Just as cobbler is without shoes, a photographer is often without photos of her taken. I even had to ask my husband to take more photos of me with a phone, because I'm hardly ever in pictures! The truth of it is that I do not look good in photos (how cliche is that? and it is coming from a photographer!) Anyway, it was time to update my headshots, especially since I had recently chopped my hair off, this time letting it grow without coloring it and embracing the greys. (I must tell you, it is a truly liberating experience and I love each and every grey hair that I have and am looking forward to having all of it white!)
Here are the three things I learned from my very own portrait photography session with a professional photographer.
I learned to trust the process
As a photographer, I always gently guide the people I photograph, the majority of whom are not professional models, or give suggestions on how to pose. My photographer, a very talented Nastya Mosh, has worked with many "real" models so I was not sure if she would expect me to know how to pose. Frankly, I felt a little uneasy. Even if she had not been a fashion photographer and had photographed a million people just like me, I still would have been a little anxious. The experience of a photoshoot was so familiar to me, I've done it hundreds of times, but simply putting myself on the other side of the camera, made it a whole new experience for me, which, by definition, was outside of my comfort zone.
All the butterflies in my stomach disappeared as soon as Nastya, the photographer, started talking to me. When we actually started photographing, she gave me directions, like, "walk from there to here and look into the distance", or "walk as you take off your jacket and turn around". We did each series several times so that Nastya could catch a good shot of me. Then we would move to a different location, and, again she would give me suggestions and I would comply. When we walked onto a large patch of grass behind a parking lot, I wanted to run and jump, and that is how this shot, one of my favorites, was made.
I learned to trust the stylist
The idea of seeking help of a professional stylist dawned one me when, a couple of years back, I realized that shopping for clothes was a chore, that I had a tendency to buy the same things, and that even though my closet was full of stuff, I had nothing to wear. I was lucky to have met Sasha Belova, with whom we quickly became friends (and whom I will never let out of my life!) When I showed up at Sasha's house the day of my photoshoot so that she could do my makeup, she looked over the clothes I brought and suggested some other outfits. I knew I wanted to wear the long blue goddess dress (that I had bought in Target, of all places!), but I was unsure of other looks. Sasha suggested a look with a long brown skirt, a black cami and a blue denim jacket. While I was trying the outfit on, I panicked. I wanted it to be a perfect photoshoot, and I wanted to be ME in photos, but with the clothes that I had on - this bulky, almost cardboard-like jacket and these heavy boots, I felt I was someone else. My status quo was challenged and I got scared. I told Sasha about it (communication is key, even/especially if it makes you vulnerable, in my opinion) And after we talked, I felt better. I felt better because I knew I could say, "no, thank you", "this outfit is not doing it for me" (sometimes it is hard to say no, especially to the people you like). Now being more relaxed, we tried on another outfit, which I liked and which felt very playful - the one with a yellow shirt and huge polka dot cropped wide legged pants (I felt like Neznaika, a character from a Russian story, in it :)). We photographed all three looks: my original choice - the goddess dress - with details picked by the stylist, and two looks chosen entirely by Sasha. The crazy thing is, the look that I liked the least, also the one that we photographed last, I ended up being most comfortable in, and was the one in which I really connected to my [goddess] power. Also, it is the one that I like the most in photos, perhaps, due to color combination and contrast with my skin.
The moral of this story is: try something new, at least for a little bit. You can always say no or know for future reference if it worked for you or not. And another moral is, try using services of a personal stylist - it might change your confidence level and help you become the person you have dreamt of becoming.
I learned that I am pretty good looking
When I saw the final images of myself, I thought, "I'm beautiful." (It was easier to think that when I was 24, but now things have changed a bit). Seeing myself in final photos does make me admire myself more. I don't take good selfies. The problem, perhaps, lies in the fact that I don't take a lot of selfies, but anyway, I cannot really admire myself in photos that I take of myself myself. (Unless it is a painstaking self-portrait, which takes me hours of mental preparation and more hours of creating and post processing) Therefore, my chances for self-admiration are those fleeting glimpses I catch in the mirror on the days when I devote the time to doing my makeup and feel that I look good. Having photos that show me how beautiful I look (and I don't mind a light skin retouch) always remind me that I am a goddess, that I am amazing. And of course I am not amazing only when I look good, that amazingness is inside of me always, but if the process of self-admiration must start on the surface, I am ok with that. And even though I am still critical of how I look in some of these pictures, I am more accepting of myself and I bet that next year when I look back at these photos, I might not even notice these little "imperfections".
It has been a long journey of self-acceptance and self-love for me. Maybe it has do with culture, or the way that I was raised, where it was never a good thing to toot my own horn and brag, which somehow spilled over and mutated into not wanting to give myself credit where it was due and thinking I was not good enough. Or maybe it is something that we all go through, but I have two little girls now, girls who look up to me and whom I want to raise strong and confident. That is why self-love is ever more important to me now. And having my photos taken, the best of which I am planning to print large and hang on the wall, are helping me feel beautiful, strong, powerful, and feel like a goddess.