Amazing Moms!

Part 2: Single Mom and Photographer, Melanie Jaramillo, Speaks Straight to the Heart of All Moms!

Me Ra Koh

Boy oh boy!  Dream building can be a series of “hurry-up and wait and HURRY UP, now wait again”.  🙂  But the best part is you guys get to join me in this nail biting journey!  🙂  I’m not alone because I’ve got all of you!!  I’m not sure if we can make any news “official” today.  It may even have to wait till Tuesday.  But believe me, it’s so worth the wait!  Some of you are seeing hints of this crazy BIG thing!  But let’s not let another minute slip by.  Let’s pick up with where we left off in our special interview with Amazing Mom, Melanie Jaramillo!

Q. What was your first “paid” shoot like? How did you feel on the way, during and after?

A. Ha ha, I just have to LAUGH about that one….

First of all it took me FOREVER to start charging!  Then when I did, it was so low, I’m ashamed to even say.  My first paid shoot was actually a destination wedding for a friend.  I still wasn’t thinking of photography as a business (at that time- in art school wedding photographers were really looked down on).  But I agreed to photograph her wedding, mostly because I wanted to attend it but couldn’t afford to fly out there.  I was SO nervous!  I didn’t know anything about the process of shooting a wedding because I was used to working in the studio, or in situations where I was not under pressure.  There is SO MUCH technical stuff you need to know and be aware of and honestly I had no idea what I was doing as far as working with the vendors, setting up large formals, etc.  I was a nervous wreck. My body ached for 2 days after.   Luckily,  I knew how to nail my exposures-  the wedding was in bright sun, the reception in a stone dungeon.   After,  I felt sick for weeks.  I didn’t want to give her the images… spent weeks editing them.  I kept thinking about all the ways I could have done it better.  Luckily she ended up loving the images,  and I was hooked on learning everything I could about wedding photography.

Q. What is the best and toughest part about doing photography while being a mom and wife at the same time?

A. Well I’m a single mother,  and I truly believe that Photography is an awesome career for single mom’s!  I’m able to create my own schedule and can basically work while my daughters at school or in bed, and a couple Saturdays a month.    I LOVE that I can pick my daughter up from school everyday single day, and make dinner with her, and put her to bed, and travel with her.

A huge challenge for anyone working at home is setting boundaries.  I learned to turn off the computer when my daughter is home from school- and I try to not get distracted by the laundry when I should be editing. It’s a balancing act. The biggest challenge I learned LONG ago thanks to those great flight attendants…. Every time my daughter and I would travel (which was very often), they would come by and say “Maam, remember to put on your oxygen mask FIRST before assisting your child”.   I think that’s the greatest piece of parenting/business/life advice I’ve ever received…. We as women & mothers really need to take care of ourselves FIRST. Because when you have nothing, then you have nothing to give.   We’re trained as women and especially mothers to be selfless- to give everything.  But as a single mom if I burn out, there’s no one there to step in and take over. It’s all me, all the time.  So I learned early on that I have to take extra good care of myself. Every month I ALWAYS, without fail schedule 2 massage sessions, and 1 therapy or coaching session JUST FOR ME.  it makes me a better mother, a better photographer, and a  better person!  (Me Ra here, this last paragraph makes me want to shout from the rooftops!  Thank you Melanie for sharing so candidly and powerfully!)

Q.  Is there one more piece of advice you’d give to newbies?

A.  I once had someone associate photography with truck driving. They said that a truck driver isn’t just someone who buys a truck- they have to learn how to drive the truck, learn how it works, be able to handle the truck in ANY weather conditions.  I guess it’s a little similar. maybe that’s a bad example, ha ha.  But if you take the time to really learn the camera, learn light, learn exposure and what the camera is seeing (because it’s very different than what your eye sees).  Once you “have” the technical side-  that’s when photography becomes really fun. Because then you can walk into any situation and mold the light to create the image you have in your vision.  So my advice is to practice exposure until you really get it.  Give yourself weekly assignments without the pressure of “creating a masterpiece”.  Rather just let the focus be “understand what my flash does, or what the meter is reading, backlighting, etc.”  This will advance your photography by light years!

Q. Do you remember how we first connected?

A.  Yes, well there was actually two times. The first time was about 3 years ago, I was a member of Pictage and you led the Ask and Learn Wednesday.  I remember thinking- “wow, I had no idea that it was even possible to create a business like THAT!”   But it seemed so far off to me, that I didn’t really connect with you at that time.

Then last December I was up editing  one night while listening to your and Brian’s interview on FolioPodcast.  It was an instant, deep connection for so many reasons…. You were talking about Thailand, and your process of exposing the kids to other ways of life.  I had recently taken my daughter to Thailand to live for a month, and we had lived in Guatemala for a few months when she was little, so I shared those same desires for my daughter.   Then you were so open and vocal about your work with your book on sexual assault.  I  had worked for years as a sexual assault victim advocate and counselor, after my own experience as a teenager, but it was something I never spoke to people about.  I listened to you speak and thought “SHE’S an advocate!”.   If only women could speak with such strong voices everywhere! I was just blown away by your rawness- your realness. I was at a point where I though that to be a “successful business person” meant I had to be  rigid,  focused, non-personal, and without emotion- rather than open, feminine, and raw.  But in my heart, I AM feminine and raw and I can’t separate that from my business. You have been a great example of that.  I think that’s part of what allows me to connect with my clients so deeply. I  listened to the interview twice, and actually cried while listening to it because it was so relieving to see a beautiful woman be real, honest AND successful!  I was so inspired, and have continued to be inspired by you ever since!

*To see more of Melanie’s beautiful imagery, CLICK HERE!

I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to share with us Melanie.  You have such a beautiful spirit.  I know that I’m not the only one who has been blessed by all that you shared.  Thank you for being so open.  Love, love, love you!  Me Ra

To all our blog readers,

Did you miss one of our Amazing Mom features?  If so, check them out here!

1. Interview w/ Leslie Webber from Indianapolis, Indiana!

2. Interview w/ Michelle Riddle from Santa Cruz, CA!

3. Interview w/Tracie Stier-Johnson from Milwaukee, Wisconsin!

4. Interview w/Lora Ayers from Atlanta, Georgia!

5. Interview w/Carey Schumacher from San Diego, CA!

6.  Interview w/Amanda DiMonda from Long Island, NY!

7.  Spotlight w/Sreyown Sun from Cambodia!

8.  Interview w/Gina Maxine from Central Coast, CA!

p.s.New York at Your Request!

Jeff has a business workshop happening in NY!  Don’t miss this opportunity if you are in the area!  It’s in mid October, and Melanie…are you signed up for this too?  CLICK HERE for details!

p.s.s. I would LOVE to feature YOU on the blog too!

If you have attended our CONFIDENCE workshop, purchased one of our five 101 Kits , or watched our DVDs, or tried one of my Photo-Recipes and had rewarding results, and feel like your life has taken a new and wonderful turn for the better, then please send me an email at . We will send you directions on how to be featured!

We can’t promise to feature everyone, but I want to do this type of blog post more and more. Hundreds of people have sent us the most amazing emails regarding our workshops and DVDs impacting their life, their before and after photos, their revived passion; I would love for all of you to hear those stories!  If you submitted an email to us before and didn’t hear back, please accept my personal apologies.   I’m working on getting more and more help with the number of daily emails I receive.  So just to play it safe, copy Genie on the email too!  :)



  1. Rhonda says:

    Thanks Melanie! You indeed are an inspiration and I appreciate all that you give to us newbies. Your daughter is blessed to have you as a mommy too 🙂

  2. Henry says:

    Howdy Melanie! My hat (remember I am a redneck Texan:)) is off to you for all you are for your daughter and the beautiful inspiration you give to all of us. Your photography is awsome. Warmly and with much love.

  3. Christy says:

    Hats off to you Melanie!
    You are a true photographer. Your work is awesome!
    So great to hear more about how your work has evolved. I loved my wedding photos and cherish them dearly. So glad you were there:0
    Much love to you

  4. Paige S. says:

    Ooooh. I loved this one. She really spoke to me and inspired me to just go for it! I’m glad she put in the bit about securing your “oxygen mask” FIRST. That’s something that I often feel guilty about as a mom. Thanks for reminding me that it’s OK, in fact, it’s necessary. Keep up the great work!

  5. Hi MeRa, YES, YES…. I will be at Jeff’s Business Clarity workshop on October 5 in Irvine, CA… SO EXCITED to fly in for this! I was able to chat a bit with Jeff at WPPI roadshow in Sacramento and he’s just amazing and so inspiring. I’m really looking forward to some “clarity” and tough love! Hope some other ladies will make it too!

  6. Susan says:

    Loved reading about you and how/what inspired you along the way! I, too, have had to learn some of the same things (only in different situations), and I can relate very much to a lot of what you said. Your Dad and I are VERY PROUD OF YOU, MEL!!!! We love you very much, too! Thank you for shaing!

  7. jen armstrong says:

    It’s so good to read your story Melanie. Thanks so much for sharing! What a gift!