Against the Backdrop: Beehive Studios


Words by Julie Burton / Photos by Jami Marshall

If you set your focus on the West Bottoms and zoom a little more, there’s a single red brick building standing at 13th Terrace and Hickory. It’s been there nearly 140 years. Once inside, you’ll find what you would expect for a building older than any living person in Kansas City — dark hardwood floors, brick walls, a vintage elevator, and the softest light spilling in through the windows.

Pro photographers are always searching for the beautiful light. Yet, everyone’s definition of beauty is different. Your definition of beauty is what Melissa Slater, owner of Beehive Studios, strives to create. 

“I’m in the business of giving people art,” Slater says. Her business is renting loft studio spaces for photography or small events. Slater rents out three studios, each named after areas where she lived in New York City. Each studio is on its own floor, totaling more than 3,000 square feet.

Slater doesn’t rent empty studios — unless that’s what you’re looking for. She creates your vision of a beautiful space. “Beehive Studios is different because of all the little things,” she says “I can make a studio look like a living room, kitchen, bedroom, commercial set, or dining area. I build sets. That’s what I do.” 

Some of Slater’s commercial clients include Hallmark and Charlie Hustle. She also welcomes photographers coming for photo shoots with newborns, families, boudoir, or high school seniors. BeeHive Studios has hosted everything from rap music videos to a trapeze artist exhibit. Slater offers full range of the building including hallways, doorways, and even outside, using her studio as a “home base” for outfit changes.

As with any industry, the photographer community is close in KC. Many photographers share equipment, tricks of the trade, and location referrals. “I’ve been a photographer for 24 years. I’ve worked in New York City to L.A. to Tuscan,” she explains “In the Midwest, people here are cool. We lift each other up. It’s a special group here in Kansas City.”

Kate Nickols of Kathryn Lee Bridal has a lot to say about BeeHive Studios. “I've done two photoshoots for my business in BeeHive Studios,” Nickols says. “There is a wide range of natural backgrounds to use for any feel you'd want. The wood-planked walls create a rustic look, the brick walls have a modern industrial feel, and the solid walls are great for a minimalistic look.

“The best part is all the rooms can be ready to use back to back without having to change the whole setup,” Nickols continues. “The tall ceilings and huge windows are amazing. They let in so much natural light. It’s a perfect place for any shoot.” 

BeeHive Studios is also available for events. Slater hosts small parties such as wedding showers, engagement parties, and even children’s birthday parties. “Most people show me their Pinterest page and I take that and run,” she says. “I handle it all — handmade gifts for guests, tables, tablecloths, centerpieces, serving dishes, balloons, a welcome sign. This is a full-service studio. That’s what’s fun for me — planning your event so you don’t have to.”

Rebecca Hayes, owner of Rebecca Haymes Photography, often uses BeeHive Studios as an event space. “We rented the space for a Christmas party,” she shares “Melissa really made the whole process as easy as it possibly could be. She is an incredibly gifted visionary so I hired her to decorate. She stayed under our budget and the whole space was over-the-top amazing. She even set up a space for the kids to do crafts. Genius.” 

KC may make a beautiful backdrop but BeeHive Studios puts you in focus. 

BeeHive Studios is located at 1317 W. 13th Terrace., Ste. 2/D in Kansas City, Missouri. Find BeeHive Studios at