It doesn’t take long to figure out that Mel Rey has a distinctive style in her wedding photos. But for her, it took quarantine to fully get there. Having first studied surgical technology at the University of Montana before moving to a career in photography, she thought she had to fit a mold to be a successful photographer.

Eventually, she realized that thought pattern was stunting her growth. Once she was on lockdown from COVID-19, Rey found herself sharing more of the experimental photos that have become her signature. Clients come to her for her outside-the-box visual effects—texture overlays, light leaks, liquify techniques and double exposures—which she incorporates to “capture the magic in seemingly ordinary moments and craft them into particularly unique pieces of art.”

Rey is a Canon photographer who edits these one-of-a-kind photos in Photoshop and with Alien Skin Exposure, which she presents to clients alongside a gallery “chock-full of fuzzy feelings and good times that they might have missed.” To Rey, communicating openly with her clients to ensure they’re a good fit is key. “We become friends for life,” she says, “tied together by this fun and weird passion for art and being ourselves.”

Check out the official announcement of this year’s 30 Rising Stars of Wedding Photography, along with the editors’ observations on the list of 2020.