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.


Just add a bow

Guys, I have great news! Shopping for Melanie Busbee Photo gift cards just got easier. Just visit my gift giving page and purchase an e-card in any amount ranging from $5 to $500. Gift cards can be sent instantly or scheduled for a future date. 

Keep this in mind when considering summer and fall photo sessions.

Happy shopping (and who doesn’t love shopping?),


The reward is in the work

I am fortunate to sit on the Board of Directors for a Durham-based nonprofit, The Exchange Family Center. They provide free child abuse and neglect prevention services to area families (either voluntarily or court-mandated cases) and have done so for 25 years now. This video I created recounts those 25 years, from the humblest of early days to present day, when their services are highly sought after, respected and there are burdensome waiting lists. They are working on fundraising to get those waiting lists down, because families in need should not have to wait.

One way I was able to help in their efforts was to produce this video, which ended up being tremendously rewarding.

The Exchange Family Center celebrates 25 years from Melanie Busbee.


I’ve only known the Center for six years now, but working on this project enabled me to sift through numerous photos, newsletters, headlines, etc from their earliest days. The folks who founded the Center did so with kind, willing hearts and their vision has continued and grown over the decades. They must be extremely proud and I hope their hearts swell when they look back at their legacy.

Just check out these priceless images…

Congratulations to the Exchange Family Center and here’s to another 25 years!

Let kids be kids

Would ya take a look at these two sweeties, Cameron and Mia? Their relationship is nothing short of incredible. They like to make one another laugh and they play together pretty seamlessly, despite the 4 years of age between them. 

Photo of Cameron and Mia

We had plenty of fun together during our Sunday afternoon family photo session, and these two had gorgeous smiles each time I aimed the camera their way. But, they were truly at their best when I asked them to do what kids do best — play:  they raced through the grass, they rolled around on top of one another, and they told me their favorite jokes. Sometimes, you just have to let kids be kids. And this applies to “serious” photo sessions too.

My newest assistant

Today’s morning photo session with the lovely Herndon family was a delight. We had perfect fall weather and enjoyed gorgeous scenery at Yates Mill Park in Raleigh. Molly and Jason (mom and dad) are always good sports and their two sweet daughters – Madeleine and Avery – have smiles that melt my heart.

Madeleine and I shared a special few moments today when she asked to take pictures with my camera. And who could deny that request!?

She’s nearly three years old and super friendly, offering hugs to me throughout the session. So of course I let her control the camera, just a little bit. Here is what she produced:


For a three-year-old, isn’t she amazing!? I asked her if she wanted to be a photographer when she grows up. The girl has talent, already.

“No, I want to be an Octonaut,” Madeleine replied.

And that’s why I love toddlers. They have dreams. Big, glorious, superhero-sized dreams.

But if that falls through, she has a future in photography.

A different day, a different toddler

Meeting a new family is always exhilarating and always keeps me on my toes. As a photographer, I go into each session confident with expectations on lighting, posing and the technicalities of my camera. But meeting new families creates an ever-changing environment in which to work.

I get excited to learn – if the family has children – the kids’ names and ages. Before shooting the King family’s session, I discovered their daughter, Dolan, was almost exactly the same age as my daughter.

Oh, this should be a piece of cake, I thought. Relating to Dolan will be exactly the same as relating to my daughter. Dolan will offer smiles galore at the mention of puppies and chocolate, just like my daughter.

But, in the world of photography and families it doesn’t quite work that way. Each child is so very different, and each child performs differently in front of the camera. Some choose not to perform at all.

Lucky for me, that wasn’t the case with sweet Dolan. She and I made friends quickly, though of course it was a different friendship than the one I have with my daughter.

Dolan led us all through the park, as if she knew the way, as if she had been there many times. Dolan’s favorite game was throwing sticks and rocks in the river to watch them make a big splash. Dolan loved finding structures to climb – rocks and steps and bridges. We held hands on the walk back to our cars.

I treasured my time with this sweet two-year-old gal!

Summer perfect

I have a sister who lives on the West coast.  It feels like a lifetime away since we only see each other once every few years.

So I could appreciate when a client contacted me to request a photo session for a visit from her sister who lives on the West coast.  I said, yes! Let’s make it happen! Of course we need to capture the memories of that visit with your sister and her sweet children!

We selected the day, we prayed for rain to hold off, we fought mosquitoes. My client and her sister showed up at the session location – a downtown park – on time, impeccably dressed and with four precious kids on their best behavior. I was clearly impressed.

The children were so fun to work with and they truly made this session seamless. They posed as if they’d done this before. They smiled the perfect smiles. They were well behaved. The photos capture just how wonderful a family this is.







DSC_0223 BW



A balancing act

Hope everyone is enjoying the first hot weeks of summer.  My husband and I kicked off the season by spending a relaxing long weekend away at Sunset Beach, NC with a couple of close friends.  The memories we made over those four blissful days are priceless.  We stayed at a gorgeous condo, awoke early for hot coffee and delicious breakfast, spent many hours poolside and at the beach, and kept evenings simple with card games, tunes from 10 years ago and a decent amount of cold beer.

When I travel and take time off, I am often torn between experiencing the moments and capturing the moments on film.

A few years ago I had a realization.  I spent a lot of money on some really great tickets for a concert by one of my favorite performers.  Instead of truly enjoying the show, I made the mistake of taking video and photo for the entire 3 hours.  So I ended up with great footage, but no real memory of the concert.  Sad indeed.

From that moment, I decided I would try to let “photographer Melanie” relax and just enjoy myself.  Believe me, I L.O.V.E. photographing all the time, but I needed to find a healthy balance.

This weekend at Sunset Beach I practiced that balance.  I snapped a lot of photos with the low-quality camera on my phone and with my pocket Canon, but I only pulled out my real camera once, at the beach, for this moment.

My husband Jed tossing our 2-year-old daughter Natalie into the air at Sunset Beach, May 2014.

I discovered that when I focus on enjoying myself instead of documenting every second of every minute of every day, the real, precious, perfect moments that matter most appear right in front of me.  And luckily my lens was there.


Soothing techniques

Every newborn photo session is unique just like every baby is unique. Thus, my job meeting and photographing these little ones never gets boring. I have a new experience every time. I get to know families personally, as I am invited into their lives at such a precious, intimate time.

Being a newborn photographer means not only making sure a great photo comes to life. It means engaging in private moments with a family – sometimes brand new parents. Some of the finest compliments I have received during these moments are words like, “You are so good with my baby. You are so patient with my baby. Ohhh, so that’s how you soothe a baby.  I’m learning new techniques from you.”

This means so much to me. Knowing that I’ve comforted both baby and parent is a really critical part of the process. I thank every parent that trusts me with their sweet bundle and with capturing these priceless moments. It is a true honor.

Baby Kate was one of my latest sessions with brand new parents. At nine days old, she was alert enough to know what was going on, but still young enough to need many baby zzzz’s. The parents and I spent some time together calming her, rocking her and patting her to sleep.  She was such an angel and I loved that her parents got to be a part of the session in that way. I always try to capture some of the behind the scenes, candid moments. Those are the ones parents think they will remember forever (because those early days seem soooooo long); eventually it all becomes a faint memory.



DSC_0183  DSC_0144




The moment before the photo

A significant portion of the photographer’s time during a photo session is spent watching and waiting for the photo to happen.  We get in place, we get our exposure perfect, we spend time getting to know the subject and family members.  Many times I find myself with my lens focused on the space that the subject is about to occupy – where the swing is about to enter the frame or where the baby is about to crawl. This photo is a perfect example of what I mean.

I am squatting in front of a tree, my camera focused on a 2-year-old girl’s shoe, waiting for her to muster the confidence to step up into the tree where she’ll enter my frame. It is a funny part of photography how we really inspect the photo from outside and in.