I am behind with work-I desperately need to write an advertisement for my next day of boudior(that is quickly approaching), and I am experiencing a huge block. The ad has sat open on the computer for days and every time I keep asking myself-what do women want to hear? What compels them to get these photos done-and better yet what will compel them to book me to photograph them? So tonight after an hour of striking out I realized that perhaps I have more to say than just a line or an ad. Forgive the ramblings, I’m not a professional writer by any means-just a woman with a vision and hopefully someone out there hears it.
I was married a month ago. Wedding images were posted on Facebook within hours of the actual event, and I was tagged instantaneously. I have made a practice out of photographing people and there are very few photos of myself. So when the little red notification went up and I saw they were wedding photos my first thought was “Do I look fat?” and it was directly followed by “People will see I look fat, people will think I look fat, I am fat and oddly enough, people will know I’m fat, (as if the people at my wedding and friends somehow have never actually seen me)”. Those thoughts moved at lightening speed and the anxiety only reduced as I scrolled through the images and assessed my perceived ‘fatness’. Im not happy those were my thoughts, and it’s definitely rare that I will be this honest (but if I’m going to be honest, why not share with the whole internet right)? For the first time in my life they perplexed me-not because I hadn’t heard them before but because with my photography of women I have heard it all. It truly has allowed me to hear people’s inner thoughts out loud. It’s generally the same theme just a different script for each woman and what they tell themselves each day. Too fat, too short, not pretty, freckles, too skinny, stretch marks, too old, too young, and just plain not worth it. Photographs have this strange power over us-it’s like an image can affirm or dispel those beliefs and because of that the mere presence of a camera causes anxiety. It is not limited to women, I had a young 10 year old girl tell me that she usually looks stupid in photographs. It seems to me that photographs can enhance our negative view of ourselves.
The most common question women ask me is “Will you take out cellulite?” or “Can you photoshop me?”, and I have a response that I stand by and believe in. It is always “Yes, I do retouching but I want to make you feel beautiful with who you are and love your own image.” And it’s not just a line-I strive for that. But then I turned around and told my own wedding photographer that he could photoshop me. And I searched through my photos to assess my worth based on my appearance, and even worse because I’m a trained photographer I searched through his photos to see if he had edited me. So very hypocritical right? Im not immune to the camera’s mysterious power, and that’s what perplexed me and I put some thought into it.
Here is my conclusion. I do believe all women are beautiful, any shape, and size. That is my mantra, philosophy, and how I go about photographing. Just as true we are real, we have fears, insecurities and are own worst critics, and the desire to look great in photographs is strong. No one wants to look at an image of themselves that reinforces that negative script. I know I’m not going to change everyone’s self talk (even my own apparently) but at the very least I can create an argument with it, and at the best show a woman who she actually is, not who she is telling herself she is.
From that conclusion it’s easy for me to articulate my vision, which is why it’s hard to figure out an advertisement to sell sessions. It’s not a slogan or a pitch, it’s a set of goals that define what my purpose is and why I have that purpose.
My goals for every woman I photograph: To create an experience for a woman that makes her feel valued and special. To create a photo session that allows a woman to feel safe, secure, beautiful, and relaxed so that I am able to photograph her authentic personality. To provide her with images that feature the truth of who she is and how the world sees her.
The goal drives each and every session. Champagne is offered because I want you to feel pampered, luxurious and elegant. Hair and make up is provided to so that a professional can build your confidence by enhancing your best features. The setting has been determined for lighting and ambiance. The session doesn’t start there though, I’ve come to realize that a session starts with an email or a phone call and each communication has the power to create the feeling of value and trust or move away from it.
Now that I have done a year of women’s portraiture I know just how much bravery it takes for women to be photographed. It’s like staring all of those insecurities right in the face and taking a chance on what you will see as the result. I have the luxury of knowing what the outcome will be-I already see their beauty but often I have watched woman sit in the make up chair, quiet and nervous. Once they see themselves, in the mirror their whole demeanor changes. You can see a brightness in their face, shoulders lift, and a swagger in their step. Often at this point the cell phones come out and self pictures are taken because when you look that good it’s making it to the timeline. Those women were not ‘changed’ by make up, their best features merely enhanced, as you can see by Jamie’s photo at the top.
Then it comes down to the photographing. I won’t bore you with technical details but behind the scenes, I’ve assessed the light, the woman, her posing, her best features and how I can pop those. If I only focused on that I’d miss the most important part-the mood. If left to think, women go back to that self talk, they lose that sexy feeling and the authenticity as well. It’s a constant balance of posing, instruction, chatting, pausing, photographing, and posing, and laughing, and photographing and chatting. If I miss out on any step from start to end the images will not carry the same power, and my vision is lost.
It doesn’t stop there once the session is complete, there still is a process, selecting images, editing-revealing of the photos, designing of the album, and ordering-again should be tied right in with my goal. In the end the woman should hold her images and be transported back to not just the day, but the whole experience and as she looks at the images really come to terms with herself, and let go of some of those misperceptions that wander around her head.
All of the pieces of the puzzle have to fit together, or like following a recipe. When I follow that formula I experience a satisfaction from deep within that I am staying true to my vision rather the simple service of booking and selling sessions.
You see-that was never going to fit on an advertisement. So if you made it through all that, you just need to book me now! LOL!