340 photos later

As I vented about earlier, it’s really important (to me, at least) that photos are printed and displayed. While there are many different methods and theories for how to preserve and organize your photos, I shared mine, which is heavy-duty, hand-held albums.

I just received a batch of 340 4×6 images in the mail and went through the process of placing them in albums. Oh how fun! Here’s a snippet for proof.


Timelapse photo album building from Melanie Busbee on Vimeo.

Morphing zinnias

Morphed zinnias from Melanie Busbee on Vimeo.

I am not a great gardener – not even a good gardener, really – but when I discover a plant or flower that does well without any assistance on my part, I feel like a success. Lantana does that. Verbena does that. And my new favorite: zinnias do that. They just grow and grow and grow, even in dry conditions, and they volunteer everywhere in the yard. 

Zinnias produce the most vibrant colors and their blooms are big enough to create some gorgeous summer bouquets. I have a fresh bouquet in my house throughout the summer months and it makes me so happy. 

Plus, I can totally nerd out and create time remapping visuals in After Effects with pictures of my zinnias. 

Print those cell phone photos

I know, I know. It’s such a pain to store, sort, save and print photos. Especially when we now take an exhaustive number of mobile photos each day. There are just too many to sort through. It’s so daunting most of us ignore it.

But, when it comes to photo printing, this is where I preach. I’ll try to preach gently.

Please, pretty please, start printing your photos and putting them in albums. Viewing them on a screen can never replace the weight of an album in your lap, or the emotional magnitude of flipping through glossy page after page of family memories. Hubby and I will often spend an evening – after the kids are fast asleep – going through our albums. It makes a cheap date night!

Everyone says, oh time flies, oh these days will be over before you know it. And I believe it. But I’m comforted by the fact that I’ve got the moments preserved on paper. I have albums that date back to the moment my son Caleb was born through Halloween of last year. And I’m ordering prints of all my current photos as I write this.

I’m not saying you have to go back through your entire history of photos, back to beginning of time. Don’t overload yourself or feel like you have to catch up. Just start with the present. Print those photos moving forward (and clear up some space on your phone). You will be so grateful you did.

Okay, rant complete.


Here are the simple steps I use to create my albums:

  • I print photos twice yearly. It’s a lot of photos each time. Maybe 200? I typically print 4×6-inch prints, which can be done affordably through mpix, Shutterfly or Walgreens. I also occasionally order canvas wall art and I have an entire wall of my house dedicated to those masterpieces. Those I order from Artsy Couture, Miller’s Lab or Collage.com.

  • To retrieve photos from my phone I plug the phone directly into my computer and use Mac’s Image Capture app to import the images. You can select all or individual images to import and save them directly to a folder of your choosing. I save all of my photos to an external hard drive (because I am old school and have no clue how to use iCloud). Additionally I have a cloud-based Pixieset account, which is reserved for my professional work.

  • Once photos are selected and imported I sort them into folders organized by month and year.

  • I then crop photos and reduce them down to 4×6 inches. This takes time and is not required. I do it because it saves time when uploading to a photo printing site, which is the next step.

mpix offers professional quality prints with one-day turnaround, shipped directly to you. The cost is 19¢ a print (economy 4×6 inch prints).

Walgreens offers fast service (one hour!) and costs 19¢ per print. They run specials often that bring the price way down. The quality is not nearly as good (cheaper ink, cheaper paper), but is totally acceptable for a 4×6-inch print. If you want it shipped to your house, that is also an option, but adds time to the process.

Shutterfly offers matte and glossy at 15¢ a print. They also offer free, unlimited online photo storage. Many times the site will offer free shipping once you’ve met a minimum order.

With all three vendors you must create an account and spend a little bit of time uploading your prints. Then just push that beloved “Place Order” button and await those glorious memories.

When the giant stack of photos arrives in the mail, oh I can hardly contain myself. Hubby and I pour through them. The kids love them too.

I purchase hardcover albums in which to store and display the prints from multiple places, mostly T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, Homegoods, Kohl’s and A.C. Moore. I prefer 12×12 or 10×10-sized albums that hold five photos (of both horizontal and vertical orientation) per page.

  • The last step – sliding those gorgeous photos into the album sleeves. This part is its own reward. Oh so satisfying!

Of course alternative options are available. I have used a mobile app called Chatbooks – which I reserve mostly for gifts or themed albums. Within the app, you pull photos directly from your phone to create nice-quality, soft-cover and hard-cover books. This is an easy, affordable option that is less time consuming than my process. For me, I still find value in pulling photos off my phone and organizing and storing them on a hard drive. 

Hubby expresses gratitude for his many blessings, one of the most vocal being just this: the preservation of our families memories. He doesn’t often mention my meticulous cleaning of the toilets or my daily packing the kids’ lunches. He does however, thank me constantly for capturing, organizing and displaying these albums. If our house were to catch on fire (you know, natural anxiety-filled things I think about), I’d first save the kids/pets, then the albums.

It matters not that most of the photos came from my cell phone. They are precious to me. And yours are to you.

Woodlake Community trail

As a photographer who leans toward taking portraits in natural settings, my eyes are always peeled for new and different locations. I once visited the Woodlake Community trail in southwest Durham with a photography class and fell in love with the variety of scenes found there. There is a playground, two lakes and three miles of paved walking trails.

For families, this is great. It provides a great deal of entertainment for young children within a small space and keeps them energized throughout a photo session.

From the photographer’s perspective, the setting is nice because there is both shade and sun, plus a variety of backdrops that range from forest to fence, and lake to tall grasses.

While it is most exquisite during fall, when the foliage surrounding the lake is on fire, today’s visit (and inexcusable cell phone photos) showcase some nice nooks for photos even in the dead heat of summer.

One critical thing to note: this is a neighborhood community. I would recommend bringing only very small groups here (4 ppl or under) for photos, and absolutely no equipment beyond a camera and maybe a reflector. Also, because it is a natural setting, there are often geese present. Just something to consider. 

Now snap away to your heart’s content.

And the winner is…

My July Facebook contest has now ended and ladies and gentlemen, you said some really, really nice things about my work. You really outdid yourselves, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Without further ado…drumroll please…the winner is:

Melanie Busbee Photo July contest winner from Melanie Busbee on Vimeo.

Congratulations, Holly! You are a tremendous customer and momma to those gorgeous kiddos. I have loved watching your family grow and look forward to another photo session!

Museum trekking in under a minute

If you haven’t yet visited the Museum of Life and Science in Durham, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR!?

Museum trekking in under a minute from Melanie Busbee on Vimeo.

This video hardly scratches the surface of wonder and amazement at the museum (we only had time for 4 of the 11 outdoor exhibits), but it honestly highlights what a 1-hour visit looks like through the eyes of a 1-year-old child. The adorable subject is none other than my youngest daughter, Cameron. 

My goal when shooting a subject is always to accurately and candidly preserve a moment in time. I want the viewer to be tugged and pulled into the memory – to be able to feel it, see it, hear it, smell it (maybe not taste it, unless it’s commercial food photography or wedding cake). 

Shooting lifestyle projects is my ideal method for telling a story. This time around it just so happened to be the story of my sweet little gal enjoying a super fun day in nature.

Off to elementary school

Today was just like any other Monday, except that today marked another Busbee entering the enormous world of K-12 learning. 

Together, Natalie and I picked out her first-day-of-kindergarten clothes, and all of us Busbees gathered ’round the breakfast table to fuel up for the big day.

Raise your hand if you are excited for the first day of school!

Baby Cameron was our energetic, encouraging cheerleader.

Natalie was as proud to be a kindergartner as one could hope. She’s been patiently awaiting this day, as have mom and dad. But, oh so suddenly it was upon us.

Our tiny little Nattlebug – all five years of her – stood anchored with her backpack and lunchbag ready to take on this next chapter. 

She had a great helper in her big brother. He passed down loads of valuable information on the car ride to school.

Then it was time to set Natalie free in her classroom. If I recall the details correctly, she did tenderly push me out the door, eager to be an independent kindergartner. 

I held my tears. I did what came next, which was walk away from her classroom and up to the 2nd floor to drop Caleb off in his third grade classroom. He settled in with ease. He wore dark colors and chose a dark backpack and lunchbag, because “that’s what third graders do, mom.”

I collected my thoughts and emotions, shuffled out of the school, got an iced coffee and took a mini hike down the American Tobacco Trail with my only non-elementary-school child, Cameron.

Once I returned to the house, all was well. And then I saw Natalie’s beloved blankie sitting in solitude on the kitchen table bench in our quiet house. I realized that she hadn’t even asked to bring it with her to kindergarten. 

If there was only one sign that she was ready for kindergarten, this would be it. We survived the first day!

July CONTEST alert: Your words complete me

No lie, I have the best customers in the world. They know it and I know it. My customers are funny, easy to work with, and value the important things in life like preserving memories. My customers make me laugh and happy cry, they walk into the depths of the woods and the middle of rivers for me, they sometimes offer me beer at their houses. They call me again and again as their relationships and families grow. And boy do I love watching them grow.

As a professional offering photography services, my sessions, my work and my products feel very personal. They are creations built within the most intimate of moments and they tell the very personal stories of my customers. When I share photos and videos with my clients, I cherish and welcome their feedback – both good and bad. I’ve been very blessed that so many of my client comments completely warm my heart and take my breath away.

Like this:

“They are amazing! I love so many of them! Seriously, these are the type shots I was hoping for. Also, you work super fast. I am impressed and inspired.” – Julie

And this:

“I absolutely love our photos they are perfect! You are so good!! We are going to have to fill our house with these because we aren’t going to be able to choose which ones to hang.” – Misty

And this:

“Just looking at these pics for 100th time….love them! These are wonderful! You are really talented!  And you are so quick! Thank you.” – Kate

And this:

“Wow, I LOVE these Melanie! You’re awesome! By the way, my daughter really enjoyed the photo session. She mentioned several times how much fun she had. Maybe you’ll need an intern in a few years… ;)” – Trish

And this:

”WOW!!!! They are just breathtaking!!! I am so happy with these!! Ahhhh! Work of art. Thanks for sharing! My heart is so full.” – Christa

And this:

“I woke up to [my wife] cry-smiling while flipping through these pictures. Think you did good work.” – Dan

So it’s because I treasure these beautiful words from my customers (and because I just discovered the Client Review option of Facebook) that I’m kicking off my first contest of the year.

For any Melanie Busbee Photo customers (past and present) that leave a review on my Facebook page, you will be entered into a random drawing for a complimentary photo session.* The contest starts today and will remain open through July 31, 2017, 11:59 pm, so get those reviews submitted now! Just go to my facebook page and click the ‘Review’ option in the left-hand column. I will select one winner to announce on August 1st. Good luck!

* Session fee is waived ($100 value). Winner is responsible for cost of photos.

B is for bubbles

I attempted to make this session with baby Max and his family all about the bubbles. I thought I could distract from the camera with those enticing bubbles (and a new bubble machine, too). But not all plans are destined for success.

Folks, I was outsmarted.

Max knew better. He knew what I was up to. Don’t get me wrong, he liked the bubbles, but he is also as smart as an engineer. He wanted to dig into the bubble machine and figure out the mechanics. How does this contraption work?

Most babies leave it at, oooooohhh shiny bubbles.

Anyway, so Max made me work for it. I had to beg and plead for smiles. But oh, they were worth the wait. He’s perfection – eyes, nose, lips, brain. Everything. I love this kid and his laid back family.