Photography that Heals

Your Are Beautiful Just As You Are-7Follow me on this…who would have ever thought that visually capturing the very thing that makes you so uncomfortable, placing an infinite telescope and spotlight upon that which you think you loathe, to see and view and then memorialize for all time, would actually be the very thing that heals your wounds?

That’s what photography does. At least in my studio.

Lately I have been sent emails, had phone calls and even been in just random, chance situations that have consisted of some of the deepest, most sincere, painful, beautiful and tumultuous stories of women’s journeys into relationships with their Self. It has been both miraculous, awe-inspiring and yet so agonizing and torturous. These words that I read and the voices that I hear on the other end of the phone, filled with so much pain and so much hope, can’t help but make me speechless in their courage to finally come clean to themselves. Yet it’s so lovely to watch as this woman’s journey begins, this woman’s journey is well on its way, this one hits a bump in the road while another is simply soaring.

These women. They tell me all about their scars, both physical and emotional. The bullying as a child, the abuse from a spouse. I hear and read tails of yo-yo diets, self-loathing and eating disorders. Stories that depict full circles of lessons learned, like putting every hope, dollar in the bank, dream they’ve ever dreamt and every ounce of responsibility to make herself FINALLY happy poured into a cosmetic procedure, only to then sit in misery because it wasn’t nearly as fulfilling as she wished, with all her might. To then realize that her every hope, dollar and dream was always sitting right there, right in front her, just waiting to be noticed.

How amazing it still is to me that these are the women that come to me to stand in front of my camera, so bravely, to document allllllllllllll of that. All of those fears, hopes, loathing, breakthroughs, joy, depression, milestones, set backs just standing there waiting to be acknowledged for all time.

The human condition….it’s a confusing one. You would think that the women that fall under these umbrellas that I described above would RUN from my camera, screaming all the way. Yet, it is the very and complete opposite.

Have you ever watched a woman reckon with her Self?

It’s a bold occurrence and one that if you’ve been privy to, you’ll never forget it. I am privileged enough to get to see it every time I lift my camera to my eye. There she is, staring into a black hole, mustering all that is inside her, nervous that she won’t like what she sees when she looks back at herself in that image, so excited at the prospect that she will, filled with all that hope that for once, just once, she will find herself beautiful.

Have you ever watched a woman unexpectedly find peace in the image of her Self?

It’s mighty. The delight, calm and acceptance that washes over her is powerful. But more importantly, it’s healing.  Suddenly, the enemy becomes the friend and a whole new relationship begins.

Instinctively, she somehow knew that to heal, she actually had to memorialize, celebrate and hold up high that which she detested and despised.

How magnificent is that?Your Are Beautiful Just As You Are-2Your Are Beautiful Just As You Are-5Your Are Beautiful Just As You Are-4Your Are Beautiful Just As You Are-1Your Are Beautiful Just As You Are-6Your Are Beautiful Just As You Are-3Makeover by AtHome Beauty.

Insert Glamour Here

Pittsburgh Beauty Photographer-24That’s what this entire shoot was about. Straight up Hollywood Glamour. Michelle loved the 20’s so we did give it a bit of nod here and there. These 2 sets were a bit more of a super subtle nod, but the red dress in my previous post was a bit more apparent. We started off saying we were going to do 2 outfits, and then ended up with 5. But the dresses and gowns we had were just way too scrumptious not to use them all.

Michelle had a natural connection with the lens. She pretty much floated through the day and from what I can gather, had a pret-ty good time. I’m not sure who wouldn’t….hair, makeup, gowns, dresses and a day designed and directed just for you? Yep…sounds like a recipe for glamour to the max.

This was my 2nd favorite dress, the first being the pink one in my first post. The pink dress from my first post was seriously glamorous, sexy and Michelle just ooooooooozed confidence and sensuality. This glittery dress you see above was absolutely stunning, but just a touch more conservative, which I loved. Mac Duggal is my go-to for glamour. He simply knows how to get it right….

Sprinkle me in glitter and let me go!Pittsburgh Beauty Photographer-22Pittsburgh Beauty Photographer-20Pittsburgh Beauty Photographer-21Pittsburgh Beauty Photographer-13Pittsburgh Beauty Photographer-9Pittsburgh Beauty Photographer-11Pittsburgh Beauty Photographer-12Makeover by AtHome Beauty.

Your One Job in This Life is to Be You

Loving Your Beautiful Curves | Elizabeth Craig Photography-6“Comparing yourself to others is poison. Your one job in this life is to be you.” –India Arie

I was walking along, huffing and puffing, getting my daily walk in while listening to a podcast that was featuring India Arie. Goodness she is so….soulful. She made so many lovely statements during this podcast, but the statement above is the one that really caught me.

So I really started to think about it: how many times in a day do I compare myself to other women? Physically, mentally, humorously, professionally, financially…and then I caught my breath. I do this. A lot. Like…A LOT. Ew. Ewwwwwwww! I stopped mid-walk and a terrible layer of ick came over me. It was as if I could feel all the weight and layers of all the skin of other women I had compared myself to just laying on top of my own skin. There my beautiful body was, trying to gasp for air, get some attention from me…just a hint of recognition for what it has done for me for 44 years. It has walked so many miles, been with me through heartbreaks, a car accident or 2, anxiety and depression, walked me down the aisle, grew an alien being, I now call Ella, inside itself. It has listened to every horrible thing I’ve ever said to it and absorbed every scowling look of disappointment it sees every time I pass by a mirror. It has, all of my entire life, lived with the heavy burden of absolutely never being enough. It always needed to lose 5 more pounds (or 20 nowadays), its skin never smooth enough, the belly never flat enough, the boobs never big enough…it never looked like “her” body…whoever “her” was at the moment.

I realized in that moment what a truly horrifying friend I have been to my body all my life. I could just feel it screaming out to me, begging me to show it just the teeniest bit of love and acknowledgement for all that it had done for me, and all it will do for me for all of my days.

That day, I decided to start writing my body love notes. Real love notes… I tell my body how beautiful it is. I tell my body how grateful I am for her and that after all I’ve said to her, she still keeps me alive and trucking along. I run my hands on her skin, appreciating ever bump and divot. I even tell the part of my body I have always and forever had difficulties with, my tummy, that it is absolutely 100% perfect in every way, though the status quo and Cosmo may disagree. She is a miracle, a lifesaver and my best friend and no matter what anyone else says, she is the purest example of true beauty in all her ways.

This woman you see in these photos is a living example of that, and not because she’s a curvy woman. I’m not going to say “She’s so beautiful because she accepts herself as she is in a world that daily tells her she is not beautiful enough.” I’m saying it because, after working with women in all my ways over the last 13 years, I have come to realize that size doesn’t matter in your level of self-acceptance. This stunning woman is a living example of what beauty really is because she accepts herself. Period. I have had fitness coaches that honestly could not lose one more pound still find things about their body that drives them crazy (that was yesterday’s shoot). I have had size zeros a nervous wreck in my studio because they didn’t lose the extra 5 pounds they intended to for their session day. I’ve had curvy women love every wobbly bit, tall women shrink to make themselves shorter, short women revel in their petite-ness, thin women wish they could have a bigger bum, and women with big bums find that the most sexiest part of their body while others find their big bum the biggest nuisance of their existence.

The point is, there is no such thing as perfection.

This lovely gal knew this and this is why I chose her for this shoot. Her curves were so incredible, her legs went on for days and I could have literally just taken a bite out of every wobbly bit. She was so sexy, so confident and radiated love for herself. Does this mean she has no issues with her body? Absolutely not. But she had a level of intimacy and friendship with her body that just made you want to stare at her and try to absorb some of that just by standing next to her. She gets it.

This “accept yo-self” thing seems to be quite the theme for me lately in my blog posts and I want to share with you why. Pay attention here, this is important:

If you think you are the only woman that has an issue with some or all of your body, you are wrong. If you think you are alone in your self-loathing or just in the fact that you believe you need to do one more thing to get it right, you are wrong. We ALL struggle and the more we talk about it and share our struggles, the more we understand that we are all in the same boat. We are together in this. We are not alone. This is our tribe. We are a tribe. Tribes are made of warriors and miracle-makers.

Warriors and miracle-makers have no time for this bullshit. What we do have time for is supporting each other, loving each other, taking care of one another and joining together to make it our mission, as a tribe, to uplift, cheer on and otherwise be the biggest fans of each other.

So here is what I want you to start doing. I want you to find at least one woman every single day and pay her a compliment. I want you to make sure you put your cheerleader glasses on and look for that one woman in a day that you know could use a compliment. It could be a co-worker, your mother, a stranger on the street…I don’t care. The second thing I want you to start doing every single day is looking at yourself in the mirror and giving yourself at least one compliment a day. If you can’t do it while looking in the mirror, then do it when you’re driving, walking, cooking…whatever. I don’t care if you have to lie to yourself at first, just do it. I already practice the former and have for years and it makes me feel SO DAMN GOOD to get that surprised smile from a woman after I compliment her and she says Thank You in that shy but happy kind of “that just made my day” way. I just started doing the latter and it feels SO DAMN GOOD to get that from my own damn self.

I promise you, it will make a difference. It will. It will begin to rework your brain. It will begin to rework your body and yes, then your soul. I had a friend tell me once that if you have a negative thought about yourself, but can prove it wrong, that thought then becomes powerless.

Ladies: let’s start proving ourselves wrong. #putthefuckingbathingsuiton Who’s with me??

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Personal Branding Gold

Personal Branding Head Shots | Pittsburgh-8That’s how you have to think about a personal branding session. It has to be gold. That means it has to be the absolute most best and pristine representation of who you are and then being able to convey that within 3 seconds of a glance in photographs. Yes, 3 seconds. That’s how long it takes someone to identify and connect with you and know if they want to know more about you and your services. That should reallllllly make you think about what photographer you want to work with when considering that little tidbit of information.

And let’s make a note of this once again: personal branding is a totally different beast than head shots. Head shots are for business cards and lectures. It’s to put a face with a name. Personal branding is conveying with photographs, color palettes, aesthetic and design an immediate connection with the viewer and allowing them to get a taste of your own style and personality in what you have to offer.  It’s a little more work than a head shot. You can see one traditional head shot in this grouping of photos. I don’t think I need to point out which one it is. In the other photographs, you can immediately pick up her personality, her position on her team, and that she is a straight-to-the-point, no BS kinda gal with all the clean lines, no patterns, and black and white clothing. Her poses are power poses and that was not a coincidence. You can also see a few relaxed poses so that you identify with her casual and more easy going, laid-back side of herself. Also not a coincidence.

Let’s talk about those clothes. I had her tell me her style, send photos of her style and then I went out and shopped for her. I had about 10 outfits in my studio for her to choose from and she chose these 2 and then we mixed and matched. Yes, I do that. Why? Because I will push you outside of your comfort zone a bit. I will take your style and I will bump it up a notch or 10. I will make sure that you look exactly as you want to look, but better. Over the years I’ve developed an eye for dressing all body types and I just had the epiphany in the last year or so that I should use it to assist my clientele is representing the best of themselves. And ladies…it’s fun. If you think you’re excited for the session, imagine walking into a closet full of clothes, just for your delight. This service is not free, but yes, I do that. My favorite for Gina was that white blazer and the black pants and shirt. Killer.

It’s been a lot of fun exploring personal branding in my photography and coming up with new ideas has been a blast. My favorite is when we scout different locations for specific looks. I love my studio but I also love getting out it for a bit and pushing myself out of my own comfort zone.

After all, comfort zones are so comfortable…and boring.Personal Branding Head Shots | Pittsburgh-3Personal Branding Head Shots | Pittsburgh-7Personal Branding Head Shots | Pittsburgh-1Personal Branding Head Shots | Pittsburgh-5Personal Branding Head Shots | Pittsburgh-6Personal Branding Head Shots | Pittsburgh-4Makeover by At Home Beauty.

Self Acceptance Isn’t a Dress Size; It’s a State of Mind.

IHang on tight…this joyride might be a bit long. Give me a break though…it’s been a while since I’ve made you read through a book-length post, and I think you’ll like this one.

I have so. many. women. that come into my studio because they are either on a downward spiral of self-hatred and are at their wits end, trying to crawl out of the bucket of mud they voluntarily crawled into, or they are on an upward trajectory from hitting that rock bottom place and have reached a point where they are proud of their efforts and hard work and want to celebrate with a session with me.

Wanna know something funny? Yeah, not “ha ha” funny, but “holy shit. Seriously??” funny? Both of those women I just told you about are truthfully in the same place emotionally about their state of self love and self acceptance. Yeah, one might be a bit more depressed than the other, but neither of those women have truly accepted themselves for who they are. And I mean, who they are after they’ve unzipped that klutzy thing we call a body and are left with nothing else but our souls.

Wanna know how I know that? Well, for one, I’ve photographed enough women in 13 years that I believe I qualify for a pretty darned-educated opinion. And for second, I just photographed one of each within a timespan of 2 days.

My title perfectly explains why: because self-acceptance isn’t a dress size; it’s a state of mind.

This beautiful, strong and incredible woman you see in these photos is a lovely example of all of this and in such a good way. Faced with some medical difficulties with her 2nd child, she had her moment of reckoning with her own self and decided enough was enough. She needed to make a change. A change for herself and a change for her family. So, one decision, lots of effort and hard work and 100 lbs. later, this GORGEOUS woman now helps women emotionally and physically reach a place of positive health. That’s amazing! I mean, that’s just simply incredible to me. And you know what? That’s what we women are built to do. We figure something out and we share it. We intuitively know that we are meant to build up love, tear down hate and when we learn the secret to both, we know it’s our job to make it right for others. And that’s what Amy does. She makes it right for others.

She told me how she’s in such a good place, but also a confusing place. No one told her what life is like once you lose the weight. No one told her what the stopping point was, or that really there is no stopping point. What amount of weightloss is enough? In the beginning you think “AH! I can’t wait to get there!” And then you do, and you don’t feel it. It doesn’t feel like the “there” you felt in your mind when you dreamed of it. It feels different “here”. Restlessness, confusion…is there more? Should there be less? No one told her how to reckon with the new self that was inevitable. The smaller self. The self that now weighs less and is what she thought would be the answer all along. What now? Where’s that feeling of **siiiiigggggggghhhhhhhhh…..I’m finally HERE!

We’ve all been there ladies. We’ve lost the weight, gained the weight, lost the weight…tell me truly: how many of you reached the point of 100% joyful once you lost the weight? And I don’t mean happiness. I mean joyful. One is fleeting and cannot be counted upon. The other is a state of being and is a foundation upon which the rest of your life is built upon. I’ve been there. Shit, I’m still there. I’ve gained and lost. And now I’m in the “gained” part again. Tell me if this sounds familiar: I now look back at the time I lost the weight, and just needed to lose 5 more. “If I could juuuuuust get down one more dress size….” Yep. And now I look back and I am so sad for that gal. Sad because I got there. I did the work and I got there and IT WASN’T ENOUGH. I did exactly what that weight loss program told me to do and it did for me exactly what it said it would AND IT DIDN’T DO ENOUGH.

And then I realized…IT’S NEVER ENOUGH. IT WILL NEVER BE ENOUGH. I’LL NEVER BE ENOUGH.

Waiiiiiiit a minute. What? What did I just say? “I’ll never be enough?” Did I just say that??

My dears: when will you be enough? When the dress size is one lower? When the boobs are one size bigger? When the wrinkles aren’t so noticeable? And why? Why are you not enough? And what makes you enough? And who decides if you’re enough? Who makes these rules??

In my 13 years I have certainly learned one very important thing I want you to think about. The reason I say that self acceptance is a state of mind is because I have, as of yet, to meet a woman that doesn’t have a hang up about something about her body or physical appearance and I have photographed women from size 0 to size 24.

In fact, I’ve had more size 0 through 4’s have more self-loathing than my 14 through 24’s. It has nothing to do with size, my friends.

I think the reason we have such problems with our bodies is because we somehow inherently know that it’s the body that’s the issue. They’re clunky, heavy, they damage way too easily, they get in the way, they require so much care…I mean honestly, what the hell good are they anyway?? We’re all just souls trying to figure out how to operate with these crazy suits of skin and man, it is freaking hard.

So what does this mean and what do we do? It means you have to reset your mind, ladies. Remember, YOU define what success is. YOU define what joy is. YOU define what is ENOUGH. And may I let you in on a bit of a secret? You’re enough. You’re worthy because you are. You are here. You are walking around on this earth, and that means that you are worthy.

Have you ever looked at another woman and thought ‘She’s not worthy. She’s not worthy of love because she’s too skinny/too fat. She’s not worthy of love or self acceptance because she’s not dressed this way or that way?’

Then what makes you so unworthy??

I don’t know about you, but from now on, I’ve decided I’m going to start taking my soul for a walk. My soul is the perfect size at all times. My soul is kind, generous, curious, funny and smart. My soul deeply cares about other souls and believes deeply in the kindness of other souls. My soul never judges any other soul and in fact honors every other soul. And most importantly, my soul would never ever judge my soul.

It’s not easy, ladies. I know it. You know it. I’m not saying anything here you don’t already know. But what I’m trying to tell you is that this life isn’t about your dress size. Do you agree with me that there are so many other, super duper more important things in this life to experience and learn? You have so much to learn in this life. You have so much to experience.

Are you just as exasperated as I am that we’re wasting all this time on a fucking dress size? Of all the miracles in this universe…from the smiles of our babies, to the free fall of falling in love, to the shock and awe of simple human gestures of kindness and love…and we’re worried about the number on that tag inside that piece of clothing.

“She was a woman of size 14. Her size is what defined her and her size is what made her successful. Because of her size, her children have learned what is most important in this life. Her size is what embodied our friendship. Her size is what her husband will remember and cherish the most. There are so many amazing memories we shared, but her size is what I will remember the most. Her size changed the world.” –read no eulogy ever.

We are not our resumes. We are not our deeds. We are not our dress sizes. No one will remember or care what you did for a living. No one will remember or care what you did on a daily basis or how you made your money or what you did with it. No one will remember most of what you’ve ever even said to them. But they will remember how you made them feel.

And that, my beautiful souls, will have absolutely nothing to do with your dress size.

Are you ready for a body revolution? Then #putthefuckingbathingsuiton

Who’s with me?
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