This blog post is going to be a little different, because it's written from my (Sara's) perspective. Many of you know that I am Jennifer's studio manager (this month marks a year!) and was recently privileged to also experience being a client. I wrote my blog as journal entries along the way, from two weeks before my session until the end of the process, after I viewed my gallery.
Two weeks before:
Two weeks!! So, my very own Unveil your Cinderella shoot is in exactly 14 days! I’m all nerves – both excited and scared. Now, the excitement I understand but it’s a little crazy that I’m scared – I work with Jennifer, after all! On a pretty regular basis, I witness the transformation during the Cinderella experience. I watch women come in, feeling nervous and unsure and leave feeling gorgeous and confident. But, here’s the thing . . . I don’t do pictures. If you look through our family albums, you will barely see me. This is calculated, you know. I actually hide from the camera. I’m not sure whether it’s because I’ve seen too many candid shoots where I look frightening or whether I’m afraid that the camera is going to reveal something I’d rather not face (how I’ve aged or an extra 10 or *cough* 15 lbs). I think what really strikes fear into my heart is that being in front of a camera feels so vulnerable.
What if it just doesn’t work for me? What if nothing fits right and I can’t pose and I’m awkward and embarrassed? What if Jill gives up and walks out during styling because I’m a lost cause (now, I’m exaggerating, but you get the picture). I’m nervous!
Three days before
Ok, so my nervousness is actually decreasing the closer I get to the shoot (what?!) and in it’s place is a growing excitement. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still an anxious Cinderella but starting to get excited about the possibility of seeing myself transform. Besides, how often do I get to do something like this – something out of the ordinary and adventurous that makes me feel beautiful, too? Something else that is unbelievably fun is that I’m doing this with my 8 year old daughter, Izzy. We’re having a blast planning and talking about our “big photo shoot”. Earlier this morning, Izzy bounced over and said, “I just can’t wait to wear a floofy (yes, she said floofy) skirt and have a beautiful hairdo” (yes, she said hairdo). The funny thing is that I feel the same way!
As an aside, I will tell you that if you book this session, you will manage to acquire approximately 80 new bruises and/or blemishes the week before your shoot. And a child will likely tell you your teeth look orange. Orange…grreeeaaaat.
Morning of the shoot:
Today is the day.
I’m excited but I found that I looked very critically at myself in the mirror. The negative voices had a lot to say, “Why didn’t you try harder and lose that 10 (ok 15) pounds. Yikes, is that a zit?? Oh, what is Jennifer going to do with that view? Why did I make and enjoy every last bite of that delicious peanut butter popcorn the very week before your shoot?!” Flaws, flaws, flaws…that is what I saw and what I focused on. I think that’s the nervousness making it’s way back in – what if this just doesn’t work for me? I would love to look in the mirror with a little more kindness toward myself and a little less criticism.
After the shoot:
Our session was an absolute blast! From the styling (which was amazing) to my time with Izzy to our time with Jennifer, I felt comfortable and relaxed. And my sweet little girl looked so precious. She and I had the best time; it was truly a mom and daughter dress up party.
By evening, the glow had worn off (though my make up and hair was still going strong), and I began to doubt myself again. The fear was back, in a big way, that the pictures of me were going to be terrible. When Jennifer posted the sneak peek the next day, I was floored. The pictures of Izzy were amazing. My girl is an observer, quiet and reflective. She’s strong and sweet, pensive and joyful and Jennifer caught it all. So, of course, I cried. Then, I looked closely at the sneak peek of me. I stared, I scrutinized. I was so curious about this woman I was looking at. It seemed like me and not like me all at once. It was like the picture I had of myself in my head was so blurry, so inaccurate, that I couldn’t quite comprehend this new, clear version.
It made me think about the last time I was photographed. It was probably my wedding, 14 years ago. Oh, and then several harried looking pictures when my kids were babies. That’s how long I haven’t showed up in pictures. For the first time in a long time, I came into focus – I was able to see myself (clearly) for who I am, not who I was. This woman in the photo looked poised and strong and beautiful. I wondered, could that really be me?
View and Choose time:
Today was the moment of truth – it was time to see what Jennifer created during our session. This part was amazing and surreal. The easy and uncomplicated part was viewing the images of Izzy. They immediately brought tears to my eyes. I saw the baby she was and a glimpse who she’s becoming. I saw her looking back at these portraits as she grows and even when she is a mother, herself. But, I went in knowing how gorgeous she is, knowing the spirit and strength that she exudes. What took longer to process were the images of me. I feel like I went through several stages, from shock, to acceptance to wonder. The last stage is when the tears came, when the shock had worn off and I began to see real beauty in myself. I looked at myself kindly and noticed what I loved, not what I hated…when I moved from thinking I “looked” beautiful to actually feeling beautiful. For me, this was much more than just a photo shoot. It was an experience and a journey. It was a reminder of my unique beauty and how far I’ve come, a reminder to be kind to myself, to step out of my fear and be vulnerable, to be known and present. Finally, for me, it was just a little glimpse of how God sees me. He treasures me as His own, His daughter and His princess. The floofy skirt and hairdo were pretty great, too.