The Siren’s Song: Photographer KellyLynne’s Fantasy Images Bring Mermaids To Life

A native of Grand Rapids, Michigan (currently residing in Emerald Isle, North Carolina) KellyLynne first became interested in photography after finding an antique camera at a garage sale and exploring the world of black-and-white film images. Her passion soon grew from there and she began to teach herself the art, revealing a great talent for it.

Just as excited about life as their mother, KellyLynne has five daughters ranging in age from 15 to 28. Her girls are in the Army, Navy, USMC, one is a Yoga instructor and the youngest is attending high school (on an "Ivy League" path). KellyLynne — known as the “fairy tale” photographer — shoots weddings (and fanciful mermaids) around the world.

Her work has been featured in Rangefinder magazine, USA Today, Parade and the Wall Street Journal. She is also the official photographer for best selling author, Jeffrey Zaslow's "The Magic Room."

We recently caught up with KellyLynne to find out more about how her fantastical mermaid images have made such a big splash.

Shutterbug: Could you give us some background on your photography career?

KellyLynne: Growing up, I was surrounded by family members who were artistically talented, some even with careers in the arts. I was the jock of the family, though I tried hard to find my artistic self. At around the age of 30, I was a single mom, working my way through college. One day I bought a very old SLR camera at a garage sale. I did not know how to use it, but I was hooked on photography from that very moment.

I started learning all I could on the art of photography through books, magazines and a short time later, I started shooting weddings. In my second year in business I had already had my first international publication, and I was "full-time" status as a photographer doing photo shoots and weddings all over the country.

In 2011, with one of my daughters stationed at a Naval Base in Virginia, and the other stationed at a Marine Corp Base in North Carolina, I decided to make the move to coastal NC. As a child I vacationed many times on the coasts of North Carolina and had always wanted to make it my home. I knew it would be hard leaving such a huge client-base in Michigan and starting over somewhere new but I felt it was my calling.

About six months of living there was all it took for my calendar to start filling up full with local business and my out of state portraits and weddings. I loved shooting weddings, but something was missing.

Shutterbug: What inspired you to transform your models into colorful, playful mermaids?

KellyLynne: Living in coastal NC, reminded me of the vacations we had here when I was a child and I always dreamed I was a mermaid living in that huge beautiful ocean. About a year after my move, I decided to become what I call a "mermographer." I started out with a few purchased mermaid tails and started doing mermaid shoots on the beach where I live. (I now make my own tails and tops.) After just a few shoots my calendar was filling up with "mermaid clients." It caught the attention of people both locally and worldwide, almost immediately, and started getting inquiries from all over the country.

I now do mermaid "tours" to try to accommodate those in other states who want to become mermaids! I have done six Florida tours (from north FL down to Key West), two Great Lakes mermaid tours ( for the "unsalted" mermaids) and I just recently finished a Texas coast tour (there are also tours in SC and GA as well). This winter my mermaid story was actually aired on NBC National news. Mermaids were becoming my obsession.

Shutterbug: I see that your photo shoots were done on location. Is it difficult working at the beach? How do you protect your gear from the dangers of salt water and sand?

KellyLynne: It can be very difficult, shooting on the beach. I do watch the wind speed on any given day to make sure my equipment will not get sandblasted. I have protective covers for my cameras to guard against the blowing sand. You will very often find me sitting or standing in moving water, trying to get good images. That means always having eyes on all sides of your head, because you never know when that one large wave may come at you from out of the blue!!

Shutterbug: How do you capture the images? What gear do you use and how do you enhance the shots with Photoshop?

KellyLynne: I always bring two cameras to my mermaid shoots, one with a zoom lens and one with a wide-angle. This way I do not have to change my lens while on the beach—which is very dangerous. For little mermaids, I use a variety of props and sometimes parents bring their own. We will start out in dry sand and often move just slightly into the water. Beach-goers love to stop and watch the shoots and young children stare at the mermaids in utter amazement!

I am all about capturing a magical mood, so my lens takes in the whole scene not only the mermaid, but the landscape, the sky, the birds, etc. I will always get a few "look at the camera" photos but I prefer dreamy images of mermaids who seem to be....all alone.

I am not a "lover" of the blue sky in my images. I find the blue sky boring. So if the weather is not providing me with an interesting sky, I have a whole file of just "sky" images I have taken throughout the years and I will compose a fitting one into my image. I have also, on several occasions, composed a lovely moon in the sky over my mermaids—those seem to be a favorite with fans. I love a lot of tonal contrast in my images  (bright colors) and depending on the light of the day, my images can be warm toned or depict a colder tone.

Shutterbug: How do you find the ideal location for each shot and where do you get those beautiful costumes?

KellyLynne: I live right on the beach so I use that location often for the locals, although I often use other beaches on the island that are a tad more "private." When out of state for mermaid shoots, I do a lot of research online for the best locations or I get the information from those out of state clients. I look for locations with large rocks or piers in the water (that my mermaids can sit on) and beaches with a lot of seaweed—anything new and different.

I started out with a few "purchased" mermaid tails, I now make my own tails and hand-paint them. I get hundreds of inquires from people wanting to purchase them but I do not sell them. Each one is totally unique and there is no way to duplicate it exactly and they often need paint "touch-ups" which keeps me very busy. One adult tail can take me up to two weeks to finish.

Shutterbug: What advice would you give others who want to create fantasy images?

KellyLynne: If you have a dream in your head, nothing should stop you from making it a reality. I did not for one second, consider how the general public would view "mermaid photography" it was a dreamy idea I had in my head and I went for it. I think having a unique niche (aside from a weddings and/or portrait business) is an added plus and can bring personal satisfaction to a whole other level. If you find yourself constantly pondering on that one idea, and it is gnawing at your thoughts, there is a reason for that. Take action! Go for it!

Shutterbug: What other projects you working on these days?

KellyLynne: I am currently working on several mermaid tours in the near future, one in Hawaii and the other in California. I am also embarking on a possible underwater mermaid shoot in the Florida Keys. I have done underwater mermaid shoots in pools, as North Carolina waters right at the shoreline, don't have the greatest underwater visibility.

For more info, visit KellyLynne’s website.