I have some amazing friends. Recently one of them asked me why I did the “Before and After” for Luxe Portraits.
It’s a good question. Think about it: where else do we frequently see “Before and After” images? Weight loss. Breast implants. Botox. Skin cream. The list is as long as the number of articles that exist about how to “fix” a [perceived] problem with your appearance. Traditionally the “Before and After” implies, “Look at how awful this person looked before… but now their appearance has made them something for society to approve of! Hooray!”
And for some, I see how my use of a similar “Before and After” can appear to contradict my claims about self love and female empowerment. So allow me to explain why I not only post, but why I love the “Before and After” for Luxe Portraits.
I believe a portrait is a journey. And here’s why. A portrait takes much more time than the 1/60 of a second when the shutter opens and captures the information of the light on the face. Like any journey, a portrait takes planning and preparation. What is the destination? What will you need to help you reach that goal? Who will guide you along the way, and who will help you scale or knock down the walls and barriers between here and there?
Because that’s the hardest part, isn’t it? The walls.
If I asked 1000 people if they would like to have an incredible portrait of themselves, I estimate that 999 would say yes. But if I asked if they would feel comfortable planning, dressing, and sitting for that portrait, I have a feeling the hesitations would start to reveal themselves.
“But I’m really not photogenic.”
“I need to lose some weight first.”
“I could’ve done that ten years ago, but no one wants to see a picture of me now!”
“I seriously am so awkward in front of the camera.”
“I should really put the money toward something else.” [In other words, I do not feel worthy enough to spend money on myself.]
These are the responses I hear time and time again from women who talk to me about photographing them. And these responses are indicative of a bigger problem that certainly isn’t a secret: that we as women are trained, conditioned, and constantly told that we should never be satisfied with our appearances.
And that translates to us never being satisfied with ourselves.
The walls are there for all of us. And a portrait shoot makes us painfully aware of them. Why? A portrait is a journey that makes us so incredibly vulnerable. But that’s also the thing that’s so powerful about it.
I think, Good. Here you are, in my studio. And I’m going to photograph you in a way that shows your unique expressions, and capture images of you that will live on forever. This makeup/dress/setting/prop reflects you and makes you feel amazing–makes you feel like you look like the best version of yourself. Your family members will look at these portraits and hear your laugh, smell your perfume… You will look at them 10 months, 10 years from now and remember the day you felt terrified but were coached and led through it– over the walls, through the valleys. You will remember the confidence you left the shoot with. You will stop focusing on what you don’t like about yourself, and start focusing on what makes you who you are.
The last thing I want to portray through “Before and After” images is, “Well this is how you could look if you just put some effort into it!”
Guess what? Photography is a visual medium. Are you more than just your appearance? Absolutely. But can your perception of your physical appearance change you on the inside too? ABSOLUTELY. I’ve seen it happen again and again and that’s what drives me to create more portraits. Remember, beauty in and of itself was never a bad thing. It becomes a problem when we twist it, make it unattainable, and then only use it to describe certain types of people.
You are worth feeling amazing. You are worth feeling like you can do anything. You know why? Because you can. The walls you build will consistently be the walls that keep you from stagnant and afraid. But I firmly believe that a portrait can help you start breaking down those walls, so you can believe that you (and your appearance) are simply amazing.
Above you see a photo of Kristen before, and Kristen after her Luxe Portrait shoot. She and I could both tell you that before, she was nervous. She was afraid to be bold in her business, in her life, and was struggling with fear. But after? After, she said: “It did wonders for my confidence and I left feeling like I could do anything.”
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