As is the case for most of you, I love photography. I love the feel of the camera and lens in my hands. I love turning the dials, choosing the focus, composing the shot, locating the best lighting and helping the models get into the ideal position.
But what happens when the camera and lens turn on you and now you are the model? Well, it happened to me this summer. And…I am living to tell the story. I’ll start by saying this is a very personal post. The message is too important not to discuss so I am opening myself up – throwing myself out there for all of you. I definitely feel vulnerable, but again, I need everyone to hear these messages. While the story is about me, it’s really for all of you, too.
It boils down to these three words: “I am beautiful.”
There, I said it. Not only did I say it, I typed it on a blog read by 300,000+ people monthly. Talk about feeling naked in front of a crowd. But I want all of you to feel beautiful too. I want every one of you to take your camera, pass it to someone else, and have your photo taken.
In the past, I’ve hidden behind the camera and thrown my hands up in front of the lens when someone tries to take my picture. You know, those photos where all you see is a glimpse of a face and two hands covering 95% of it. I always thought “who’d want to see a photo of me?” or “I’ll like this photo of my kids better if I am not in it?” Or on the rare occasion where I did get in a photo on a vacation, I’d have visions of the liquify tool slimming me before the shutter even clicked. I am chunky, yep, a bit overweight. Blame it on too much food, having no thyroid, PCOS, or even heredity…whatever way you slice it I’d look better 30+ pounds slimmer.
When my kids left for overnight camp in 2011 and wanted to bring photos, I didn’t have a current family image for them that included me. I knew I needed to make a change. I wrote this post on my blog, some of you may even remember it, saying I would make sure to get in more photos for my family’s sake. I also posted to Facebook and challenged others to do the same.
It was time to stop the selfish behavior of my absence in every family vacation photo and each event and memory that took place. I might never lose the extra weight and I might never feel confident in front of a camera, but why penalize those I love. Life is short. People get cancer, get in car accidents, and many other tragic things happen. It’s surreal to write this, but what if something happened to me and I wasn’t in photos.
The message: if nothing else, get in photos for the ones you love.
The other part of the story… Putting myself in front on the camera:
My story is not unusual. In fact, it’s probably the norm. Most photographers, and really most women, feel as I do. For some the issue is weight, for others it might be wrinkles or cellulite or acne or scars or any number of things that impact self-perception. I now make a concerted effort to get in photos with my family, however, I still do tricks like getting behind my kids or having the photographer shoot from above. When that fails, I have, on occasion, pulled out some Photoshop skills. So, while I changed my habits and get in photos, I didn’t change the way I felt about the experience.
Enter Summer 2013: My kids went to overnight camp with family photos that included me. Progress.
I was talking to Mandi Nuttall, founder of My Beauty Campaign, who had advertised her initiative on the MCP Blog in past years. She is so passionate about helping women feel good about themselves, through a photographic experience, that she builds a business around it. She was trying to help me understand her vision and said “I wished you lived near me in Utah so I could do a Beauty Session for you.” Well guess what? I was headed to Salt Lake City and Park City, Utah less than a week later. You can guess what happened next.
We talked about her photographing me, and I might have lost my mind but I actually agreed to have her photograph a session of just me! In addition to the photo shoot, she had me complete a Self Analysis Assignment where I evaluate my deepest feelings about myself.
Now, the session did not come easy. I kept thinking of obstacles and excuses hoping Mandi would decide it was too much trouble to photograph me. I told her I did not have time to shop, it was 95 degrees, and that I did not want to take time away from my vacation to get my hair and makeup done professionally. All these excuses were in vein because she was determined for me to benefit from a Beauty Session.
Day of the session – I did it.
Even that morning I tried convincing her Park City might be too far for her to drive – no luck.
Mandi picked me up at the hotel and we drove around looking for a perfect location. We found a neighborhood, of all places, with a lot of greenery, a fence and tall grasses. The sun was close to setting and she pulled out her Canon 5D MKII and Canon 70-200 and a few other lenses, and start directing me into poses that were flattering and worked with the light. She’d occasionally ask me questions about what makes me beautiful. I’d laugh, in fact crack up, each time. It sounded so silly and felt awkward saying out loud why I was beautiful.
By the end of the session I was feeling more and more comfortable in front of the camera. Mandi continually told me how wonderful I was and reminded me that a beautiful woman is one who allows herself to FEEL beautiful. Another thing that stood out to me was when we talked about being a positive example of good self esteem to my daughters and how much these photos will mean to them throughout their lives. When the sun set behind the trees and mountains, I actually felt different. I felt empowered and confident. And … beautiful. I am so glad my excuses didn’t deprive me from this experience.
During the session I did decide that if I hated the pictures, I would not show a sole. I knew she would capture flattering poses, but Mandi doesn’t believe in using the liquify tool to slim subjects in Photoshop. Her philosophy is you should love yourself and feel beautiful as you are.
Down the road…
I was nervous to see the photos but when I saw the photos I thought, “wow, that’s me.” She captured things about me that I don’t often see. There was a spark of confidence, happiness, and beauty. I usually think of my beauty as inside, but she helped me see my beauty as a whole, both inside and out.
What does this have to do with you?
If you are a photographer, I want to challenge you to look at Mandi’s My Beauty Campaign, and see if it fits your business model. You can make a difference to women in women’s lives as a MBC Photographer by offering beauty sessions to the teens and women you photograph.
If you are a woman, though men can join in too, get your photo taken by a professional photographer or sign up to experience a Beauty Session. Go further than getting in photos with your kids or spouse. If you don’t want to do it for yourself, you will at least learn how it feels in front of the camera and will work better with your subjects. Hopefully though, you will feel more empowered, confident, and beautiful.
Comment below and let me know if you will try and get in more photos? Will you consider a session where you are the main subject? We look forward to your responses.