What Happens When A Photographer Gets Photographed: My Story

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What Happens When A Photographer Gets Photographed: My Story


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.

The background:

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.

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  1. October 10, 2013 at 11:06 am —

    Jodi… You are such a beautiful woman!!!
    Thanks for this awesome post. As a mother and photographer, I know the feeling of rather staying behind the camera. A fellow photographer reminded me earlier this year to get myself into the picture more often. So I did…
    Taking pictures of my daughter’s class at her school I took a self-portrait of us by just stepping in front of the camera in between shots.

  2. October 10, 2013 at 11:05 am —

    I’m sitting here with tears streaming down my face and I’m trying to figure out why this beautiful post of yours is causing such strong emotions in me. I HAVE put on a lot of weight and I DON’T feel beautiful most of the time, but I do make sure to have pictures taken here and there. (The one below was me trying to be funny..putting myself in the silly position I’ve put others in! haha! The forgiving sweater was genius! ;)) I think my tears are partially a pull to do this kind of Beauty Session for other women who tend to hate how they look. It isn’t just how we appear physically…a huge part of our beauty comes from how we feel inside. Time to redefine beauty. The magazine editors don’t know. 🙂

    • October 10, 2013 at 11:44 am —

      You are stunning. Do not sell yourself short. You definitely should look into MBC – and doing these sessions for others, and getting one yourself.

      We need to redefine beauty – I agree 100%.

  3. October 10, 2013 at 10:42 am —


    Your photos are amazing, both the ones you take and the ones you are in. You ARE beautiful.

    I’ve had the pleasure of doing some beauty sessions for clients, and the feeling I got as the photographer helping these women feel beautiful and understand that they ARE beautiful was probably one of the greatest feelings I’ve had.

    I had two clients that stand out. One just turned 50, and has MS. We found a wooded location with open fields for part of the shoot, then borrowed my dad’s Porsche and put her in her mom’s black cocktail dress that for the rest. She and her husband (and all her FB friends) loved the photos. She had so much fun, and felt good to be able to do something to make her feel good about herself again.

    The other client was a friend of mine. She grew up being teased and believing she was unattractive. We did our first shoot a couple of years ago at a beautiful park near her house. She warned me before we started that none of the photos would look good because she looks bad in photos. When she saw the results, she was nearly in tears she was so happy. That day began a transformation for her. She now truly sees herself as beautiful. She even wrote a blog post about the experience.

    One thing I didn’t do, though, is the assessment that you did. I may start including something like that from time to time. I also checked the MBC Photographer listing, and there isn’t one too close to me. Your post inspired me to think about joining the list.

    • October 10, 2013 at 11:48 am —

      Al, you definitely should consider it. This experience was truly eye opening. And really made me feel better about myself. It is helping me not to define who I am by numbers on the scale but by who I am and what I mean to others. I just wish society as a whole could see more the beauty in others – not based solely on what is considered “beauty” as defined by models, celebrities and magazines. Jodi

  4. October 10, 2013 at 6:29 am —

    You are beautiful and adorable, and your pictures show confidence, humor, and sass! Love them. What a great idea.

  5. October 9, 2013 at 9:54 pm —

    Great message Jodi!! I myself have never been terribly self conscious in front of the camera (not to say I don’t love when someone behind the lens can make me look better than what I think I look). But I am a firm believer in living in the moment and sometimes at that moment I may be heavier than I wish or not as attractive as I wish, but hey – you are who you are and it should be celebrated!! I adore the photos that I am in with my family – they are a treasure to me. I so often see the beauty in people that they may not see themselves and I try hard to let them see how truly beautiful they are.

  6. October 9, 2013 at 6:38 pm —

    That first photo (especially) of you Jodi is absolutely stunning. You are gorgeous!!
    This is a strong and powerful message you are putting out there, congratulations.

  7. October 9, 2013 at 4:48 pm —

    Your words are so true, Jodi!
    And I like what Mandie says, too: “Life is too short to not be present.”
    We have a family photo session schedule for this Fall — soon!
    Thank you for all your great posts, tips, beautiful photos, and for sharing beautiful YOU.

  8. October 9, 2013 at 3:45 pm —

    In my long career (and as a man) I’ve found it quite difficult to make middle aged women understand how important it is to be photographed regularly. Often they say,” Why would I want a photograph of myself?” When I hear this it amazes me! I then have to sit them down and explain to them that those who love them will cherish these pictures, and from a historical perspective, they will be important.

    Husbands get tired of seeing “beautiful women celebritie” on magazine covers at the store check out line. They want a nice picture of their own “best girl.”

    I enjoyed these nice pictures shown here as well as the important point made.

    • October 9, 2013 at 8:01 pm —

      I agree with you 100%. Women (not just photographers) often feel like they don’t deserve to be in photos. They are never quite where they want to be with how they look, etc. It is sad.

      My husband was so happy to see these of me. And I am pretty sure that since I started getting in some family vacation images the past two years, that they are all happy I have.

  9. October 9, 2013 at 1:19 pm —

    You ARE beautiful! Love the pic of you sitting in the grass. Also the one of you looking down in the background of the post title button!

  10. October 9, 2013 at 1:00 pm —

    This is totally me, I make a plan in my head to get myself in front of the camera and not to be so critical but in the end when it comes right down to it I freeze up. I can’t find a single picture of myself to use as a headshot for publications, etc. It’s become bad, I need to work on it. Great post!

  11. October 9, 2013 at 11:46 am —

    Thank you so much for sharing! I just had this same experience — I needed a portrait for some book promotion I’m doing, and a good friend of mine is getting into photography, so we did a shoot just with me. There are still a lot of things I can nit-pick about myself (weight, uneven eyebrows and lopsided eyes, my shirt kept shifting, etc.), but I feel much more beautiful now. I had so much fun with my friend, and by the end of the session I was loosening up and FELT DIFFERENT about myself, which is huge! This truly is an experience every woman should have, and now I’m much more empathetic coming from the other side of the lens.

    • October 9, 2013 at 7:59 pm —

      It is amazing how you feel afterward. As a photographer we help make others feel special. It was nice to feel that way in front of a camera too (but weird at first for sure).

  12. October 9, 2013 at 11:34 am —

    Thanks Jodi…never thought about it that way – if something happened to me, my family would have “zero” photos with me in the group! i will have to venture out and try this one! your photos are just beautiful and flattering! (i did let my husband snap a picture of me one time just so i’d have a profile pic)!

    • October 9, 2013 at 7:58 pm —

      You really need to try something like I did. Or even hand the camera over and get picture of you with your family. It will be worth it.

  13. October 9, 2013 at 10:51 am —

    We (women) are our own worst critics and see every flaw. While I don’t look the way I wish I did, I make the extra effort to be in more and more photos. When it comes down to it, everyone else looking at the photos sees you just as they do in real life…the discomfort comes from seeing ourselves as everyone else sees us. The photograph doesn’t change how we look to our families every day – at least with a photograph we have some control over capturing ourselves at our best in the most flattering pose. Life is too short…and I don’t like my kids asking where I was when we look through family photos. I have recently started giving my point and shoots to my kids to capture vacation memories from their perspectives to include – which means I am in alot more photos…and not always the most flattering…but I smile when I look at them because I remember the fun we had taking those photos…and that’s what I hope my kids remember as well!

    THanks for the blog…such an important reminder! Life is definitely too short to not be present!
    The photo below was taken by my 4 yr old this past summer at his sister’s softball game…with my DSLR! 🙂 He’s got a great eye!

  14. October 9, 2013 at 10:08 am —

    Well done Jodi! You are lovely-and your family will be so grateful for these images <3

  15. October 9, 2013 at 9:52 am —

    I hate having my picture taken, but I took the leap and have a fall family session scheduled with another talented photographer for this weekend.

  16. October 9, 2013 at 9:27 am —

    Great post Jodi! I have had an MBC beauty session and I experienced many of your same feelings. I hemmed and hawed for a very long time thinking it wasn’t so important that I deserved all the time and effort that could go into a whole photography session just for me. As a busy mother I often prioritize things solely around the needs of others and not myself. Mandi was determined that I focus on myself and recognized how being a mother (with a not perfect body), was an important part of what makes me beautiful. I struggled with shopping and went into the session feeling all sorts of self conscious. I’m no model! What business did I have focusing on myself so intently? And man! Was I awkward! To begin with…. But little by little, Mandi talked me through the session, helping me to realize and say out loud unique and special things about me that make me uniquely beautiful. By halfway through my session I believed the things I was saying. And when I viewed my finished photos, I saw the evolution from not quite sure of myself, to truly beautiful.

    I now have a collection of photos that represent who I am at this important time in my life. A reminder that the service I give outside myself is not a reason to ignore my needs. And the enduring gift that I have noticed since my session is the change in me. I forgive myself the things that once seemed like a big deal. The physical toll that having and caring for a family has taken on me now feels more like badge of my individual beauty. I truly embrace these things as a part of the whole beautiful picture of me!

    Mandi’s passion for helping women understand their unique beauty is a gift. I treasure my photos and the things they help me remember. As women we need to give ourselves love. I think that even though I never put myself down in front of my children, I was giving off subtle signals that indicated that I didn’t emphasize my own importance in this world. I think every woman needs to realize their individual importance and beauty. Thank you for the message in your post today.

  17. October 9, 2013 at 9:17 am —

    Jodi, you are an inspiration to us all! Women, that is. I have the same problem, getting in front of the camera. You are beautiful and the pictures are fabulous. Thank you for having the courage to do what you did and for telling about it.

  18. October 9, 2013 at 9:02 am —

    What a great message, and the photos of you are BEAUTIFUL! You should be in more photos, girl! 🙂 I take a lot of self-portraits, partially because I often have ideas I want to try out and there’s nobody else around. It has taken a lot for me to stop seeing flaws and start seeing what everyone else tells me is there but it’s happening slowly.

  19. October 9, 2013 at 9:02 am —

    Your photos are beautiful, Jodi. I don’t get enough photos of myself for my family either.

    I did take the plunge and have a boudoir session done for my husband as a Valentines gift a few years ago and he loved them.

    I need to do something again. Thanks for the inspiration.

  20. October 9, 2013 at 8:29 am —

    Your photos are beautiful!!! Thank you for this message, I think it is one that really needs to be heard by many!

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What Happens When A Photographer Gets Photographed: My Story