Hi! I'm Jen Lebo. I'm here to help you with all things
photography! Life is more beautiful when you share it, so let's
connect and grow together!
It hit me like a two by four over the head this morning. I was enjoying my quiet time with God, coffee in one hand, pen in the other, Bible laid out before me. I’d been reading through the gospels, searching for truth in the actual words of Jesus, rather than in the words of those around me. Over the past few months, and even years, way too many questions had been surfacing in my heart concerning my faith, my life, my work, my purpose. So I’d been searching in the one place I’d always found trustworthy.
And there it was. In Luke chapter 3, John the Baptist is asked, “What should we do then [to produce good fruit, to be good children of God]?” In verse 11, he answers, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” If we want to produce good fruit, to live a life for God, then we should be giving what we have to those who don’t have. As a Christian, this should be of utmost importance to me.
Now, of course, this is not the first time I’ve been hit with this two by four. The Bible, particularly the gospels, overflow with this truth. Jesus tells us to give, and He shows us how. He feeds the poor. He hangs out with the very people He is expected to shun. He lives it. And He even dies for it.
So why was this morning any different? Well, because it spoke to the nagging question I’d been asking myself. How can I use my passions, my skills, my craft, my resources to help others, particularly those who are being shunned today?
There it was. The answer. If I have something, I need to share it.
OK, wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s go back to the question. Because while the last few months had seen me spewing over a lot of questions, they always seemed to revolve around the same two things. My photography and people. Specifically oppressed people. Marginalized people. People who Jesus would have reached out to. How could I reach out like He would have, and how could I do it with my camera? The more I would read about people suffering around me, the more I’d pray, and the more I’d read, and the more I did that, the stronger this desire in me grew. These very people who have seen the most suffering over these past few months would be the very people Jesus would have loved to love. And they are the very people I long to love.
But what could I do? I posed this question to my running buddy on our run a few days ago. (Side Note- finding a good running buddy is the key to running happiness and I’m convinced that with every mile we run, we are solving life’s greatest problems. No joke!) And as we talked through the questions and the ideas, my desires and my beliefs, the answers began to surface. It was such a wonderful feeling (plus, we were running downhill at the time), and I could not wait to get home to write it all down. This morning’s time in the Bible only confirmed it all.
The Great American Portrait Project will be an opportunity for me to give to others. I’ve named it this because I think our country is filled to the brim with great people, ALL KINDS of great people. I happen to think it’s these many kinds of people who already make our country great.
But quite often, many of these people are denied service because of who they are. They are looked at differently, or they are judged too harshly, or they are feared for no reason. No good reason. No justifiable reason. No ethical reason.
My faith tells me that this is not ok. The God I belong to has taught me since Day 1 to love my neighbor (and who is my neighbor? Check out my post on that subject HERE). And so while others close their doors, my faith tells me to open mine WIDE!
That’s what The Great American Portrait Project will do. And this is how it will work.
I will be offering a 30 minute portrait session every week to a family, or a couple, or a group who has struggled with discrimination in any way, whether over the color of your skin, or who you love, who you choose to be, or the religion you have chosen. Your experience might not have had anything to do with portraits, but portraits are what I have to give, and I’d like to offer you that.
And it will all be free.
I ask only one thing in exchange, and that is your story. What’s your story? Share it with me, as I have shared mine with you. And maybe through these portraits, we can share our stories with others. My hope is to create a collection, a tapestry, of beautiful stories wrapped in beautiful portraits, all of beautiful people who make our country and our lives so great.
If you are interested in one of these portrait sessions, or you know someone who might find joy and celebration in one, please contact me. You can simply comment below with your interest, or you can email me at email@example.com. Or you can find me on social media (the links are at the bottom of this page).
But contact me! My hope is that dates will fill up fast, so share this with friends and family who might be interested.
This portrait project is at its very beginning, but my hope and prayer is to see it grow quickly. I’m opening my door, and seeing what happens.
And that’s my story.
I love Pinterest! My friends always know what's going on in my life just by my recent "pins". I actually had a friend email me last week wishing me good luck on our upcoming housing move. I had not told her we were moving. She just saw all of my recent pins on home decor and refinishing furniture! Yes, Pinterest is one of my favorite tools for everything from home decor to parenting, from fashion to workouts to party planning. Pinterest is my planning partner.
And that goes for Portrait Day planning too! Here are a few ways that I use Pinterest when preparing for a portrait session.
1. DECIDING WHAT TO WEAR
This is one of the first pieces to consider when planning a portrait session, and Pinterest is a great place to begin organizing this. There are endless pins and pages on great outfit combinations, how to dress your kids, your husband, yourself, in whatever season, and in whatever style. I often send moms to my "What to Wear" Pinterest board as a starting place for them to get ideas on outfit choices. What better way to begin planning for portraits than by actually visualizing wardrobe options? And by the way, this idea goes TENFOLD for planning senior photo sessions!
2. CHOOSING A COLOR PALETTE
Beyond just choosing what to wear, it's sometimes difficult to consider whether orange really works well with green, or blue, or pink. Pinterest is a great way to see for yourself. There are endless pins of different color palettes, so that you can actually see color combinations. Who would have thought that rust went so well with bright pink? And for the record, these color palettes inspire me in my wardrobe planning, my home decorating, and even my business brand planning! Seriously, I am in love with Pinterst color palettes!
3. BEING INSPIRED BY THE WORD
I love reading great quotes. And apparently so does everyone else on Pinterest, because newsfeeds are flowing with inspiring and empowering quotes. Often times, I find a quote about family or a quote about beauty will coincide wonderfully with the idea behind a portrait session. And so I collect quotes. I keep quotes about beauty, or family, or service. I love to collect quotes from inspiring women like Eleanor Roosevelt or Mother Teresa. Sometimes the right words will go a long way in putting the finishing touches on a portrait session. Quotes often help me get to the "why" behind my portraits, and when I understand the "why", all the rest makes sense.
4. PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
I have a lot of great boards to help lead my clients in their decision making. But not every mom has the time to search through my forty plus Pinterest boards. Not every senior has the interest in searching through all of my pins for those that inspire her. That's why I create special boards for my clients. This is so fun, especially for my high school clients. What I do is ask each girl (or mom) to share a few words with me that describe her or her family. Is she edgy and wild? A bit quiet and thoughtful? Does she like bold colors or muted colors? Does she have a favorite color? What activities does she do at school, or with her kids? Once I have an idea of the woman behind the portraits, I head to Pinterest. I create a board which I name after her, and I invite her to join the board and pin with me. I begin filling the board with color palettes, clothing options, posing ideas, lighting styles, and other pins that speak to what speak to her. This is such a fun experience for us both, as the photo session begins to take shape in our minds, and in front of our eyes. By the time we step out with my camera, we have a clear idea of what we each want from the session, leaving little room for uncertainty and maybe nervousness too. These are probably my favorite boards to create.
Any woman who has spent time on Pinterest can tell you that it's dangerously addicting! But it can be so useful too! Are you on Pinterest? What boards inspire you? How do you use Pinterest to organize your business? Or your home? Or your brain? Share with me! I always love new Pinterest ideas!
And if you want to see more of my crazy Pinterest boards, follow me on Pinterest HERE or HERE!
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?