Awarded Best in Show at the Suffolk Art Gallery's 40th annual Juried Art Exhibit


Ambient Awareness Media LLC

Hello, I'm Mandell Elm, a professional photographer based in the beautiful Hampton Roads area of Virginia. My path to photography wasn't paved with childhood dreams or early passions. In fact, I didn't even pick up my first professional camera until I was 28 years old.

In 2020, my life took an unexpected turn when I suffered an injury that left me bedridden for four months. This challenging period also required me to relearn how to walk. With an abundance of free time and a need to find a new focus, I decided to immerse myself in learning a new craft.

My main profession and first passion is working in the mental health field. I am currently a high school mental health and crisis counselor for Newport News Public Schools. I don’t see myself ever stepping away from this field because I believe this is what I have been put on this earth to do. I have a unique ability to connect with individuals in a way that allows them to feel understood, to feel seen. In these moments is where I find people grow, no matter how uncomfortable that process might be.

Photography became my creative outlet and my therapy. What started as a way to pass the time quickly evolved into a profound passion. I dedicated countless hours to understanding the intricacies of photography, from mastering my camera's settings to perfecting post-processing techniques. I landed on portrait photography because it allowed me to continue connecting with people. Now, not only do I strive to make others feel seen, I want them to be able to see themselves. A portrait, to me, is more than just taking a photo of a person—it is a way to capture a piece of who they are.

Today, I am proud to call myself a professional photographer. My journey may have started in an unconventional way, but it has given me a unique perspective and a deep appreciation for the art of capturing moments. Each photograph I take is a testament to resilience, growth, and the beauty of life's unexpected paths.



Weddings & Events

Events are a special category as there is something authentic about capturing moments as they happen. From birthday parties, concerts, competitions, and community events, Ambient Awareness Media LLC serves in all of these areas. Please check out the information tab to learn more about our wedding day coverage!


Family Sessions

Family sessions can be taken indoors at a studio or outdoors on location. These photos are great for sending holiday cards or to simply watch your family mature and grow throughout the years.


General Portrait sessions

We cover a wide range of portrait sessions, including but not limited to senior/graduate sessions, engagement sessions, high fashion publications, creative story telling portraits, or a portrait session just to appreciate yourself in front of the camera.


Products and materials

All sessions come with a digital album of the image; however, you can also order prints, wall art, canvases, and greeting cards right from your digital album! Having digital files are great and convenient, but being able to touch, hold, and display your memories is invaluable.