Tuesday, June 14, 2011

In Conclusion - Why Every Woman Should Have this Experience!

(If you are just happening onto this blog or series of posts…this is the last post in a series of four, in case you wish to read them in chronological order!)

In Conclusion…

When I first began contemplating this series of blog posts there was one idea that continually rose to the surface, and it was, “Every woman should do this once in her life!”

I’m not sure about all you women readers, but my life is hectic!  A husband, two kids, two dogs, extended family in town, friends, a small business, a house, a yard, and some hobbies!  It can feel overwhelming.  I would like to say now, in black and white, that I am thrilled with my life!  I am so thankful for the people who love me, and whom I love, and for all the opportunities I am continually blessed with.  That said; the truth is that it can feel overwhelming.  On a day-to-day basis it is difficult to feel like there is a lot of ‘flex’, but there should be…isn’t life so much better when we DECIDE to make time for play and fun?!  I happen to be a ‘project driven’ person and so, for me, marking a date on the calendar is almost always critical to my success.  If I hadn’t marked “Photo Shoot” down on my calendar I likely wouldn’t have made all the positive life changes that I did.

We’re all different and so the “fun” in prepping for a shoot will vary for each of us.  I can honestly say that I’m a girl that likes gettin’ dolled up once in a while, I like expensive and HIGH heels (although I still can’t fathom paying for a pair of Louboutins!), and I am too often found at Sephora; but I am also a working mom who needs to get the floors washed, run the kids to school & activities, play with the dogs, remember and celebrate friends’ birthdays, and try to keep up on the never ending piles of dishes and laundry.  So, having a celebrity-worthy manicure, sticking to only prepared-from-scratch meals, appearing as though my day unfolded with ease and grace, all while looking like I just woke from a long and peaceful nap…well, that just doesn’t happen on any sort of regular basis!  But WAIT, some of that did happen (maybe not the well-rested part) and it was all due to my decision to have a boudoir/form/fine art nude shoot done!

It’s important for me to say here, and for you to know, that I still had to get the dishes and laundry done and the kids still needed my attention (there were no maids nor nannies hired in the making of this shoot!); however, I had a new found commitment to myself.  Over the years I was finding myself spending less and less time on things that made me feel good – less time working out, I stopped going to get my hair done as there seemed like better places to spend our money, I only had manicures when it was part of a girls’ day, etc. – and I really missed feeling ‘pretty’, or perhaps it is more accurate to say that I missed the fun that goes into ‘getting pretty’! I can’t tell you how invigorating it was to think, “Yeah, I’m going to take this hour or hour and a half to work out because it benefits ME, even if I don’t get all the laundry done today.”  I think I’ve always known, but the point was driven home for me, that my family was better off for me being better off!  The floors maybe weren’t cleaned as often, but nobody was any worse for wear, (in fact I believe that the example I’ve been setting this past year to follow your dreams, to exercise and eat well and to make yourself a priority in your own life were powerful lessons for my children) and the ‘mom’ in the equation felt happier, lighter, rejuvenated, younger, more confident, and, ahem, sexier!

Imagine having a reason to let your husband do the weeding because you want to have nice hands for your shoot.  Imagine letting the dishes be dirty because you want to get your workout in and you aren’t going to sacrifice your health or sanity just because you feel you should have a clean counter.  Imagine putting yourself at the top of your list.  I did this, to varying degrees of effort and success, and I’m here to tell you that it was and is AWESOME! 

If all the benefits I listed above weren’t enough, there was more wonderment in store.  In early June, I prepared for my shoot with only myself to worry about. I showed up ready to have my makeup professionally applied by a super hip and fun woman.  I blushingly showed the photographer what I’d brought along in hopes that he could make me look beautiful.  I WAS NOT worried about anything except being present in that moment, feeling free and uninhibited, and loving what it feels like to have no regrets!  I was happily playing “supermodel” for the day and it was FUN!  And, now, I have loads of images that document this time in my life.  Images that make me smile or blush; images that make me feel empowered.

Photo by B. F. Peterson
I’m in a rather unique position as part of my ultimate goal was to document the process and results of my shoot to share with you.  I also really wanted to have the full experience of what a woman might consider or feel before, during, and after a boudoir shoot so that I could speak to future clients with heightened awareness.  However, this part of my process would almost certainly not be a part of yours.  Rather, upon you making the decision to do a shoot, the benefit of: re-addressing your priorities and where you find yourself on that list will be had; the fun of finding the style you hope to have for your shoot will be had; the resulting beautiful images will be forever yours to have and to share with whomever you wish; but also, and perhaps especially, there will be your memento of who you are on that day - without any labels, trends, or social titles attached…there YOU will be, looking beautiful, strong, independent, and ready for whatever the world throws at you!  The old adage that ‘you don’t know how strong you are until you need to know’ comes to mind…while you may be thinking that the vulnerability you’ll feel in front of the camera on the day is beyond what you are capable of, I am here to tell you that the positive mojo that you get from the experience far outweighs any discomfort!

So, to wrap up this personal and professional series of comments, let me say this…whether you choose me to photograph your session or another, don’t deny yourself this incredible experience.  Trust me, I didn’t know that this was on my Bucket List, but, in retrospect, I can’t help but think, “Yep, I’m going to cross that off my list and, WOW, was it fun!”

Life is good!


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Chapter 2 – A Professional Journey

I’ve loved photography since I was a little girl…I was the always the one at the party wanting to capture the moment, the laughs, the fun, the feeling.  For almost my entire life I strived to take great photos of the people I loved and the places I was seeing, but I never committed to learning the “science” of what makes a great photograph and therefore had some success but also struck out on many occasion.

Before I had my first child I thought I should start paying more attention to what goes into taking a beautiful newborn portrait so that I could take photos of our baby.  My dad gave me a muslin backdrop and some portrait reference books for Christmas and that was the beginning of my growing curiosity and dedication to learning the craft.

After a few years of self-study, my husband gave me my first DSLR, a Canon 40D.  Shortly after that I enrolled in the SAIT Photography Certificate program, and started shooting on full manual, which, trust me, felt like a HUGE milestone (in school I was always the social butterfly and you’d rarely find me studying…regrets on that!).  After a few years, and the addition of another child, I was a stay at home mom and loving it; but I also realized that I wanted to ensure I had my own identity, beyond being ‘the mom’.  I decided that all the encouragement around me (major props to my dad here!) to live in the present, to follow your passion, and to be fully engaged in your own life were all shout-outs to each of us – including me!  I started to seriously ponder ‘hanging up a shingle’ and, lying in bed one night, the name Bella Faccia popped into my head…even now the name makes me smile when I say it!  I went downstairs quietly, searched the registry to see if the name was taken and promptly bought my URL!  And so it was, as scary as it felt (and still feels at times), I pulled the trigger.

Bella Faccia was registered as an incorporated company in October, 2009, and I attended BFP’s Edmonton workshop the following June.  The workshop attendees were equally warm, funny, talented, and kind…the experience was a perfect storm of wonderful!  Bryan was unable to teach the first few days and so Chris Hurtt came on his behalf, and we learned so much from each of these incredible teachers & photographers.  I came home feeling like there was a whole world out there of which I was just scratching the surface.  I felt a fire to build my business, to learn the trade and the art, to contribute to society by being a whole person –mom, wife, friend, entrepreneur, and more.  Of course this dream takes balance but that’s fodder for another blog!

Photo by Lori Maloney of Bella Faccia Photography
Last October I was referred to a fitness model by a co-worker and friend of my husband’s.  She had worked hard to prepare for a fitness competition and wanted to have a keepsake of how rockin’ she looked (my words, not necessarily hers!).  Her hard work, diet, water consumption, etc. were all critically planned for that ONE day and so I knew I needed to nail the shots for her.  The resulting photos were, we thought, beautiful and it planted a seed in me.  

Photo by Lori Maloney of Bella Faccia Photography

A few months later a close friend of mine approached me to take nude maternity photos for her, she hoped to give a book of images to her partner as a Valentine’s Day gift.  We laughed and had a great time while capturing this very meaningful time in her life.  It was an incredible experience for me and reinforced to me how much I like working with women.

During both of the above described shoots I told my clients how beautiful they looked (and they truly did), I promised that the shots would be classy and tasteful, and I tried to reassure them to feel comfortable with the promise that their security would show in the photos.  They both trusted me, their portraits are beautiful, and I was honoured to take them.  However, I now know that I subconsciously felt a little badly throughout because, even though I felt empathetic to what they must be feeling, I also knew that I didn’t actually know what it felt like to be on the other end of the lens, at your most vulnerable.  

Photo by B. F. Peterson

My shoot with Bryan (author of books such as "Understanding Exposure" and the founder of PPSOP - The Perfect Picture School of Photography) was booked last fall and so I’ve had the better part of the year to contemplate and experience what it feels like to hire the photographer, to decide what steps to personally take so that I could feel good in front of the camera (including everything from miracle wrinkle creams to positive self-talk!), to consider the many different styles of nude and boudoir photography, and to feel the jitters at the thought of disrobing in front of a MAN holding a CAMERA!  Throughout, I was motivated by the thought of being able to sincerely say to my women clients, “I know how it feels, and I know it’s difficult, but these photographs are going to be beautiful.”  Clearly, in life, business, and relationships, we can’t always know how everything feels for another and empathy is a wonderful trait; but, whenever possible, isn’t it so much nicer to say, “I’ve walked the walk, and I do understand.”

My knowledge level is increasing daily, my gear kit is growing, my experience as a mom and business owner is challenging me, my confidence in what I am able to provide my clients is strengthening, and I am a better person for all of it.  It’s amazing when we clearly see the positive impact of our decisions in our personal and professional lives…this has been an incredible journey and I am feeling so very grateful!

There will be one more in this series…I’d like to comment on why I think every woman should have this experience!  Stay tuned…

Life is good!


P.S. If you are interested in learning about photography I would recommend Bryan Peterson's international workshops, his books, and PPSOP with total confidence.  Chris Hurtt provides workshops, is an educator at PPSOP and, he too, I trust and admire as a teacher and photog! 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Chapter 1 – A Personal Journey

When I first thought of doing a shoot like this it all seemed fun and easy!  However, as the days wore on and I was committing to a dedicated workout schedule, together with the fact that I would disrobe in front of a photographer holding a camera, it began seeming less and less “easy”!

Part of my idea and hope was to surprise my husband with the finished product.  I thought I could work out more than I ever have in my life, get my hair done at a salon (I’d been cutting and colouring my own hair for a number of years), and get the spray tan that Bryan suggested was necessary to ensure the absence of any tan lines (note that the spray tan ended up being something I’ll recommend to all my clients as it is amazing what a little colour can do to your self perceived sexy-factor!)….all without my partner asking what in the world was going on!  Yep, I was determined but also living a slightly delusional existence!  The truth is that, while I love the idea of surprises, I don't like lying and so, 2 months before the scheduled shoot, my husband received an early anniversary card telling him what his gift would be.  Truth be told, even though I felt sad that my intricate surprise plan was falling apart, it was the best thing that could have happened!  My husband showed complete support and enthusiasm for the project, he encouraged my workout schedule, let me serve only lean meats, and, most importantly, continually reinforced that he thought I was beautiful and he couldn’t wait to see the results of my adventure!  It was one of the revelations that this experience allowed…that what we might see in the mirror is not necessarily what our loved ones see.

I am a mom of two wonderful kids who are aged 4 and 5…no surprise that my body isn’t exactly what it was when I was 20!  That said, the motivation this shoot provided was immense and I don’t think I’ve ever been in better shape – yes, my stomach was flatter 20 years ago, but I couldn’t have done the workouts I do now back then!  Plus, it’s worth acknowledging that to outright dislike how my body has changed, to a degree, would dismiss why it changed – and I would never trade the joy of being a mom for tighter abs!

Photo by B. F.  Peterson
For each of us this process is bound to be somewhat different.  We all have different styles and tastes, we all have a different sense of what is “beautiful”.  What, I believe, we share is a desire to see the final photographs and think – I love these!  For me, part of this process was a pretty regimented diet (which included the odd ice cream and chocolate, and a daily glass or two of red wine or vanilla vodka!), a determined workout schedule, a couple hair appointments, a spray tan, getting “sugared”, a mani-pedi, and a phenomenal makeup artist!  What wasn’t accounted for in the calendar was how great I felt working out regularly, how fun it was to buy jeans the size I used to buy when I was 20, finding a negligee at Victoria’s Secret that I would have NEVER bought before, and the energy I had from eating well.  It turned out that the journey toward the shoot was actually a profound lesson in living well.  I will be forever grateful to Bryan because, in that moment in Edmonton one year prior, when he spoke casually of his upcoming shoot, my life changed for the better.

It is here that I would like to say that I owe a debt of gratitude to some exceptional people: to my girlfriends who provided much love, friendship, support, and laughter (there were references to spurs that still, even when all alone, make me laugh out loud!); to Jesse, at Angles Dalhousie, a hairdresser who actually LISTENS to what you want and then delivers!; to Laurie, at GottaGetSugar’d, who is a fun, sincere and talented ‘sugarer’!; to Hazel, at Spa Ritual, who reminds me of everything important in life when I am with her; and to Jaclyn, who is as skilled as a makeup artist as she is an endearing soul.  And then there is Bryan.  Bryan, who always answered my emails promptly and thoughtfully (a girl has questions when planning something like this!), who downloaded my favourite Blue Rodeo album so that I could feel a little more ‘at home’ in his studio, who made me feel beautiful, who had me laughing throughout our shoot with his wit, charm and one-of-a-kind personality, who answered my photography and lighting questions during our shoot so that I could learn at the same time, and who is now someone I consider a friend (being in the buff for hours on end with someone takes your relationship to a whole new level!).  I would be remiss to not say that these people, together with my family, have made this experience even more fun and exciting than I could have imagined possible.  Thank you to this special group, you each make me smile.

So, there I was feeling like I had done everything I could to show up for the shoot…I’d lived well, never feeling too denied of guilty pleasures. I’d worked out, with the occasional miss, 6 days a week for 8 months.  Yep, whatever the shoot would hold I was satisfied with what I’d done to prepare myself for it.  That Tuesday morning, as my taxi made it’s way from the Chicago Loop toward the studio, I found myself contemplating what the experience would offer me in professional wisdom and understanding.

Please come back next time for Chapter 2 – The Professional Journey.

Life is good!


Monday, June 6, 2011

The background to the story...

I first met Bryan Peterson in June 2010 when I attended his workshop in Edmonton, Alberta.  It was during that workshop, when he was telling me about an upcoming form shoot he had, that I decided I would like to do a boudoir/fine art nude/form shoot – and it would be ultra cool if Bryan (whom I like very much and who is an extraordinary photographer) would be the one to do it.  Fast forward to June 2011 and there I was in Bryan Peterson’s Chicago studio with my makeup on and not much else!

People have varying opinions on this type of shoot, but I felt really comfortable about my personal and professional reasons for wanting to do it:  I thought it would be a wonderful keepsake for me (I’m not getting any younger!); a beautiful and intimate anniversary gift for my husband; and the only way to truly know what it feels like to be on the other end of the lens.

Over the past year I have done shoots for women who wanted to capture a meaningful time in their lives.  The reasons women have for doing a shoot like this may vary greatly – whether it’s during pregnancy, after a significant weight loss, having a milestone birthday (which, let’s face it, aren't always by the decade!), after surviving an illness or accident, or just ‘cause they want to feel the freedom that is inherent in this experience – but, I can assure you, there is one constant theme: the woman’s desire to evidence her innate beauty.  

Photo by B. F. Peterson
This type of shoot, in my opinion, will only render truly beautiful results if the subject trusts the photographer.  I’ve spoken before of my belief in sharing a rapport with clients to ensure their images are portraits and not merely pictures, you can see it in the body language and without question in the eyes.  Some of the work I’ve been most proud of has come from shoots with women, and I’ve always been truly honoured and appreciative that they would allow me to post photos from our time together in my marketing – this is the ultimate display of trust and generosity (having the shoot is already a big deal for most of us, having the images out there for the world to see reaches a whole new level of courage!).  So, out of my sincere appreciation to clients past and future, I will be including photos from my shoot…it only seems fair!

And so, now that I’ve provided you the background to the story, I’d like you to join me for the upcoming few blogs where I will speak candidly about this experience, both as a woman and as a photographer. 

Stay tuned for Chapter 1 – The Personal Journey!

Life is good!