Okay, hands up if you've ever looked enviously at photos of celebs (or even fellow entrepreneurs) and wished you could have some pics of yourself that good?
Yep, my hand is up too.
The thing is, you don't have to be a Hollywood actress or 6-figure businesswoman to enjoy an awesome photoshoot...and, just in case you needed reminding, you don't have to be a size 8, with perfect cheekbones and look like Meghan Markle either.
When I first set up Loving Life After Forty I got to enjoy a really fun photoshoot with the lovely Viktoria Kuti in order to get some pics of me for the site and social media. If you've ever dismissed the idea of a photoshoot because you think it might be scary or uncomfortable somehow, then drop that idea right now. Viktoria is a master at putting you at ease with her gentle, friendly manner, plus she really is an expert at what she does. Talk about feeling in safe hands. Read on to hear why she loves photographing women so much, and why we should all be embracing the power of photography after 40.
You work with a lot of women, what is it you love most about photographing them?
I think the female form, the female body, is incredibly beautiful (at every stage of our lives) and I love capturing and exploring the changes that we all go through: when does someone stop being a girl and start being a woman? How is it that we live through the changing lines and features of our faces? I really love all the amazing, inspirational life stories I get to hear too. Plus, I really love seeing the transformation that women go through in front of the camera - from being very insecure and self-conscious to the moment when it just clicks, and they start to not just follow my instructions but BELIEVE me when I say that they are beautiful, and they totally OWN it too.
So often we women are the ones behind the camera, taking snaps of our family or on holiday. Why do you think women (and particularly those over-40) should step out from behind the camera and be in more photos?
Ah, this is one of my favourite things to talk about, I am really passionate about making sure women (and especially mums) are in the photos!
First of all - you should do it for yourself. Because it helps you to see yourself in a different light, the way other people see you. A great first step is to at least be part of the family photos, but I would love it even more if you had images of just you. One of my customers recently described it as a way of finding a way back to herself, instead of getting lost in all the various roles we all play (wife, mother, daughter, business owner...). Trust me, it's not vain to own pictures of yourself, it's necessary! We all have those days when we need the reminder that we are sexy and beautiful and valuable.
But also, please do it for the people who love you! A couple of years ago my mum got diagnosed with breast cancer. It was heartbreaking. I live thousands of miles away from her in a different country, and this experience really made me recognise the value of photographs - especially when I realised that the last professional photo taken of her, was her graduation portrait!
I am so so grateful that she is still with us, but can you imagine if that was all I had left...?!
How do your photo sessions help women feel more confident?
I think they are most helpful because you can just be yourself, no matter what. My studio is an absolute no-judgement and no-self-hate-talk zone. You get someone to gently pamper you whilst you're having your makeup done, you get to play dress-up if that makes you feel happy (but by no means is required, if you're a jeans and t-shirt girl that is absolutely okay too!), then during the photoshoot I'll tell you about a million times just how beautiful you are. And hopefully, by the end, you'll start to believe it.
Most of my customers find that it's the experience of being photographed itself that helps them the most with their confidence. Having the images afterwards is just the proof, and reminder, that they are absolutely worth celebrating.
What do you wish all women knew about themselves?
You are enough RIGHT NOW. You don't have to change yourself, or be more, or lose weight - that's the one I hear the most often. The people who love you (and of course they are the only ones who matter), love you as you are. They love you in spite of what you think are your imperfections, they might even be the things that make you really special to them. You are perfect. And you deserve to exist in images.
And finally, do you have any top tips for women who want to have a photoshoot but are feeling a bit nervous or self-conscious?
EVERYBODY feels self-conscious before a photoshoot (even professional models). It's completely normal. You are not alone. Being photographed is hard because it's a very, very vulnerable thing to do. But the good news is - it's not your job to know what to do, how to pose, and how to look good in the images. It's my job to create a safe and supportive environment, so you can relax and be your fabulous self. As soon as you let the walls we all build around ourselves fall down, your personality and inner beauty will shine through... and capturing that is my favourite thing to do in the whole wide world.