Well, this post isn’t coming out the way I had envisioned. It was going to be tips and tricks I learned on photo styling, but I thought I’d share my real thoughts on the subject instead. The truth behind the scenes of photo styling and magazine layouts.
As you may know I recently went to France on the trip of a lifetime. It really was an amazing experience, one I will likely never have again and one I am so thankful for. The odd thing about the trip is the one thing I was so excited to go for and learn about ended up being the one thing that turned my soul in a twisted, knotted up way. This excursion to France was built around a photo styling and photography workshop hosted by an amazingly talented and delightful lady named Heather Bullard. She really is a positive ray of light, uplifting and inspiring to be around and hands down, her taste is impeccable. She makes everything look elegant and easy, to say she found her gift and embraced it would be putting it mildly. I was so anxious to be under her tutelage for a brief time.
I will start by saying the trip through France did challenge me to embrace simplicity and a slower pace. The area we visited was other worldly in its ease and schedule with room to breath. It was hard for me. Relaxing in the afternoon and just strolling around the beautiful property was hard for me. Can you even believe that? I could literally feel God telling me to slow down and rest. He was telling me it’s ok not to be 90 to nothing all. the. time. I’m trying to remember that now that I am stateside.
Surrounding yourself with beauty was the second thing I absorbed. While I love to decorate and enjoy keeping our table styled this trip sealed the deal for me on this aspect. Meals are elevated, gatherings are heightened and you just feel special when the table is so thoughtfully set and your surroundings have small details in place. Flowers in your bedroom, a centerpiece at the table, gorgeous linens and cohesive décor. None of it was hard to do or fussy but having such a thought out setting made us all feel special and loved. I want to do that for those in my home and in my presence. Gorgeous touches add something you can’t quite put your finger on, and it’s amazing.
But now to the struggle I have. As I sat in class listening to Heather spill the beans of professional tips and tricks, rules and insight to what makes a great photograph I felt an internal struggle that has rested on me since. Don’t get me wrong, there is an art that goes into the photographs you want to pin over and over and the magazine you can’t help but buy because of the gorgeous cover photo. People with the gift of styling are incredible. But something not so true makes me ache.
I think we all know this, it wasn’t a real surprise to me and I doubt it will be to you, but there is so much manipulation that goes into print work that I felt yuck thinking about it. As we discussed photo shoots and analyzed what makes a good photo and a great one, so much of it is so calculated and contrived that it rarely exists in real life. People’s homes are “tweaked” so much they are a mere version of the original. Sometimes photos are made up of 90% staged materials. Post editing of photographs (which I totally do!) makes spaces look lusciously light filled, like you’d inhale special air if you could just sit there for a minute. Yes – the pictures do what they are supposed to, inspire you to create beauty in your home but I worry more about what else they do for so many of us. They make us think people really live like that and it’s unattainable. I felt a little like I saw behind the curtain in OZ.
We did learn so game changing tips that will help my photograph both for the blog and just for life in general. We even had a ton of fun doing it! One exercise we did was spend the day making jam. It was a fun project to do that showed us how to take lifestyle photography. We took tons of pictures of each other, practiced directing each other on set and trying out different settings to create a set of photos that make you want to get to making some jam. There is a TON that goes into making an event look natural and fun, makes the consumer feel like the photos were just snapped, like the fun was caught in the action, not staged. But it’s staged. Repeated over and over. And the flow of a jam making day that happens among friends is peppered with a million pictures and do overs and non-natural flow. It’s fun for photo loving nerds like me, but not 100% real life.
Did you know boxes and boxes of props are brought in for large scale photo shoots? So often people don’t own all the accessories and furniture you see (think of the big reveal on Fixer Upper – they don’t keep all that!). Did you know that to get one good photo 50-100 might be taken? Then there is photo editing. Any photo you see in professional print has been edited, they never print a pic straight out of the camera. Never. A professional photo shoot has a photographer, photo stylist and team of people collaborating to make the images perfect. There is professional lighting on set. The photo shoots last for hours or even days to get the perfect set of photographs. The budget usually looks a little different than mine and yours. All these things aren’t always the case, but so often they are. I knew all this, but spending focused time on the subject lead me to think on it more than I ever have before.
Woman have a hard enough time measuring ourselves against the yardstick social media provides and I really contemplated in this moment if I wanted to contribute to the deflation. Not that my house is unattainable, because it certainly is not, but I want to be real. So real that maybe it hurts a little. Truthfully, we all need a break from our own reality, magazines and TV do that for us. We need to see beauty when we feel our walls closing in, we need to see things in order when our life doesn’t feel that way at all. We need to enjoy each others creativity and gifts, that is why God gave us talent, to share it! But we ALL need to have a healthy understanding that what we are seeing with our eyes, frozen in a photograph, is not always truth when in motion.
I adore photography and making pretty things, but I hope that I never misrepresent the brokenness that still lingers in my life, the un-perfection that makes me human and fact that I don’t even remotely have my act together. Perfection leaves no room for growth or God or connection to others. It’s intimidating and unreal. It’s an illusion and complete falsehood. And what I know about people like myself and Heather is that while we can craft a moment to look amazing and beautiful and cause someone to covet, we are both still filled with imperfection and struggles, self doubt and fear. The joy that comes from creating something that sits on perfect for a split second is like that moment right when you reach the top of a roller coaster, right before the ride drops, when just for a moment you are suspended in mid air, heart racing. Everything feels alive and exciting in that breath. But then the fall comes and the ride stops and the millions of minutes that surround that second are the reality. It’s great to love the second, but never loose sight of the rest of the ride.
Ultimately I’ve had to wrestle with the reality that twisted truth surrounds us daily, but I’m still called to be the good noise. I’m still called to be in this space and be as real as I can. I just thought it would be good to let you peek behind the curtain to know how much goes into the snapshots you see and tell you, you are wonderful exactly as you are. Don’t let anyone fool you.
I really meant to give you some great tips about photography but that’s not what came out when I sat down to type. Hopefully that’s ok and you still enjoyed the beauty I was able to bring home! Blessings today and always loved one.
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