Melissa’s Nifty Not-S0-Little Guide for the Curious & Indecisive
Some websites make it so difficult for clients to figure out which package is best for what (I offer 5.5, by the way). But I’m a good egg, so I decided to make this nifty guide for you. It’s long, but you came here to get informed – not marketed to in a nutshell.
Read on to find out what package will fit you best, what my process is, and most importantly – the reason you’re probably really here: my rates! Yes: they’re up on the website, they’re the same for everyone, and you don’t have to talk to me to get them (can we say introvert heaven?).
Note: If you enjoy reading, this is one of those moments where life rewards you for that. Sort of.
I wish there were more people in the industry like you.
What it’s like to work with me (aka: My process)
^ I do anything to get the shot.
All my sessions start with a worksheet that encourages vulnerability and openness, so that I can get to know you better as a person (and accurately show who you are).
Some sessions will also include a consultation – this usually takes place on the phone or in person a week or so prior to the shoot (unless it’s for the Essence of You, in which case it could be 6-12 months in advance).
During some sessions there will be snacks available as well as healthy drinks. If you have any allergies or environmental requirements, this will be discussed and organised prior to your shoot.
In a strange photographic paradox, I will then try to get you out of your comfort zone a little bit, so that you feel more comfortable with me. Don’t worry – it’s nothing super weird, and will feel about as strange as making a silly face in front of a stranger. If you have social anxiety and this idea scares you, please don’t worry too much. I have battled social anxiety myself, and have worked with people all across the mental health spectrum – your overall comfort matters most to me. I’ll work around your needs and comfort.
During our session we will go through different outfits/make-up (known as looks), and try to evoke as many different sides of you in your images.
After our session, I will cull the best images – and remove all the ones that don’t represent you well. I’ll usually send you a sneak peek image within 48 hours. After that, I take around 1-2 weeks to deliver all images via Dropbox for normal portrait sessions – turnaround time for my larger packages is between 2-4 weeks. I take up to an hour to retouch each image, so the wait is worth it!
YOUR PICTURES MAKE ME LOVE MYSELF.
I see myself in the mirror every single day, but there’s something so special about seeing myself through your lens.
Ten things you need to know before you book:
i. I live and work by the law.
Everything I do is defined by four personal laws:
- Vulnerability (including silliness) is a superpower.
- Self-love is a verb – not a noun. It’s a practice, as opposed to an elusive destination.
- To go upward in your wellbeing & career, you must turn inward.
- Comfort – internally and externally – is key.
I feel so strongly about all this that I’m writing a book on the topic – though you’ll also find many related posts on the blog and my Instagram. As a result of these laws, my work tends to be visceral, authentic, and at times, may feel as though you happened to catch someone in a private moment.
It also means that your privacy is of major importance to me – I will never share photos you’d prefer to keep private, and feel icky about the idea of using my celebrity clients’ images for my own gain.
Unless they’re of me, and they’re as authentic as this Sir Richard one, of course. 😉
ii. My past helps me help you.
On top of my photography/writing, I’m a singer-songwriter and have been recording and performing professionally since 2003. As someone who has had a public personal brand for over a decade, I can relate to my clients’ desire to constantly strive to be better than yesterday, as well as have the most authentic representation of themselves in their photos. In fact, I may still have some cringeworthy pictures of my teenage fame days somewhere…
Also, I’ve been through the exact same transformations I put some of my clients through. Click here to see my transformation.
iii. I adore my clients.
The people I work with tend to be introverted, thoughtful souls, who feel compelled to make great impact in their industry. As a result, many of them are in the public eye (a large majority of my clients are performers/artists). Most importantly, they believe in excellence, and strive to do and be their best every step of the way.
If you’re anything like them, you may find yourself wishing for a deeper connection with yourself. Or, maybe you simply want a really good image of you, your craft, your loved ones – or your entire life (yes, that’s a thing I offer).
My point here is this: the more I bond with my clients, the better the photographs turn out. The more in love my clients are with their loved ones, the more beautiful the images end up being. My work depends on a foundation of deep and authentic love – without this, the magic is lost.
iv. I invest in myself so I can invest in you.
Apart from my experience working with actors, performers, and models in NYC, London, Cape Town, Amsterdam, and Nairobi – I also have been trained by some of the greatest portrait and headshot photographers out there, like Peter Hurley and Tom Hoops.
On top of this, I am proud to say that the majority of people I photograph aren’t actually comfortable in front of a camera – so the majority of my expertise lies in making you look and feel comfortable in your images.
Finally, I believe that all great work rests on a solid foundation of self-care. I only take on a limited amount of clients per month, focus heavily on my health and wellness, and make sure that I’m at 100% for every client I take on. This means I have a large amount of time to grow my skills, expand my knowledge, and ultimately – be of better service to you.
v. My own complexity helps me understand yours.
I tend to obsessively learn about whatever it is I want to know more about in the moment – so my interests vary. I did a rally driving course once. I also have an interest in skincare, computer specs, gaming, travel, and spirituality. I use mathematics as a meditation tool. The list goes on and on…
I’m half Indian (with some Portuguese) half Dutch, and dabble in about 7 languages. My heart is at home in Nairobi, Kenya – but my spirit soars in NYC, Rotterdam, Bali, and London. As a result, my clients tend to be spread around the world – and just as complex as I am. I am an outsider of so many groups – but lucky enough to also be an insider of so many communities at the same time.
So: I get it – and I get you.
These are the facts.
1. Contrary to popular belief, children and pets are not at all difficult to photograph (but only if their space and state is respected).
2. There’s no such thing as being un-photogenic (aside from the fact that the word itself doesn’t exist).
3. Your comfort is the most important thing in the world to me – both during our session and after (which means I give you images that YOU feel you look nice in -no awkward poses, weird angles, uncomfortable expressions). In fact, the only uncomfortable part about working with me might be this beautiful font – which I’m unhealthily attached to – despite its italics being a pain on the eyes (yes, I did notice).
4. I no longer offer discounts on my work, but I do offer my services to charities and causes I believe in (usually when it comes to those who are marginalised, unheard, and forgotten). I also offer free sessions in competitions/raffles once in a while.
5. If you only read this far because you’re still wondering how I can offer 5.5 packages – this is the half package that I offer exclusively at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Clever you.
YOU ARE MORE THAN A PHOTOGRAPHER - YOU ARE A FRIEND.
The pictures are beyond timeless, as I feel they were able to show something beautiful where we may not have noticed it before.
(there are five of them)
1. You, Yourself, and You
Let’s bring out all the different sides of you, and get you the best photo you’ve ever seen of yourself.
This is the simplest experience I offer.
I created this package for people who want a small amount of images, aren’t yet ready to commit to a deeper experience, and for those who have a little bit of experience in front of the camera.
Because minimalism is life (and it’s more cost-effective, too).
2. You, Yourself & Them
You’re surrounded by love. I’ll photograph you – and absolutely everyone you love.
This package includes an extended version of the previous one, as well as a shoot with an unlimited amount of loved ones (up to 2 hours). It appeals to people surrounded by a lot of love, as well as people who want to give a special gift to their loved ones.
This is also great if you simply want more images, or more time with me.
3. Your Story
You are the movie star of your own life. This is the ultimate personalised luxury experience.
I designed this unique experience to document the “you” of this moment. From an all-day spa treatment, to extended luxury photoshoots – this 4-7 day experience is completely customised to you and your life.
I’ll be photographing your hobbies, your favourite spaces, your favourite people, your favourite clothes – everything that makes you you will be captured in a fine-art timepiece that can never be replicated again. Our final days together will be spent photographing portraits that will make you feel like the star you are.
Another option is to book this experience in order to document prep before a major event or milestone (eg weddings, career milestones).
You, Yourself & You is perfect for you if:
- You want to explore different sides of your identity
- You need authentic portraits/headshots
- You love being in front of a camera (Go you!)
- You need a quick confidence boost
- You want to document or create transformation (this is available as a package with multiple sessions)
You, Yourself & Them is perfect for you if:
- You like the previous package but you want more
- You’re not comfortable in front of a camera
- You want lots and lots of images (you get all of them in this package)
- You’re surrounded by love
- You love your family/partner/pets/friends but don’t have perfect images with them
The Essence of You is perfect for you if:
- You want the ultimate unique luxury experience ( or want to give it to someone special)
- You like being pampered
- You’re about to get married (or just got divorced)
- You just went through a major life change
- You want to give a gift to someone who has it all
- You value memories, and are just as nostalgic as I am (high five to those of you who cry about old photos)
More details on You, Yourself & You:
- In-studio session with 3 looks
- Guidance that’ll help even the shyest and most timid people with confident-looking images
- 20 of the best images – retouched and ready to print
- The option to purchase an album or fine art Hahnemuehle prints (you haven’t truly lived until you’ve felt the texture)
- Available in a package with multiple sessions for the purpose of showcasing transformation (click here for more info).
More details on You, Yourself & Them:
- All the features from “You, Yourself & You” – but with a longer individual portrait session.
- A workbook and phone consultation, so that I know I’ll capture exactly who you and your loved ones are.
- A session with all of your loved ones, who will each also get portraits on-location (I shoot quickly, so estimate 15 mins per solo and group session – don’t worry too much, as I’ll have this loosely planned out before I arrive).
- Every single image. Edited for up to an hour each. Yep – I’m generous like that.
More details on Your Story:
- Complimentary spa treatment (can be replaced with an extra session if you are uncomfortable with spas)
- Custom-made based on lengthy worksheets and an introductory consultation
- You’ll receive all photos taken during this tailored experience, as well as mini-albums if you’d like some to give away or take with you during travels.
- Internationally available
Note: I only do less than a dozen of these per year as they take up the better part of a month for me in terms of work – so book early if this is a birthday or anniversary gift, or contact me if you’d like to be put on the waiting list. Starts at $22,000.
4. Personal Events
Birthdays, weddings, engagements – and anything in between.
I don’t do corporate events, because my photography relies heavily on the presence of love. The more intimate the event, the better for me (and your photos). Whether it’s a children’s birthday party, an anniversary, or just a get-together between loved ones – I’m here to capture all the love and laughter that occurs.
Rates depend on each event, please contact me with more details.
Let’s explore the world together.
I love traveling with clients! Whether you’re exploring solo, or traveling with loved ones – I’ll photograph your journey from start to finish. It’ll be like having your very own paparazzi friend!
Rates depend on each trip and your individual needs. Please use the contact form below the FAQ for more info.
Fine art prints
An extra photographer
Photo editing by a magazine cover retoucher
Specialty print products
ANSWERS TO THE QUESTIONS YOU’RE REALLY ASKING
Before you send me all your questions, please check to see whether some of them have been answered here, first.
How long have you been doing photography?
I started working on my craft seriously around the end of 2011. Since then, I’ve worked with celebrity and non-celebrity clients in NYC, London, Cape Town, Nairobi, and Amsterdam, and had the honour of working with dream teams all over. I’ve also been fortunate enough to attend amazing workshops and conferences with some of the best in the wedding and portraiture industry, and have photographed clients all over the world throughout the duration of my career.
How do I know your quality will remain consistent during multiple-day packages?
Many clients do not realize how fit a photographer needs to be to be able to guarantee their best work during long personal events. Equipment on my body weighs between 6-10 kg, and my bags can weigh much more than that. Add that to the fact that I need to be creative as well as manage my time and technical details, all while being on my feet for hours at a time – it takes a strong body to do all this without crashing later on!
I believe that it is my responsibility to keep my body at optimum level; it is the only tool I need that cannot be replaced. As a freelancer, I feel it is my duty to my clients and myself to keep all my promises and give 120% at all times. I cannot do this if my health is at the level of the average human being (which is actually “ok” at best, and far below optimum wellness), or if I am tired, unfit or dehydrated. I prioritise my health, have a full-time team that allows me to focus entirely on you, and also make sure to relax for a little bit of time every day so that I don’t burn out creatively/mentally.
I feel that this doesn’t just ensure a higher quality of living on my part, but also guarantees my clients a service of the highest quality. You wouldn’t buy a computer that crashes often, so why would you hire a photographer who may be unreliable because of their unhealthy lifestyle?
What's the difference between luxury/boutique and normal photography?
“Boutique” simply means that my business is a small one, and that each client is treated like royalty. I carefully select a very small number of clients per month, and focus all my attention on making them happy. What makes my service high-end is the end-result: you feel as special and unique as I truly believe each person should realize they are.
Language can be tricky when it comes to marketing, as words like “luxury” mean different things to different people. In my world, luxury means experiencing life at its best. I feel that luxury experiences make you feel pampered and special, and that they are a form of investment in your own happiness. We live in a world where we are constantly guilt-tripped into feeling bad about ourselves, and often conned into accepting low standards as the norm. After doing a lot of soul searching, I realized that luxury should not be treated as a four-letter word, but with the respect it deserves. If it makes you feel amazing, what is wrong with it?
“You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”
Will you shoot all types of personal events and ideas?
As a solopreneur, I simply am not able to work with every single person who is willing and able to pay the fees. Don’t get me wrong; I rarely turn down clients, but sometimes a client’s vision is too different from my idea of the type of thing I would like to photograph.
Having said that, I tend to stay away from people and content that one could categorise as racist, sexist, mysoginistic, discriminatory, homophobic, or in any way hateful towards a marginalised group. I also will not photograph anything related to illegal activities, or imagery of a pornographic nature.
I find it unfair to ask for money if a potential client and I are not a good fit for each other. I happily recommend other photographers if I feel that I am not going to be able to provide excellent service, or if the client doesn’t fit my morals/values.
Do I own the rights to my images?
This is a tricky question, as a lot of people aren’t really aware of what copyright really means. You have the right to use every image I take of you in any non- commercial manner. However, as the creator of the images, I own the copyright. This means that I am the only one who has the right to use the images to promote/further my business (for example, by advertising my services using an image I took). If you would like to use the images for marketing or advertising purposes, please let me know in advance so we can legally confirm this in writing beforehand. I take copyright very seriously, as my work means a great deal to me. In light of this, I am very open to having a discussion regarding the finer details of this issue with you.
How do your images look so natural? Do you use Photoshop?
I do a lot of retouching work on my images. I treat each image individually, and edit based on the actual image – not my own premeditated aesthetic. I spend a lot of time working on skin and facial features. A lot of people say my work looks like it “is not over-Photoshopped”, but that’s where Photoshop is a bit of a paradox: anything that looks like it was over-Photoshopped was probably given very little time in Photoshop.
A large majority of photographers tend to make skin look plastic, which takes much less than the one hour I sometimes spend per image. I aim to make the images pop, but always swear by my one rule: There must be visible skin detail.
I don’t see the point in making a person look like somebody else – I’m here to photograph YOU, not someone perfected so much that their character and true beauty disappears.
Privacy is important to me. Can you keep our session and my images private?
There are plenty of clients whose faces are not on this website. I am well-versed with the kind of confidentiality that people in the public eye need, so if you let me know in advance – I’ll make sure that your privacy is kept sacred. Your comfort is more important to me than my portfolio growth.
I found another photographer charging 10x less than you do. Why are you so expensive?
The word “expensive” in itself is quite relative, but I will try to answer this as efficiently as I can.
When you hire me, you pay for my time and my creative vision. You are also paying for the unique experiences I offer, timeless memories, as well as custom-made luxury products.
However, many people forget that freelance photography has very high overhead costs. Advertising, studio space, equipment costs, outsourcing, repairs, and travel/correspondence – all these things add up very quickly. This alone can sometimes cost eight to ten thousand US dollars per month!
Finally, what you are also paying for is expertise. I make sure I spend about 10 hours a week learning new things in my craft. I don’t believe in standing still, and so I want to offer my clients my constant best. This involves spending a lot of my money and time learning and practicing new ideas and techniques.
There are many photographers out there who are cheaper than I am in terms of cost, but I truly believe it all comes down to how much you believe you or your event are worth. I run a boutique business, and want you to expect nothing but the best from me and my work. I believe that what truly matters, is how a client feels at the end of the experience: you are not just paying for quality products, but to feel as wonderful as my past clients claim I made them feel. With any collection you choose, you will end up with the gift of elegant time-pieces that you will treasure for as long as you live, memories that make you smile, and a friend for life.
I price my work in light of this.
Can I pay per image?
I don’t believe in deceptively low session fees, only to hold your images hostage for a fee of thousands. I take up to an hour to retouch every image in detail, so I price my packages in light of this – as well as my 8 years of international experience & training.
No hidden costs, no surprises.
Honesty is important to me, as my client relations are based on deep trust and a feeling of emotional safety. That is how I get consistent results – and that is why I don’t shoot clients with the speed/availability of a factory belt.
It took me a long time to decide to price my work the way I do. In portraiture, one popular business model starts with something like a $200 session fee – which then leads to a sales session – with each image being available for $100 or more (not to mention the print products available for over $1000). This often leads to a sales session that costs the client thousands.
While this works well for people who are good at sales, the model rests upon the belief that most people don’t understand the value of photographs until they can touch and see images of themselves. I like to think my clients are different.
I work with people who intrinsically know and appreciate high quality – and to be quite frank, I just don’t have the time or the energy to upsell things to people. This gives me more time to actually, you know…. create.
One perceived advantage of paying per image is that clients get to choose only the pictures they like. However, in the 7-8 years that I’ve held a camera, I’ve only ever had two clients who disliked their images – and on hindsight, both had not been a good fit from the start – another reason I now happily recommend another photographer if I feel that we aren’t a good fit for each other.
The hundreds of other people I’ve shot have either ended up in tears or ecstatic with joy. So: why would I deprive a client of that, by giving the choice to only take home an amount of images based on budget or preconceived limitations?
I look forward to meeting you.
CAN I BRING A (GIRL-/BOY-)FRIEND TO OUR SESSION?
You are welcome to bring a friend to your photo-shoot if that’ll help you feel comfortable, but during the actual shoot they will need to sit or stand elsewhere. I find it very important that I have a connection directly with the client while shooting, as I am known for showing vulnerability and openness in my images. No matter how close your friend is to you, a photo-shoot is a different ballgame; I have never had a client’s friend present who was not a distraction to the client, and an overall hindrance to the results.
What methods of payment do you accept?
I currently accept international & local (UK, Kenya – US coming soon) bank transfers and secure online credit/debit card payments via my website. I also accept Paypal payments at an additional cost.
How do I book you?
To secure your date, I ask for 40% of the quoted price upon confirmation – this is non-refundable. Another 40% is required a month before the photo-shoot, and the final payment must be made within a week after I have photographed you. Any delay in payment will result in a delay of the final product.
I offer a 10% discount if you pay for the entire package in one go.
For the “Your Story” experience, I require a non-refundable $500 booking fee, which will go towards the total cost of your package (a thorough quote will be sent to you 48 hours after our consultation, although you’ll have an approximate figure before you pay the booking fee). This is to avoid consultations being booked by people who aren’t willing or able to pay the full fee.
Where are you based? Can you travel to me?
I am based in Nairobi, Kenya, but travel a lot. I feel at home in New York City, London, and Amsterdam, and travel to all 3 places quite frequently – so please do not hesitate to contact me if you live outside Nairobi but would still like to hire me.
HOW FAR IN ADVANCE SHOULD I BOOK YOU?
That really depends on a lot of factors. Some photo-shoots could be booked within a day, while others (“Your Story” especially) may need a few months or more. Event dates tend to be booked between 6-18 months in advance! In order to avoid any disappointment, I suggest that you contact me as soon as possible once you know a preferred date for your experience.
I'm not photogenic!
That’s perfect! I have so much experience with models, and although I adore working with experienced ones, my pride and joy comes from working with people who do not feel like they would look good on camera. I love the challenge of bringing them out of their shell, allowing them to shine, and then capturing them in the best way possible.
I feel nervous/uncomfortable in front of cameras.
That’s always a good sign. Don’t we always feel nervous before we do something big? I try to constantly go in the direction of the things I fear, both in my career and personal life, and conquering those fears has only led to great things. Going outside one’s comfort zone is one of the most rewarding challenges available in life, and I recommend doing this at least once a week for an expanded horizon.
At the end of the day, a photo-shoot with me will not hurt you, but if you are very shy it may bring out some nervous feelings. Having dealt with severe social anxiety all my life (though I disguise it so cleverly that only my closest friends know when it occurs), I know how crippling this can be. I want you to remember that my entire brand is about giving you an experience that makes you feel wonderful, and I will do everything within my power to ensure that you leave my studio feeling that way. I try to remind my clients that, just like a counselor or doctor, I try to create an emotionally safe environment for my clients, so that they can feel free and “at home” enough to fully be themselves.
I love your work, but I’m not ready to shoot yet. I need to wait until I lose weight / have grown my hair / feel better within.
No. No you don’t. With all the respect in the world, I will tell you two reasons why that statement is an excuse made by a large majority of people around the world – and not just about photo-shoots.
Firstly, life is unpredictable. Sometimes, we get so caught up with the daily grind that we forget that one of our goals is to feel happy. We focus on “important” and “urgent” things that are unfulfilling, and avoid doing the things that actually make us feel pure joy. But we do this for so long, until we suddenly find ourselves incapable of doing the things we yearned to do for so long. Why wait, when we don’t know what is going to happen next?
Secondly, if you feel that you do not deserve something special unless you have achieved a goal, then you are being harder on yourself than you deserve to be. If a caring mother does not withdraw her love when a child does something “wrong” (but simply gives them “tough love”), then why should you deny yourself something that gives you pleasure, just because you have not reached an ultimate goal that you have set for yourself? More often than not, people end up achieving their goals of change the moment they have accepted and embraced the way things are at this moment. Life is funny that way.
So if your only reason for waiting is because you still need to make a certain change to yourself, stop making excuses and book yourself a treat. You are fantastically beautiful as you are, and I will help you see that.
HOW SHOULD I PREPARE FOR OUR SESSION?
Unless we have explicitly discussed clothing sponsorship, you can assume that you will be responsible for your own clothing. We will discuss this beforehand, so that you are well prepared in advance. Make-up/hair – if applicable – by one of my make-up partners is highly recommended.
Other than that, I ask that before the shoot, you try to get at least two to three nights of quality rest (7+ hours of sleep, preferably starting before 11 pm), drink at least 6 glasses of water per day for a few days, and try to avoid heaty and greasy foods. This will have a profound effect on your skin (make-up and Photoshop cannot fix everything), but also really make you feel good, too! The clients that felt amazing during shoots, always tend to have a glow about them in the resulting images.