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Featured Graduate {Melissa Brown Finley}

Melissa Brown Finley is a lover of all things vintage, mothering, farming, gardening and photography, and she indulges in all these valuable past times from her home in an old farm house in central Texas.

Photography had been a hobby for Melissa for several years, and she had a desire to be a professional portrait photographer. But she was struggling to learn how to use her DSLR in manual mode on her own, and decided she needed help to get out of auto and take her photos to the next level. So she joined our Enthusiast Photography Course, graduated in February this year, and achieved all that she hoped the course would deliver!

Since she graduated, Melissa has been creating beautifully styled portraits with a vintage theme, and she talked to us about how she creates such beautiful imagery.

learning manual mode

How did you feel about photography prior to taking the Click Love Grow Photography Course?

I loved the idea of photography for many years and worked to buy a good camera, but I felt like I was still shooting tonnes of pictures and hoping to get a few good ones.

“I was frustrated because I’d have a vision for my photos, my set up would be perfect… and I would still produce subpar images.  Little did I know it was because I was letting my camera master me, and not vice versa”.

I signed on for the Enthusiast Photography Course so that I could stop relying on the shoot and pray method driving my sessions. I am thrilled by the improvement I have made in the past few months after the course!

online photography lessons


How has your photography improved the most since you began?

My photography has improved in multiple ways this year. I learned to set up my lighting, distance, and camera settings to reach the end goal in camera, I’ve learned editing and photoshop to add wow factor to my images, I finally found my style, and…

“I switched my camera to full manual mode during the course and have not looked back”.


how to use a dslr


Did you experience any “aha!” moments that helped improve your photography?

I had been experimenting to figure out each of the elements of exposure and how to get the right balance of settings. Everyone kept saying it will come, but it didn’t, and instead I just became more and more confused.

“It was frustrating trying to learn my camera in manual mode on my own,, but once I took the course I had that aha moment, and it all finally made sense to me. I can go on a shoot now feeling prepared and confident”.

I also had an “aha” moment when I edited my first image in photoshop and it looked the way I pictured it in my head – I found my editing style.

use a dslr in manual mode


What genre of photography do you enjoy the most and why do you enjoy it?

I consider myself a portrait photographer. I have dabbled in event photography but I didn’t like the rush and stress of capturing images on the fly.

I really love to fully style sessions through the setting, the attire, the decor and the location. My favorite session that I have taken so far was on a decommissioned bridge. I took an upholstered arm chair and vintage chandelier along with loads of tulle and the golden hour and let the magic happen!

vintage style portraits


Where do you find inspiration for your photography?

I am inspired by combining different elements to create the unexpected.

I like my images to contain something vintage and repurposed, a soft element, and a matte look in my processing. All this combined with the golden hour speaks to my soul!

I start by interviewing my client, match their desired outcomes to a location, and then I add in some flare with styling. I have been very lucky to find clients that trust in my vision and let me run with my ideas!

manual photography for beginners


Do you have a fun photography fact you’d like to share with us?

I am the clumsiest person I know. I recently did a maternity shoot and I had my client standing in a river where the water flowed over rocks, it was such a beautiful scene.

I was concerned about ensuring she didn’t fall, I had her husband on high alert helping her over the wet and mossy rocks. I got them in place and scurried to my shooting place. In my excitement and speed to ensure I didn’t miss the moment, I disregarded the slippery location and ended up on my bottom in the water!

My camera was held high up in the air, but I was very soggy for the remainder of the session! Oh, what we will do for a beautiful picture!

how to style a vintage portrait shoot


Do you have a favourite lens or other piece of equipment? Why do you love it?

My absolute favourite piece of equipment is my Sigma 85mm Art lens! I had to endure a wait list and mad dash to the camera store once they were restocked, but I got one and it doesn’t leave my camera very often.

photography lessons online


What’s the biggest photography goal that you’ve set for yourself, and have you reached it yet?

My most recent goal in photography was to have the honor of being a featured student for Click Love Grow. I made it!

My overall biggest goal for photography is to grow continually, and to be published in a magazine one day.

online photography courses


What was your favourite aspect of the course?

“I love Click Love Grow for many reasons, and the most appealing aspect is the supportive community. There are photographers at every level and I never feel out of place!”.

Also, the course was very systematic in the approach to learning manual mode, which helped me tremendously.

I loved that each week we had a practice task and a challenge task, and I felt I had the opportunity to learn and apply the skills multiple times each lesson.

how to use a dslr


Do you have a before and and after shot you’d like to share from completing Click Love Grow’s Photography Course?

vintage styled portraits


learn how to shoot in manual


If you want to see more of Melissa’s work, head over to Little Bit Photography!


Ready to take control of your camera and take beautiful photos? Our next Enthusiast Photography Course kicks off in January, so head over here and register!






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