The only female certified professional photographer (CPP) in the Wichita area, Mellissa Kelly, opened a new portrait studio in Andover, which will be her main location for Melissa Kelly Imagery from now on. The grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony was Monday, March 5 at noon – a week after Kelly's first day in business at the new studio. Kelly maintains her existing studio in downtown Wichita, which she started in 2011, as a second location.

Kelly focuses on portrait photography; she does a lot of high school senior photos, corporate head shots and family portraits. She earned her CPP distinction in 2015 through Professional Photographers of America (PPA), a certification that must be renewed every three years. Only a small percentage of photographers nationwide are CPPs. Kelly is currently working toward her master's degree through PPA.

"My clients, I feel like they deserve to have the best. And so I'm always working to improve my skills, and I always want to learn," Kelly said.

She graduated from the University of Kansas with an art degree in 1997 but didn't end up following that path. After recovering from a near-fatal blood clot in 2007, Kelly decided to do what makes her happy; she went back to school, attending Butler Community College, the next year to sharpen her skills as a photographer and learn digital photography, since she had originally learned using film. Yet, coming from that traditional photography background, she has an eye for light that some photographers may not have. She considers herself not a natural-light photographer – but an all-light photographer.

Today, Kelly is the only independent photographer with two locations in the Andover-Wichita area. She opened her new studio in Andover for three main reasons: she needed more space, most of her clients come from Andover and Kelly lives there herself.

"Now I feel like I'm a part of a community, in a way. And I can have a lot of people come visit me here," she said.

Kelly wants to give people with a fun, comfortable experience they'll remember.

"I think that's how we differentiate as a studio is we want to know their stories. You know, why are you getting this portrait? What does it mean to you?" she said.

Kelly's goal is to provide her clients with beautiful portraiture that they can have for many years and hang on their walls; her primary product is the high-quality prints from her professional lab. They're guaranteed not to fade for 80 years. While Kelly offers the digital files for people as well, she concentrates more on promoting the printed portraits.

"People come to us for that quality print that's going to be timeless," Kelly said.

She goes to great lengths to make sure people get the portrait they're looking for. Kelly even has special software to project the photograph over images of her clients' walls to make sure the sizing is exactly right.

Kelly has been recognized multiple times for her work; she won first place in the female portraits category of the 2017 Kansas Professional Photographers Association awards – and first and second place in 2018. She was also included in this year's, and last year's, top 10 photographers in Kansas list.

For those who missed the grand opening event, Kelly will have an open house at her new studio on March 13. The address is 310 W. Central Ave., Suite A, in Andover.