Melissa Thompson, owner of Pistachio Alley Photography in Cody, Wyo., is known far and wide for her stellar baby photography. Though it’s not all she does, it’s her specialty.

Each year she highlights her specialty at competition. This image, She’s a Dream, was entered in both the Wyoming and Montana Professional Photographer competitions. At the Montana competition, She’s a Dream wowed the judges and she picked up a Sunset Print Award.

Printed at Pistachio Alley on Sunset Bright Velvet Rag 315g with a Canon iPF8300, Thompson says, “The judges for both state competitions liked the presentation, the paper it was printed on and the print quality. The general consensus was how the image worked well with the Sunset Velvet paper and how the tones were muted, not showing a true black, giving it a dreamlike quality.”

To create the image, Thompson started with a concept she came up with last year for competition, but says she shelved it because “it just wasn’t working out right.” Everything came together this year, however, with the right subject and the right clouds.

The baby is sleeping on a bed of clouds that Thompson created from a composite of four different cloud formations. Thompson photographs compelling cloud formations and keeps them in folder for use with different images.

“This is three or four different cloud images I brought together, taking sections out, and warping them: bending them around the baby so that it looks like a little bed. For the photo, it’s a studio image on a bean bag and I made sure the lighting worked with the clouds I put together,” Thompson explains. “You look at the lighting patterns and make sure the shadows and highlights are going in the same direction so it doesn’t look out of place.”

Thompson based the studio lighting on the clouds she had already chosen so that the baby blends in just right with the clouds, making the image appear real, rather than a composite. In addition to knowing how to studio-light for composites, Thompson adds, “Using the little nuggets of information learned from a few Masters I admire and impeccable printing and paper quality brought this image to fruition and made an incredible art piece that the family of this baby will cherish forever.”