It is a brisk but bright and clear morning. I am the only one awake in the house, and I am enjoying a few moments of quiet while the sun comes up and the birds start singing. As is usual on a weekend morning, I am wrapped in my soft robe and sitting with a glass of water and a cup of hot hazelnut coffee.
I am very nervous. Today (in just a few short hours to be exact), I am shooting a family session for a friend with her 6-month old son. The last time I shot for them, they were gracious enough to invite me in their home when T. was just about a month or two old, and I really had no idea what I was doing. It was the first time I had shot for anyone in years and definitely the first time for me to shoot such a young baby (I always hate how unfortunate that sounds, shooting someone, especially a baby. Oh well, occupational hazard I guess). My friend was very appreciative, but I was less than thrilled with the pictures. I remember editing them in my living room and telling Marlin, “this is just not going to cut it. I cannot do this professionally if this is what people are going to get.” I felt a little defeated, and I was just getting started. Could I really do this, I wondered. Am I just kidding myself? I used to be good at this, but that was high school, after all…maybe that was my peak.
Then started the long discussion over purchasing my new camera with a real lens. I want to insert a caveat here. I know that a great camera does not a great photographer make, and please don’t mistake this for my belittling of what goes into great photography. The masters are where they are because of an overwhelming amount of hard work, practice, learning of skill, technical understanding, and a creative eye that can’t be bought. It requires so much more than fancy equipment. But I truly was stuck with my camera, as it was essentially a fancy point-and-shoot, and while I still love it and it takes great photos, it wasn’t going to get me to the next level. So with my husband’s incredible support, we took a chance and invested in the Nikon. This was it. There is no turning back.
While I am by no means an expert with my camera, I have learned quite a bit about it and I’ve managed to get some photos I’m really proud of. But today I am working with a baby again, and that makes me nervous. But as I sit here trying to calm my nerves, I realize that today is not about me. Yes, my friends are being wonderful by letting me come back and get more practice and take more pictures for them. Yes, it is a skill-building and portfolio-building opportunity for me. Yes, it is another chance to show them what I can do and to get myself going in the right direction. But it’s not really about me.
I’ve been invited (that’s the key word here) to come into their home and get to know this family better than I already do. To see how they interact with each other, how they love each other, and to learn their very special and one-of-a-kind story. I’ve been invited to help tell that story with my camera. So instead of worrying about how I am doing and how impressed they will be with my work, I am thinking about how I can best capture their story and preserve their precious memories of this time with their son. I am thinking about how I can take a few pictures and allow them to see themselves in a way they’ve never seen before. I want to tell their story as naturally and honestly as I can, and in doing so, give them a special gift that they will always treasure and pass down through the generations. That makes me feel excited, not nervous.
Because, you see, it really is all about them, and that is perhaps what I love best about this work.