Can I let you in on a little secret?
I have encountered countless amazing, talented and gorgeous horsewoman from ALL walks of life who can ride the hair off a squirrelly horse, execute a flawless ride in the show pen or conquer any obstacle in the corporate world…but who still struggle with negative self-image or feel nervous abut being front of the camera.
Another secret? These feelings have NOTHING to do with any number! In fact, I’ve heard these worries from women of every possible age, size and shape.
I get it—I struggle with this, too. It’s why I’ve devoted hundreds of hours to mastering posing and coaching you through your session so that you feel amazing in the moment and love how you look in your images.
But nothing I do or say is nearly as powerful as what you can do to vanquish these feelings.
So in the weeks before your session, try implementing some of my favorite practices:
Consider your why
Yes, of course you want to love how you look in your images, but that’s not why you booked portraits in the first place.
Here are some reasons past clients have booked sessions:
As a “last hurrah” during her horse’s final year before retirement
Because she couldn’t not have horses in her senior photos
To celebrate a big work promotion by having fun with her horse and treating herself to something different
Because getting dressed up just for herself makes her feel good, and a session was a good excuse to do so
To celebrate the horsey bond shared with her only daughter before her third son was born
Her lease was ending soon, but she’d formed a strong connection with her temporary partner
So, what’s your “why?” Write it down somewhere you’ll see it often. Next time you notice yourself worrying about how you’ll look, say or write your “why” again as a reminder that the true importance of these images actually has nothing to do with how you look.
Tip: If you’re stuck on a why, try this:
Pretend you’re looking at your portraits 10 years from now. Then, complete this sentence: “I am so glad I have these images with my horse, because they show ___.”
… How proud I was of all that we were accomplishing that year.
… My horse exactly how he is in our memories, not just as an aged retiree
… Just how close of a bond we shared even back then.
Add external confidence
Does your planned outfit make you feel like a million bucks? No? Then CHANGE it! It is more important that you feel amazing and confident in your photos than it is to fit any current trend or style.
If you’re worried about how your hair, makeup, nails, etc will look on camera, consider investing in a professional—the results will have less to do with how the pros will make you look and more to do with how these extra bits of “oompf” will make you feel.
Remember past confidence
Find an image of yourself from a time where you felt happy and confident about how you look. What was happening that made you feel that way? How can you channel those feelings again? Print the photo out, make it your phone’s lock screen, and try to evoke those awesome feelings when your nerves hit.
List what you love
It’s so much easier for our brains to identify and focus on our flaws rather than strengths. And if we dwell on those negatives, they can easily become all we see about ourselves. It’s imperative that we flip this script and search for our strengths—both internal and external—instead. If you’re stuck, ask yourself: What would your best friend say are your best attributes? What have strangers or acquaintances complimented you on?
List these things, too. Aim for at least 10. Write more if you can!
Listing these things can feel uncomfortable at first—society teaches us (especially women) that embracing ourselves is egotistical and vain. But acknowledging your strengths and beauty helps you keep your weaknesses and perceived flaws in perspective, which is one of the keys to walking through the world with confidence.
“Remember, confidence isn’t the same as arrogance. It’s the knowledge that you can continue to act in line with your values, no matter what life throws at you. Most of the time, that knowledge is something you can carry with you without telling anyone else, ‘Hey, here’s what makes me so great.’ ”
—Barbara Markway, The Self-Confidence Workbook
Speak with kindness
Confidence goes hand-in-hand with self-compassion, or the practice of speaking to yourself with the kindness and patience you would show a loved one or a child.
When you catch yourself with negative self-image thoughts, consider what you’d say if your child or close friend expressed those feelings about themselves.
Close your eyes and practice speaking what you’d say to your loved one. Speak in a warm, supportive tone. Placing your hands over your heart or on your forearm can help, too. Repeat what you’d say a couple of times, and repeat this practice as often as you need.
Confide in a friend
Sometimes we just need to hear it from someone else. Identify a trusted friend or loved one with whom you can confide in about your photo session nerves.
Brené Brown explains this practice best in her book, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are:
“If we can find someone who has earned the right to hear our story, we need to tell it. Shame loses power when it is spoken. In this way, we need to cultivate our story to let go of shame, and we need to develop shame resilience in order to cultivate our story.”
She notes, though, that it’s important to be picky about who you choose for this practice:
“Our stories are not meant for everyone. Hearing them is a privilege, and we should always ask ourselves this before we share: “Who has earned the right to hear my story?” If we have one or two people in our lives who can sit with us and hold space for our shame stories, and love us for our strengths and struggles, we are incredibly lucky.”
Oftentimes, sharing how you feel with someone you trust both helps you to feel better and cultivates an even stronger relationship with that loved one.
Note: Your chosen person is more than welcome to tag along for your session if it will help you feel better!
Again, those nerves or self-critical worries you’re feeling are completely valid and normal. But that doesn’t mean they should rule your thoughts or ruin your portrait session experience. I know some of these practices can feel funny at first, but I hope you’ll give them a try. You won’t regret it!