Photographer Melissa Rieke admits that her artsy studio in downtown Bonner Springs is often “a poop factory.” But she says that she doesn’t mind: Her love for the world’s tiniest and most poopy people shows through her adorable portraits of newborns.
Rieke is no stranger to babies. She’s had through three of her own and says she has different strategies to get babies to drift off to dreamland during her photo shoots.
“I tell parents that I’ll be the nanny for a few hours,” says Rieke, who has nursing-safe snacks, drinks and movies available for moms and dads. “My goal is to let them relax and chill out while I work with the babies.”
Jackie Sciara of Kansas City hired Rieke when she was pregnant with her first child. After having Rieke take photos of her while she was pregnant, she hired Rieke to take newborn and baby pictures of her two children. She jokes that she wants to have more babies so she can get more newborn photos.
Sciara loved the way Rieke worked with the children and how she waited for the perfect pose.
“Nothing looked like a typical studio picture,” she says.
Before she started her business, Rieke thought photography would just be a hobby. But after picking up more and more work for friends and family, she decided to make it a full time job in 2009. In 2011, she found a quaint studio space in Bonner Springs, and her baby business began booming.
Rieke smiles and silently positions squishy newborns in adorable poses on a variety of cloudlike props to the tunes of twinkling music, a sound machine and a space heater. Really, she’s thought of everything, and parents often beg for her secrets.
“Every baby is different, but I can tell in the first ten minutes what is going to work and what isn’t,” Rieke says. “Newborn photography is really a specialty because you have to be comfortable and aware of a baby’s newness and delicateness.”
Shea Stevens of Leawood met with Rieke for a maternity session when she was pregnant with daughter, Saylor. Since then, she had newborn and baby photos taken by Rieke and just recently signed up for a family session.
“Melissa’s photos have a natural beauty about them, not over-processed or airbrushed,” says Stevens, whose newborn session took almost five hours. “The images she has captured of our daughter are priceless or timeless.
“Melissa’s work is back-breaking, but you’ll never hear her complain,” says Stevens, who was greeted by a hug from Rieke on their first meeting. “She is so engaged with you and your child and excited to photograph a perfect image that I don’t think she sees this as work.”