What do you get when you cousins together for a photo shoot? A whole lotta fun!
CUPCAKES, GIFT BAGS, DRESS-UP, AND PHOTO SHOOT.. WHAT?!
That's exactly what these sweet girls experienced here at Studio 21. What they didn't know is that this photo party has been planned since November! This photo session was their Christmas gift from a family member.
They had been waiting since December (that's a loong wait for little girls!) ..and THE day was finally here! They were giggly and ready to party. First, they gobbled up their strawberry shortcake cupcakes, then changed into their first outfits. They each had beautiful dresses they wanted photos taken in. Then, they changed into their Cardinals gear and posed with hats and sunglasses. The girls reeeeally enjoyed getting dressed up. They especially loved choosing which necklace and earrings to wear from the Studio 21 dressing room. As you can see, they have good taste and look fabulous in the portraits!
They led the way on where they wanted to have pictures taken next... it was the tire swing, then with their stuffed horses under the arbor, and on the tractor tires. Of course they all loved the flower swing and I have to say, they are my favorite photographs of them!
If you know some children who would love to have a photo party please contact me at 217-962-0048. You bring the children and I will do the rest!
One little girl once told me that he favorite part was everything! ♥
As a professional photographer, I know a lot of thought and planning goes into getting your portraits taken. You've taken the time to research the perfect photographer that fits your style; light and airy, dark and moody, purest, or not. Then, you decide on the look your going for with all of your favorite outfits and accessories. Hair and make up, and oh yeah! Buy some (more) new clothes and shoes. Now, finalize plans. Where and when to meet. Aaaand it's time to head over to get this party started!
Put the brakes on! (insert sound effects here) Some things got left behind. What?! Well, have you taken a look at your fingernails? Are they in need of a good clipping, filing, and/or paint job? No one wants an awesome photo of themselves with gnarly nails! Toes nails too!
One things that really opens a person's eyes up are a good brow waxing! Most salons do this service and no, it isn't painful. I suggest doing this one or two days before your portrait session. You'll thank me for it someday!
This one is mostly for little people's caretakers: Dirty hair. I can do a lot with Photoshop but one thing I cannot do is clean hair. Sorry. lol Oily hair is very evident in photos. It's best to have a clean scalp before your portraits unless you are have an appointment for hair and makeup and the stylist says otherwise.
Hair color is fun and funky these day with all of the pinks, purples, electric blues, and even greens. With all that fun comes regret.. not today of course. Some day, oh, say in ten or twenty years from now, you may ask yourself what were you thinking?! I highly recommend staying as close to a natural hair color as possible for your portraits.
Speaking of hair... I also highly recommend that you do NOT go for the latest hair cut trend right before your photo sesh. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard the regret of someone who has chopped their locks and hate it! Hold off for the neon colors and A-symmetric cut for afterwards. As a friend to snap a few pics.
Clothing choices are essential to how you feel during your session. If they are too tight or too loose, you are not going to be confident. Have those outfits out and ready for a fun fitting fashion show for a best friend to help you pick and choose. Solid colors are easiest to photograph. Neon colors are tough to photograph because they do what is called color cast. Your hot pink shirt may transfer to your neck and chin. (^_^;) I really don't have a thing against neon. lol Promise.
What goes UNDER the clothes is important too! Ladies, it's best you wear under garments that are close to your skin tone. Stark white may be your favorite and wild colors and prints are fun buuut they will wreck your photos.
Of course, if you have any questions about the aforementioned, please talk to your photographer.
Melissa M. Harden, Professional Photographer
Studio 21 Mattoon
Where boring is impossible!
Back in the Saddle Again
Lee Ann called Studio 21 to inquire about getting senior prom portraits for her daughter Emily. It's not unusual to get a call like that however since no one was able to go to prom this made her call very special! Lee Ann told me about Emily and described her dress. My immediate thought was... WE NEED A HORSE! lol Thankfully, she agreed with my suggestion.
I only had to make one call to a friend who is an equine enthusiast and horse owner and we had our plans all made. It was helpful that Emily was no stranger to horses and riding. It was a bit (a lot) challenging in her dress though. We tried a side saddle position but.. yeah, that didn't pan out.
Emily walked around the stable and grounds in her high-stylin' yellow chicken boots. (I was secretly jealous in my daisy rainboots) It was while on Blaze, the saaaahweetest horse ever, her mom donned her feet with sparkly high heels.
Emily took to Blaze and they were the perfect match for this portrait session.
I cannot wait for the next time I get to work with this gorgeous horse again.
Hair and makeup by Haley Watkins of Sapphire Salon.
Lakeland College always offers an array of classes in the arts and sciences for children. This year's offerings are, theater, painting, guitar, ukulele, and I am teaching two photography classes .
Here is the link for more information and to register for the classes: Register here.
It's almost as if we are living in an altered universe. Mask-wearing and glove-donning beings all over the place! It sort of reminds me a Twilight Zone episode. Ya know, the one where you don't see anyone's face until the end and they are all disfigured. Ok, not exactly like that. (Great episode though)
Masks work, they save lives, they don't work, only make you feel like you are doing the right thing. Whatever the sentiment, some people are wearing masks because it's the only way they can open the doors to their businesses so they can earn a living. No matter how you look at it, some have to. The gub'ment says so.
What has been your experience with masks? Do you wear one? Why or why not? Below are businesses who either have chosen to wear or are mandated to wear masks. I hope you will stop by their places of business and give them some love. No hugs or handshakes though. Just love. wink
You may or may not know that I am a bit of a crime geek. Back when I made the decision to take a photography class at Lakeland College, I was deciding on whether or not to take a Criminal Science course instead. Oh so close to becoming a police officer or a detective. (insert daydreaming emoji here)
Just last month I was asked by an attorney friend if I would like to photograph "Covid Court". I thought, "Are people suing over Covid already?". What he meant was to photograph court session(s) while social distancing and masking wearing are enforced. Lemme think... YES! The date was set for June 9th. I was told that it may change because well, that's the nature of the beast. Court dates change regularly.
That morning I called to make sure everything was still on. It was. Yay! I arrived thirty minutes early to scope the lighting and where I was to be stationed. As I walked into the Cumberland County Courthouse, the nicest people greeted me and gave me permission to move about so I can get the shots I wanted.
I met the Honorable Judge Braden, security guard Terry, Jill the court reporter, and many others. Everyone there gave me permission to photograph them as they understood this is history in the making. The only person who did not was the witness. I reassured her that if she was in any photographs that she would be blurred out and I gave her my card just in case she had any questions. The criminal seemed to be happy to allow me to photograph him though. As he was lead into the courtroom, I noticed he looked for the witness and locked his eyes on her. I was not briefed on any details so, that only made my mind race in speculation to the nature of the case.
We weren't there very long however, case will resume at a later date. I was invited to come back. Perhaps I can photograph the outcome. This shoot was a real dream come true for me.
By the way, other than one quick wedding, I have never been in court.
Once your portrait order comes in, I am certain you are asking yourself that very question! Below are photos from a client who decorated a couple walls with her children's wall portraits. I hope you are inspired by her creativity.
Aleigha Long's hard work in school, dedication and volunteering in her community landed her a free senior portrait session. Mindy from the Salvation Army Youth Program told me all about Aleigha. She is a well-deserving young lady! Her package was worth over $1,100.
Hair and makeup done by Haley Watkins of Sapphire Salon.
Well, that didn't last long! lol I was doing sooo good then, I got busy with business stuff. So, here they are. The last three weeks.
Meet Ginger. She is my mannequin. She is often my model when I cannot get a human in front of my camera. She always nails her poses.
This week I decided to show you a shot I got from Miles' senior session. He has an older BMW and wanted some portraits taken with it. His mamma likes this one.
A young girl admiring her beautiful necklace.
I took this at Merle Norman's at the makeup demonstration table. The funny thing about this shot is the little girl thought that I would be in the photo too! hahaha
Here is our sweet Ozzie!
I have an old dusty mirror that is propped up against a wall in my headshot room. My son, Chance, has been asking for more photos of Ozzie. He was in the room, had a reflective surface so, I thought I can kill two birds! I then smeared some good ol' peanut butter on the mirror. That's how I got this shot. Peanut butter! lol
Nothing like a healthy challenge for myself at the genesis of 2020! My mission is to become more creative with what I have in and around my studios while using reflections. I plan to post a new photo every week. Please comment and tell me what you think of the photos.
My self-imposed rules:
I chose two portraits... just because I like them both. lol No particular reason I chose a faux flower. It was handy. I do love photographing cameras. :)
Questions for you: Which photo do you like most? Why? Do you prefer color or black and white?
An invitation to share my work in a public place is always exciting. Heath and Krystal Browning allowed me two separate displays at their former Mattoon restaurant, Bidwell's. The first one was my High Note Piano Series. I used to have this glorious piano as part of my outdoor studio. Even though I stripped the varnish and gave it three coats of poly, the sun baked her up pretty good. (insert very sad face right here__). She was falling apart and quickly.
Just a few days before my sons took a sledge hammer to it, I took photos of every angle. It was a beautiful summer day and it just so happened that a few random wildflowers grew around it which made it perfect.
A few months later, Dano Reible asked if I would like to have a display at his place of business, Jackson Avenue Coffee House. (See video below). Even sold one of the pieces there!
I wanted to do something totally different from anything I had ever done before so, I created the Bearded Wonder Project. Twenty-five men volunteered to become my muses. It's my favorite endeavor to date. Once again, the owners of Bidwell's were open to my displays. I took it a couple steps further by having an event including a dinner, radio coverage, and WCIA's ClLiving came to my studio to interview myself and one of the Wonders and even came to the event. Jeramy Buckles was also interviewed (in a video below).
At the event, the men were available so guests could have their photos taken with them. With his harmonica, Bill Belleau entertained us all with his version of Chicken Train. It was a successful and fun time! I am still so very thankful to Heath and Krystal.
I loved and enjoyed the Beards so much that I thought decided to do a Tatted Wonders series as well. I was on the hunt for the most tatted up folks around. The most interesting and fun was Cindy Davidson of Paris, IL. She is a woman who is so colorful that you just want to stare (but don't. It's rude!) Head to toe, Cindy has tatts everywhere except her derrière (because she can't see it). I wanted to show, through my lens, what she looks like without tatts by covering her entire face and neck with makeup. Lots of it. She was not happy with it on. You can even see it in the portraits. Then, I asked her to remove half of the makeup to show the difference. It was then that her smile was coming out. Once all of the makeup was off she was all smiles. Please watch her video below.
Lewis Whitrock was a joy to photograph as well. If I would have met him while he was at work I would have never known he has not one tattoo let alone entire sleeves, chest, and full back tatts! He has made sure that while he is at his job that his tatts are not visible.
Billie Lawrence told me that people are so surprised at how nice and mannerly she is even with all of her tatts.
Rico Thomas told me that his tatts serve as a force field of sorts. They keep most people completely away from him.
Harlo Watkins, a talented welder, created a camera out of scrap as a gift to me. I was floored by his creativity and thoughtfulness.
Moral of the story is you may never know who you encounter, who may be a walking billboard of art on their bodies. They are just more colorful, as Cindy Davidson says.
Their portraits were displayed at the Jackson Avenue Coffeehouse. Dano put a notice in the newspaper and on social media sites for the event. Cindy, Billie, and Harlo came to the event to see the display. It was a great evening.
The Gentry family came to my studio for family and maternity portraits. I cannot tell you how thrilled I was to get this opportunity. I mean, this family, they are all beautiful!
Kiaus and Alex are two balls of awesome energy! It took about twenty shots to get two of the boys looking right at me and when they did you could see a twinkle in their eyes. Being a mom of two boys myself, I can hear some saying, "That's mischief" but I don't know. Perhaps they are excited about the arrival of there lil sis.
What stole my heart was how endearing Andrew gazed at his expecting bride. I mean, a romance novel series could have been written on how he lovingly doted on her. It was a moment I don't ever want to forget. I also love it that she said, "He always does that" when I mentioned how sweet it was that his gently kissed her neck.
Jennifer is an outgoing, loves-to-laugh and a makes everything fun mamma! I thoroughly enjoyed my time with her. We laughed a lot! Check out these goofy picks I got of her while we were messing around. I'm telling ya.. she is sooo much fun!
Jennifer just glows! I can't decide which maternity gown I like most; the white one looks so regal while the purple gown is stunning! You take a look and judge for yourself. Click on each portrait to see it fully. :)
Again, I cannot stress to you just how much fun we had together! I will leave with a slideshow highlight of The Gentry family. ((Cannot wait to meet baby girl Gentry soon!))
What is your favorite holiday?
Did you know there is one for almost everyday of the year? Some are traditional, some to honor special people in our history, however most are just for fun. I thought it would be a great experience to celebrate these joyous days by taking portraits of some pretty awesome kids (and adults too).
We went all around town to get these special shots. Here is a list of businesses where we got the shots you see below: Merle Norman, deBuhr's Feed & Seed, D to Z Sports, Shore's Jewelers, Burger King, The Pet Shoppe, Cole County Memorial Airport, Suite Dreams Hotel, Dairy Queen, Cracker Barrel, Mattoon Public Library, 24 Hour Gym, Mattoon Flower Shop, Daisy Lane Scrapbooking & Craft Mall, and of course, Studio 21 .
We are still working on this project so, I will upload the posts as soon as possible.
Click each image to enlarge.
Because weddings are not on my list of specialties, I always declined for various reasons. When one of your very best friends in all of the world asks you to shoot her wedding, well, you just do it.
So, I did.
David and Nina could not have asked for a more perfect day. In October at the Mattoon Country Club, the weather was gorgeous and the venue equally as much. Everyone there was bright with warm and loving smiles. It was a day I'll never forget. I am forever thankful to be asked to capture their day.
Congratulations David and Nina!!
Love your tog friend,
In need of updated family portraits, Karen touched base with me. She was excited because her family was going to be together for Christmas. The Amtrak Depot was her choice because she loves the architecture there. This family loves hard and laughs even harder. All of them are incredibly photogenic! My favorite portrait from this session is the one of them laughing together.
Our families have been friends for many years. We always enjoy getting together with them. They were pleased with their portraits when I revealed them however Karen was extremely happy when she opened the box to her prints. We are planning another family shoot in the spring for a large, wall art portrait. I simply cannot wait!
It was just this November that "Trina" the mobile medical unit, MMU, was delivered to Choices Pregnancy and Health Center and I was there to capture the ribbon cutting ceremony and blessing.
Serving Charleston, Mattoon, Paris, and Casey Illinois, the MMU is equip with an ultrasound machine. Limited ultrasounds, free pregnancy tests, parenting classes, parenting classes, and abortion counseling are all available for free.
As you can see from the slide show, the brand new MMU features the comforts of a cozy home-like office. The staff are some of the most caring women I've ever met.
Please pray for their endeavors as they assist many women and families in the east central Illinois area.
On a Saturday afternoon in 1985, my sister took me out to lunch. We ended up at our favorite fast food joint, Burger King.It was very busy so I boldly claimed that I’d never work there. This wasn’t just any run-of-the-mill chain restaurant either. This is the ORIGINAL Burger King I’m talking about. See, the owner, Gene Hoots, opened Burger King back in 1957. Since Hoots had a federal trademark on the name they won a case to keep the chain restaurants from opening within a twenty mile radius of his. You can read more about the original Burger King’s history here.
Burger King ended up being my first real job. It was a great learning experience. We weren’t allowed to use the cash register feature that told us how much change to give back. We were required to count it back. Thankfully, a coworker taught me how.
When I first started I got the honor of grinding the onions. I honestly tried everything I could think of to stop my eyes from watering; sunglasses, pinched my nose with a clothespin, wore a handkerchief over my nose and mouth. Nothing worked. I was relieved when another rookie entered the scene.
There was never any idle time. We had a plenty to do after a rush of customers like filling ketchup and mustard bottles, writing up new numbers for drive through, and washing those aluminum ashtrays. Who remembers rolling out paper towels after the grill cooks mopped the floor? On Saturdays the former manager, Bill Douglas, would pull up to the back door with a trunk-full of packaged meat from Morgan’s Meat Market. We would take a specially designated scoop and “ball up” the meat for the infamous burgers.
The burgers have always been great however it’s the nasally number calling that is so unique. After you place your order, you are given a number. You then take a seat. When your order is ready the shift manager will call your number. For drive through orders, you would drive around the block, park, and listen for your number to be called and go back to the window. On a good day you can hear the number calls on the furthest ends of Mattoon.
It was winter of 2015 that Gene Hoots retired and sold his iconic restaurant to businessman Cory Sanders who updated most of the interior and added cool decor like the corrugated metal and new flooring. Cory has recently sold it to former manager Ernie Drummond and his wife Jodi. Back in the day, Ernie was the only shift manager who could call numbers just like Bill.
Ernie started at Burger King back in ‘77 as a grill cook. He then became a shift manager and remained for twenty-five years. He and Jodi had a unique opportunity to purchase the restaurant and boy am I ever glad they did! He has made some necessary changes to the menu options like bringing back the customer favorite, Blues Hog BBQ. Something special Gene Hoots started that has never changed are the 25¢ ice cream cones for the sports programs. Ernie told me that they now have people who are bringing their grandchildren in for those cold treat rewards just like they used to get.
Some little known facts about OG Burger King is that dollar-wise they do better than the chain restaurants without a breakfast menu. With only one little window, half of the business is from their drive-up. It’s number one seller is the double cheeseburger. I asked Ernie if his customers ever asked for unusual items. He told me that someone once asked for grilled pickles. One day the staff was looking for the cherry juice. Interestingly enough, they ended up finding it at a table where a customer was dipping her french fries in it.
Even though I claimed I’d never work there, I am sure glad I did. So many great memories and lessons learned. I truly enjoyed working with Ernie and Jodi and it thrills my heart that they are the new owners. So, CONGRATULATIONS to Ernie and Jodi! They will be celebrating their official grand opening on Friday, March 3rd. So, order up a double cheeseburger, fry, and a shake and play a game of Ms. Pacman until they call your number.
Melissa M. Harden
The Original Burger King
1508 Charleston Ave
Mattoon, IL 61938
Hours: All week 9:00am - 9:00pm
Burger King's Facebook Page
One step onto the creaky wood floor of this store and you will be taken back into time. deBuhr’s Feed & Seed located at 2001 Western Ave has been serving my community for nearly one hundred and four years (that’s 104 YEARS!). It has been passed down from generation to generation. The current owner and my friend, Bernie deBuhr loves to tell the story about his ancestor’s journey to our great land. Henry deBuhr, Bernie’s great grandfather, came to the US from Germany with nothing more than a wicker basket to hold his possessions.
Henry arrived in Mattoon, IL and became the farm manager of the Mattoon Odd Fellows and Old Folks Home. It was March 1st of 1914 that he opened deBuhr’s Seed & Feed. He and his wife, Marie Catherine, made the upstairs of their new business their home. They had two children, Herman and Folene.
deBuhrs’ biggest sellers at the time was produce, feed, and full-sized chickens. At the end of every week the ladies would come into the store to pick out the best chicken to dress for the weekend.
Passing his business to the next generation, it was the late 1920’s that Herman took possession of the business. With his passing, his son, Bernard took over in 1957. It was 1999 that his junior, Bernie took the reins.
Bernie Jr. is a natural at making his customers feel more like family. No matter how busy he is he always asks how you are, what you’re up to, or what’s new in your life. “We provide service and products at good prices, and treat people nicely. Our customers can be confident in our products and service.”
Another little known service Bernie provides is more for the other businesses in town. He loves to recommend his customers to support Villa Pizza, House Brothers, Shore’s Jewelry, Jack & Bill’s, D to Z, Dairy Queen, and many others. He has told me they all have long histories in our town.
Bernie enjoys telling this story; back in 1993 he was advised to use a mixture of linseed and turpentine to preserve the old wood floors. It never cured so it was like walking on super glue. The burlap feed bags were stuck to the floor, it was a big mess. You can still see remnants of it in low traffic areas.
From bird feeders to horse feed and specialty dog and cat foods and toys deBuhr’s has your pets covered. They also feature some incredible BBQ sauces and some of the hottest hot sauces on the planet like; Vicious Viper, Smokin’ Mary, and Beware! to name a few. Adjacent to their store is a greenhouse. In early spring, they have a wonderful variety of gardening plants and flowers.
deBuhr’s is a staple at the Celebrate Downtown festivities where I usually set up a small photobooth. I photograph children or costume-clad fur pets. There always happens to be a special Disney character available for photos too.
Community involvement, family-like customer service, competitive prices, and a trip down memory lane, who could ask for more?
Melissa M. Harden
deBuhr’s Feed & Seed
2001 Western Ave,
Mattoon, IL 61938
7:30am to 5:30pm Sat. 7:30 to 4pm
Check out their Facebook page
Just as her grandmother, mother, and her aunt, Renee England has a love for Merle Norman cosmetics. It was 1995 when she found out the studio in Sullivan, IL was closing up. She decided to give up her office job at an insurance agency on the square and made the jump into the makeup business. She didn't realize this shop had been struggling for a while. Hoping a better location would help, she purchased a different building. Because of the failing local economy, it just wasn't doing well so, she closed it for good.
It was 2005 when Fran Whitley, the owner of the Mattoon Merle Norman, was nearing retirement and needed some operational assistance. Renee ended up working for Fran. Going to meetings and working with her, she learned the ins and outs of the trade. It was 2007 that Renee decided to purchase the Mattoon studio and she couldn't be happier! She truly loves the satisfaction on her client's faces when they are pleased with the way they look.
Keeping the staples, every single year the product line just gets better! My favorite is the Lasting Foundation, Ultra Powder, Lip Liner Plus, and the mascara primer.
If you've never been there or if it's been a while, you will be pleasantly surprised at the array of offerings. There are luxury boutique items such as jewelry, scarves, and fashion outer wear. Need a lil pampering? Merle Norman now features a relaxing spa retreat! Shannon Dearing, a licensed Esthetician, offers professional skin care services including Microdermabrasion, Merle Norman exclusive facials, body wax and tintings.
If you have a teenage daughter then you've probably heard of Renee's Merle Girl Program. Young ladies apply to Merle Norman then they are invited to come in for a complimentary make-over. Judges then decide who would best represent Merle Norman. I have had the honor to photograph the last three Merle Girls.
Now if you wanna go waaay back...
It was back in the early 80's when I first met my now very good friend and daughter of Fran, Nancy Whitley Dearing. She showed me how to apply make-up just like her mom did. Nancy always made me look good for important events like dances, nights out, and even our graduation in 1988. When I would go to her home it always amazed me that the bathroom had as much makeup as the store!
Now, back to Renee... I hope this blog has peeked your interest because Renee is awesome and the products she carries are high quality. You are going to thank me!
Melissa M. Harden
Merle Norman's hours are:
Monday through Friday 9:30am - 5pm and Saturdays 9:30am to 3pm
1608 Broadway Ave.
Mattoon, IL 61938
My favorite pizza in all of the world? Instead of telling you, I’ll give you the phone number 235-0880. Villa Pizza, Home of the Massive Pie! Here is a lil history... In 1971, Sicilian father and son duo, Sammy and Sarafino, came to Mattoon and started Villa Pizza. Sarafino’s girlfriend was still in Sicily. She didn’t want to come to the United States and he didn’t want to go back. He knew he would be required to join the army for two years. Eventually, his heart was overtaken so he decided to go back, and he joined the army so he could soon be with the love of his life.
In 1975, Sammy put the restaurant up for sale. Anthony G. Arena, also Italian and former college MVP and pro football player for the Detroit Lions, came to Mattoon from Chicago and purchased the pizzeria. Once their house sold, his son Jon came down and the two worked side by side. Jon had quite a culture shock and missed his friends. He quickly learned that he was going to love it here. Within a few short months he made some lifelong friends. Eventually, the entire Arena family came to Mattoon and helped out at the new business.
Carrying on with tradition, Villa’s beloved sausage is a secret Arena family recipe which is locked up in a safe at Mark’s My Store. The amazingly rich sauce and all of the ingredients are fresh.
Villa’s pies come in bambino, small, medium, large, family, and of course the Big Tony, plus there is the Original Stand Up Pepperoni Pizza! Pick-up, delivery, dine-in, and there is even an area for parties.
You’re gonna love it!
Melissa M. Harden
2023 Western Ave
Mattoon, IL 61938