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What makes a person photogenic?

A few months ago, I went out to the Strange Ranch again to do senior portraits for Emily. She happens to be gorgeous and happens to also be photogenic. But I think there's a misconception that those two things always go hand in hand. So not true. Emily is photogenic because she has a natural ability to relax in front of the camera. Of course this makes my job really easy. Because the ability to relax in front of a camera is what makes anyone photogenic. If you're not relaxed, it's my (most important) job as the photographer to help you.

You'd think by knowing this, I'd be really good at letting people take my picture. I will rat myself out now and admit that I am overly anxious, borderline neurotic about it. But that's why I can relate so easily to the natural nerves of my clients. Before a session people often say, "I'm warning you, I've never been photogenic." My response is, "Don't worry, that's what everyone says." Which is true. I feel like what they're really saying is, "I'm afraid you will take unflattering pictures of me." And what I'm really saying is, "I know you will be nervous, that's so normal. But don't worry because I will know how to make you feel safe enough to relax, so that you're able to reveal the things that matter most to you: laughter, connection, love..." These are the things we want captured. But revealing these things means someone will have to "see" us. That feels vulnerable, so we sometimes hide behind plastered smiles, perfect hair and matching t-shirts. Being a photographer is like being a waitress or hair stylist, in the sense that success hinges on relating to people. But it's also like being a therapist, because it's about relating to people when they're nervous.

This is why I've never taught a workshop. It would be over in 5 minutes, and would go something like this: 

"Hi friends, thanks for coming to my photography workshop. I've been shooting for twenty years. Back in the day my camera was 4 feet wide. We used to lug it uphill both ways in the snow. Now it's not like that. Now you can learn every technical thing you ever wanted to know online or in any one of the hundreds of other fabulous workshops out there. The learning curve is way less than it used to be, which is so great. Unfortunately all this info doesn't guarantee that you'll be able to take great portraits. There's only one thing that can do that: Developing your ability to calm people's nerves. Period. Unfortunately, I can't tell you how to do that because it would be like me telling you how to paint or sing or dance. You have to find your own way. But I can give you a hint: Calming others always starts with calming yourself. Thank you and goodnight."

Then everyone would throw tomatoes at me because they were expecting me to show them how to change their aperture. 

Anyway, I mentioned that Emily is naturally relaxed. But this is not the norm. And I'm not writing this to make people feel like they should take quaaludes before a portrait session. I'm writing this to make the distinction that being photogenic has less to do with the way we look, and more to do with how we feel inside our own skin. Also, to acknowledge that being nervous is a natural part of every photo session. So when you choose your photographer, the most important decision you can make is to choose one that you can connect with. 

 If you live in San Antonio or Boerne, The Strange Ranch is a gorgeous location for weddings, corporate events, and any other kind of fun Texas-y party. The owners are super sweet too. Thank you Shanan and Emily for such a fun day. :)


Stuff I meant to Blog (Part 4)

Last summer we took the kids to New York (something else I never blogged about). Afterwards, we asked them about their favorite part of the trip. Their responses: "jumping on beds in the hotel" and "ordering room service". Not seeing the Statue of Liberty, or Central Park, going to FAO Schwarz. We flew across the country so they could eat ice cream in bed.  

Since then, we've since become quite the fans of staycation-ing. For one, it's massively cheaper (obvs), and requires little to no planning which works for me because I'm at my best at the last minute. Not really, I just procrastinate a lot.

This particular weekend we stayed at the Mokara. And let's be real, that place is no cheap date. But they let us be white trash and brought in not one, but TWO roll-away beds. This makes me feel like we're getting away with something. And is technically a savings, because with three not-toddlers-anymore children, it's hard to find any hotel that can accommodate us in one room. 

The rooftop pool is my favorite part of this hotel. I think it's really meant for fancy people who just finished a spa treatment. But no one threw us out. Probably because they were scared of the family who was trying to get struck by lighting.

 I swear it didn't feel this dismal in person. Maybe because of the margaritas.

It also happened to be St. Patrick's Day, which I didn't even realize until they turned the Riverwalk green:

I discovered Gary Clark Jr. one day by Shazam-ing. He is awesome and the kids love him too (more proof that you don't have to give in to Kidzbop). They kept asking us to "play the train song again!"

Best when played with room service. (wonder where my kids get it)

What are your (non)travel plans this summer? 


Stuff I Meant to Blog (Part 3)

Jenny spent lots of time at The Menger when she was writing her book. So it was the perfect place for a little surprise party. Karen & Marcus, and Laura & James drove down to celebrate. The hotel is old enough that it has quirky features like four rooms with adjoining balconies. If you're in San Antonio, (and don't mind that it's supposedly haunted) it's perfect for an overnight with friends. You can byob and watch the crazies downtown for free. But since it's visible from the street, we had to wait till the last minute to put the balloons up. 

You know. Just chillin in the tiny bar. With our balloons. 


Victor planned every detail. I think he even told her that their air conditioner was broken, in order to justify spending the night downtown. When she walked out to the balcony, she thought it was a party for someone else. So cute. I think my favorite part is how happy Victor looks in the background. 

We drank klassy pank champagne. And I passed out Jenny's head: a trick I stole learned from Holly.

Victor rented the theater so we could watch Anchorman.

And lucky for me and my early onset senility (that I've had since birth), it was like watching it for the first time all over again. "Happens every time 60% of the time".

You probably already know this, but just in case you're one of the few people on earth who doesn't read Jenny's hilarious blog. Her book, Let's Pretend This Never Happened, is the funniest book I've ever read. And I'm obviously not the only one who thinks so, because it's been on the NY Times Best-Seller List for weeks! I am so proud of my friend. She is proof that awesome things happen to good people. 


Stuff I Meant to Blog (Part 2)

They truly are "memory" cards. I've been downloading photos from the past six months, and found this day that I'd forgotten about. It was the end of Alt Summit. I think Kal and I were a little burned out, wishing we'd chosen to leave a day earlier. I get that way at every conference. And I always think it will never happen again. 

But then it started to snow in the most beautifully fake movie-set kind of way. We went downstairs to photograph it and ended up making ridiculous angels in a half inch of snow. Being in the snow with Kal is like being in the ocean with Laird Hamilton (you know I've kicked it with him on more waves that I can count). What I'm trying to say with my bad metaphor is that she is a total snow expert. She knows how every different kind looks and feels and falls. Her love for, and understanding of it makes it ten times more fun to be in. 

And as someone who loves the slow lane (for real), who hates driving with the top down, this is me walking on the wild side yo. Ohhh pretty pretty snow, and I am in it. 

Then we ordered hot chocolate with extra whipped cream, moved the couch to the window...

  ... and enjoyed the majesty of nature while surfing twitter. 

A perfect day if you ask me.

You might already know that I've been a fangirl for Kal's work since before there were blogs. I once even stalked her flew to Winnipeg to photograph her family. She's always working on a million projects. One of her latest (I'm sure you've heard about) is Link With Love. Now that it's so easy to pin and post and use and abuse art and photos and music. Well, this is her way of helping to make people more conscious about how and what we post. It's about giving credit where credit is due. And if you're someone who creates (or just loves) art in any form, it affects you. You can help spread the word by purchasing one of these smart key tags she designed. 

They're only $3.00 for two. You can get them here before they're sold out again. Also, this is not a sponsored post. Which is funny to write because my blog is now way too small for someone to offer me money to say anything. I just thought I'd clarify that I'm only writing about it because Kal is the real deal. And so is the work she's doing. 

Last two photos and graphic by Kal.