Spain Mission Trip 2018

Totally different from my normal blog posts, today I am posting about my recent trip to Spain! This summer my husband and I had the amazing opportunity to go to Northwest Spain on a mission trip with the church he works at, Highland Park Presbyterian Church.

There is a pilgrimage called the Camino de Santiago, also known as the Way of Saint James. The legend is that the remains of Saint James, one of Jesus’ disciples, was taken to the Cathedral at Santiago de Compostela. The pilgrimage to Santiago was the most popular Christian pilgrimage back in the Middle Ages, but it has become popular again recently. Over 300,000 people walked in 2017, but most people do not walk for religious reasons, more popularly for sport or travel. Historically people would start their journey from their home, but now that people walk on The Way from all over the world, there are tons of different routes and starting points. The most popular trip, the French Way, goes from France all across northern Spain, and is 477 miles and typically takes about 6 weeks by foot.

All along the way the pilgrims (or peregrinos) stay in hostels or group albergues (typically a huge room that sleeps 60–100 in bunk beds). The Camino can become very costly: financially, physically and emotionally. Agape (CRU organization in Europe) owns and operates a small albergue called La Fuente del Peregrino (the Pilgrim’s Fountain) in Ligonde (about 5 days walking distance from the end of the Camino). It is a donations-only and volunteer-run hostel that provides up to 13 pilgrims a place to sleep, homemade dinner, and breakfast. They also stamp the pilgrims’ Camino passports (they have to receive a certain amount each day to earn their certificate at the end), have clean bathrooms, free drinks and snacks, and provide a place of rest for anyone along their journey. During the summer, several thousand people pass by every day. Agape has different churches, groups, and organizations around the world come work at La Fuente, and we got to be one of them!

This trip was all about radical hospitality, which is my family’s biggest spiritual gift and calling. It just seemed perfect for us to go on this trip. Jonathan is a videographer, so he filmed most of the trip, and even got to interview some of the pilgrims that stayed with us. We will eventually share the video of the trip, once we get it finished and add it to this post.

We had pilgrims from France, Colombia, Italy, Bulgaria, Holland, England, Canada, China, Germany, Russia, Australia stay with us during the week, but also a handful of Americans too! Arizona, Georgia, and even Dallas were all represented! Not to mention all the people from all over the globe that just passed through. Each day we would put pins on our map to represent each country from the pilgrims that day. It was so amazing to see the map fill up. During our week we had a large group from South Africa and a lot from South Korea. By far the most popular countries were Spain and France.

Our team did everything from cleaning the bathrooms, making all the meals, washing the bedding, stamping passports, to greeting (and dancing with) pilgrims as they pass by. It was so interesting to learn about each person’s reason for going on the Camino. Most of them seem like they are in search of something, and it was really great to reflect with them on their journey so far, and nearing the end.

Most of the pilgrims asked us why we were there, since it was very obvious we had come from America. We got to tell them about how we came to spend our vacation serving them, which was really shocking to a lot of people. Every night we played the Jesus Film in whatever was the most spoken language of our overnight guests. We also played this game called Solarium after dinner using images and stock photos. It helped them reflect on what life was like before and during their pilgrimage, and what they hope for it to look like after the Camino when they get home. A lot of spiritual seeds were planted and watered.

The biggest take away for me was that if God has called you to do something, don’t let whatever you think is a limitation stop you. Some people might think just housing 13 people a night isn’t worth it, when there are other places that can hold over 100. But the small amount of people really helped us focus on and have really in depth-conversations with them, instead of being a for-profit business. The trip has also reminded me to be more flexible. I am such a planner and love to know exactly what to expect, but on this trip you have no idea who will be staying with you each night. And sometimes people show up exactly when you are starting to serve dinner. But you know what, we made it work, we just added another plate at the table and readjusted.

Now time for pictures, what we are all here for:

IMG_8761.JPGOur team from Highland Park Pres.

IMG_8995.jpgOutside Family Dinner!

IMG_9284.jpgPilgrims getting stamps. The yellow booklets are a type of tract explaining the spiritual meanings between the different symbols of the Camino.

IMG_9021.jpgCows down the street from the Camino. They walked in front of the hostel every day in a parade.

IMG_9274.jpgWhat it looked like in front of the hostel all day until about 5PM.

IMG_9275.JPGOur last family dinner before we left La Fuente.

IMG_8852.JPGA part of the group from South Africa.

IMG_8847.jpgA group of pilgrims just around the corner from the cathedral!

IMG_8873.jpgWe flew in and out of Santiago de Compostela, and got to spend some time there. We saw the Cathedral where most of the pilgrims’ journey ends. The cathedral was breathtakingly gorgeous, and was originally opened in 1211. We also attended a pilgrim’s mass service which was such an amazing experience.

IMG_9081.jpgIMG_9087.jpgI can’t forget to mention Rosa, the cheese lady. She taught some of our team how to make cheese, and she was by far one of my favorite people in Spain.

IMG_9311.jpgThis is the Roegner family. They are missionaries that live in Spain and work for Agape. They originally are from Highland Park Pres, and we love them.

IMG_9232.jpgJonathan and I can’t wait to come back and bring Sailor when she is a little older.


Copyright Melissa Maddox Photography 2018

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Summer Session Tips

Summers in Texas are extremely hot, but don’t let the heat stop you from getting new family pictures. Here are a few tips to make sure your family session is as cool as possible.

Packing List: First let’s start with some things you need to bring to any summer session. Lots of drinking water is the absolute most important, make sure you have extra bottles for everyone. Battery hand-held fans are great ways to cool down in between poses. And maybe bring an umbrella to use for shade if we have some extra walking at your location.

Time of Day: The best time for sessions in the summer is the morning! Earlier the better. If your family can handle getting up shortly after the sun, do it! But if you are anything like me and have a family member that simply cannot function before 10 AM, evening right before sunset is fine too. You can photoshop out some sweat and redness, but not a bad mood. Just remember that 8 AM can be 15-20 degrees cooler than 7 PM, and that makes a huge difference.

Location is Key: Certain locations can help a lot with your summer session too. If you have a very specific location in mind that has little to no shade, it might be best to wait until Fall. Shaded areas help so much with the heat, but also look much better in pictures. Also consider moving your session indoors! A lifestyle session in your home is always so special. And trust me, your home DOES NOT have to be spotless or designed by Joanna Gaines. If your kid is anything like mine and loves the water, we could have a water themed session! This might be best just for the kids, but we could get some fun unique shots at a splash pad or the sprinkler in your backyard.

Mini Sessions: Last, but certainly not least, is to just shorten your session time! My full sessions are about an hour and a half, but you could do a short and sweet mini session that is only 30 minutes long.

Copyright Melissa Maddox Photography 2018

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Family Model Search 2018

Hey friends! Last year, my Family Model Search was such a great success, I decided to hold one again this year! If your family needs some new pictures, and want to help me test out some new locations, please apply! Go to the link below to enter, and share with anyone that might be interested.

One family will be selected for a Mini Family Session with Melissa Maddox Photography. You must be a new client, and live in the DFW area. Must enter by June 1st, 2018. The session will be scheduled sometime this summer.


Copyright Melissa Maddox Photography 2018

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What Camera Should I Buy?

One of my favorite quotes is:

“A camera didn’t make a great picture anymore than a typewriter wrote a great novel.”
–Peter Adams

I will be the first to admit that I do not have the best camera or lenses. I have a camera that works well enough for what I need it to do, but could totally use an upgrade in the next few years. But right now, I really don’t need it. Everyone—especially professional photographers—uses their phones to document everyday life. Back in college I had an entire assignment shot on smartphones for a photo series.

My advice for you as far as what camera to get is to first decide what you will actually use it for. I think so many people believe that they must have a DSLR camera to take great pictures, and that is just not the case. A lot of people ask me what camera they should get, and honestly I am not the expert in the latest cameras. Actually I know very little about the cameras that have been released in the past few years. I do understand what all the features do, and how to compare models. But overall they are almost all the same to me. Here are the different types and my opinions on them:

DSLR: These cameras are great if you really want to spend time learning about all the different functions. You can buy different lenses, and play with thousands of settings. But if you are never going to change the lens, or take it off Auto, don’t waste your money. There are plenty of great point-and-shoot cameras that I would recommend you purchase instead. I use Canon and that is what I tell everyone to get, but Nikon really is a great company too. If you have always used Nikon, stick with them. Don’t change because I prefer Canon. I would just say to get the best model for whatever fits your budget. Start with a kit that comes with a lens and the body (an extra, longer lens would be great too). If you are just starting out with DSLR cameras as a hobby, don’t get a full frame camera, which is way more expensive—I don’t even have one yet. But if you are really serious about photography and want to become a professional, especially in commercial or editorial, go ahead and invest in one.

Point and Shoot: Honestly, I would recommend to anyone to start with a good point-and-shoot camera. That’s what I started with, until I learned all the manual settings and what different lenses did. There are plenty point-and-shoots that are waterproof and have major zoom options. They are typically much smaller than the DSLR models, and therefore much easier to carry. Also they offer much more color options, if that is something you care about. Instead of having settings like Manual, Aperture, Shutter Speed, Program, and more, they have much more simple settings that don’t require you to understand everything about the full camera functions. This is ideal to start with, because I think it is best to learn how to take good pictures first, then learn how the manual settings can help achieve different images.

Mirrorless: Real talk. I have not researched mirrorless cameras, but I have heard great things. Again, I am in the business of taking awesome pictures, not selling cameras. If you are starting out, I wouldn’t worry about them.

Accessories: There are a lot of great accessories that I would recommend you invest in. First would be an extra battery (or two). Have them both charged at all times, so in case one dies in the middle of your trip to the zoo you will have a backup! Memory cards are a must. My husband and I both use lots of medium sized cards. That way we can change the cards for each shoot, and have backups incase one starts to have issues. Anytime you use a new card in your camera, make sure you “format” it. This will erase any images you had on there to begin with, which you should backup often. And speaking of backing up files, you really need a cloud storage and/or external hard drive system. I recommend having every picture backed up in (at least) two places. A carrying case or bag is another essential purchase. You don’t want anything to happen your new camera, and it will provide a home for your spare battery and memory cards! You don’t need to have a tripod, but a simple lightweight one is always good to have just in case. They are very helpful if you are in low light situations and need to have a lower shutter speed, or if you want to jump in a group picture!

Resources: Here are a few places that I highly recommend that know WAY more than I do about cameras.

Speciality Camera Store: If you live in a smaller town, Best Buy or Target might be your only option. But since I live in DFW, we have camera specific stores like Fort Worth Camera and Arlington Camera. Bigger stores will have a decent selection, but they will not have the extensive knowledge and options that speciality stores will have.

YouTube: We live in a wonderful world where there is a video for EVERYTHING on YouTube. So search your camera model and “tutorial” and there should be several videos on all the camera functions for beginners.

Creative Live: This site has tons of classes for beginners, but do cost some money. They have great courses from actual professionals that can help you learn about your specific camera (they don’t have videos for every camera made, but they do have a lot). They also have courses that can help you learn the fundamentals of photography, from shooting in manual mode, to lighting and posing.

Hope this helps! If you have any further questions about what camera you should get, go ask someone at your local camera store! 🙂

Copyright Melissa Maddox Photography 2017

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Why You Should Hire A Professional Photographer

With DSLR cameras being so affordable now, many people own them. And the cameras on our phones are better than ever. The temptation is to forgo hiring a professional photographer and just have a friend document big family moments. Or even *gasp* try to take them ourselves. I am all about saving money, but there are some things you really don’t want to skimp out on. Here are my thoughts on who should take your pictures and when:

Taking your own pictures. I totally get it—professional photography costs money. If you know me personally, you know how insanely practical my husband and I are. If it costs money, we don’t do it (Haha, maybe not to that extreme, but pretty close). I am a professional photographer, I have all the talent, education, and equipment—why can’t I just take my own family pictures? Let me tell you, taking your own pictures is HARD. If it is just you and your spouse, it is not that difficult. But mix in kids or dogs (like we do) and it is just a complete disaster. You can maybe get a few decent pictures on your own, but you miss so much of the in-between cute pictures that a professional could get. Don’t get me wrong, I try to make this happen every once in a while, but my husband will tell you that this is not always the best idea (or as he would call it, torture). When you are documenting huge life events, don’t try to do it on your own. Get some help!

Having a friend take your pictures. Now, when I say this, I am not referring to your friend that also happens to be a professional photographer. I mean your friend who has a nice camera and might have taken a photography class in college. There is a time and place to save some money and have your friend help you out, but that is not during the most important times of your life. First day of 2nd grade? Friend. Newborn pictures? Professional. Monthly baby pictures? A friend might be a good bet. Family pictures after not having them taken in five years? Professional. You do most of the work when it comes to hiring your friend; you typically have to pick a location, do all the scheduling, and are totally on your own for outfits. Your friend wants you to have great pictures, and I am sure they will get a few that you love. But the experience is nothing compared to working with a true professional.

Hiring a professional photographer. When you hire a professional, they know locations. They can recommend places that you would have never considered so you don’t have the same pictures as your neighbor. They are very experienced in what fabrics and patterns will look best photographed, and how to coordinate everyone’s outfits.  Your photographer will guide you through every step of the process, because this is their speciality. You shouldn’t be concerned, because you will get exceptional images. And I am sure in the very rare instance you don’t absolutely love your pictures, they will make it right and try again! It can still be difficult to get everyone happily out the door with the outfits you and your pro have selected, but it is way less stressful than it could be. I know professional pictures are expensive—it took us months to pay off our invoice for Sailor’s newborn pictures, but we don’t regret our investment.

Professionals will spend so much more time on your session than a friend will. My personal workflow involves 34 steps, and only one of them is the actual session. I would say the hour-and-a-half (more or less depending on the type) session makes up about 7% of the time I spend working with each client. That doesn’t mean that it will take up too much time on your end, it just means I put a lot of time into each client’s experience to ensure their pictures are perfect.

Another great thing about hiring a professional, is that you have options of prints and products instead of just getting all the digital files and having to do it all on your own. Let’s be honest. We all have great intentions to do wonderful things with our digital files, and then years go by and those files are just using space on our hard drive. For our wedding, I only received digital files, which is what I requested from our photographers. I design photo albums for a living, and I didn’t get around to making our album for over TWO YEARS.

So, who should take your pictures? If it is a major life event, or a few years have passed since your family’s last professional pictures, I would recommend hiring a professional photographer. If it is a day you would love documented, like a child’s birthday party, hire a friend! And you must have those embarrassing first day of school pictures, so go ahead and take them yourself! I think all three methods should be used, but at the right times.

Copyright Melissa Maddox Photography 2017

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Ode to Digital Files

Real talk. Pretty much everyone I know is conditioned to only want digital files of their sessions. Digital took over the photography world, to the point where very few photographers now work with film. And I don’t blame them. Having a background with film photography, I still would love to work in the dark room for personal projects. Buuuuut using digital gives me so many more possibilities and is much more economical. With film sessions, you are very limited to how many images you can take and produce, but with digital it just depends on how much storage you have on your memory card (which is typically a lot). With the pretty standard memory cards I have, I can photograph over 1,000 images in high quality before I need to switch to a new one. Sessions now usually produce many more image options than before. With film, you had to print every negative to be able to see each image. But now with digital, you can view all of them for no additional cost on any device. Digital photography has really transformed the medium of photography for the better, and has made capturing images much easier.

The problem with this ease, is that anyone can pick up a camera, and take as many pictures as they want. Hear me out. I absolutely love that my iPhone takes great quality images. I also really believe that everyone should own a camera, to capture all different aspects of their lives. But with the advances of technology, we often have so many pictures that are taken, stored on a hard drive, and never looked at again. The amount of images we take has desensitized us to how precious each of them can be. Just ask anyone who has had a loved one pass away. I remember, after my Aunt died, how much I treasured any picture I had with her.

When you take the time, effort, and money to invest in professional portraits, you need to remember just how precious those images are. These are pictures that not only you will cherish, but these will be the pictures you pass down for generations to come. I am very blessed to have a lot of old family pictures and stories from several generations back. The pictures we have of my great-great ancestors really bring their stories to life. It is so special to be able to physically hold the printed picture of my great great grandmother, the same picture she has held. I can just imagine how disappointing it will be for our grandchildren and beyond to have to search through hard drives, or cloud sites, to find the pictures that were really the most important to us.

This is a photograph of my great grandmother holding my grandmother.

There are plenty of companies that are realizing the need for printed pictures. I have heard so many ads lately for apps that will take all your pictures, print them in a book, and ship them to your house. The need is there. I think we all know we want our pictures printed, I think we just have good intentions and don’t always follow through. I am personally a good example of this. For our wedding, we got all the digital files, which is pretty typical. I will admit to you, because we are friends, that I did not touch those pictures for over TWO YEARS. I design wedding albums for a living, and never took the time to design my own. Since I finally have my album, I look at often and love to show it off. But there were two whole years that just flew by before I made the time to do it.

I have found that this is such a common problem. People think that they need the digital files so that they can do whatever they want with them on their own, but rarely do anything with them. The last thing I want my clients to do after we are done with their session is to have to work more on their own to get them all printed. I will confess to you that once upon a time, I was a shoot-and-burn photographer in the beginning of my career (this is where you get all the digital files with your session, and don’t offer prints). But then I learned about how important it is to give clients a full experience with finished product, and never looked back. That being said, I do offer digital files, but I really focus more on finished prints and products for several reasons:

  1. Professional Products. Consumer labs (like Shutterfly, Snapfish, and others) and personal printers do not produce the same quality as the professional labs I use. There is a huge difference in price, but that is because professional prints and products are made to last long into the future. Also, consumer labs do not have consistent printing. Your image might look one way on the computer, but get printed looking much different. I use the same two labs for everything, and my computer is specifically calibrated to ensure your images will be printed to look exactly as they do on my screen.
  2. Digital Storage. From experience, I know how heartbreaking it is to have a hard drive crash. Before I learned about backing up files, I lost years of photos I will never get back. Thankfully this was before I really did any client work, and have since learned to always back everything up several times. But not everyone knows that. And what does the future of digital storage really look like? We have some ideas with cloud storage and physical hard drives, but we really don’t know. I think it is safer having physical prints that are much harder to lose or crash.
  3. Complete Experience. Like I said earlier, I really don’t want you to have to do any more work once we are done with your session. During the ordering appointment, I always help advise my clients what pictures will go best for different products because I have a lot of experience doing that.

Now, I do realize that there is a whole wonderful world on the internet that you would like to share your pictures with. That is one of the great benefits of digital files— that everyone can see them! I always give my clients a low resolution file of each ordered image to be able to share online. This is not a full size file big enough to print on, but you can post, share, and email it to your heart’s content.

So no, I’m not a hater. I love digital files too. (Just look at my daughter on FB and Insta) Our culture thrives on digital files, and that’s fine! But with so many of them out there we have to pause and reflect on the most important ones that we can turn into treasures to adorn our homes and share with loved ones.

Copyright Melissa Maddox Photography 2017

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Family Model Search

Hey friends! I have scouted a few new outdoor locations that I would love to photograph families at, so I am holding a Family Model Search! Go to the link below to enter, and share with anyone that might be interested.

One family will be selected for a Mini Family Session with Melissa Maddox Photography. You must be a new client, and live in the DFW area. Must enter by September 8th. The session will be scheduled sometime this fall.


Copyright Melissa Maddox Photography 2017

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What Should I Order?

Whaaaaaat? You mean I don’t just get all the digital files and we are done? Well, you can totally order them, but I really focus on finished prints and products. That way you don’t have to take another step to do that yourself. And if you are anything like me, take forever to actually get that done.

At your Ordering Appointment, which takes place about a week after your session, we will go through all of the images. I will help you narrow them down to your favorites and  pick what you want to order. I have samples of all the products so you can see what you like best. Make sure to bring anyone that would want to have a say in the pictures selected or products ordered. This is a great time to invite grandparents too!

Here are some of my favorite products:


Image Box

The Image Box comes with a custom box (we pick a picture for the front and back), ten mounted 5×7 prints, and two display easels. The prints fit in the box so well. In the example we used pictures from this couple’s maternity and newborn sessions.


Coffee Table Book

Books are probably one of my most popular products. This is the best way to get the most images. A lot of clients that have a hard time narrowing down their favorites, and this can help get them all in one product!


Wall Prints

If you have ever been to my house, you know how much I love Wall Prints. I have them in pretty much every room. I want to walk through my home and see my favorite people and pictures all over the walls. Each of the Wall Prints come with a custom frame that I can help coordinate well with the print and your home.


Accordion Minis

Eek! These little mini books are so fun! They come in sets of three, which makes them such a great gift. We have one displayed on a countertop at home, but a lot of people leave them in their purse to show off!


Copyright Melissa Maddox Photography 2017

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Pro Tip Tuesdays!

Hey friends! I am going to start posting bi-weekly Pro Tip Tuesdays on my Facebook and Instagram pages! These are going to be tips and tricks I have learned over the years that I would like to share with you! These could help you prepare for your session, or even help you take your own pictures at home. Do you have any suggestions of things I should write about???


Copyright Melissa Maddox Photography 2017

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I Love Film.

I have always been taking pictures ever since I can remember. I started with film cameras and eventually got to shoot, develop, and print with film later in college. Throughout my college career, I got to take several film classes, and even was able to be the film lab technician my last year.

A college senior picture with one of my favorites from my camera collection.

What I love most about film is that they are physical prints. Images that are printed have so much more importance than ones just sitting on your computer’s hard drive. They carry value, and you can actually hold them. This is why I believe that it is so essential to print your images. Digital medium is new and honestly we don’t know what the future of it will look like. But I can tell you that I have pictures from relatives from over a hundred years ago. What will you leave for your children and your future descendants?

This is an enlarger. You insert your negative in the middle of accordion at the top which then gets projected to your paper below. The paper is light sensitive and can’t be exposed to any light other than the safe light, so you have to do all these steps in the dark. Those Ilford paper boxes hold all your sheets of light sensitive paper, and have a blackout bag inside to protect the paper incase someone accidentally opens them in the light.

I love that you have to work so hard to develop a film picture perfectly. Now you can just open a file in photoshop and with a click of a few buttons fix the exposure, contrast, and don’t get me started on how easy it is to dodge and burn. My experience in the dark room has helped me to take better images in camera, especially now that I can see them on the screen the second after I take them instead of a week later when I develop them. Every tiny adjustment in the darkroom meant another 5 to 15 minutes (depending on type of paper) and the cost of another sheet of paper (which adds up to A LOT).

Each of these beige tubs contains a different step in the developing process. You have develop, stop, and fix. Then the water bath at the end to wash the print. You go through these steps in the dark with just a orange tinted safety light.

Recently, I have gone though a lot of my old prints. Some of the pictures are terrible and very amateur, but I have a lot that I really love. So I thought it would be fun to share some of my old film work with you! Every other Friday I am going to share one of my film prints from college with the #MMPFilmFridays on my Facebook and Instagram pages, so be looking out for them starting this week!

This is one of my prints in the fix bath.


Copyright Melissa Maddox Photography 2017

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