Are you Mom to a teenage daughter?
Are you looking for connection, encouragement, and tips on how to navigate these crazy teen girl years?
Then grab your camera and your coffee, and join us!
Ever have a moment where everything around you just seems to freeze, and you hear the voice of your heart speaking as clear as day to you? I had that moment early last month, and it’s the reason why I’m back here blogging.
Let me back up a bit. To the week when everything came to a head. The week when my 12 year old daughter shared with me some of the struggles she’s been having at school. (isn’t middle school just the best???) The same week my teaching contract came up for next year, and the question of whether to continue in the classroom or return to my passion resurfaced. The week when all three of my worlds collided, and then settled into a peaceful clarity.
I’m sure many of you can relate to the truth that being a mom is insanely hard! From the moment our kids arrive, we are a basket of emotions, in love with them in a way we’ve never known, exhausted to a degree we’ve never experienced, worried like we never knew we could worry. But this. This tween and teenage phase, particularly with a daughter. Well, this is a whole different kind of beast!
My mother warned me about this (a story for another post), but I really had no idea. Raising a young lady is hard! One minute my heart is aching over whether she is happy or lonely or afraid, and the next minute I’m doing everything in my power not to lose it on her as she sasses me for absolutely no reason! Who is this girl? Where did my sweet baby go? Why does she hate me? Oh, wait, now she loves me? Why does she think she’s ugly? Who told her that? Why doesn’t she see what I see?
The questions, the uncertainties, they are endless.
I know you know what I’m talking about.
So during that week, when the perfect storm of parenting, passion, and profession erupted, I was able to see it for the gift that it was. Earlier in the week, when my mind swirled around the question of whether to continue teaching or not, I had jotted these thoughts onto a Post It note: “Had no plans to teach. What’s changed? Is this an opportunity? Am I afraid of business or of trying?”
Not one day later, my daughter stood crying in my arms sharing her experience of loneliness at school. I stood in our kitchen, holding her, and crying with her, and I felt so thankful that I could at least just be there in that moment. Then I remembered that I was free from teaching the next day, and suggested I take her out for lunch. The relief on her face, and relaxing of her body in my arms was instant. I was able to rescue her, even just for a moment, and we were both grateful.
It was just a brief rescue, but it was precious. We grabbed a quick lunch the next day, smiled and laughed a lot, and I was able to bring her back to school fill with love, and the assurance that I’d be waiting for her after school. We hugged and she hurried off, knowing this would not be an everyday thing, but that it was in perfect timing. It reminded me of how much my kids still need me, and how much I want to be there for them.
While organizing past business files, I came across some brainstorming I had done less than one year ago, titled “Fifty Questions to Find My Passion”. About halfway through the list, I found it. The answer to a question about what I dislike doing. It said, “I don’t like staying up late for dorm duty, although I like the girls. I hate teaching English, never want to do it again.”
Woah. When did I forget this?
In that moment, it all sort of fell together, my passions, my purposes, my plans. Somehow I had found myself doing something I never intended to do again. I knew why I had accepted the job, agreed to help out my community when they needed help. But why was I going to pursue it further? I don’t care for the subject I teach. No, what draws me to teaching is always the students. I don’t love teaching English. But I do love teaching.
This revelation, coming on the heels of time spent with my daughter, following the hesitation over walking away from my business, was peaceful yet powerful. I knew I was ready to try again.
Which brings me here with you, today. Thomas Edison once said, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to just try one more time.” That’s what I’m doing, with my business, with my parenting, with my life. I’m just trying again.
My passions in life are simple. I love my family, and my sweet sassy daughter. I love taking pictures of people. And I love teaching. I do. I don’t love teaching English, but I love teaching. I love sharing what I know, what I don’t know, what I’m learning myself. So here I am, doing all three.
Trying each day to be a mom, a photographer, a teacher, a woman, a friend.
If that resonates with any part of who you are, then come take this walk with me. Let’s learn about parenting our daughters. Let me teach you how to use photography to empower your daughter (and yourself!). Be encouraged to try along with me.
Let’s never be afraid to fail. Let’s just be afraid to not try.
Looking forward to our journey together.
I am lucky and blessed to have a lot of love in my life.
I love my family. I have the most wonderful friends. I love photography and my job as a portrait photographer. I love encouraging others. I love writing this blog, and sharing my thoughts and ideas, even if only five people are reading it.
What I'd like to share with you today is how fun it is for me to combine all of these wonderful things together- friendship, family, fun, photography. I love to use my photography to express my love. But rather than bore you with more stories, I thought I'd just offer you a list of my favorite ways to do that. Short, sweet, and to the point!
1. Display photos of the ones you love! Get them off your computer and onto your walls. Be reminded daily of your favorite people.
2. Do a "photo a day" project for the first year of your baby's lives. My sister-in-law did this and it was wonderful!
3. Take photos of your children doing their favorite things. This could be as simple as reading, or coloring. Capture it.
4. Invite your girlfriends out for coffee and photos. Tell everyone to bring their camera (or phone!), as this date is for capturing photos. Share them all with each other.
5. Send your parents a framed photo of your family- one that includes you!
6. Carry your camera with you more often. Then you'll never miss an unexpected photo opp.
7. Take a selfie and text it to your significant other- just a simple smile in the middle of the day for no reason. What a great way to say "I love you!"
8. Post old snapshots of your babies to a bulletin board in your office. Everyday photos of them from years ago. Be reminded of the good old days everyday.
9. Invite your social media friends to share old photos of the two of you, or the group of you. Create a visual memory post!
10. Invite your bestie out for an afternoon with her kids. Offer to be her photographer for the day so you can capture her life as mom.
11. Take photos of your baby's feet, lips, nose, ears. All the little parts that will soon grow big and strong. Capture them in their baby stage.
12. Take your daughter out with you on a photo shoot. Not necessarily to take photos OF her, but to take photos WITH her. Share your passion with her.
13. Take your favorite photos from the past year and create a simple album. Many sites offer templates where you can drag and drop. No words necessary. Just create a tangible memory of the past year.
14. Take photos of your partner's special place and have it framed for him.
15. Capture some photos of your friends and you enjoying a favorite pastime together. (fair warning to my friends- I plan on doing this very soon)
16. Make plans to take photos of your friend's children. Have them framed and gift her with them for her birthday.
17. Spend an afternoon going through old photos with your siblings, or your parents. My dad and I love doing this together.
18. Take a photo of your furry, four-legged best friend. Frame it and add it to your family photos. (I can't be the only one who considers the dog family!)
19. Take a photo of yourself with your mother. You will never ever regret that.
20. Have photos taken of your parents, so you can have something to treasure for always.
21. Capture the good, the bad, and the ugly. Some of my favorite photos are ones of my kids crying! (that sounds horrible, doesn't it)
22. Don't stop taking photos of your spouse. There might be kids, a house, a dog, jobs, bills. But it all started with his smile, his eyes, his heart.
23. Take photos of your kids with dad. If you're like me, seeing your husband loving your kids is heart-melting. You'll want to capture that.
24. Take a photography course. Learn more about how to improve your skills, so that you can capture more of what you love.
25. Invite your daughter's friends over for a playdate, and let their moms know you'll be taking photos of the afternoon. Your daughter will love to have memories with her best friends!
26. Take your kids out for ice cream at sunset. Bring your camera and capture the joy.
27. Spend an afternoon writing down the little things you love about each of your children. Then find a way to capture those little things with your camera.
28. Take a photo of your child in his favorite outfit. Do this periodically. Then laugh as their styles change.
29. Take photos of your babies sleeping.
30. Take photos of your daughter with her favorite stuffed animals, or her baby dolls. What a gift for her later on.
31. Give your teenager a new camera. A decent entry level camera won't break the bank, and it might get you two out shooting together.
32. Spend an evening with your spouse going through your wedding photos together. Laugh about how young and naive you were.
33. Take your camera on a solo walk on a quiet morning. Capture the THINGS you love. Be mindful of how much you love what's around you.
34. Capture at least one photo from every birthday in your house. With a camera. Not just with a phone. (this one is very hard for me)
35. Take a photo of your home. Your front door, or your kitchen table. An image that symbolizes home to you. Frame it.
36. Take note of anything your child, particularly your daughter, might struggle with concerning her physical features. Photograph her in a way that shows her how beautiful those features really are.
37. Photograph your friend with her teenage boy(s). I could think of few things I'd love more than a photo of my oldest boy hugging me. He still loves me right? ;)
38. Take a photo of the kids playing around with the dog. Frame the results (I'm doing this for sure- this week!!!)
39. Get a photo of your mother with your daughter, or your father with your son. Criss-cross generations. Capture time.
40. Spend an evening going through vacation photos with the family. Get excited about the next vacation together. Family time is treasured time.
41. Bring your camera along on a weekend getaway with the girls. A friend and I are planning one this summer, and you better believe I'm bringing my camera!
42. Take the kids on a picnic, even if it's just out in the backyard. Photograph the fun.
43. Ask your child's teacher if you can get a photo of them together. My children have had some of the most wonderful teachers. I love having photos of them.
44. Frame a photo of your child with her best friend. Put that photo in her room.
45. Be ready to capture photos of your kids loving on each other. If your house is like mine, this is becoming a rare occasion. So I capture it when I can!
46. Keep a photo of your husband next to your bed. Even though he's right there, he'll know he's still (and always) your extra special someone.
47. Send a thank you to someone who helped you or your child through a tough time (like a hospital stay). Include a photo of that child so they can always remember.
48. Capture everyday memories, in addition to the special occasions. You'll enjoy looking back and remembering what everyday life was like when the kids were young.
49. Make a habit tracker, and add "TAKE PHOTOS" to the list of habits. Make photo taking a daily habit.
50. Stretch yourself and think outside the box. Find new ways to photograph the ones you love. Take chances and keep learning. Your memories will become more and more beautiful with every new discovery.
So what did I miss?
Share some of your own favorite ways to share love with your camera! I'm always looking for new ways to share love!
I thought this would be an easy blog post to write, but for some reason it's been the hardest one yet. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because it's not that easy to put down in words how one day, one event, can change the entire trajectory of your life. Maybe it's because I'm feeling a little emotional about that day because it's moving too quickly into my yesterdays. I'm thinking it might be a combination of many things.
Like most moms, I can remember that day vividly. I can remember the nine months of anticipation and excitement leading up to that day, how excited I became as my belly grew, how engrossed I would become with every kick. I can remember the complete shock when my water broke and we knew the baby was actually coming. I can remember how clueless I was that day to what actually lay ahead of me, the absolute certainty I felt that I was about to deliver a girl, and the pure shock (and delight) when the doctor said “It’s a boy!”. I can vaguely remember the 24 hours of contractions and labor, the 3 hours of pushing, the momentary mention of needing a C-section, and the enormous and somewhat pointy headed baby that we eventually delivered. I can remember the hospital room, the movies we watched as we waited, the hour my mother arrived to hold my hand, the moment Scott fainted, and so many other details. I remember trying to see my sweet baby for the first time through bloodshot eyes, and the feeling of relief and fatigue mixed together with pure joy, a bit of trepidation, and insane love. Our Scotty had arrived.
That day was thirteen years ago yesterday. Thirteen years. Somehow that sweet, giant-headed, slightly ducky looking baby is now a gravel-voiced, giant-footed teenager who is days away from being taller than me. I look back at that day and laugh at how clueless I was at what being a mom would mean. I look back and I cry at how blessed and lucky I was to become mom to such a wonderful baby, and to two more sweet babies after that. I even look back and consider how that day not only changed me into a mother, but into a photographer.
Yes, I credit motherhood for making me a photographer. I didn’t even have a clue how to work a camera until my babies came along. Scotty was the initial reason I ever learned how to take a decent photo. After all, it’s pretty important to take a decent photo when you are mother to the world’s most beautiful child. I’m betting you can relate.
My journey through motherhood travels side by side with my journey through photography. As I discovered the subtleties of my baby and what made him unique, what made him happy, what made him tick, I also discovered the nuances of my camera, how to use it to bring out the beauty in my baby and his world. Being a mommy suddenly made it important to become a decent photographer. But then gradually, becoming a better photographer allowed me to be a better mom.
Photography was the tool I used to capture the precious moments of my own babies, and then eventually other people’s sweet babies too. But as time passed, I discovered that photography soothed my soul, and made me happy. And the more I was able to experience that happiness, the more fulfilled I became, the more peaceful I became, the better mother I became.
And so that’s why I believe that on that day, 13 years ago, everything changed. A baby was born. And a mother was born. And even a photographer was born.
I know my journey through motherhood is still only just beginning, and in some ways I feel like that naive new mother again, clueless as to what teen years will bring. But today, I sit thankful for the gift I’ve been given to be mom to this awkward but oh so handsome teenaged boy, and to his spunky sister, and playful brother. And I also sit thankful to him, and to them, for being the reason I pursued my passion. I thank them for making me a mom, and a photographer.
Happy birthday, Scotty boy. Dad and I could not be prouder.
Two of my last three blog posts were about photography, specifically lighting. Today I’m going to talk a little bit about composition. No, not every blog post will be about photography. I do love geeking out on all things involving a camera, but there are other things to talk about, and talk about them we will.
However, today let me share with you a few simple tips on how to improve your everyday photos with composition.
Simply put, composition is the placement of objects and elements in a work of art. So how you decide to compose your photo can mean the difference between a throwaway snapshot and a beautiful portrait. There are a lot of tips out there when it comes to composition. Today I’m going to share five simple ones.
Who or what is your subject? What do you want your viewer focused on? One of the best ways to take the guesswork out of this is to get closer to your subject. Let her fill up your frame. I often tell myself to get close enough to feel like I’m too close. Then get a little closer. Leave no room for question. Let your subject take over.
It is often the case when people are in photographs together that they are uncomfortable with getting too close. But the closer they are, the sweeter the image. So tell them what I just told you. Get them close enough to feel like they are too close. Them get them closer. Have them hug. Get them cheek to cheek. Having them feel this close will sometimes even get them laughing over it, which just adds to a nicely composed portrait. So get them closer.
Another great way to compose you portrait is with plenty of negative space. Negative space is the area which surrounds your subject (your subject being the positive space). While filling your frame with your subject is one way to compose, allowing for negative space is another way. Having both positive and negative space in your image creates a nice balance. And if the negative space is truly that (empty), you evoke stronger contrast between it and your subject. This is one time where bringing in some negativity is a good thing.
Rarely would I advise you to stoop down to your children’s level, but this is one of those times when it’s a great idea. I’m speaking literally here. Get down on the ground. Squat down or sit down with them. Get eye to eye and go into their world. Rather than getting a photo from your perspective, you’ll be suddenly getting a portrait from their perspective. And perspective can be a game changer.
This one might apply to life in general with kids. Don’t fake it. Be real with them. If you want them to smile, don’t tell them to say cheese. Do something to make them smile. Often enough, all that takes is a simple smile yourself. Make them laugh by being funny, or by laughing for them. Laughter, as we all know, is contagious! Get thoughtful expressions by asking them questions that make them stop and think. Engage with them, whoever they are. The more you engage with your subject, the more genuine you are with them, the more genuine the expressions you’ll evoke from them. Perhaps this is a rule for composing life. Be real.
Most girls I photograph love having their pictures taken. They jump in front of the camera and strike fantastic poses. Big smiles, funny faces, exaggerated gestures. They love it all, and it’s a blast to photograph them.
But something happens between then and when they become women. Their fearless joy at having their photo taken disappears. They become insecure and second guess themselves. Their expressions become guarded. Their poses become less about having fun, and more about flattering their figure. It’s as if someone got to them as young ladies and told them they weren’t amazing, weren’t wonderful, beautiful, powerful, unique, fabulous creatures.
Instead of seeing themselves as fabulous, they see themselves as flawed. Rather than celebrate their uniqueness, they criticize the fact that they’re not like the other girls. Confidence is replaced with doubt, power is replaced with apprehension, fear, and hesitancy.
Perhaps, though, it doesn’t have to be this way. What if we could find a way to reverse this tailspin into insecurity? Is this possible?
I believe it is, and I believe it can be done using many different resources. As a photographer, I like to use my camera as a tool for empowerment, and here’s how.
It seems obvious that when we photographers are shooting, we are looking to capture the outer beauty of our subjects. But what if changed our focus to capture who they are on the inside rather than just the outside? Every girl has amazing potential, amazing talent. Some are artists, mathematicians, or writers, while others love to read, or explore, or play sports. By finding ways to incorporate the heart and soul of each girl into her photos, you can celebrate the amazing person she already is, giving her confidence to be herself.
Perhaps this should tip should come before the previous one, because it’s so important to communicate with girls. Give them a voice and let them tell you what they love about themselves. Ask them if they struggle, and if so, with what? Give them this opportunity to have a voice, and give them your voice, too. Speak power into her life, reinforce what she loves about herself with your camera, and help her through any struggles. Let your camera be a tool of communication.
There is a fine line when it comes to beauty in our girls. While I don’t think it’s something to dismiss, I don’t think it should be the sole feature for any girl. Celebrate the beauty that each girl contains. There is beauty in all of us. Tall or short, black or white, thin or curvy, every single girl is beautiful to behold. And so while it’s important to celebrate who she is as a person (as stated above), it’s ok to balance that with her unique outer beauty too. Find the balance between the two. Don’t make your photos all about her physical beauty, but don’t exclude them or make her feel any guilt for that beauty. Do your best to capture both, and empower her to love it all.
Girls are smart! They know when you’re handing them flattery or false praise. So don’t lie to them, and don’t sugar coat anything. Be real with them. There is PLENTY about every single girl out there that is worthy of praise. Take some time to really see them, and then tell them what you see that is truly beautiful. Let them know that they can trust you, that they can be real back to you. Creating trust, even in just that short time, will allow for more authentically beautiful portraits, ones that she will remember for more than just their surface.
Let this portrait experience be one where your girl experiences respect. No matter how old she is, talk to her like she’s a person, like she’s important, like she’s capable. I have had photo sessions with five year old girls who are extraordinary and capable in many ways! So ask questions, ask permission, and show her the photos as you get them. Make her a part of the process. This could be the first time she’s experiencing control and respect, and it could be extremely empowering.
As well, thank her for spending time with you. Thank her for being so wonderful. Make her feel that her time is worthy.
These are simple but powerful ways to infuse our girls with confidence and self-respect. A camera might be a simple way to capture a photo to some, but to me it can be so much more. For me, it is a tool to educate the girls around me. It is a weapon to encourage, motivate, and love the ladies in my life. It is a resource to show them how to respect and love themselves, too.
Maybe your camera is that for you, too. Maybe it ought to be.