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I remember making a phone call once in the early 90s to my dad. I was attending the University of Georgia, a Biology major, trying to get into Veterinary School.

I remember the day perfectly, it was a Friday, and had been raining. My windshield wipers needed replacing and I had been putting it off. I could barely see driving down the country highway.

I desperately wanted to talk to someone, and that someone was my dad. And this was pre-cell phone days, so I had to wait the 30-minute car drive to get to my landline to call him.

By the time he picked up the phone, despite my plan on holding my composure, I was sobbing. And I don’t mean the sniffling kind, I mean ugly-face, can’t-get-the-words-out sobbing.

My poor dad thought the worst. I remember him pleading “…was there an accident?…are you ok?…please say something I can understand…”

What came out of my mouth was probably not what he expected.

Why Valentails is important to me

I had spent the week volunteering at our local animal shelter. The first day, I had to help with the free clinic the shelter offered. No problems there, it was usually owners who came in for regular check-ups, vaccinations, ticks, etc.

The second day, I assisted a technician in surgery. This is where things started getting bad for me. They messed up and gave a cat too much anesthesia during a neuter procedure. He didn’t make it.

According to the tech, it was ‘no big deal’, because he had just been adopted and she was certain the new owners would adopt another one. They’d just tell her he had a bad reaction to the anesthesia.

No one in the surgery room disagreed.

I. Was. Horrified.

That night I didn’t sleep. I just kept hearing the sobs of the new owner in the lobby of when they told her the news. “We have other cats you can adopt…” said the tech to her. I felt like I couldn’t breathe.

The third day, a man brought in his puppy who clearly had a broken leg. He wanted to surrender it. The puppy cried and yelped and screamed when the man left him. I stayed and tried to console the pup, and I’ll never forget looking into those deep pools of brown eyes as I told him his life would get better from now on.

The next morning, I found out the pup had been euthanized due to overcrowding and under-funding at the shelter. I honestly don’t remember that whole day as I tried to reconcile what had happened.

By the fifth day, I was a zombie. I remember a woman coming in with eight kittens who were so sick they couldn’t hold their heads up. She said she had thought about throwing them in the river, but didn’t have a bag.

I didn’t know what to say to her and after vomiting in the employee bathroom, I walked out. And one hour later, here I was trying to get all this out of my mouth to my poor father who, at this point, wasn’t sure if I was safe or not.

By the time I did regurgitate my story to my dad, all I heard was silence. “Dad…are you there…” I pleaded.

“I’m here.” he said. And then I heard him sigh. Dad had a softer heart than he ever wanted to admit. And, he knew mine was even more tender, and I know he was trying to find the words to help me.

Dad was usually a one-liner, cliche, kind of advise man. But, on this day, he really changed my life with some of the best advice, to this day, I’ve ever received.

“The world has problems Melissa. But, the good news is that you can do something about it.”

“But what Dad…what could I possibly do??” I fell onto my couch and felt so defeated.

“I’ll tell you…. And don’t ever forget this…

Do WHAT you can, HOW you can and WHEN you can”

Thomas Grimes, Jr.

Fundraising for my furry friends speaks to my heart

Dad had once again stopped me from feeling hopeless and distraught. He had given me hope and a ray of light when I needed it most.

I couldn’t save the world that day. But maybe, I could do small things over the course of my life that could change the lives of a few animals. Or maybe a hundred, or a thousand. I have dreams…stay tuned for them.

So, in following my dad’s words of advice, over the years I’ve been photographing animals in rescue groups and shelters who need homes.

There really is nothing more rewarding than seeing homeless animals find their beloved home via one of my photos.


When that happens, my heart doubles in size.

I started doing photo fundraisers for Paw Placement six years ago, and each year, they’ve grown and become one of my favorite events of the year.

When Paw Placement won the bid to become Coconino County’s Animal Shelter, I was ecstatic to be able to raise money for this new and beautiful shelter. I’ve always thought a city shelter should be a place where pets could come to find their own forever home, not a place that I witnessed in rural Georgia.

I named the event “Valentails” in honor of my favorite holiday, Valentine’s Day. I think our pets offer us the most unconditional love we’ll ever receive and think a celebration of that love is perfect for Valentine’s Day.

Thank you for being my Valentails!

I’m so happy to announce that we were able to raise $3,505! As my sweet husband would say, “That’s a lot of kibble.”

I was so humbled by all the people who came to support this organization and to share their sweet furry family members with me so I could create some memorable images that I know they’ll always cherish.

Thanks to everyone who supported this event.

Canyon Pet Hospital was our title sponsor and Purina donated goody bags for everyone who came.

Kingsmark Kennel supplied gift cards for services at their facility and a free dog bath from Ruff-n-Cuts too!

Flagstaff Sedona Dog magazine supported the event with a full page ad in their publication and WagStaff Dog Beds donated two custom dog beds to raffle off to help raise money for the shelter too.

It truly was a community effort to pull this event off and I’m honored to have these wonderful businesses support this great cause.

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January 29, 2019

Are you scheduled for your headshot session?  Great job for investing in YOU!  One of my deepest beliefs is that everyone has something special to offer this world, that only they can do and I’m so thrilled that you’ve trusted me with creating some unique branding images for you!

One of the most common questions I get is “What do I wear?”.  I’m happy to provide some guidance to help you feel and look your best.


Think about the times when your friends tell you “You look amazing today”.  It’s usually because you’re wearing a color that’s great for your skin tone.    Plain colors look best.  I also advise avoiding wearing skin tone colors (ivory, cream, peach, beige, etc.) because those colors will blend in with your face.  If you’re really wanting me to pick, I’d recommend a jewel tone.  They look good with most skin tones.  If you really love black but want something with more pop, consider chocolate, navy, maroon and forest green.  A fail-safe tip is to choose a color that accentuates your eyes, this is why jewel tone colors work really well.

Flagstaff headshot


Rich textures lend a rich, tactile element to your images.  High-contrast patterns or prints are distracting.  Logos and graphics are definite “no’s”

Flagstaff headshots

Necklines and Sleeves:

Different styles of top neck lines evoke certain moods.  Off-the-shoulder and sweetheart necklines evoke vulnerability while square and high neck tops denote power.  For sleeve lengths, if arms are a concern, go with a 3/4 length or longer.

flagstaff headshot photography

Jewelry and Accessories:

Choose simple earings and necklaces.  Strong and bulky items will compete with your face.  An exception to this is if you’re in the creative field and want your personal style to shine and if you regularly get headshots taken.  Costume jewelry fads change often and I want your photos to be timeless.

Fitted or Not?

Always keep your jackets and cardigans fitted.  I’ll bring clamps to keep everything snug but not tight.

flagstaff headshot photography

I hope this helped you decide about your wardrobe.  If you’re still undecided, please bring a few options and we can put it together on the day of the shoot!

September 16, 2018

This week, my friend Kim Yuhl asked if she could write about her headshot session. To be honest, I don’t remember how Kim and I met. It seems like we’ve known each other forever.

That’s sort of how things work in Flagstaff. You meet someone somewhere and you instantly become friends.

Kim is a small business digital marketing specialist and freelance writer and needed new headshots for her business.

Before I turn it over to Kim, I want to remind you that I am running a headshot photography session promotion.

Take Your Best Shot – Literally

Every Monday in April, join me in my downtown studio or at downtown Flagstaff outside location for a 15-minute headshot photography session. After we create some magic together, you’ll receive a polished high-resolution image to use online, in your marketing and wherever a good photo is required.

Here are the details:

  • The 15-minute sessions are available on April 9, 16, 23 and 30
  • You’ll have access to an online gallery to select your image
  • Package includes one image – additional photos can be purchased
  • The cost is $99

Let’s schedule something:

Click here to book your headshot session or call 928-774-0220

Without further ado, here is Kim …

Hey there!

I asked Melissa to let me hijack her blog, so I can tell you about my headshot session. I knew she wouldn’t ask me or any of her clients to do something like this because she doesn’t like to impose like that.

Here’s something you should know …

I never truly understood the value of a good headshot.

My guess is, you don’t either.

In fact, I started and sold two businesses using selfies, press photos and random images in my profiles. After selling the second business, I started helping other small businesses grow their digital footprints.

One day it dawned on me that maybe I needed to take the advice I was giving to my clients. That advice is …

Your Image is Everything

It is how people will know whether they like you or not if there is a connection and if they can trust you.

So, I took a deep breath and called Melissa to set something up.

You see, why most people view me as outgoing, I am most comfortable hiding out at home in my sweats. I am not comfortable being the center of attention and certainly did not look forward to being in front of a camera.

I think that is one reason I procrastinated getting them done. The other reason is the cost.

I mean, how much of a difference will a good headshot make and is it worth the investment? Well, the short answer is yes.

Yes, it is worth the investment and it makes a HUGE difference.


My Professional Headshot Session

First, you should know that my headshot session was scheduled with Melissa and her former partner Kristen. And while both were friendly and kind, it was Melissa that put me at ease, made me feel comfortable in uncomfortable positions and made me feel pretty.

I had a session that included both in studio and downtown Flagstaff images. I did bring a few different tops and accessories. Melissa had me wear what she knew would work well on camera.

Her directions were simple to follow and within a just a few minutes I felt like a “natural.” Let me be honest, I am so not a natural, but Melissa made me feel like I was. And honestly, I think it is that feeling that you see in my images.

I am surprised at how many different images she was able to get in such a short period of time. I was also surprised at how a subtle shift in your shoulder or your chin can completely transform how you look in a photo.

I still use those tricks today – or at least I try to remember to use them because when I don’t it is noticeable and not in a good way.

The bottom line, my time with Melissa in her studio was some of the best time and money spent on my business. It is also an investment that keeps giving back.

A Great Headshot is Timeless

My session was over two years ago, and I still use my headshots. I use them as my profile pictures on several social media platforms. I use them on my website to introduce myself to my visitors. And I use them as part of my email signature in various communications.

Here’s the thing. My headshots still look great – if I do say so myself. They look current and have stood the test of time. Most importantly though, they make me look good.

It has dawned on me that I might need to get a new set of photos taken. But I’m not in Flagstaff anymore and it will just have to wait until I am. I’m not sure I can trust anyone other than Melissa to take my photo. And neither should you.

Trust me, you will never regret having a great professional headshot. You may regret having to pay full price for them, though. Don’t let Melissa’s deal pass you by. Here are the details again:

Take Your Best Shot – Literally

Every Monday in April, join me in my downtown studio or at downtown Flagstaff outside location for a 15-minute headshot photography session. After we create some magic together, you’ll receive a polished high-resolution image to use online, in your marketing and wherever a good photo is required.

Here are the details:

  • The 15-minute sessions are available on April 9, 16, 23 and 30
  • You’ll have access to an online gallery to select your image
  • Package includes one image – additional photos can be purchased
  • The cost is $99

Call and schedule something today:

Click here to book your headshot session or call 928-774-0220.

March 09, 2018

Flagstaff Pet Photography

I’ve always felt very strongly that the best way to change the world is by volunteering.

My father had a saying that has stayed with me my whole life….”Contribute what you can, when you can and how you can, whether it be money, time or service…YOU can ALWAYS make a DIFFERENCE.  Even the smallest gestures can change someone’s world.”  Dad was very wise and I miss him so much.  (but that’s another blog post)

A few weekends ago, I held my sixth annual Valen-Tails Photo Fundraiser for Paw Placement of Northern Arizona!  I got to meet over 40 sweet and cuddly new furry friends and some of the most amazing pet owners in the world.

Flagstaff Pet Portraits

Even though the fundraiser just ended, I’m already missing my new friends. Nothing makes me happier than spending the day with animals.

I’m happy to announce that we raised $1,855.00 for this organization to help them continue their important work in the Northern Arizona region.

Currently, Paw Placement of Northern Arizona is working towards bringing a 21st Century Shelter to our area.  If you live in Flagstaff, you know we need it!  Please read about their vision on their website.

Flagstaff Pet Photography

Special thanks to Canyon Pet Hospital for their sponsorship of this event, and to Kingsmark Kennels, Purina, Pet Your Shirt for the fabulous giveaway and raffle items.

Pet Photography Tips

I have been called a “pet whisperer” by some very kind friends. But I will admit, I do have a special relationship with animals.

When photographing people’s pets, I’m always asked, “How do you do it?”

Here are some of my favorite pet photography tips and some of my favorite photos from the very special weekend.

Use these five pet photography tips when you are trying to capture a special moment with your furry loved one.

Flagstaff Pet Portraits

1. Focus on the Eyes

You know what they say, “Eyes are the Window to the Soul.” Well, that is especially true for our animal friends.

It’s the eyes that make any portrait memorable. And that is even more true for your pets. Pet eyes are full of wonderful expression and successful pet portrait focuses the attention there.

Pet Photography in Flagstaff

2. Let Their Personality Shine Through

You know your pet and you should trust what you know. The very best photos showcase the true character and personality of the subject and this holds true for your pet.

Let your animal play, yawn, or even dress up. Get the perfect image out of your head and let the favorite furry subject redefine purrrfect.

Pet Portraits

Pet Photography

3. Surprise Them

You can’t expect your pet to wait for you to be ready to take the shot. Instead, let them continue to play, while you get ready.

Once your camera is focused and your animal is in the frame, call his name, or make a strange sound he’s never heard before and click.  The surprise will catch him off guard and give you a few seconds to capture something special.

Pet Photography in Flagstaff

4. Go to Them

The best photos will come when your pet feels comfortable. Instead of calling him to you, try going to him.

Get down on his level, look him in the eyes and show him your love. That is probably the most important tip I have.

Pet Photos

Pet Images

5. Be Patient

When your pet is excited by a new toy or some other excitement, it is often difficult to get the perfect photo.

But when your patient and you let your furball settle down, he will relax and you will end up with a much better shot.

Pet Photography

In the end, if you want to capture great photos of your pet, remember they are your people. Let them be themselves and focus on them, not necessarily trying to capture the photo.

In closing, I just want to say Valen-tales is my absolute favorite event of the year. The fact that I can help raise money for a worthy organization while having fun with friends and their tribe is a privilege and pure joy.

Pet Pictures

April 06, 2017

They say that babies are the closest to heaven as you can get.  I take this advice quite literally and often ask these sweet little ones what heaven was like.  I always get a laugh out of the parents, but I secretly think our smallest humans might have all the answers if they could only communicate.  Sometimes, the sweet little angels look at me with the most serious gaze and I feel like they desperately want to tell me details.  Little Gracie had that look and I could almost feel the heavenly love permeate through her.

Welcome to the world sweet girl.  xoxo ~Melissa


July 14, 2016

We do almost all our newborn sessions in our downtown studio and we love it when we get to meet new families and watch them grow.  As Flagstaff newborn photographers, it’s such a blessing.  Little Paige was welcomed by her family this January and we were so delighted to be able to meet her!  This little angel slept through most of our session, and was such a gracious model for us.  We loved getting to know her family and look forward to watching her grow up!  Welcome little one!

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