Hi! I'm Jen Lebo. I'm here to help you with all things
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There I was squatting on the steps of the Art Museum in Philadelphia, beads of sweat pouring down my temples, partly from the sweltering heat, and partly from the stares from strangers walking by. Just me, my camera, and three lovely young ladies in beautiful dresses, posing under the August heat, one of their moms holding a reflector beneath them. What in the world was I doing here? Why had I thought a Philly photo shoot would be a good idea? This had to be the craziest session I'd ever shot.
That session was almost 3 years ago, and I still break out into a sweat when I remember that moment on the Art Museum steps. But as surely as I would say that session was the craziest one to date, it also ranks up there with being one of my all time favorite photographic experiences. Because for every fear, for every uncertainty, there was a powerful lesson learned, one that I can carry with me through my business and through life. Perhaps these lessons might resonate with you too.
CRAZY POINT 1- I HATE CITIES!
I have never been a city girl. Put me on the busy streets of any city, and my body immediately tenses up. Put me behind the wheel on one of those streets, and I'm a wreck. So why in the world would i choose to bring 3 teenaged girls and one mom into the city? Why would I begin a photo shoot with extreme tension like that? The value in this turned out to be twofold. First, I discovered how fun and diverse an authentic urban shoot could be. From city skylines to busy sidewalks, to zooming cars, the energy behind the images created an atmosphere that electrified the girls. Second, I knew what I wanted to capture with these girls, and I knew Philly was the only place to get it. So I put purpose over fear. And it was worth it. So many times since that day, I've been able to put purpose over fear, to make decisions that improve my business, and make our family better. Sometimes fear can hold us back. But if we know what can be on the other side of fear, we can take on those busy streets and find power and beauty and joy and success on the other side.
CRAZY POINT 2- THESE GIRLS DID NOT KNOW EACH OTHER
Before this day, these girls had never met. They were my JLP Reps from 2013-14, and they were each from different high schools. This made me a little nervous, the idea of driving for an hour in a mini van with 3 girls who did not know each other. I pictured mile after mile of awkward silence, while I asked them random questions and received one word answers. Ha! How wrong was I! By the time we hit the Schuylkill, I couldn't get a word in over their laughs, their questions, their excited conversation. And by the end of our shoot, the girls were following each other on social media, taking selfies together, exchanging cell phone numbers, and making plans to stay in touch. And I was excited once again to have learned something. It's always worth it to step out and make new friends. Whether your six, or sixteen, or sixty. A girl can always be blessed with another girlfriend. And the way to make a friend is to be one. I still remember the kindness and genuine goodness each girl shared with the others. I believe these girls are still connected today (gotta love social media!). Making new friends is sometimes a little scary, but always worth it.
CRAZY POINT 3- WE SHOT IN THE MIDDAY HEAT OF AUGUST... IN A CITY!
I admit, I would have much preferred a sunset shoot on a cool autumn day, but what I got instead was a sweltering summer afternoon just after 1pm. Bad timing, maybe, but these were teenaged girls with crazy busy schedules, and I had very limited options to get them all together. I took my opportunity and ran with it. And I learned something in the process. As I knew I'd be shooting in mid-day light, I had to spend time preparing myself for light that I was not used to shooting in, light that I was not entirely comfortable with. I had to prepare for something new. I had studied how to shoot in different types of light, but on that day, I had to go out and do it. The results were pretty fantstic, and the experience was a confidence builder. It's not easy to try new things, but it could be a game changer.
CRAZY POINT NUMBER 4- WE NEEDED OUTFIT CHANGES WITH NO STUDIO CHANGING ROOM
Remember how I told you that one of the girls' moms tagged along for support? Well, she ended up being invaluable to the success of that day. Three models in the city with several outfits, a bit of equipment, and some life-saving bottles of water (did I mention the heat?) were a bit more than I could handle on my own. Chris, mom to one of the lovely ladies, became my assistant in so many ways that day. She helped us navigate the streets, she held my reflector (essential to shooting in midday light), and she helped me get the girls back to the van (our changing room) and back out to shoot in record time- all with a smile and a hug! Chris was instrumental to the wonderful success of that session. And I learned a few things from her. First, I learned the blessing of having an assistant (oh how I wish I had an assistant!). But second, I learned what joy there could come from schlepping off to the city to spend an afternoon with your daughter in the oppressive summer heat. Chris showed me what it means to be a great mom.
CRAZY POINT NUMBER 5- I HAD NEVER DONE ANYTHING LIKE THIS BEFORE
Before that day I had done but a handful of Philly shoots. I had done just a few sessions in harsh midday light. And I had done several sessions with more than one teen model. But never had I done a shoot that combined all 3 elements. On that day I was taking myself way out of my comfort zone. And at the end of the day, I had loved it. Sure I came home and fell into bed, exhausted from the heat and the walking and the anxiety. And sure I needed a mega shower first, after sweating buckets for about 4 hours. But I came away from that day with more confidence as a photographer, with a new appreciation for collaboration and assistance, and with the joy and satisfaction for having connected 3 wonderful young ladies.
Oh and the portraits. Well, we came away with some pretty fantastic portraits too.
What about you? Have you ever done something that seemed a little crazy to you? Maybe you've considered doing something that seemed crazy, but haven't felt brave enough to step out and do it? What are you waiting for? What could be waiting for you on the other side?