I’m going to ask you all to bear with me as I do something that I’m actually deeply uncomfortable doing: talking about myself.
I know that sounds ridiculous. I write for a living and my contact info isn’t hard to find. I’m a public speaker, a roller derby announcer, an above average networker and overall, I’m a confident person. I’m a former actor, for goodness sake! Put me in front of a camera and have me read a script or bring another person to life, and I’m golden. Put me in front of a camera and ask me to smile pretty, and I’ll give you a blinding grin for about five seconds, then make a weird face and, like a good Midwesterner, immediately get shifty and uncomfortable and want everybody to stop looking at me. Like, now.
You can imagine how unhelpful this kind of behavior is when you’re trying to get a good photo of yourself. But I needed a new headshot for my book tour. (Shameless plug alert: “North Dakota Beer: A Heady History” will be in stores, on Amazon and for sale on my website on July 17 — wheee! You can also preorder it here, although I’m not gonna lie when I say I’d really, really like you to buy it from me or from your friendly local bookseller if you can help it. I’m a big believer in shopping local.) So yeah. Life demanded a new photo and I was not particularly pumped about it.
My friend and colleague Katie from SugarBrooke Creative told me to try Elena K Photography and I nodded politely until I saw her photo. It was really good. Katie is a white blonde spitfire, so I figured she was just a particularly good subject. But when I started scrolling through the website and realized that I knew a lot of the professional women featured there. Elena’s photos made them look like the best, fullest, most polished version of themselves. I’m not a portrait photographer, but I know enough about the art (and it is an art, no doubt) to know that this is not easy to do. Sold.
A few weeks later I was standing in a well lit dressing room Elena’s north Fargo, with eyelashes like a Kardashian, my hair in perfect, beachy waves that I definitely did not do myself, because I am utterly clueless. (Because life is unfair, getting my hair to look exactly like my brother’s flowing locks look after rolling out of bed every single day of his life took a skilled professional over an hour. Grrrrr…)
Part of putting yourself in Elena’s capable hands means trusting her and her incredible staff to tell you what will photograph well and then doing following their instructions. This advice extended to hair, make-up, wardrobe and exactly how to pose.
This was a gigantic relief. She was super specific about exactly where to stand, where to put my weight, where to look and a million other details. That sounds overwhelming, but it was actually fun because I didn’t have to think at all. Halfway through our session I even grabbed a sequined BB Dakota mini dress (because I can never resist a good party dress) and took a few fun shots that I actually like as much — or better — than the official business-y headshots. Can I use them for super serious book tour stuff? Nah, probably not. But they’re fun and I look pretty and real and utterly myself. So I’m definitely glad to have them.
I posted a photo on Facebook and fellow writer and super mama Carolyn Moore, who I met through her work writing for Bison Booties, remarked that it was good that I had photos because moms never end up in the pictures. This is totally true. I’m our son’s primary caregiver and a photographer too, so I’m pretty much always the one framing up the shot.
As Carolyn suggested, this isn’t unusual. Every photo album I’ve ever seen, from people of any generation, documents milestones for the kiddos, maybe a few with dad and a few group or family shots. We don’t see a lot of mom. And if we do, she’s part of the crowd or she’s doing something else — holding a kid, lighting the candles on a birthday cake, greeting guests — because that’s what moms – -and women in general, I think — just do.
Even if I didn’t have a child, I’d barely be in the photos. I pulled out pictures from trips to the UK, the Netherlands, France, Spain and about a dozen U.S. States, as well as shots taken at roller derby and professional events. The only shots I show up in were almost always set up by other women, which is weird, since I actually have as many male friends as female ones.
We rarely get to see women on their own, front and center, confident and happy and relaxed. And we don’t often get to see groups of women where everybody makes it into the frame. And I think that’s a real problem.
Elena says she hears this all the time and it pains her. That’s why she’s made highlight female beauty the cornerstone of her work. I know that sounds really mystical, but she really does make this her goal. She succeeds in that goal. Elena does a lot of work with professional women like me, but she also photographs women and their mothers and daughters. Like some kind of old world painter, she does an incredible job of showcasing a woman’s unique beauty and personality and — perhaps hardest of all — convincing women to relax, have fun and be themselves.
Photo by Elena K Photography
I tell people she’s basically a wizard. My shots turned out better than I ever hoped. If you’re even remotely thinking about getting your own photo taken — for professional or personal reasons — I really encourage you to do it. It’s absolutely, totally worth it.
If you want to go with Elena K, she’s offering a $70 credit if you book a session by June 9 (yep, that’s coming up quickly!) using the code Prairie Style File 70. If you read this after that date, comment below, find me on social media or email me using the “Contact Me” tab at the top of the page and I’ll get you your own discount code.
And if you can’t make it to Elena’s studio, I encourage you to take some time to put yourself first. Get dressed up. Make yourself the star of the show for once. Women make the world go ’round and think it’s high time we put ourselves front and center. Get in the picture, ladies. It’s time.
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