Melinda Edwards creates lasting memories with photography business

Melinda Edwards never got to meet her sister, Nicole Dean, who passed away at the age of 3 before Edwards was born. But with family photos, Edwards was able to form a connection with the girl she never met.

Last January, when the Mansfield resident decided to venture out and create a photography business of her very own, My Little Light Photography, she couldn't help but think of her sister.

"She used to sing 'This Little Light of Mine,' so when I was trying to think of a name, I was trying to think of photography or camera words and light is a big part of photography, so I came up with My Little Light," Edwards said.

Edwards is a mother of two, Vada, 3, and Emery, 1, Edwards, and works as a nanny of three, whom she considers her "second kids." She is always busting out her camera to capture precious moments.

But her love for photography goes back to her childhood, when she recalls mom, Tammy Wilkinson, a retired reporter for Kewanee's The Star Courier, always taking photos.

"I grew up with her taking pictures," Edwards said. "So when I had my own kids, it gave me another focus."

She decided to buy all in and enrolled in an online class with Shultz Photo School to learn more about the skill. She even worked as a photographer at Lake Bloomington's East Bay Camp for a couple of summers.

The 2008 Illinois State University grad now has clients of her very own and serves them out of her Mansfield home or on location. She captures children and newborns, engagements, families and senior photos.

Her favorite?

Capturing the youngsters.

"I've always had that connection with babies and kids," she said.

But it isn't all smooth sailing with the children.

"It's just getting them to relax," she said. "But seeing them playing and being able to get those pictures — I enjoy that."

Edwards also adores capturing those wide-eyed seniors and has done so long before the creation of her photography business.

"Those are always fun, because at the beginning, they're timid and shy, and then by the end, they're really into it," she said. "They're like, 'Oh! What about over here? Can I do this pose?'"

"It's fun to watch them grow just within that session," she added.

The driving force behind her photography business continues to be those family photos of her sister, especially when Edwards herself is able to provide similar lasting memories, all with the crack of her lens.

A few years ago, Edwards had one of those special moments shortly after she received her first professional camera.

In the middle of winter, a teacher friend called and invited Edwards over to capture a rare moment when all of her family members were home.

Admittedly inexperienced at the time, Edwards went to the family's home both anxious as ever to do well and also excited to put some wear and tear on her new camera.

Now looking back at the photos, Edwards said they were by no means perfect, but she knows their worth is valued in memories shared by her friend's family who a year after the photoshoot lost a husband and father.

"I had no idea what I was doing with the lighting and all of that stuff," Edwards said.

"But those pictures ... those were the last ones with all of them together, and it just gives me chills knowing that was the last with all of them together," she added.

"I know she treasures them, even though when I look at them, they may not be the best quality."

Her biggest takeaway from the experience is to encourage others to capture photos, even on their own.

"You just never know," she said. "I just told my husband just to pick up the camera sometimes when I'm playing with the kids and take a photo."

The means to capture memories now is much easier, too. Edwards said cellphone cameras work just as well as those fancy DSLRs.

"The best camera you have is the one that's with you," she said.

Edwards continues to encourage her clients with her business. New to East Central Illinois, the Wyoming native admits she may lack connections, but she stressed, "that doesn't mean I'm new with experience."

"I just want them to have a good time," Edwards said. "I'm fairly easy-going, I'm flexible and I want people to be able to have those memories and to get them printed."

To learn more about Edwards' photography business, visit mylittlelightphotography.com.

Categories (4):News, Entrepreneurs, People, Business

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