A Portrait Session in York: This Review Means The World!

A couple of weeks ago, a really interesting lady got in touch with me and set me an immense challenge!

Sarah is a school principal in Kuala Lumpur and is in the process of establishing her own business coaching women into new careers and life choices. She often has to speak publicly in front of hundreds of people and feels no fear about that. She is confident in herself and happy in her life.

Sarah got in touch with me because she was looking to get some new portraits of herself for her website. Sounds like quite a normal request, right? She was drawn to my natural, relaxed and contemporary style. Great so far!

Here’s the catch: Sarah explained over the phone from Malaysia that she HATES having her picture taken and all photos of herself. This is also quite a common emotion. Often when I meet couple or families with my camera, they tell me that they hate having their picture taken. But this sounded like another level!

Sarah doesn’t mind what she sees when she looks in the mirror and is a very confident person in all other ways, but she faces an extreme fear of cameras and hatred of herself in photographs, to the point where there are only three photographs of herself that she has liked IN.HER.WHOLE.LIFE.

Hmmm, I thought to myself, do I want to do this? I’ve a feeling I’m setting myself up for failure here!

But of course I like a challenge and hoped that I could pull off Sarah’s brief and get her some photos of herself that she could be proud to use, with a fresh, modern feel. So we arranged an outdoor shoot down by the river near Millennium Bridge in York to tie in with her U.K. visit. I invited Sarah’s 17 year old son Max along too as we both felt this might help her to relax and have a giggle.

During the shoot, Sarah was obviously feeling pretty anxious about herself in front of the camera but we kept it nice and relaxed with lots of chat and strolls to make the most of a range of different backdrops. I loved hearing about her life in Asia and other travels. I’ve had a couple of trips to that part of the world and am fascinated by travel so it was really interesting for me. It was great having Max along - what a lovely and talented young man. I loved hearing about his plans to be a musician too: an inspirational family! He made his Mum laugh a lot seemingly by just glancing at her so that was super-helpful for the pics!

We finished with a few classic headshots back at my house. Overall, it was a really enjoyable session and I hoped Sarah felt the same despite her anxiety.

Boy was I nervous when I sent her the gallery a few days later! During the shoot, I had tried to reassure Sarah by showing her an example on the back of my camera in which I thought she looked great. But it hadn’t gone down well AT ALL. Gulp! I was worried she’d feel the same about all of the images following that.

A few hours after sending her the gallery through, I saw an email from Sarah in my inbox: I was worried!

But much to my relief, this was Sarah’s feedback:

Thanks very much for sharing these. I've got over myself and while I don't like me, I really like some of the photos (if that makes any sense?) …There are actually 4 that I love (and that means really love) and another 12 that I like very much. I am incredibly happy. Way happier than I thought I would be (and then some!).

I'm actually excited about using them on my website and social media and I didn't expect this at all. You are a fab photographer and a real superstar and I am incredibly grateful to have found you.

I was sooo happy with this feedback and it’s the reason I felt motivated to share this little story. I had told Sarah that the way she came across in the photos was beautiful, happy, relaxed, approachable and friendly. I wan’t sure she’d be able to see it the same way, although I’m sure you will when you see the pictures! For her to be happy and excited to use these images feels like a huge achievement.

Thank you, Sarah, for those words, it really means a lot.

Good luck with your business and I can’t wait to see your finished website!

If you’re keen to see what we achieved on Sarah’s shoot after my ramblings, here are a handful of her portraits, chosen from her personal favourites.