Image is superficial. Believe me, I’m a photographer.

I’m in love with TED. Ted talks have me on the edge of my seat. I’m learning so much and it’s changing many things in my life, my mind, my heart. TED talks are about 15 or 20 minutes long, presented by speakers who are accomplished and entirely qualified to be speaking on their subjects.

I like to prop my iPad up on my dressing table and watch these while I do my hair and makeup. Yesterday, I caught this video below from supermodel Cameron Russell about the superficiality of modeling for the camera. The most powerful bit for me is when she shows you 6 photos of herself as a model (bikinis, climbing sexy men, on the cover of Vogue) and then shows you photos of her on the very same day. She admits to the images of her not being her. She says, “they build me.” This message is so important for all women, but that’s not my point today.

Watch the video and then keep reading…

That was awesome, right?

So what I want to talk to you about today is using your photography honestly. I very much doubt that many of you reading are photographing models for magazines. But let’s think about the times that the everyday family photographer can be selling lies:

  1. The family you photographed last week who look happy and great on camera, yet the parents are just a few days from quitting their marriage.
  2. The senior session for the girl who looks secure but is just wearing a mask because she hates her body.
  3. The couple who you do  a session for and, although they posed like pros and took all your direction, all they could think about during the session was anything but being in the arms of the other.

This isn’t good enough for me. I know I can’t control those things – and there are all sorts of issues going on in the lives of our clients. But if the people who come to me can have things like this going on in their lives, I want to do whatever I can to help them see another way.

Some photographers lie to the world while others lie to their clients. They trim 10 lbs off their lady without saying a thing and she might think “wow I look goood!” but really, aren’t we just helping her be delusional about herself? That’s a hard sentence to write. Because I do that. And I don’t know if I intend on stopping. But if we’re going to get honest, let’s get honest, right?

You know when everything changed for me? Beloved. Discovering the Beloved genre of photography changed everything for me when I felt I had no hope in hell of getting to tell truths with my camera instead of lies. I don’t need to tell you everything that Beloved has done for me. But let me tell you…getting to take couples and families into a space of honesty and then photographing them makes a difference in their lives and mine. An hour with you might be the thing that pulls that couple back from the edge. Or helps that girl realise the things she loves about herself. Will you join us?

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  • jack

    Great TED talk, and such honesty and vulnerability from Cameron Russell.

  • Amanda Krugler

    I love this! This post is so inspiring and real! Thank you!

  • Edie

    Elizabeth, Thank you for sharing that clip. I had not heard of the TED talks yet. I very much enjoy and appreciate your blog. I have learned so much and actually understand your Plain English. Thank you again, Edie Shackelford

  • mramarella

    Thank you for sharing, the best thing in my inbox came today.

  • Amber

    That was very a really good clip, thank you for sharing. I have struggled with image for as long as I can remember. You are inspirational, thank you for sharing your spin on that as well. I think I am going to read into Beloved some more, it looks really interesting and inspiring. I am so glad I subscribed to your email newsletter.

  • Olive

    Thank you !!!!

  • Viv

    Very Blunt..blatant truth of the glamour world today..but lot of things that are candy are constructed..not only woman beauty..Thanks Liz

  • Davina Fear

    Elizabeth! This is such a powerful post. After being in the photography industry for so many years and building something that I couldn’t keep up with, I had to step back. It was difficult but I believe it gave me a chance to become a more real photographer; it gave me an opportunity to see what I believe is real and beautiful. Thank you for sharing this and for giving others the permission to seek out ways within the industry to be more honest and to see the real beauty that is in front of them. Super awesome, stuff, Elizabeth!

  • That’s a really interesting perspective. I recently experienced this desire for true and natural images myself with our personal photography. Being pregnant for the first time, I thought we should definitely have some maternity photos, so I planned a session for my husband to photograph me at 7 months. I spent a lot of time looking at a lot of maternity images we had done for clients as well as images friends had recently had done. What I saw was a lot of studio lighting, gorgeous flowing fabrics, and women made up to look like goddesses. It’s a very beautiful style, and I totally get why someone would want that. But for myself, I realized I wanted something true and natural. Just me, as I am. I have this photo of my mom when she was pregnant with me, and there’s no darkroom or makeup magic, it’s just her and me. I treasure that photograph, because it’s the truth, and it’s a real moment.