Something New for 2022

I’ve been working for several weeks on a new logo for mellBella Photography. This will be the third edition of the logo since the mellBella brand was officially founded The name mellBella includes my name, BUT I didn’t want it to be just me. Bella is a nod to the Italian roots of my husband’s family who started Richard Bell Photography who gave me my start in photography. PLUS, Bella means beautiful. The first version of the logo was retro feeling, and of course the B was capitalized. Our colors were hot pink, black, and silver.

original mellBella logo

She was a good logo and the B changed colors to red and purple depending on the photo shoot too. However in 2017, we changed to something more flowy, modern, and sleek. It took some time to find the right fonts and color, but she was professional, curvy, and cute. 2017 mellBella logo

BUT over the last few years, mellBella Photography has grown in so many ways, and this logo didn’t fit the brand anymore. mellBella is so much more than professional, curvy, and cute. Soooooooo much more than where we started…. the logo needed to be more and different. So in February, I emailed my designer, Andy, who is also a Bell, to figure out a new look. It had to FEEL just right.   For the record, it’s really hard to describe something that you can’t picture in your head as the final look but you have lots of ideas, feelings, and an instinct that go into it. I’m so thankful to Andy for helping me through this process, listening, and translating it ALL into an actual design.

bisexual lighting with anonymous feeling tossing hair

This portrait was the INSPIRATION behind our new logo.  For her most recent shoot in December 2021, she asked if we could do some images with bisexual lighting. This lighting incorporates a blue gel and a magenta gel and where they meet creates purple lighting. The colors are on the bisexual flag, give an 80s retrowave vibe,  the three main hair colors I’ve had in recent years, AND are used throughout tv shows and movies as well. And if you know me, you know I love to PLAY with LIGHTING and COLOR.

This lovely woman has trusted me to photograph her and embrace who she is. She gave me permission to share this image without her face and a few details about her story. She was my very first trans client, and she even used the photos we created from her first portrait session to come out to her mother. Wow, just wow. I’m so grateful to her because trans people face high levels of discrimination and violence,  AND she’s not alone. To be clear, trans rights are human rights.  She is inspiring…  watching her confidence and comfort in herself grow over the years is indescribably beautiful.  Of course, there’s SO MUCH MORE to it all… so much more detail, history, struggle, growth, and most importantly, LOVE. SHE is the phenomenal muse behind the new logo.

The new logo is dedicated to-

  • The FANTASTIC woman in the above photo, of course.
  • ALL of my clients (past, present, and future) whose trust I value immensely.
  • The awkward, the in-between, those who have been told they’re less than, those who have been told they’re too much, those who feel out-of-place, and those who are still figuring it out.
  • Creating, Collaborating, and Caring.
  • Being a Whole Ass Person.

Check out the NEW look in the video below-

I wanted a logo that would be….

  • Slightly more modern but not stiff; still curvaceous
  • Upscale, high end but still relatable and friendly with some whimsy
  • NOT perfect
  • Vibrant, Bold, Fun
  • Androgynous, Feminine, and Masculine
  • A gradient of colors
  • Enchanting, Welcoming, and Balance
  • Something that feels like me
  • Something that when you look at it doesn’t look nor feel like every other photographer out there

I was finally diagnosed with ADHD later in life, so I lived most of my life feeling Out-of-Place without understanding who I am. I felt Awkward, Too Loud, Too Random, Out-of-Place, Weird and Clumsy in my Brain and Body, Forgetful, Lazy, and Not Good Enough. BUT as a child, I would watch Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, and I always knew that Mr. Rogers liked me exactly as I am. No qualifications… no buts…. just how I am. Growing up, I wondered so many times– IF I was loved by my mother, IF I was unlovable, IF I could do anything right, IF I could ever decide what I wanted to do with my life, IF I was good enough, IF I can change myself enough to fit in, IF… IF… IF!!! I think that’s why the following quote is a huge part of my values:

“You are a very special person. There is only one like you in the whole world. There’s never been anyone exactly like you before, and there will never be again. Only you. And people can like you exactly as you are.” -Mr. Fred Rogers

This new logo feels right… it feels fitting… it feels like it reflects the changes and growth in mellBella Photography. It feels retro and modern. It feels masculine, feminine, and androgynous. It feels welcoming and fun but serious and professional. It’s a balance and whimsical. 

mellBella Logo 2022

My goal is for the art I create with my clients to show:

“As human beings, our job in life is to help people realize how rare and valuable each one of us really is, that each of us has something that no one else has or ever will have something inside that is unique to all time. It’s our job to encourage each other to discover that uniqueness and to provide ways of developing its expression.”  -Mr. Fred Rogers

So….. what’s next? The website. It’s a process, but it will be worth it.

 

2022 Intentions- W A P

Every new year, I choose words or phrases as my intentions for the year. I really liked last year’s intentions which were: Inclusion, Creation, and Innovation. I feel like mellBella Photography is on the right track, and we made some progress. I’m continuing my education in photography which goes far beyond camera and lighting gear. I’ve been reading, listening, and learning about fatphobia and diet culture as well as continuing learning about the “isms” (racism, ableism, sexism, heterosexism, classism, etc). I think the following quote sums up what I’m trying to do:

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” Maya Angelou

With the last few years, dramatically changing us all from figuring out life and daily tasks to exhaustion to mourning to anger, and to finding some joy and hope.  I’m struggling as a parent of a toddler and elementary school student. I’m struggling with my PMDD and ADHD and possibly have endometriosis too.  My PMDD causes me all kinds of problems and negative symptoms for at least 2 weeks out of every menstrual cycle. Time feels different. My ADHD is a beautiful but difficult conundrum, and allows me to pay attention to almost everything at the same time which makes sitting down to focus my attention difficult at times but it’s the best thing for a photo shoot because I’ll notice the mood, the lighting, the temperature, personality, changes, noises, etc. Now those are health struggles… and there’s so much more that goes into the day to day.

So what does this have to do with intentions for 2022? I am a W-A-P.  For 2022, my intentions for mellBella Photography can be summed up by those three letters– WAP.

I am a WAP. Everyone you see or meet is a WAP. Each human is a WAP. You are a WAP. A WAP is…. a WHOLE ASS PERSON.

You are supposed to take up SPACE. Almost every person, who comes to my studio for the first time, is so nervous, and they shrink themselves at first. But throughout the photo shoot, it’s a discovery of seeing themselves as worthy of taking up space… of being a WAP– WHOLE ASS PERSON! Being a Whole Ass Person does NOT include being unkind and disrespectful. Basically, DON’T be an Ass Hole Person to yourself nor others. And as a Whole Ass Person (WAP), you are going to have feelings that might change daily about how you look or feel in your body. When you feel a disconnect or uncomfortable in your own body, it’s soooooo easy for the negative self talk to take over and the feelings of self worth plummet. Maybe you feel bad because you “should” look a certain way and don’t. There’s no one right way to look, BTW. You are worthy of LOVE because you exist. It’s inherent.

“You must want to spend the rest of your life with yourself first.”    Rupi Kaur

You bring your baggage literally to the photo shoot, and there’s so much going on inside of you before you arrive. I don’t know your history, but sometimes you share part of it with me before your shoot day. Maybe you’re recovering from an illness, accident, or surgery.  Maybe you’re celebrating your birthday, anniversary, or surviving and leaving a bad relationship. Maybe you were raised to believe that your body is shameful. Maybe you’ve always felt self conscious about your body or that you feel awkward in it. Maybe you’ve done a photo shoot with us before and you want to try something different or bolder this time because you’re less nervous and more excited. Maybe you had a baby and want to celebrate or appreciate your new body.

“Radical self-love demands that we see ourselves and others in the fullness of our complexities and intersections and that we work to create space for those intersections.” —  Sonya Renee Taylor

I don’t know what happened right before you arrive at the studio. Maybe traffic was bad. Maybe you got in a verbal argument with someone important to you. Maybe you struggle with depression or anxiety and struggled even getting out of bed today. Maybe you’ve been caring for a sick loved one. Maybe inside you’re scared about hating photos of yourself… again. Maybe you were taught growing up that loving yourself/feeling good about yourself is selfish and you’re struggling with those conflicts still today. Maybe that person who was supposed to be safe and loving told you horrible lies about you and your body which you are still carrying with you. Maybe your kids were incredibly difficult to interact with that morning. Maybe you couldn’t sleep the night before your photo shoot. Maybe you want to do something just for you because it’s well past time you did and you need something to put back into you.

“You are allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress, simultaneously.” ― Sophia Bush

When you arrive at the mellBella studio, I want you to find a breath of fresh air, a place of comfort, a safe space, and a ton of joy. I want you to relax and be in this moment right now… not the past… not the future– but right now. I want you to set some of your baggage down, and take a little break from it. Maybe you have to take some of that baggage with you when you leave, but maybe just maybe, you can leave with lighter bags. I want you to feel more free and confident to be you, yourself, and your WHOLE ASS PERSONHOOD.

 

What to Wear Not Your Typical Looks

What To Wear For Your Boudoir Shoot– Top 10 ‘Not Your Typical’ Looks

I get asked this question a lot, …

What should I wear at my boudoir photo shoot?

A lot of people are familiar with some of the typical lingerie options and accessories (underwear, bra, corset, stilettos, etc.) or possibly simply your birthday suit. But what about if typical isn’t your thing? What if you want to wear something that reflect more your personal style? Maybe one of our Top Ten ‘Not Your Typical’ Looks ‘ for your Boudoir Session will give you a place to get started.

  1. Button Up Shirt with a Twist— you’ve seen it everywhere –the classic white button up shirt. But what if the shirt has a different texture or possibly see thru? I really like this idea because it’s versatile, comes in a variety of sizes, and pairs well with other looks at your shoot or at home. Here’s an example I found on Amazon:
  2. Swimsuit Cover Up— Look at these sheer pants I found on Amazon! There’s options with and without ruffles. Almost any swimsuit cover up is great… don’t be afraid of bold colors too!
    black sheer pants with ruffles on the sides
  3. Footie Pajamas– Seriously, why not? Plus, these rubber ducky pjs are the best!
    rainbow rubber ducky footie pajamas
  4. Favorite Fabric– What type of fabrics do you love? Color? Texture? Pattern? Go down to your local craft store and get at least 3 yards of a fabric that makes you happy. We have some options in our mellBella Client Closet too! From there, we can decorate you or your set with the fabric of your choice.
    pearls and moody purple
  5. Halloween Costume–  You needed an excuse to wear it again, and I LOVE HALLOWEEN! The studio always has a little bit of Halloween decor up all year long.
    halloween baroque costume
  6. Coveralls/Jumpsuits/Rompers Oh My!– Really there’s no wrong answer here.
    coveralls and chuck taylor shoes
  7. Body Harness– From leather to elastic… and they come in a variety of styles, sizes, and colors.
    red wall, black leather body harness, and jeans
  8. Sweatpants/Yoga Pants/Workout Clothing– Yes, you read that correctly… comfy clothing for the win!
    teal sports bra and black capri exercise pants
  9. Go Retro– Just pick a fashion era that you love  and commit…whether it’s 90s Goth, 50s pinup, Rococo style, etc. 
    black and white crop top with pleather pants
  10. Thrift Store Finds— You never know what you’ll find, AND it’s a great way to recycle too. So look for your favorite color, unusual, weird, wild, silly, etc. It can be anything from a dress, pants, t-shirt, hat, shoes, belt, and the list goes on. Two of my favorite Charleston Thrift Stores are:  Closet Case Thrift and The Exchange Factor   
    thrift store find flowy orange halter dress

 

Growth in Boudoir Photography

For 2021, I choose three words that I want to guide my focus for this year…. INCLUSION, CREATION, & INNOVATION. I am working through updating the website, social media, and throughout the business to be more accessible, more inclusive, address any other concerns, and update the imagery too. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes, and I wanted to share some growth and history with you.

I was brought up in a family with a verbally and emotionally abusive mother. My father died when I was thirteen. They had brought me up in a cultish religion where only they (the religion) had the answers,  and everyone else was wrong. Changing your views was considered sinful and wrong… even when new information from many verified sources disproved that view/value. Hating yourself and putting your needs/boundaries last was considered the highest good. Many lies were fed to me through this religion, and any negative things about the religion or respected leader were hidden. Guilt, shame, and fear were the motivations to do “the right thing” as they defined it… and most of the religion’s values were either racist, misogynistic, homophobic, ableist, etc… and a lot of times a deadly cocktail of some of or all them. Add to this my struggles with undiagnosed ADHD (until summer 2020) and never feeling like enough or feeling like too much.

Fast forward to high school where I started questioning a lot of the misogynistic practices in my high school. Then to college and after,  getting married, and having kids. Throughout my life, I never thought of myself as hot, sexy, or even beautiful. I thought of myself as cute, silly, quirky, and very awkward. When I started photography in the family business through weddings, I kept seeing again and again how only women who looked a certain way were in the movies, tv, magazines, models, advertising, etc. And that the view of a women’s beauty and her worth was only if she met this impossible criteria. I photographed my first boudoir shoots in 2010 and connected the dots… that all women are beautiful and should feel that way.

So when the mellBella Photography  brand started in January 2011, our mission was to “remind women they are more beautiful than they think they are. Specializing in women’s photography to honor these Bella Beauties and the men they love.” WOW! Thankfully, we’ve done A LOT of growing since then. That mission was problematic… exclusive in several ways. We had a very narrow view of boudoir photography and what it was back then.  Coming into boudoir photography as wedding photographers, we narrowed our focus to only brides either getting married or as gifts for wives to get their husbands.  BUT that excluded  LGBTQIA+ persons… it excluded any other gender… it excluded people who weren’t married… it excluded people who didn’t have a partner… and it made it only about a gift for someone else.  And on top of all that, we had very little diversity in our clients.

Me circa 2011 early on in the mellBella Photography life

 

How did/do I change it? It came/comes through putting in the hard work personally and through the business…. education and communication. Being open to changes to learning… not being afraid of being wrong… apologizing and taking the steps to correct the problems…and changing the goal to not only became a better photographer but also a better human. To create a welcoming, safe place, and fabulous experience for our clients.  And to always be learning, admit wrong doing, when you mess up–make up for it as best as you can, and to put love and kindness above all else.  I have invested in education through The Boudoir University  I’m  over halfway through their foundational program called The 7 Pillar Program: The Course for Photographers Who Give A Damn. “The pillars are designed to confront blind spots, outdated belief systems, and biases that we all have when it comes to the human experience. In order for us to become more empathetic and thus, more empowering, we need to open ourselves up to understanding experiences from different intersections.” Boudoir Photography is truly so much more than “pretty pictures” or just a “photo or tw0.”

Image of Mell Bell by Christine Hamrick Photography

So, what is the mellBella Photography mission/goals now?!? I don’t have a formal mission statement right now that is wrapped up nicely in one sentence… but here’s what I value:

  • EVERY BODY is beautiful. EVERY SINGLE BODY is freaking gorgeous simply because it exists.
  • Boudoir Photography isn’t just for females… it’s for ALL genders.
  • For my clients to see themselves with loving eyes instead of hypercritical ones.
  • Celebrating YOUR version of beautiful, sexy, happy, strong, silly, sensual, etc.
  • Confirmation, Detoxification, Communication, Exhilaration, Declaration, and Affirmation of YOU
  • Creating a Safe Space of respect, trust, peace, vulnerability, emotions, and comfort combined with fun and laughter.
  • An experience that puts back into someone…reminding them to value themselves… appreciate their bodies… AND yes, even CELEBRATE.

Here’s just a small sample of the portraits I’ve been doing. I dedicate to my unforgettable clients, my friends, and family who support me and my work:

 

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What is Boudoir Photography?

woman in cream sweater sitting on egg chair with feet propped up

What is Boudoir Photography to me? For starters, I’ll tell you what it’s not.

Boudoir Photography is NOT:

  • just photos in underwear.
  • for women only.
  • lewd, obscene, vulgar, or gross.
  • demeaning or shameful.
  • perfection or what you think the perfect body should look like.
  • only for people who are a very specific size, shape, age, gender, ethnicity, height, weight, ability, etc.
  • just for the bedroom.

close up of woman with long black hair in a blue teddy and pearl necklace sitting in a rattan egg chair

To me, Boudoir Photography is so much more than just a photoshoot. I photographed my first boudoir clients in 2010. As I’ve photographed hundreds of people over the years, my definition of boudoir photography has grown as I’ve grown as a photographer, artist, and person.

blonde woman in batman tank and panties stretching on yellow couch in front of window

Boudoir Photography :

  • is an experience for ALL HUMANS who want to encounter and embrace their version of BEAUTIFUL.
  • is INCLUSIVE and RESPECTFUL.
  • is feminine, masculine, and/or androgynous.
  • is a GIFT for someone special… YOU ARE THE SOMEONE SPECIAL.
  • is for YOUR BODY exactly as it is right now.
  • is shame free and body positive.
  • is an investment.
  • is a way for you to SEE your SELF, your BEAUTY,  your ARTFUL BODY through another person’s eyes.
  • appreciates the human body in its many versions.
  • can be a LIFE-CHANGING experience.
  • can be clothed, in underwear/lingerie, implied nudity, or nude.
  • can be glammed up and blinged out.
  • can be cozy and subtle.
  • can be silly and smiley.
  • can be sultry, sensuous, or sexy.
  • can be a gift for your partner, but it can be just for you.
  • can reveal something you never considered before now.
  • is fun!!!

 

Small Business Saturday 2020

Small Business Saturday Special 2020

We thought about doing a Black Friday Deal, and then decided not to. So instead we’re doing a Small Business Saturday Special. Be sure to follow the directions to get the deal. Here’s what to do:

1. Donate to the Community Care Fundraiser Event to get your 2021 mellBella boudoir session at a reduced price:
  • $10 donation = $50 off
  • $20 donation= $100 off
  • $30 donation= $150 off
  • $40 donation= $200 off (that’s HALF OFF the regular price!)
You can donate to any one or all of the following organizations:
(Your donations will reach both the Community Resource Centers faster through Cash app with the tag: $NCCRC)

Just email me at info@mellbella.com with a screen shot of your donation and type “mellBella 2021 Is My Year” in the subject line to be counted towards your session fee. All emails/ donations must be received by 11:59pm on Saturday, Dec 5th to be included in the Small Business Saturday deal. All mellBella sessions from this deal must take place on an available Monday-Friday in 2021 by August 30, 2021. Once I receive your email, I’ll send you a link/questionnaire with details how to officially reserve your mellBella Boudoir Session for 2021.

2. As part of your donation, you’ll receive an entry into the giveaway part of the Community Care Event. All prizes are from local small businesses.
Check out  the Current Prizes on our Facebook Gallery. Each $10 donation gives you 1 entry into the drawing. The more you donate, the more chances to win.
One Image Wednesday

One Image Wednesday- Inferno Wings

Here’s a little something new we added to our studio… the Inferno Wings! These gorgeous gray wings can be added on to your session as an additional set. We can set the scene for a moody dark angel or maybe you want something a little more heavenly. What will you be?

mellBella Inferno Wings
Introducing Mell Bell

Meet Mell Bell

It’s been a while since I introduced myself. I’m Mell Bell… yes THE Mell Bell of mellBella Photography. I’m the photographer, artist, creative, designer, ride or die, never gonna give you up, cheerleader, etc. kind of person. My pronouns are she/her.

I’ve been a photographer with Richard Bell Photography since 2005. So I got my start in wedding and family portrait photography with my husband, Nathan, son of Richard Bell. I’m so thankful to be a part of the family business, but something was missing. In 2010, I photographed my first boudoir session, and after that, I knew THIS was the missing piece. So, with a lot of planning, long hours, and hard work, I founded the mellBella Brand with my dear friend. (Naming the company, Richard Bell Boudoir wasn’t going work. Totally not sexy at all!) Over the years, we’ve added pinup, styled, sets, a client closet, and so many things. Every year, I introduce a few new things that help make the mellBella Experience even better. Always thinking and growing!

many faces of mell bell

Because I feel it’s important to have a great relationship with my clients, we should get to know each other a little bit. So here goes…

  • One of my favorite local organizations is the YWCA Greater Charleston. Their mission of eliminating racism and empowering women is very important to me.
  • I have 2 daughters that are 8 years apart in age. What a BIG surprise indeed!
  • I’m awkward and empathetic, but my super power is embracing the awkward and making people feel comfortable.
  • I love my freckles, and I call them angel kisses.
  • Flip flops are my shoe of choice, but  I’ll rock a pair of heels for the right occasion.
  • I wish I could do hair and makeup, but I leave that to the professionals.
  • I pay homage to Lucille Ball with all my facial expressions.
  • My favorite drinks are Coke Zero, Jack Daniels, Espolòn Tequila, Diet Dr Pepper, and of course water.
  • I can eat ALL the pasta, pizza, and ice cream any time.
  • I celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, and other special occasions with an impromptu dance party.
  • Some of my favorite TV Shows are:  POSE, Grey’s Anatomy, Schitt’s Creek, Supernatural, Queen Sugar, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,  Ru Paul’s Drag Race, Steven Universe, and more!
  • I have too many movies to narrow down, but we’ll start with Crazy Rich Asians, Black Panther, Spider Man: Into the Spider-verse, and COCO are my more recent favs.
  • My musical preference depends on the day or mood.

And finally I’ll end with a non Photoshopped boudoir photo of me, taken by me, and quote that is a mantra of mine.

“You are a very special person. There is only one like you in the whole world. There’s never been anyone exactly like you before, and there will never be again. Only you. And people can like you exactly as you are.”  — Fred Rogers

professional boudoir selfie by mell bell

 

One Image Wednesday

One Image Wednesday- Over the Bed

For this One Image Wednesday, I wanted to share one portrait from our Over-the-Bed camera. We love dressing up the bed with complimentary colors to really set the mood. We love a messy bed! Whether you want go bold or more natural, we customize the look on the bed for you. For the Bella, we used black, gold, pink, and just for fun a rose gold necklace from our mellBella Closet. Her black lace shoes are also available from our mellBella Closet. What are your favorite colors?

mellbella over the bed camera
In Her Own Words mellBella

In Her Own Words- Ms Lilly

I love the tousled hair look, and Ms Lilly worked some model wind at her session in our studio. Here’s what she had to say about her mellBella Boudoir Experience.

mellbella messy hair boudoir

BEFORE Her mellBella Boudoir Session— “How I felt before- I’m excited and nervous. I have always wanted to do this, but never had the nerve. I can’t wait to do this, to feel strong and confident, but also show my fiance how much I love him!”

booty shot over the bed at mellBella Photography

AFTER Her Photoshoot—  “IT WAS AMAZING!!! They act like you’ve been BFFs forever. They make you laugh, feel comfortable, beautiful, confident, and overal AMAZING! They really made me feel strong and confident. I would do this again in a heartbeat. They truly make you love yourself.”

black and red teddy boudoir

AFTER Her Photo Reveal“The experience gave me confidence in my image and my self-confidence is where it should have been all along.  I am proud of myself and my beauty.”

natural light skimming across the body boudoir