Collaborative "Camp" Photo Shoot / behind-the-scenes

"Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire" is a quote that resonates within me. It has been the mantra for moving forward in an INTENTIONAL way. This year has been focused on building a fresh portfolio (using a new editing technique) and surrounding myself more often with creatives I admire. This project checked all of those boxes. Photography is not simply a job nor career for me. It's something I feel passionate about and it's my favorite hobby too. The people, the community, creating beautiful images, I love it all.

Styled shoots are like jigsaw puzzles. It may appear that the resulting, final images are the complete puzzle. However, the pieces are not just what you see within the frame. The intricate pieces are the planning process, all the amazing people and energy involved, plus what you see within the actual photos. This includes the setting, models, wardrobe, props, lighting, mood and so much more. To me the behind-the-scenes happenings and the story are just as beautiful as the images themselves.

For me, styled photo shoot inspiration can spring from a number of different sources. It could be a certain person, place or thing. Sometimes it's a color palette, mood or activity. It begins with an inspiration, then all the other details are woven together, piece by piece. The process is often lengthy and there are a lot of elements to consider. 

This particular story began with tents. Not just any ordinary, run-of-the-mill tents. The canvas bell tent beauties offered by Homma Camp Company. You see, the fine folks of Homma Camp Co. happened to see photos from a workshop retreat I curated last summer. On a whim, they reached out and graciously offered to set up for a shoot sometime. That was last July. Their generous offer and rad tents had been on my bucket list of sessions since then. After a deliberately quiet winter spent reflecting and refreshing, I decided to plan the shoot. Early in January I touched base again with Homma Camp Co to get the ball rolling. With a vague idea and minimal details in mind, I recruited my dear friend and talented photographer, Angela Williams of Hazel and Haze Photography. She's the whole package. Her work is a dream and her heart is that of pure gold. She's THE BEST cheerleader. I knew that I wanted to have another photographer on site, to capture everything. I did take quite a few photos myself, but it's really tricky to manage both the stylist and photographer roles and do them both well. Having her there ensured I could focus on designing my vision, orchestrating the storyboard that evening and simply snap in between. We also invited the incredible Amy Teague of Happily Situated to join us. Amy shot some breathtaking still photographs and filmed video clips, which she's crafting into a tug-at-your-heartstrings highlight film (coming soon!). She's someone you enjoy being around. Her spirit is uplifting and encouraging. Once we had the date set and photographers in place, we filled in the details.

As far as location goes, the spot we chose had to meet a number of criteria. Hosting the shoot on private property was important. With so many people involved, it was vital to select something within a reasonable driving distance. We needed enough accessible, flat space to set up both tents plus natural areas for visual interest. And so on. Camp Loughridge fit the bill and graciously agreed to the use of their sprawling property. We could not have chosen a better venue. 

For professional hair and makeup, I reached out to two incredible gals I've had the pleasure of working with many times. Ash Franke of Ash Franke Styles is creative, kind, helpful and a true master at styling hair. Kelsie Lloyd of Soul Beauty is calm, gifted and nails every makeup look. The obvious choices there. Together they created really stunning looks on both our model gals, enhancing their natural beauty while giving them a slight "editorial edge".

The story we wanted to tell was one of cultivating friendships and nourishing relationships while unplugging and spending real, quality time together. The idea of portraying a group "camping" trip while keeping it somewhat intimate and manageable was intriguing. We also keyed in on the importance of separating each couple for some romantic, intimate experiences away from the "camp site". We decided to seek out two real couples to serve as models. I posted a "model call" on social media and was thrilled at the flood of applicants. The decision was extremely difficult, as we had so many beautiful couples inquire. In the end, we chose two complementary male/female couples for a plethora of reasons. Lindsey and Kellen Baldwin are not only striking in appearance, their relationship is fun-loving and genuine. Lindsey's red hair and flawless skin, plus Kellen's rugged beard? No brainer. Rachael and Andrew Pletan are a gorgeous, outdoorsy, head-over-heels-in-love pair. Hello man bun and Jane Birkin-esque natural beauty. The fact that they brought along their cute, giggly, happy baby was such a treat. Both couples were truly such troopers on set and their connections translate exquisitely on camera.

The design elements came together with the help of my designer/artist friend, Ashley Lauren Snyder. Together, we brainstormed and "pinned", finding inspiration from vintage camp scenes, timeless movies (such as Out of Africa, The English Patient, and A River Runs Through It), and even a Taylor Swift music video. The color palette was drawn from winter foliage; mostly neutrals including ivory, white, grey, blue with touches of green. Wardrobe was exclusively kept in this color scheme. I actually was able to find most garments in my own closet and my husband's, asking the models to bring just a few items of their own (such as the guys' shoes). The gorgeous ivory sweater (on Lindsey) was sponsored by the super cute Black Sheep Boutique in the Farm Shopping Center. Our intention was to keep details well-edited, but infuse a few luxury items (foraged floral arrangement by Ever Something, vintage alarm clock, real candles, etc) and fun appropriate props (fishing net, deck of cards, peanuts, etc). Homma Camp Co. supplied the cool full-sized platform bed. Jo and June was the clear go-to for all the other small furnishings on our list as well as key decor pieces. They already have the rental inventory and infrastructure in place. Easy-breezy. (How awesome is the raw-edged wood and cinder block table? I adore all the chairs and vintage kilim rug too.) We found the awesome cowhides and sheepskin pillow at the new shop 98 Cows on Brookside. These textiles feel really old school, mid-western yet cool and trending at the same time. I love what they add to the overall comfortable, neutral vibe. For the other items we shopped our own prop closets and sourced from local shops whenever possible.

Clearly, our dog friend Ellie the Aussie was a star and added so much to the scene. She belongs to my sister, Kara, of Kara Hamilton Photography who has specializes in pet photography. Photogenic Ellie has 13.2k Instagram followers (@ellietheaussie). Yes, thousand. Kara does an unbelievable job capturing images of her pets and others. 

Planning a shoot of this nature so far in advance and with so many contributors, is nearly impossible to reschedule. Luckily (and with many prayers/rain dances), the foreboding forecast cleared. We enjoyed the perfect light (hazy early followed by a welcome clearing at golden hour) and the temperature was more fitting of winter, as we'd hoped for.

Overall, the shoot was everything I dreamed of and much more. I think everyone had a great experience that day and left feeling inspired. Like a part of something bigger than ourselves. The resulting images are something I'm really, really proud of too and I hope everyone else feels the same. In fact, Angela's gallery brought me to tears. Overwhelming tears of joy. Her images are that beautiful and meaningful. Read her point of view and admire her images HERE.

Many thanks to all of you who supported this idea and brought it to life. I love creating with you.

Concept, Lead Stylist + Photographer Melissa Click Photography | Photographer Hazel and Haze Photography | Videographer Happily Situated | Venue Camp Loughridge | Stylist Ashley Lauren Snyder | Makeup Soul Beauty Lounge | Hair Ash Franke Styles | Tents Homma Camp Co. | Vintage Rentals Jo and June | Florals Ever Something | Ivory Sweater Black Sheep Boutique | Cowhides + Sheepskins 98 Cows | Firewood Big-Name Lawn Care | Dog Friend Ellie the Aussie | Models Lindsey + Kellen Baldwin | Models Rachael + Andrew Pletan

Photo by Happily Situated