Photo of Melissa Hess of Melissa Engle Photography


Hello, I’m Melissa, a portrait, family and lifestyle photographer based in Lancaster, PA. Folks who know me well would describe me as a child at heart who is known for her killer party planning skills and obsession with unicorns and mermaids. I’m a lover of vibrant colors, impromptu dance parties and anything that involves bacon and avocado.

I photograph people who are looking for someone to capture the joy and chaos of their everyday lives and important milestones with a unique eye for detail, color and genuine emotion. With a background in studio art and photojournalism, I strive to tell stories with my photography using an approach that is relaxed, natural and fun.

Most days you can find me out on adventures with my two young kiddos or enjoying a cup of tea in the evening while watching sci-fi detective shows or Jane the Virgin and Call the Midwife with my computer programmer husband.

I am an avid thrift shopper, aspiring gardener and hobbyist jewelry maker who believes that life is about building relationships and finding ways to give back. I am passionate about refugee and immigrant issues and creating community in my historic Lancaster City neighborhood, Cabbage Hill. I’m also addicted to ice cream and during the summer we take weekly strolls to Penny’s Ice Cream (their black raspberry oreo is THE BEST!)

Since giving back is a core part of who I am, the heart of my business is about giving back too. Each year I hold mini sessions by donation with a portion of the proceeds being donated to non-profit organizations. I also collaborate with Church World Service-Lancaster and I am an ongoing volunteer photographer for their project Invisible Americans. Want to know more about my photography journey and where it all began? Click here.



  1. I was born in New Orleans about a month after Mardi Gras.

  2. I can wiggle my ears (yes, without touching them!).

  3. I have traveled to 36 countries on 5 continents, most of them while on assignment as a photographer for Mennonite Central Committee.

  4. I am fluent in Spanish and spent a year living with a host family in Nicaragua where I volunteered at a cultural center and ate LOTS of chocobananos.

  5. I love hearing and sharing birth stories (becoming a mom changed my life!).

  6. I got my start in photography with film as a young teen and my first camera was my mom’s Canon-AE1.

This is us!

Thanks to Vanessa Joy Films for capturing a day in the life of our family.