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15 Women Photographers Share Their Self-portraits and Photo Tips

With the New Year, there are endless ideas of how to start the next twelve months.  Can I share a practice I do as a photographer?  It isn’t about renewing the gym membership or recommitting to a healthier diet or any other practice that acknowledges what I want to do better this coming year.  Instead, this is a practice that acknowledges who I am at this moment in time, this new year, knowing that we are always evolving with each passing year.

Many of us would rather take the picture versus have the picture taken of us.  As a mom and photographer, I’ve been acutely aware of how easy it would be for me to never be in the photos because I was always the one taking the photos.  And yet, I want to leave my children and future grandchildren something more.  I don’t want the generations after me to simply hear the stories of who I was and became: I want my loved ones to see the photos that document the different chapters of my story, the milestones I reached, the journey I have walked as I’ve discovered my confidence, love for myself, pushed through times of mystery or hardship, or experienced victory and freedom.  Self portraits has become a conduit to chronicle my journey.

A few years ago, I remember coming into a deeper awareness of how much more I could embrace myself and love myself versus seeing all the things I wanted to improve.  Feeling completely terrified, I asked a friend to take this photo.  A photo of me embracing all that I am–and loving me wholeheartedly.

Can I say that this was a terrifying experience?  I had no idea what I looked like in the camera.  I wasn’t smiling or laughing for the camera.  The smallest of muscles in my face felt tense.  With a trusted, safe friend, I had to relax into a place of letting go of all my

insecurities to capture this stage of my own healing journey.

Even though the exercise was terrifying, I love that I have this photo to show my daughter.  And how much more powerful to have a collection of self portraits that tell the story of mama?

These last few weeks, I asked myself ‘What would my Self Portrait be as I enter this new season, the new year?  What change, transformation, has come?’ As I look back over the last year, I find that I spent more time alone than ever before.  In the past, I have chosen to be with people versus be alone.  I LOVE people and the energy that a rich conversation gives.  But this last year, I felt a calling to create intentional time to be with myself.  My morning walks with the dog have become a sacred time to quiet myself, let my mind wander, let prayers unfold, and listen to the rhythm of my steps.  This season represents a shift for me in learning how to sustain myself and my family by first pouring into myself so I can continue to pour out to others.  I asked Blaze, my eight year old, if he would take a photo of mama walking the dog–a self portrait to acknowledge the milestone of this present season.

Self portraits are probably the last thing we think of doing, and yet they are so powerful.  They share the story of who we are in a way that words cannot.  In the coming months, I’m so excited to for a couple new episodes of “Capture Your Story with Me Ra Koh” to begin airing on Disney Junior’s channel so you can see me walk moms through the process of a Self Portrait.

This last summer we had a three day training weekend for our team of CONFIDENCE teachers.  These fourteen women live all over the country and teach half day and full day versions of our CONFIDENCE photography workshops for women.  They have a heart to see women empowered through the vehicle of a camera.  I asked them to prepare for our training by taking a Self Portrait of where they find themselves at this season of their lives.  When they arrived at our home, they broke into small groups and were given an exercise on how to share their photos.

I recently asked our teachers if they would be willing to share their photos with you too.  You could hear the audible “gulp” when I asked.  But they are brave women who are passionate about other women experiencing a heightened sense of confidence.  What better way than to start by being vulnerable?  Below are their self portraits along with photo tips to help you capture your own, and the most precious piece — their personal insight into what their photos represent for them.  May these inspire you to take your own Self Portrait this week, as a way to mark the beginning of a New Year by acknowledging who you are at this moment in time.


  • How to Ensure Great Focus 1 of 16
    How to Ensure Great Focus
    Cheryl Bidleman shares; Getting good focus can be a challenge with self portraits. In my case, I did not have a remote for my camera so I had to use a little trick to get good focus. I put my camera on a tripod facing the side of my bed and placed a teddy bear to use as a focal point on my bead in the location where I would stand. I used a smaller aperture to get a wide depth of field to ensure that I achieved good focus. I then focused on the bear and pressed the shutter half way down. Once the camera locked in focus, I switched from auto focus to manual focus and left it there for the rest of the shoot. This little trick maintains focus in the location of the bear. Then using the self timer, I hit the shutter, stepped in front of the bear and took this image. It may take several attempts to get the outcome you like so be patient. Cheryl teaches CONFIDENCE Photography Workshops for Women in throughout Greater Seattle, WA area.
  • Using Mirrors! 2 of 16
    Using Mirrors!
    Jess Robertson shares; Find creative ways to use a mirror - You don't have to use a mirror for a self-portrait, but if you are going to use one try to find a way to use it other than you holding the camera and taking a picture of yourself. That's what I always thought a self-portrait had to be, but I was wrong! Why this photo for a self portrait? My husband and I recently had our first baby. As I know most of you moms can relate, it seems like feedings can consume your life for a while! It started off as a really stressful process, but soon became this beautiful, intimate time that I treasure with my son. We were all sitting in bed one morning, and I looked up and saw this image in the full-length mirror in front of us, so I asked my husband to set the camera up so that we could capture this moment. I've done a few self-portraits since, but this is still my favorite." Jess teaches our CONFIDENCE Photography Workshops for Women throughout southern CA.
  • Find an Object that Symbolizes You 3 of 16
    Find an Object that Symbolizes You
    Allison Gallagher writes; "For my object self-portrait, I chose a bone china teacup. Probably not for the reason you think. :) I chose it because it looks very fragile. So much so, that if you hold it up to the light, you can almost see through it. But, it has strength that is not visible to the eye. Though it looks delicate, it is incredibly strong. Did you know that four inverted bone china teacups can actually hold the weight of a full-size car? Just like that teacup, you never know what strength lies in you until you are tested. I felt this mild little cup with it's inner strength was a good representation of me in the face of life's challenges. Though I may be a bit worn and even chipped on the edges from things I have faced, I didn't break!" Allison teaches our CONFIDENCE Photography Workshops for Women in Leesburg, Virginia.
  • Be True to You with Your Self Portrait 4 of 16
    Be True to You with Your Self Portrait
    Allison Gallagher shares her second Self Portrait "The look I had in mind for this self-portrait was peaceful and hopeful. I wanted to show myself looking out the window, wide-eyed and expectant because at this season of my life, I feel like I am really very "present" and observant in my life. I don't feel like I am just checking off the days and going through the motions. I had set my self-timer and perched myself in the chair to take the shot for the umpteenth time to get it just right. But, as I was attempting to take this peaceful and hopeful image, in the next room all heck was breaking loose, the kids were fighting, the doorbell was ringing, the dogs were going nuts, dinner was boiling over and the sun was setting, so I was losing my light. As I broke into a stress-induced sweat and still tried to look peaceful, I suddenly burst out laughing at the absurdity of the situation. At that moment the camera clicked and this was the shot...it was completely off-center, kind of blurry and absolutely perfect. It shows my real, true, crazy, busy life and I love it." Allison teaches our CONFIDENCE Photography Workshops for Women in Leesburg, Virginia.
  • Use the Blinds to Control Your Light 5 of 16
    Use the Blinds to Control Your Light
    Kelli Kalish shares 'Find any window light. Set your camera to timer mode and find the right spot...preferably from the window facing in. If you have blinds.(preferably ones that you can adjust by opening and closing (mini blinds) This allows you to adjust how the light falls on your face).... close them and then slowly open them and snap photo. Then open them some more..take photo. and some more..until you have played with all different angles. See how the light falls differently each time and how that affects the mood of your self portrait. Natural light and how it falls on your face will play a huge roll in what you want to convey." Kelli teaches our CONFIDENCE Photography Workshops for Women in Chicago, IL.
  • Incoporate Small Details and Objects to Help Tell the Story of You 6 of 16
    Incoporate Small Details and Objects to Help Tell the Story of You
    Lynda Kennedy writes "My self portrait is about confidence - confidence to follow my heart & "let my light shine" - confidence to be me in the sense of photographing from my heart. It represents a time of finding wings to fly into what I love photograph & what I sense inside … freedom & confidence that photography is art and art is beauty that is created from the inside out. Although I completely love looking at others art work, during the time of this self portrait I was learning to push myself to capture what I see. I love candid shots & the raw emotion you can capture through spontaneous, unplanned photography - but I have found a creative aspect also, in planning a shoot including details that depict a person or a season in someone's life." Lynda teaches our CONFIDENCE Photography Workshops for Women in the Bay Area and Napa Valley, CA.
  • Choose a Theme 7 of 16
    Choose a Theme
    Nicole Elliot chose "uncertainty" as her theme to being creating her self portrait. She shares "Uncertainty and mystery seems to await me at every turn. As much as I try to see the whole picture of my life - a part of it always seems veiled. It keeps me motivated, keeps me strong, keeps me excited to see what's to come even through the uncertainty." Nicole teaches our CONFIDENCE Photography Workshops for Women in Bismarck, North Dakota.
  • Allow for Acceptance 8 of 16
    Allow for Acceptance
    Amy Rhodes shares "This self-portrait represents joy. I am at peace with the "grown-up" I've become. I am not ashamed of my laugh lines and feel like they only represent the happiness I have in my life right now." Amy teaches our CONFIDENCE Photography Workshops for Women in Las Vegas, NV.
  • What Brings You Reward? 9 of 16
    What Brings You Reward?
    Jennifer Tacbas shares "Some of my clients have wondered what I do while post-processing their images. I do many technical things when editing, just like any other professional photographer, but I also do something that may be unexpected and unique: I smile. I smile because the people I photograph make me happy...because I love knowing I'm creating a memory that my clients will treasure for a lifetime...because I am passionate about what I do. It's an honor to photograph each and every one of my clients - they make me happy, and I my happiness continues long after their portrait session or wedding has ended." Jennifer teaches our CONFIDENCE Photography Workshops for Women in Georgia.
  • Do You Believe You Can Fly? 10 of 16
    Do You Believe You Can Fly?
    This photo and the next have such a beautiful story of transformation from Laura Swift, our CONFIDENCE Photography Workshop Teacher in Virginia. Read the full story here.
  • The Starting Place is Often the Toughest to Expose 11 of 16
    The Starting Place is Often the Toughest to Expose
    This photo and the one before have such a beautiful story of transformation from Laura Swift, our CONFIDENCE Photography Workshop Teacher in Virginia. Read the full story here
  • Unpeal the Layers of Who You Are 12 of 16
    Unpeal the Layers of Who You Are
    Summie Roach shares "Sometimes in the busyness of our lives where we wear many hats, we need to remind ourselves of who we are so we stay grounded from the chaos. My self portrait represents who I am and everything that makes me who I am, each color representing the many layers of my core." Summie teaches our CONFIDENCE Photography Workshops for Women in San Antonio, TX.
  • Incorporate Your Favorite Place 13 of 16
    Incorporate Your Favorite Place
    Tina Erdmann shares "I took this photo at my favorite park right down the road from my house. This is where I walk my dog, take a break from my day, look up at the sky, and just breathe. It's where I unwind and it's where my creative juices are replenished. And just like being outside gives me space to breathe and grow yet stay grounded, so does following my dream of being a photographer. Photo Tip: If you're going to be standing out in the open (like I was for this photo) bring something along to focus on. I brought along an extra light stand and clamped my reflector (while folded up) to it. I set it up so it was the same height as I am, focused on it, set the timer, ran out to where the light stand was placed, stood in exactly the same spot, and dropped the light stand out of the frame. I set my timer so I had 20 seconds to get ready and I also set it to go off nine times (this was the max for my camera), thus giving myself some time to get settled so the photo looks more natural." Tina teaches our CONFIDENCE Photography Workshops for Women in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
  • Enlist Your Kids for Help 14 of 16
    Enlist Your Kids for Help
    Tonya writes "My self portrait represents the feeling of being stuck in limbo. We all have times in our lives when we feel as if we are captured in the whirlwind of life. Matters of the heart take a back seat to the urgent mom issues in life. Kids, work, husband, friends, family, cooking, cleaning, sleeping….. you get the idea. We reach our glass ceiling and not sure how to break through and make room for the things we love for our own heart. Above the glass ceiling looks amazing but the journey is new and can be uncomfortable. True personal growth can only happen in this zone of discomfort. We must find time everyday (even 10 minutes) to work on our heart. Take a leap of faith outside of our element and not be afraid to grow." Tonya teaches our CONFIDENCE Photography Workshops for Women in Tacoma and Seattle, WA.
  • image-10 15 of 16
    image-10
    Veronica shares "I worked and worked with a post-it note on the cushion behind me. I set my camera on a spider-pod on top of my TV and focused on the post-it note on the cushion. I used a remote to take the shot. The why behind it...I took this because I am very self-conscious about my teeth. And now at my age, I am in braces." I love the purposed self portrait that Veronica did in capturing a part of her that she is choosing to accept and love. Veronica teaches our CONFIDENCE Photography Workshops for Women in Dallas, TX.
  • Evidence of Mom in the Photos 16 of 16
    Evidence of Mom in the Photos
    Beth Wendland shares "After going through my family pictures, I realized that judging by the photographic evidence, I didn't exist. There are precious few pictures taken of mothers to begin with, and then because of our insecurities about how we look in those photos, we edit ourselves out of our family's lives." Beth teaches our CONFIDENCE Photography Workshops for Women in Portland, OR.

As I shared in yesterday’s post about Laura’s transformation, to see transformation in our lives, we first need a starting point.  The starting point is the hardest place to expose.  But the reward that comes from being that vulnerable and honest with ourselves knows no bounds.

When you’ve done this, I would LOVE to hear how your experience was and see your Self Portrait.  Feel free to post them on my FB page or if that is to scary you can email me at info@merakoh.com.  And together we will celebrate all that you are at this precious moment in time as your transformation in 2013 has only begun.

xo,

m

Me Ra Koh loves cameras, kids, and parents, and spends her life bringing them together.  See her new show Capture Your Story with Me Ra Koh on Disney Junior.  Her book Your Baby in Pictures is a national bestseller.  She is honored to be one of SONY’s Artisans of Imagery.  Me Ra and her team of certified teachers lead CONFIDENCE photography workshops for women nationwide.  She has been featured in The New York Times, Parenting, American Baby, Popular Photography, and her photography has been on exhibit from San Fransisco to New York.  You can find her at merakoh.com.

Like Me Ra on Facebook  and Follow Her on Twitter.

 

 

 

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