease… just a bit of the start of their day; the beginning. I can’t wait to get the whole gallery up for everyone to see. It was a very special day for us. And I’m so glad we were able top share it with Jocelyn & Arron. 🙂






If a bride wants a dream place to get ready, the Bentley in Kinston is perfection. Light is gorgeous!









…about to enter her happily ever after.

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It has been so much fun this season to work with out last clients. We started the year off with a bang as we headed to Snow Hill to meet up with Cameron & Jessica for their absolutely stunning Do-It-Yourself wedding! I knew at their interview that it was going to be amazing. Between the location, the concept and the ideas they were tossing out, how could it NOT be? And when I say DIY? I mean it… even her dress was sewn by her grandmother! I could brag on this couple ’til the cows come home, but you likely just want to see their pictures. So I’ll just stop and let you scroll. 😀




Thank you SO much, Cam & Jess, for letting us join you! You have a special place in our hearts and I hope you know that. We loved every second of the day… especially the cake. 😀

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It’s such a bittersweet season for us! We’re down to “this is the last time we’ll ever…” as we head out for projects. Yesterday was the last time Fresh would shot an engagement session. And what a way to go out! Jocelyn and Aaron were the perfect subjects. And even though we pushed Aaron WAY out of his comfort zone (sound familiar grooms?), he was an awesome player… even down to taking one for the team in the ocean! I can’t image a better couple to end with… thank you both for being willing and relaxed! I hope you love these as much as WE do. Can’t wait to share our last bridal shoot AND last wedding with the two of you. Let’s make history together! 😀


























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For months now, we’ve had some exciting things happening, business wise. Some of you have heard whispers here and there, and so we felt it was time to make the announcement officially official. After 12 years as a professional photographer, we will be closing the doors to Fresh. This has been a HUGE decision, and not one that we’ve taken lightly. Aside from the handful of clients who are in the final stages of having their products ordered and delivered, along with the two weddings we have left to shoot in 2012, we will be stepping back from this side of the industry that we’ve come to love.

But there is good news! Through our time creating, planning and teaching our national photography workshop, Genesis, we have developed a passion for mentoring. With our years of ultimate highs, as well as a few with debilitating lows, we have learned so much about what it takes to do what we do; both through great choices AND through poor ones. This experience led to the creation of Genesis, and ultimately, to the creation of our new venture, Clarity.

Clarity will be a communication-based business that works with other photographers in a personal, one-on-one fashion, helping them weed through the writing of their web content and client correspondence, while also providing insight into conflict resolution as it arises. It’s where I hope photographers will go when they need help getting through the parts of the business that aren’t so creative and fun. I’ve already been blessed with clients ready to move forward on their communication needs, and have watched as they have taken advice from Clarity and seen amazing results. It’s been a huge indication that this is the direction we need to be headed.

I want to thank all of you who have worked with us over the years… those who have been with us for as long as our doors have been open… those who have hired us from hundreds of miles away and flown us to your homes… those who have been gracious during my health concerns over the last two years, and those who have been encouragers as we have searched for how to best transition into this new season of our lives.

God began a good work in me all those years ago when I first took a picture of Parker and Peyton for our family Christmas card. He grew a heart for helping others have images they could be proud of; that focused on the essence of their family’s relationships. It’s been humbling to hear back from these clients and know that we gave them something to cherish. I’m now excited to go help other photographers accomplish the same thing… to be the best photographer they can be, so that even more families can hang wonderful, emotion-filled images on their walls.

Jeff and I find it bittersweet to see a chapter close… but we’re confident that in doing so, we’re following the path we’re meant to walk. At our “Grand Opening” of the storefront, I read from a passage in 1 Chronicles 17. It seems fitting to repeat it here…

“Who am I, Lord God, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? And as if this were not enough in your sight, my God, you have spoken about the future of the house of your servant… And now, Lord, let the promise you have made concerning your servant and his house be established forever. Do as you promised, so that it will be established and that your name will be great forever.”

-Mel & Jeff

PS – Now, keep an eye out for the Clarity launch! Here’s our new website!

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I haven’t been able to pull my Genesis thoughts together in a coherent way since returning from Las Vegas… so until that happens, here’s a happy little shot of Jeff and me from the Instructor Shoot-Out on day one! Much thanks to Genestudent Susan Judge for grabbing this for us! It’s the only shot of us together from the whole week! But it captures our personalities perfectly. 😀


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A Fresh Mel

So, winter is a photographer’s slow time. And even though we don’t have tons of images to post, it doesn’t mean we’re not accomplishing amazing things! Today, I’m gonna highlight my own personal accomplishment! I started the Dukan Diet back on July 18th. And as of January, have lost a total of 62 pounds! Isn’t that insane?! I have never, in my adult life, been a size 8… so this is HUGE. So huge. I am incredibly excited to see how this affects my shooting. I was already willing to get on the ground and climb into a window to get the shot, but maybe now I can do it more easily and look less silly trying. 😀


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While many photographers are posting their year-in-review images, we’ve been sitting over here excited for what 2012 is going to look like for us. It’s no secret that I struggled this past year and a half with a severe postpartum diagnosis that limited what we were able to do, photographically. There were days I thought I’d never pick up a camera again. And there were days when the camera was my only link to sanity. Funny how that worked. With this new year, though, comes a renewing of who we are and what we offer. The year 2012 is poised to be the best year yet… and not because we’re booked to high heaven (which used to be our criteria for success). It’s going to be the best simply because we’ve narrowed down our focus… narrowed down what we intend to offer… what we intend to shoot… and will be putting a “fresh”, more creative foot forward.

In 2011, we introduced our Adventure sessions as the replacement for the traditional family shoots we’d done in years past. Not only were they wildly enjoyed by the families who took part, but Jeff and I felt fully alive again! We were now shooting in a way that was out-of-the-box and highly catered to the client who wants something unique and special… not just another session that can be gotten anywhere else. We have a clear vision of how these will progress in the next few months, and the new packaging has been pulled together in a way that showcases who we are as photographers… storytellers. We can’t wait to tell yours.


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Jon & Laura Lancaster from Memphis, TN!

Some of you may recognize them from this past Genesis! They were volunteer models for the instructor shoot out (of whom I got to take a whopping three shots of before being called to put out a few fires elsewhere). I always regretted not having more time to spend with them, and when their entry came through, it put a smile on my face! Knowing their personalities made the details they gave me just POP off of the screen! I had ideas jumping into my head left and right… so it’ll be exciting prepping with them and pulling it all together for the students!

Seriously, you guys have NO idea how difficult it was to read all of the amazing stories and know that we could only choose one. Ultimately, what it came down to was the couple who included information that I knew would translate well into four separate photo sessions (after all, it IS a workshop!). Jon & Laura have it all… but I won’t list it out here. You’ll have to wait and see what happens in Vegas! I promise it won’t stay there! 😉

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Up to this point, our Fresh for Free program has done some random acts of kindness for local families in the form of complimentary sessions, school picture shots and free product. This past Fall, we even gave away a wedding to one lucky couple. In March of 2012, we’re upping the anti by a HUGE margin. We’re going to be choosing ONE married couple to join us in VEGAS for the week of Genesis! The winning couple is flown, all expenses paid, from their home city to Las Vegas, Nevada. They get to stay at the Genesis mansion, eat the food provided by our Genesis chef, and take advantage of what the city has to offer in their free time. What’s the catch? We need models! The rotation that Jeff and I teach includes a section on shooting with emotion and purpose. The best way to showcase that is to have a real couple that we’ve prepped just as we would have any client here at home. Only, we need you to be with us at the workshop!


Run-Down of What you Get:

• Flights for TWO to Vegas on Sunday, March 18th

• Free time all day Sunday and Monday to do whatever you want!

• Model for an hour in each of our four rotations on Tuesday-Thursday

• Hang out in the mansion and play pool or relax in the jacuzzi

• Receive the images from your modeling sessions


• Fly home on Friday the 23rd


As an added bit of fun, you do NOT have to be a current Fresh client… and you don’t even have to live in North Carolina! So if this isn’t up your alley, or you know you can’t get the time off from work to do it, pass it on to a couple that you think would get a kick out of doing something this unique and fun! We promise to take good care of them!

In order to make certain that we choose the best couple for the job, we’d like you to fill out our questionnaire. This will serve as your entry! You need to fill this out together! So make sure you’re both at the computer before you start! Entries are receivable from today until midnight on 12/31.


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Jeff and I have been married for almost 17 years. I’ve been a photographer for 11 of those. In that time, can you guess how many professional family portraits we’ve had made? Let’s not count the Schmolan Schmills picture for the church directory, okay? That would bring the count to a whopping… ZERO. It’s a classic case of the cobbler’s child having no shoes. And while I have lots of just my kids because of being able to handle that myself, I can assure you that they aren’t nearly as great as the ones I take for other people. It’s just almost impossible to truly relax while shooting your own family. And the pictures show that.

Earlier this year, when Genesis 2 was announced and the city of Memphis was chosen, I knew that we’d be taking our kids along with us. Not because they’d get to see family (but they would) and not because I thought we would all enjoy the 50 hour van ride together (no comment), but ONLY because I was bound and determined that our favorite photographer from California would end the week with a photo shoot just for us. Tack on the fact that Jeff and I would be losing weight and I was willing to move heaven and earth to make it happen. Of course, I didn’t have to do that, because Sam is amazing and was on board from the first “I was wondering…” email that he got from me. I was on cloud nine.

Fast forward several months (and reduce mine and Jeff’s sizes by over 50 pounds) and you get to Memphis. We spent the week teaching some of the most gifted and caring photographers from across three countries. Even my kids grew attached to them. So when Sam said he didn’t mind if a few came along for our shoot, I jumped at the chance to invite some of the ones who were still hanging around after the workshop ended. I can’t tell you how loved-on we felt that day… so many creative minds working feverishly just to make us feel special. And it worked. Once the images started trickling in, I cried (happy cries!) on more than one occasion. All those little facial expressions and family togetherness that I was never able to get on my own, were now sitting on my computer screen giving me goose bumps.  And even poor Fin, who wasn’t able to get his nap in and did NOT want to be there, came away with some sweet shots that show his more serious side. It made the 50 hour van ride sooooo worth it.

Sam Hassas, I have no words. You know how much you mean to our family… and nothing I type here could ever do justice to the emotions and thoughts in my head. From the bottom of our hearts, we are grateful… and I’m weepy just typing this. It’s a blessing to know that this friendship will last an eternity. Philippians 1:3 says it best: “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you”.



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