Stepping Outside of What You Think You Know About YOU

Portrait & Beauty Photographer
How often do we really take a leap of faith in ourselves? And how often do we unabashedly, guilt-freely invest in ourselves for something that is purely just to feel good about ourselves? I don’t know about you…but it’s not as often as I would like.

But can you remember a time you did? Can you remember how that made you feel? Free? Confident? Happy? Gleeful? Sinnnnnnfully delicious? Damn, it feels so good.

You know what’s even better than that? Pushing yourself to a place you didn’t think you could go, but knowing you wanted to try. That takes courage.

Meet Kelley. She’s a fellow photographer, fitness guru, health nut and general all around awesome woman, mom and wife. She’s so cool, you guys. She’s just lovely, pure and simple. Her photography style is more lifestyle, real and natural..and these are words I would use to describe her style as well. Kelley has a down-to-earth realness about her that is raw and beautiful. She wanted that to come out in her photos.

Then she emailed me visuals of her direction with wardrobe…and I threw them out. They were too “real”. They were too “everyday”. They were not going to push her at all…and if you know me at all…c’mon…need I say more??

I asked if she was open to my suggestions. She said she trusted me, and folks, let me just say, we made magic. I didn’t give her one hint of what I had in mind because I didn’t know if she’d push back. So, I decided the element of surprise was the way to go. And it worked!! She loved my ideas. She was so open to allowing me to direct every inch of this shoot. And this, coming from a fellow photographer, is big. It’s also stressful. I mean…what if I screw it up?? What if I can’t break through because this is what she does for a living too?

Yep–and about 5 minutes in each other’s company, well, let me just say it was kismet. It was as if we’d known each other for years. And that’s the beginning I’m hoping for. We even threw in a quickie set at the end that just SCREAMED “Kelley”. I wanted that for her because, at the end of the day, no matter how far you push yourself and no matter how gorgeous the photos are…you still just need some fun, fabulous photos of the real YOU. Can you guess which ones they are??

She just came in for her Reveal. She was SO THRILLED with her photos. I, of course, bit my nails off till I knew she loved them as much as I did. We agreed: we did it. Together.

MAN, I just love when that happens.Beauty & Portrait Photographer-3Beauty & Portrait Photographer-1Beauty & Portrait Photographer-4Beauty & Portrait Photographer-2Beauty & Portrait Photographer-5Beauty & Portrait Photographer-9Beauty & Portrait Photographer-6Beauty & Portrait Photographer-7Beauty & Portrait Photographer-8Beauty & Portrait Photographer-13Beauty & Portrait Photographer-11Beauty & Portrait Photographer-12Beauty & Portrait Photographer-14Beauty & Portrait Photographer-15Beauty & Portrait Photographer-16Beauty & Portrait Photographer-10Beauty & Portrait Photographer-17Beauty & Portrait Photographer-20Beauty & Portrait Photographer-18Beauty & Portrait Photographer-19Beauty & Portrait Photographer-21Beauty & Portrait Photographer-22Beauty & Portrait Photographer-23Beauty & Portrait Photographer-24

And yes…this last one? You’ve seen it before, likely on Pinterest. Kelley wanted to try this so bad and who am I to say no? I think it turned out pretty cool!

Blue & black dress: Preoenza Schouler
Striped button down shirt: Rachel Comey
Trumpet gown: Rubin Singer
Clear peep toe bootie: Steve Madden
Black romper: studio wardrobe
High-necked blouse: studio wardrobe

Makeover by At Home Beauty.

Erika & Eric | Married

Pittsburgh Wedding Photographers-14How adorable are these two?? I know I say this a lot about my clients but it’s true! These 2 were so laid back, so fun and just so damn in love. The day went by like a breeze and a fun time was had by all. The champagne glasses overflowed, the dance floor was full all night, and I don’t believe I saw one time that a big fat smile wasn’t planted on both Erika’s and Eric’s faces.

What a sweet day it was! Here are a few photos to hold you over for a bit…Pittsburgh Wedding Photographers-1Pittsburgh Wedding Photographers-2Pittsburgh Wedding Photographers-4Pittsburgh Wedding Photographers-5Pittsburgh Wedding Photographers-9Pittsburgh Wedding Photographers-10Pittsburgh Wedding Photographers-12Pittsburgh Wedding Photographers-13Pittsburgh Wedding Photographers-16Pittsburgh Wedding Photographers-15

Branding Yourself in a Personal Way

Personal Branding Head Shots Pittsburgh-6Long gone are the head shots of the past. Well, ok…they’re still around but let’s ignore them enough that they’re shamed into disappearing forever. Who’s with me?

I have said before that we women are storytellers at heart and that’s how we reach each other (that and starting a phone chain when there’s a good sale at Nordstrom). We bond by becoming personal with one another. Ever have that “friend” that you just can’t break that barrier with? They don’t share, they don’t let their guard down and they just won’t let you past their cozy exterior, simply brick-walling you from ever getting to know them, truly. On the other side of that, ever been out doing something and strike up a random conversation with a random woman and before you know it, you’re sitting at a coffee shop trading tears about something you have in common that you just had to share with each other? You’ve been there, I know it. And maybe not this story exactly, but some version of it.

It’s because we crave personal, intimate, deep conversation about one another. Why? Because inherently we women want to know we are not alone. Our struggles are completely different than men’s and that’s why, even if your husband is your absolute most bestestestestest friend, he can’t be everyone and everything to you…hence your gal pals.

This goes for purchasing material goods, vacations, experiences…you name it. Women are more likely to buy something or an experience if there is a story they can relate to when searching for that purchase. We want to feel something, and that is a really really good thing…it’s what makes us women.

So, it’s no surprise that “head shots” have now morphed into what we now know as “personal branding”. Did you notice I didn’t call it “professional branding”? We know that’s what it really is, but “personal” is the key term here. If you read any of what I wrote above, you know exactly why.

And you know what? I’m good at it. I’m really good at bringing a personal touch to my photography. Funny, happy, sultry, powerful, seductive. For personal branding, it’s a matter of catching someone’s true personality and (hopefully) emanating a sense of trust when you see the person in the photo.

Even if you don’t know this woman in these photos, she looks fun, down to earth, professional yet personable. She looks like you and me, and that makes her real to you. If you’re trying to sell something or trying to get people to buy whatever experience you’re offering, this is so important.

And can I tell you, I love this. When I buy a major purchase (or even little purchases at times) or an experience, I want to know the person on the other end not only understands me, but is going to care about my purchase from them and take care of me.

I’d like to think when women come to me, this is how they feel about me. It’s a little easier for me to get this across to women because my job is visual and, for my blog, written. For most folks, you get one shot when someone sees your photograph and is deciding on whether to choose you or the woman/guy in the photo next to you.

Wanna leave that to your iPhone selfie? I think not…Personal Branding Head Shots Pittsburgh-2Personal Branding Head Shots Pittsburgh-5Personal Branding Head Shots Pittsburgh-1Personal Branding Head Shots Pittsburgh-4Personal Branding Head Shots Pittsburgh-3Makeover by At Home Beauty.

Before & After | Conversations with Clients | Video Testimonials

Do you have any idea how much I adore my clients? Probably not. And I really mean that. Listen, these women come in and bare all to me, and I mean that in body, mind and soul. I respect that deeply.

When I started this side of my business years ago, women came to me for one reason: to acquire a gift for their lover. It was during those first few years that I saw how genuinely these sessions affected my clients. Some came to me to celebrate an upcoming marriage. Some came to me to try and save a current marriage/relationship. Some came to me to celebrate the end of a marriage/relationship. And I realized very early on that, although women had told themselves this was for him, it was really for themselves…he was just the excuse to justify what I think most women would consider a pretty self-fulfilling gift (which it is and should be, unabashedly).

But over the years that changed. A lot. Now at least half of my clientele are women that just want to come celebrate themselves, their lives, and their outer and inner beauty. Yes–the results of these sessions are typically shared with a lover, and they certainly benefit greatly from this, but these women make it clear: This is for me. I want this. I want to celebrate myself.

And these women…gosh the stories…we would share so much. Tears, gasps of disbelief, deep belly laughs that I thought would never stop! You see, we women are storytellers at heart. That’s how we bond. We bond through our stories of love, loss, pain, suffering, recovery, survival…our moments of becoming the Phoenix rising up and taking our lives back and finding true happiness. Once we share these stories with another woman, we are beholden to one another. And that, my dear ladies, is precious to me.

There is a string around my heart that ties me to each and every woman that has graced my studio door. Each story is now ingrained into me and yes, each woman left me better than they found me. This is simply because they trusted me, they confided in me and, as this deeply soulful, incredible and strong woman says in this filmed testimonial: some even found themselves again with me.

That is profoundly beautiful to me.

I love before & afters, but it never dawned on me till now that I could and should share the stories of clients before their sessions, and their stories after their sessions. I am lucky enough to have a client base that loves me as much as I love them, so I had plenty of clients that wanted to tell you all about themselves, why they came to my studio and how that changed them.

So, please give a listen to Kylie. She is not only so obviously beautiful on the outside, but if you can imagine it, her insides far outshine even that beauty. Her grace, elegance and passionately kind heart make me so incredibly lucky to have her in my life.

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(PS–that adorable floral arrangement in the background that I’m trying to dry out is from Mt. Lebanon Floral. If you’re not familiar with them, you should get to know them. Unlimited talent, professionalism and kindness.)

My Pin Up Style

Pittsburgh Boudoir Photographer-1I don’t get many requests for pin-up style photography but if I did, this is how I would do it. This entire outfit was this gal’s idea, and to be honest I wasn’t sure how it was going to work out until I started posing her. And then…I mean….holy cow….WOW! I don’t think she intended it to have a 60’s Vogue vibe, but man…that’s what I saw instantly and I thought this would be my way of giving a subtle nod to pin-up. I’ve never been a fan of pin-up, but I can definitely get on board with this type of infusion. Who would’ve thought a big floppy hat, some thigh highs and gloves could own my studio in one instant??

Sometimes all a gal needs is her accessories. #respect.

She did absolutely own this outfit. As soon as I mentioned Vogue her eyes totally lit up. “I LOVE that look!!” And we just kept going…and the further we went, the more we both were wide-eyed and giddy! I was amazed her ease with it all. You saw the softness from her romantic set and can you even believe how quickly she transitioned from that mindset to this one?? Grace, subtlety, softness and femininity….to bold, fierce, powerful and badass. It was instant and I was seriously, seriously impressed.

She loved her body, owned her sensuality and had absolutely no fear. That’s a rarity in my studio, but I’ll take it when I can get it.

Here’s to all you short, tall, big, small, curvy, no curves and everything-in-between-women out there that own your killer selves. *sound of clinking tequila-filled shot glasses*

You thought that would say champagne glasses didn’t you? Silly, silly, silly…you don’t know me at all….Pittsburgh Boudoir Photographer-2Pittsburgh Boudoir Photographer-3Pittsburgh Boudoir Photographer-4Pittsburgh Boudoir Photographer-5Pittsburgh Boudoir Photographer-6Pittsburgh Boudoir Photographer-7Pittsburgh Boudoir Photographer-8Pittsburgh Boudoir Photographer-9Makeover by At Home Beauty.

The Unexpected

Contemporary Portrait Photographer of Women-4This beautiful, gorgeous woman walked into my studio with the most loveliest of all lace lingerie. We ooooohed and awwwwed over all of it. I knew she would wear each piece to perfection…and she did.

However, I introduced her to something she hadn’t really thought of. This. Dress. I had this stunning Rubin Singer dress in my studio for something else but as soon as I saw her height, her legs up to her neck and her billowy figure, I knew I had to talk her into this dress. Turns out I didn’t have to do much talking. The minute she put it on I saw Veronica Lake, Old Hollywood, and Lee Ann saw Bo Derek. She just slinked right into this gown and I never wanted to her to slink out of it.

I knew she would nail this dress to a T. For her it was a completely unexpected element to her already amazing session.

Love when that happens…Contemporary Portrait Photographer of Women-1Contemporary Portrait Photographer of Women-3Contemporary Portrait Photographer of Women-2Makeover by At Home Beauty.

Frolicking in a Cemetery

Pittsburgh Portrait Photographer-2And that’s what we did.

I kind of introduced you to this day of shooting with Julia Erickson, a principal ballerina with the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. I’m holding off on what we did in the studio and can’t wait to share the film with you, but for now, I wanted to put a few photos up of these 2 sets inside the cemetery.

It was all so ethereal and the locations were just incredible (big thanks to Joey Kennedy for showing us around). I was so excited to use my Petzval lens as well as the pinhole lens because I get to use them so rarely. What’s the difference, you ask? Well the 2nd and 8th photo below was taken with the pinhole lens. It’s basically a lens cap with the teensiest of all holes in the center. You need a tripod (which I didn’t have…I’m a human tripod, I always say), tons of light and some patience because you can’t see what you’re photographing until you take the photo and can look on the back of your screen, then adjust for light and composition. It gives the appearance of an old photo and is quite grainy and almost has a painted look. The 4th photo below was taken with the Petzval 85mm lens. It’s a manual focus lens and gives the effect of swirling, or bokeh, around the upper and lower portions of the photograph. Again–the appeal is a painted quality and hopefully comes off as artful. The other photos were taken with my 24-70mm, with added blur on the edges.

Are your eyes glazed over yet? Hee hee…I won’t blame you…

It really was such a gorgeous day. The sun was stunning and the glow through the trees was a gift. Julia was likely one of the easiest and most fun subjects I had the pleasure of playing with all over the place. Gosh just look at her….how could you not take amazing photographs of her??

Special huge thank you’s to Mt. Lebanon Floral for the amazing florals and At Home Beauty for such creative hair and makeup. So wonderful to work with such talent.

Pittsburgh Portrait Photographer-3Pittsburgh Portrait Photographer-7Pittsburgh Portrait Photographer-8Pittsburgh Portrait Photographer-1Pittsburgh Portrait Photographer-6Pittsburgh Portrait Photographer-9DSC-200_pp_ppPittsburgh Portrait Photographer-15Pittsburgh Portrait Photographer-5Photography & creative direction & wardrobe styling: Me, silly
Hair & makeup: At Home Beauty
Florals: Mt. Lebanon Floral
Model: Julia Erickson
White bodysuit: Victoria’s Secret
Blush bodysuit: Forever 21
Both skirts: handmade my me.