Jan & Glenn | Married

First Unitarian Church Pittsburgh Weddings-38I can’t tell you how thrilled I was when Jan called to ask me about photographing a small wedding for her and her wonderful fiancé, Glenn. They only needed a few hours, it was only going to be those that are a big part of their lives and they just wanted to capture their special day.

Love at any age. You never know when it’s going to hit you or sneak up on you and let me tell you, if you are at a stage in your life thinking it’s time to just give up, this wedding would have definitely re-infused your heart with a healthy dose of love, hope and peace. It was so obvious that Jan & Glenn are simply gaga for each other and age had nothing to do with it. Their vows were magical and John and I even looked at each other across the church and gave each other the old wink, because they spoke words that we hope to speak to each other for all time. Devotion, support, acceptance, love, patience, protection….unconditional. So beautiful.

We’ve never photographed at the First Unitarian Church and wow am I so thrilled we got the chance. Notice the courtyard where they held their dinner reception. The minister had said in all his years, no one had ever used that courtyard for their reception and I just cannot believe it. It’s so gorgeous!! John and I were married by a Unitarian minister and I said to him right then and there: if we ever renew our vows we’re doing it there and having our get-together afterwards in that courtyard.

Like I said, Jan & Glenn only needed us for a few hours and finding a photographer for small, intimate weddings can be difficult because everyone (accept us) typically wants the biggies. I don’t blame them one bit, but we’re so lucky that we now specialize in weddings just like this because getting to be a part of a day like this is truly a very special gift to us.

Congratulations Jan & Glenn!

PS–how much do you love that glittery bolero Jan added to her already stunning gown?? LOVE!!! And Glenn’s sandals….COME ON!! How adorable is THAT?!?First Unitarian Church Pittsburgh Weddings-2First Unitarian Church Pittsburgh Weddings-17First Unitarian Church Pittsburgh Weddings-1First Unitarian Church Pittsburgh Weddings-3First Unitarian Church Pittsburgh Weddings-18First Unitarian Church Pittsburgh Weddings-4First Unitarian Church Pittsburgh Weddings-5First Unitarian Church Pittsburgh Weddings-6First Unitarian Church Pittsburgh Weddings-8First Unitarian Church Pittsburgh Weddings-7First Unitarian Church Pittsburgh Weddings-9First Unitarian Church Pittsburgh Weddings-10First Unitarian Church Pittsburgh Weddings-11First Unitarian Church Pittsburgh Weddings-12First Unitarian Church Pittsburgh Weddings-13First Unitarian Church Pittsburgh Weddings-14First Unitarian Church Pittsburgh Weddings-15First Unitarian Church Pittsburgh Weddings-16First Unitarian Church Pittsburgh Weddings-20First Unitarian Church Pittsburgh Weddings-21First Unitarian Church Pittsburgh Weddings-23First Unitarian Church Pittsburgh Weddings-26First Unitarian Church Pittsburgh Weddings-24First Unitarian Church Pittsburgh Weddings-22First Unitarian Church Pittsburgh Weddings-25First Unitarian Church Pittsburgh Weddings-27First Unitarian Church Pittsburgh Weddings-28First Unitarian Church Pittsburgh Weddings-29First Unitarian Church Pittsburgh Weddings-30First Unitarian Church Pittsburgh Weddings-31First Unitarian Church Pittsburgh Weddings-32First Unitarian Church Pittsburgh Weddings-33First Unitarian Church Pittsburgh Weddings-34First Unitarian Church Pittsburgh Weddings-35First Unitarian Church Pittsburgh Weddings-36First Unitarian Church Pittsburgh Weddings-37First Unitarian Church Pittsburgh Weddings-39First Unitarian Church Pittsburgh Weddings-40First Unitarian Church Pittsburgh Weddings-41First Unitarian Church Pittsburgh Weddings-42First Unitarian Church Pittsburgh Weddings-43First Unitarian Church Pittsburgh Weddings-44First Unitarian Church Pittsburgh Weddings-45First Unitarian Church Pittsburgh Weddings-46First Unitarian Church Pittsburgh Weddings-47First Unitarian Church Pittsburgh Weddings-48First Unitarian Church Pittsburgh Weddings-49

The Mighty Before & After

Boudoir Photograpy Before & AfterSo, you might be wondering why I’m following up my last post with this one. Well, hopefully you understood that my last post wasn’t about boycotting everything girly, letting your leg hair grow and burning your bra (unless that’s your thang, girlfriend, and if that’s the case, I’m right there with ya). It’s about self-acceptance, woman-centered support and being happy with yo-self.

Interestingly, these are the very reasons women come to me in the first place. We so desperately want to like ourselves. Life is so much easier and so much happier when we do. We are innate nurturers and we want to make people around us feel good. When we make women around us feel good, we feel good. We just want to know we are doing ok, inside and out.

Every woman finds this very energy in my space and that is why women come to me. I help you see yourself with new eyes. I encourage and cheer you on so that you understand I’m here for you and this day belongs to you. My sincerest and deepest wish is that when you walk out of my space, your sense of self-love is completely renewed and permanent.

So, this is where the before and after makes its entrance. I simply have to film our clients’ reactions when a mirror is held up to their faces after their hair and makeup styling. You can see that awesome injection of confidence just make its way through their bodies. They’re excited, they’re pumped, they’re ready to go. And this is why you won’t find any big mirrors near the styling station. No peeking! The Before & After gallery on my site is the most visited page by far. The transformations are real, ladies, and not just in looks; it starts with that first glance at yourself and you just know…this is what you came here for and you got this.

I guarantee I will make you feel differently about yourself. Who’s ready for that challenge?Boudoir Photographer Pittsburgh-1Boudoir Photographer Pittsburgh-2Boudoir Photographer Pittsburgh-3Boudoir Photographer Pittsburgh-4Boudoir Photographer Pittsburgh-5Boudoir Photographer Pittsburgh-6Boudoir Photographer Pittsburgh-7Boudoir Photographer Pittsburgh-8Makeover: At Home Beauty
Gown: Rubin Singer

The Struggle is Real

The Struggle of Women-1You know what I’m talking about. The. Struggle. I’ve come to realize that every single woman in the world deals with this, no matter their size, socio-economic status, hair color, shoe size, job title, mothers, singles, divorcees…the older I get the more I see how it really is our number one cross to bear and our biggest obstacle to our own happiness.

Our desire, need and obsession with being beautiful.

I have yet to meet a client that felt she was at her peak and ideal beauty level. Just the other day I had a client that told me how much she hated the lines on her forehead and decided to get botox. It was when her right eyebrow was stuck in an upward position after having injections that her husband said if she did it again, he’d divorce her. And she said, as she sat getting her hair and makeup done: “Why did I even do that?? I love my short hair and began to grow it out. I got eyelash extensions…I got botox. Why? It wasn’t for my husband, that’s for sure. Why? OTHER WOMEN…that’s why.”

I had another client in my studio that reminded me we are all afloat on this dingy just searching and waiting to feel ok with ourselves. She’s a size 2, absolutely stunning and a model. She said to me, “I couldn’t even look in the mirror because I was so disgusted with what I saw looking back at me.”

The struggle is real. Knowing all women actively participate in this struggle, realizing we are all on the same team, understanding what it feels like to look left and right and wish you had those thighs, that hair, those breasts…why-oh-why-oh-why do we continue to do this to each other and to ourselves?

How have we not yet united in a singularly-focused mission to say fuck this shit?!? 

It all started when we had to fight for the best provider to ensure our own survival and the survival of our children. I know you’re envisioning a family of cave dwellers but I’m talking about today. Now. You know it. I know it. Alive and well is the ongoing knowledge that there is still way too big of a population of women that still have to beat out the woman on their left and right for the guy in the room that has the best paycheck. And that struggle is real too. Yes, we’re in a better position now than our sisters that began the good fight so very very long ago. Our fight for control, equality and the right to just live our damn lives the way we want to is still happening, and will never go away, but we got smart, fought hard and most of us can now rely on our damn selves.

But that doggone innate, evolutionary drive and obsession with being physically appealing just. won’t. go. away.

And I know you want to blame men. Lordy, lordy they are such a fun and easy target. But ladies, and I say this with so much love and respect: men are just big dumb animals when it comes to our happiness. As my husband points out to me, regularly: “Bring me a sandwich, occasionally naked, and I’ll do anything you want.” You know I’m speaking the gospel here.

And yes, we could all blame the media. But but but but…who makes up the media? We do. Women and men. We set our own standards. Who do we blame? Ourselves, that’s who…and you know I’m right.

We all know true beauty is confidence. We have all been in that room with that group of women or that bar or that space where the woman in the room that no one could keep their eyes off of was not of the traditional beauty type. But she was magnetizing, captivating and yes, absolutely stunning. It’s us, ladies. We do this to ourselves, we do this to the woman standing next to us and we do this so often we don’t even realize when we are scanning the room to make sure we are not the fattest, ugliest or worst dressed in the room. Ha! Go ahead…tell me I’m lying.

Women, on average, spend about $300,000 in their lifetime on beauty products. Lest you think that’s not that bad, that doesn’t include procedures, injections, nips, tucks or the clothing we invest in to hide our wobbly bits or show off our gorgeous bum (if you’re lucky enough to have one). Holy. moly. cannoli.

And listen, this is not to say that you shouldn’t buy those products, you shouldn’t work out, you shouldn’t wear makeup, you shouldn’t spend silly amounts of money to hide those grays…people: I’m in the image business. My site is plastered with before & after photos showing how incredible women look all done up. That’s not what I’m saying.

What I’m saying is: I want to love myself regardless of my physical state and that that love is the hardest love I have ever, in my life, struggled with to give any person in this world. Me. Myself. That gal looking in the mirror and wanting so badly to look away. And I know that you feel the same way I do.

For me, it started in my late 30’s. I’ll spare you all the wobbly bits stories and blah blah blah. Let’s just say I’m tired of the yoyo diets, the love-hate relationship I have with myself and the seemingly uncontrollable desire to compete with every woman around me to be the thinnest and most beautiful in the room.

We eat ourselves alive daily, and the worst part is we go in head first, wayyyyyyyy more than willing participants in the destruction of our own selves, both outside and in.

We are our own cannibals. The Struggle of Women-3

Do you see the mask she is wearing in these photos? Now you know why.

I actively participate in my own self-destruction, and I know for a fact that you do too. In fact, I am my own team of 1 that raises my own bar of acceptance, and happily crosses the line, in what can only be described as the worst relationship I’ve ever had in my entire life. Me + Me.

I cannot even begin to imagine what I would do, how I would react or what my actions would be if someone treated my girlfriends, daughter, mother, nieces…etc. the way I treat myself. You know what I’m saying here.

So, what do we do? We fight, and not with each other. I have begun daily affirmations to myself and I have begun to be forgiving of myself. I have decided I can no longer allow the last thoughts I have at night before bed to be the counting of calories I had during that day, followed by the barrage of insults I give to myself for being so stupid to eat those calories. I have decided I can no longer wake up each morning and promise myself that today is the day! Today is the day I follow a diet, eat less, exercise more…blah blah blah.

When I look at you, I see you.  I don’t see the flaws you think are a shining beacon of failure to anyone else in a 10 mile visual radius. Ever notice that? We never ever ever notice what is likely the single most hated things we can’t stand about ourselves when we look at another person.

I have flabby arms, a flat butt, a belly pouch and thighs that rub a little when I walk. Those arms have held my daughter, husband and friends in their times of need. That butt was sat on for hours while listening to loved ones tell me their hopes, dreams and fears. Those thighs are part of the legs that chased my daughter from room to room, listening to her giggles of glee and sheer delight at making mama run after her. That belly pouch created a life. Created a life. Jesus, Mary and Steve…CREATED A LIFE. And then this body, my body, sustained that life for an entire year just off of my own body!! Really think about that for a moment, ladies. I mean, holy mother of pearl. That’s simply amazing.

So you know what? I’m creating a club. I’m not sure of the title…something like “Wobbly Bits Unite”, or just simply “Team Woman”. I’m a bit politically incorrect and definitely 100% filthy-mouthed, so my favorite right now is “I’m Fat. Fuck Off.” I’d love to see that t-shirt on every size 0 through infinity. C’mon ladies…who’s with me??

OK–so let’s talk about these photos. I had decided a while ago to start a project called Dichotomy of a Woman, centering around the struggles we face as women and I call this one “The Perfectionist”. I don’t think I need to explain it. Yes, I know it is a stark and shocking photo. And I’m sure you know that was the desired effect. This is an on-going project and I’ll release images as I take them.

I have a simple hope with this post: the next time you look in the mirror think of these images, give yourself a smile, say something loving and then give yourself a big high-five.

And when in doubt: Put The Fucking Bathing Suit On.
The Struggle of Women-5Hair & makeup styling: At Home Beauty
Model: Ashley Giffin
Badass booties: Lauren Lorraine
Hot ass heels: Malone Souliers

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.

Pittsburgh Portrait Photographer-1-2

(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.)