Lancaster Portrait Photography: Christmas Mini Sessions for a Cause at Frey's Greenhouse

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A big part of the Christmas season for me is about giving (after all gifts are my top love language) and I have always wanted my business to give back in some way. A few years back, during the Syrian refugee crisis, a friend had the idea of getting photographers to offer their services while donating the proceeds to non profit organizations that were helping refugees. It was wildly successful and people not only got great family photos for their Christmas cards, they also felt good knowing their money was going to a good cause.

This is the third year in a row that I have offered Christmas mini sessions for a cause and this year was the biggest year yet! I had so much demand for my first round of mini sessions that I decided to offer a second round. This year I chose a local cause, The Lancaster Neighbor Fund, which supports immigrants and their families who are vulnerable to deportation in the Lancaster area. I chose this cause because of my passion and concern for immigrant and refugee issues and because I know people and families who have been detained by ICE (Immigration & Customs Enforcement). I have also worked in the immigration program at non profit organization CWS Lancaster and understand the difficulties that many of these families face. I am happy to say that we raised $685 for the Lancaster Neighbor Fund through our mini sessions this year!

The photos below are some of my favorites from our second round of mini sessions at Frey’s Greenhouse. It is impossible to leave Frey’s without feeling the Christmas spirit. Not only are their displays fantastic and festive, they have a fire pit outside where you can roast your own s’mores and free hot chocolate inside. They even had some vintage riding toys in the greenhouse that the kids loved.

Thank you to all the families who came out for Christmas mini sessions! You can bet I’ll be doing it again next year.

Melissa Engle Photography offers portrait and lifestyle photography in Lancaster, PA. Please contact me if you would like to make some photo magic together!


Lancaster Family Photography: A Fall Family Session at Long's Park

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I’ve been photographing the Franz family for a few years now and this fall session at Long’s Park is probably my favorite session with them so far. In all my years of doing portrait photography, I have rarely used Long’s Park as a location. I’m not sure why that is because it’s a beautiful spot and there is quite the variety with the pond, foot bridges, trees and forest. This park has become my go to with my daughter, ever since she was a baby. In fact her first word was “duck” because she loved to see the ducks at Long’s Park.

Fall came a little bit late this year and on this day the leaves were finally starting to show their true colors. There were countless other photo shoots going on at the same time and I was not surprised. The light was golden, the kids were happy, it was everything a photographer could want.

Melissa Engle Photography offers portrait and lifestyle photography in Lancaster, PA. Please contact me if you would like to make some photo magic together!

Personal: Freelensing with Cora in the Lititz Wildflower Field

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If I'm being honest, most days motherhood does not leave me with much energy to be creative. With the heat we've been having this summer and the demands of an infant and a toddler, I feel pretty drained most days. Sometimes it takes a lot of motivation to even climb up a set of stairs to get my camera when there's something I want to photograph of my kids. Yet at the same time I have found that motherhood has deepened my desire to express my artistic side even more and compelled me to document life for my children through photography. In a way, I would say that taking beautiful photos of my daughter running through wildflower fields allows me to not only process my reality but to escape for a moment. I look through the viewfinder and see all the colors that make my heart soar and watch my carefree daughter twirling around and for a second I forget that I am majorly sleep deprived and in need of quality adult interaction. 

I've been a stay-at-home mom for three years now, and in that time I have come to realize that I NEED to take time to create, even when I don't have the energy.  Getting the creative juices flowing refuels me. So, I decided to do some experimenting with freelensing, a technique where you remove the lens from your camera and hold it over the shutter. It creates a really shallow depth of field and allows most of the image to blur with just a tiny portion in focus. I think it creates a really dreamy effect, though I will say it's best to practice on non-moving objects first to get comfortable with how it works. I used a 50 mm and a 35 mm lens for these freelensing shots in the Lititz wildflower field. Also FYI, not all of them are freelensed, as you can probably tell.

The large vertical image of Cora lying down in the wildflower field encircled by black eyed susans is probably one of the favorites I've taken of her so far this year. As summer comes to an end and we enter into the busy season of fall, I hope I can continue to find ways to fuel my creative spirit in the every day rhythms and routines of life.

Melissa Engle Photography offers portrait and lifestyle photography in Lancaster, PA. Please contact me if you would like to make some photo magic together!

Hummelstown Family Photography: Sullivan's One Year Session Among the Peonies

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This little blue eyed beauty turned one in May. I loved capturing Sullivan with her mom and dad (and dog) at their home, especially with my all time favorite flower, the peony. She held onto a small pink bud for most of the photo session. Sullivan will no doubt be walking completely on her own soon. I am always honored to capture these moments for families, because I know how fleeting they are. Just a year ago, I photographed Sullivan as a newborn, less than 48 hours after she was born. My how the time flies!

Lancaster Family Photography: Garden of the Five Senses with the Koppes Family

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These friends are new to Lancaster and also happen to be my neighbors. The Koppes family moved here from Colorado less than a year ago and chose to live in our neighborhood in part due to one of my personal projects called "Who's Who on the Hill", documenting people and their stories in Cabbage Hill (the Lancaster City neighborhood where we reside). It was a muggy evening but the light was golden and the kiddos were in a good mood (probably motivated by their ice cream reward post photo shoot). I have been working at trying to capture more candid moments in my family photography and am excited by the fun expressions and overall love and joyfulness that comes across in these photos.

Melissa Engle Photography offers portrait and lifestyle photography in Lancaster, PA. Please contact me if you would like to make some photo magic together!

Lancaster Family Photography: Spring Session with Janet & Kai

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I have been antsy to get out and take photos to get my creative juices flowing after being cooped up all winter and adjusting to life with a newborn. With the spring blooms everywhere and Mother's Day coming up, I asked my friend Janet if she and her son Kai would model for a mother-son session with me at Buchmiller Park, just outside Lancaster City. The light was absolutely perfect and the cherry blossom curtains made for some fun playful images. I've been photographing Kai since he was a newborn and I can't believe how much he has grown into a little boy. 

I also want to take this opportunity to remind all the moms (and dads) out there to get in the frame with your kids. You won't regret it and your kids will appreciate it years from now. My mom was the picture taker and documentarian in our family. We have carefully organized photo albums from all of our childhood years, thanks to my mom, along with detailed baby books and binders of our childhood artwork and other school papers, even "love notes" that boy crushes wrote to me. I know I have appreciated looking through these memories over the years and hope that I can do just as good of a job documenting life for my own kiddos AND also make sure that I appear in the frame from time to time. So here's my pitch to you; make your spouse or your friend or your dog take some photos of you and the kiddos interacting (selfies don't count!). OR hire a photographer (pick me!) to photograph your family. In fact, I've got gift certificates available and mother's day is just around the corner...

Lancaster Family Photography: Natalie One Year Session at Stauffer's Greenhouse

Little miss Natalie is turning one at the end of March and we wanted to find a place to do her one year session that felt colorful and fun but was also warm. We decided to go to the greenhouse at Stauffer's of Kissel Hill. Since spring is on it's way, there were plenty of flowers galore, and we sat her right among them for photos. I think she probably tasted a few too. Big brother Josiah had a great time dipping in all of the fountains while Mom and Dad took turns getting photos with Natalie.