What I love about my work as a portrait artist

I had an epiphany this morning and boy was it a doozie. For reference, I had a client once that insisted we jam through her photo shoot. She was a doctor and had a very busy schedule. Everything had to be movin, groovin, and out the door.

Looking back on it, from that point forward I began to assume that no one really wanted to be there. They wanted their portrait session with us to be over as quickly as possible. So I began to hustle, overlook important details and settings, hurrying through one of the most important aspects of my work…the transformation.

When it hit me this morning, it was like a truck. Crash! Bang! Boom! I immediately sat down to reflect on what it is that I do as a portrait artist and why I love my work. You see, it’s important to me that I love what I do and while my business is separate from me, I am part of my business¬†so if there is a piston misfiring in the engine of Cat, the engine for the portrait business goes haywire! It was time to really appreciate my work and everything that goes into it and I thought I would share some of that with you today.

  • I love getting excited with the client prior to their portrait session
  • I love helping to educate the client during our consultation on our process, how to prepare, what to wear, etc.
  • I love sketching out the posing maps for each client session. It helps me to solidify where we will go during the session, what we are trying to capture and convey, and keeps me on task when I get excited during the shoot and forget things ūüėČ
  • I love shooting on my hand-painted backdrops. I paint them myself, did you know that? I do have an Oliphant on my vision board but in the meantime, I have enough of an eye with a brush to create that lovely background you will see yourself on in our portraiture.
  • I love watching my clients¬†enter our hair and makeup room. It is like a Hollywood moment here in our Asheville studio!
  • I love seeing my client’s transformation in hair and makeup and then seeing their faces experience it! What woman doesn’t want to feel like her most beautiful self?!
  • I love seeing the wardrobe selections that my clients bring for the sessions. Some really EPIC choices and style! I love it! (Gives me shopping ideas too)
  • I love shooting. I love creating. I love being excited about getting THE shot! I love laughing during our session together.
  • I love giving direction throughout the shoot. Most clients hate being in front of the camera because they don’t feel as they know how to pose, they feel awkward. I love fine tuning each of our movements so that each client looks their absolute best and it gives them reassurance of exactly that! Confidence comes in pretty quickly when you know your photographer is a master poser.
  • I love downloading everything into Lightroom for the first time. It’s like Christmas. Seeing it on the back of the camera is only the beginning and doesn’t even begin to do it justice.
  • I love retouching the imagery. Another transformation in and of itself and women¬†from all walks of life are my models. It is so gratifying!
  • I love printing the images from our photo session together. There is nothing more lovely in my world that having physical prints of my artwork in my hands. There is nothing like it.
  • I love matting the portraits too. It is a zen process for me to put the finishing touches on your portraiture.
  • I love watching the client walk into the gallery and stand in awe at seeing themselves at their best.
  • I love watching them carefully analyze each and every one.
  • I love watching them trying to decide on which images they want to take home (it is a tough process, lemme tell ya!)
  • I love it when they cry or get excited, because they are so moved at seeing themselves because it means that I DID see them, that I reflected back to them the woman they only hope someone sees, someday. Many times, it is for the first time.
  • I love that I am a portrait artist.

For those of you looking for more than a turn and burn snap service, I am your photographer. I am here to give you the experience of your own, most beautiful self and reflect her back to you in portraiture you will cherish.

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How I felt about my own Before and After

One of my gifts, as a photographer and a human is that I am able to see everything beautiful in you and everything that you maybe, aren’t super happy about, too. So, how did I feel about my own before and after?

When I first entered photography professionally, I was immediately drawn to modern portraiture. As a college student (a hundred or so years ago), I loved the edgy, black and white aesthetic. it was the 90’s. Everything was edgy, then, haha! As my photography grew and I was able to hone my skills, contemporary glamour was easily where my heart burst with joy. There is something so simple, yet so magnificent about stripping away everything you don’t like or hate about yourself and lighting everything that is beautiful. Defining that in a magazine style portrait that just, well, it sings.

Recently, I’ve been on a bit of a rampage in purchasing new pieces for our studio wardrobe. Beautiful satin and lace dresses for anyone to wear during their photo shoot here in Asheville. Elegant pieces to go that extra mile in ensuring you feel beautiful for your photo shoot. You might come in thinking, “Oh I just need new head shots” or “I’m more of a casual girl” but, having that extra piece of drop dead gorgeous never hurts anyone.

So, what better time than to test the waters myself? So, I donned one of the new pieces and called a photographer friend over, hung my black velvet backdrop and put on a face and stepped in front of her lens.

“What are you doing, Cat? Why on earth do you NEED a portrait? You just had a full on beauty session a year and a half ago with another photographer. Do you really need another one? Do you even really DESERVE another one? God, this looks horrible on you. Your makeup looks awful and you haven’t touched up your hair color and you could use to lose more than just a few pounds. You’re almost 40. There’s no way these will be even remotely resemble the you, you remember…”

Pause.

“OK¬†deep breaths, Cat.”

All the voices, I acknowledged their existence. Always in the voice of the 12-year-old me. She was constantly berated so, I can’t really blame her for being scared. It’s her job to protect me from suffering that kind of attack…oh wait…

Be careful how you speak to yourself. You are listening after all.

I took my “Before” picture in my kitchen, after a single cup of coffee in front of a window. No makeup, I don’t think I’d even brushed my hair. A real “before”, to say the least. Yup, that’s me in the morning. How did I feel about the before? Seeing the truth sometimes can be jolting. I got to see all of my flaws in the cold light of day, and then I was going to put it out there for all the interwebs to see. Haha! The dark circles under my eyes, the scowl lines in between my eyebrows from spending 20+ years in the Florida sun, my growing chin (what’s THAT about anyway, jeez) and the list goes on. The point is, that is my face. That is what I look like. In a normal day, I might throw on a little moisturizer and some eye makeup. I might even go so far as lipstick if I’m feelin sassy. I’m a pretty good lookin gal, curves and all. A little face can go a long way.

In editing the footage we shot that day, we were very careful to only go as far as we would for any client. I am very meticulous about retouching. As much as I wanted to wave my magic photo shop wand to get rid of everything I see, it was very important that I remain my¬†beautiful self¬†and, not some idealized version of myself. My portraiture is based on highlighting everything beautiful about my client and if I went the “extra mile” on my own portraits, it would have defeated the purpose.

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Having the strength to step in front of a camera can be challenging. You’re faced with all of your flaws and “I’m not good enough”, right then. You ARE good enough. everything about you is perfect. You are valued.

So, what do I see staring back at me?

  • a woman who loves her work
  • the courage to let all of the voices have their say, and then move forward to embrace this moment
  • a woman with doubts and fears, just like everyone else
  • a woman who is loved
  • a woman who has worked tirelessly to build her business
  • a beautiful portrait, now part of my legacy

I put this image out on social media yesterday. Clicking the “post” button definitely took a minute…or two but, here’s the thing, if I can’t share my very own before and after, how on earth could I ever expect you to come into my studio, let alone¬†experience¬†your¬†very own transformation with us?

Our service, our process is not one of turn and burn, wham bam thank you ma’am. I want you to be able to envision yourself having your portraits made with us. I want for you to see that my purpose here is not to just photo shop everything away, it’s to showcase everything wonderful about you, right now. It’s to help you see past all of the little things you hate seeing in the mirror: all of the shoulda, woulda, coulda, all of the when I lose 15 pounds, all of the when I get to the salon or the gym, all of the maybe one days, all of the “I’m not good enough”. You ARE good enough. You DO deserve beautiful portraits. Your family and loved ones deserve beautiful portraits OF YOU.

They are your keepsakes. They are your heirlooms.

In the words of Sue Bryce, “You are beautiful. I want to capture you for All time.”

I would love to photograph you.