The Personal Side of Photography

Lifestyle Photography is not only about the person in the photo, but about the person who is creating it.  Photography is dependent on more than the photographer’s skill and experience level, like I once believed; it’s influenced by how the photographer views the World!

How the artist views life leads them to their unique point of view during a photoshoot.  How do they interpret what is happening in front of them?  What do they define as important?  How do they feel about their subjects?  About themselves?

The answers will determine how they shoot the scene, what details they capture, and even if and when they press the shutter.

With this preface, I want to share a personal story with you…

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One evening last year, I was having one of those need-to-refer-to-your-calendar-and-set-alarms-throughout-the-day kind of days, and when I got home, I started coughing.  I was sitting in my home office to finish some work, but the cough got so bad that I folded over to hold onto my desk.  I realized that in-between coughing fits, I had a hard time breathing.

Maybe it was an asthma attack, I thought, even though I don’t have asthma.  My 9-year old heard me, so he rushed over and asked if I was okay.  In what sounded like Darth Vader whispering, I instructed him to find his dad’s inhaler, which was stored away somewhere and collecting dust.  I used the inhaler throughout the night, but it was clear in the morning that the problem was not going away.

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The next few days was a whirlwind that halted our busy life’s regular activities.  I went to Urgent Care twice, the Emergency Room (ER), and then the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).  I was having a severe reaction that impeded my ability to breathe, and the usual methods of treatment brought relief for only a few short hours.  No one could figure out why.

Even with all of this happening, I wasn’t scared…. until these two things happened:

1.  One of the doctors talked about how she wanted me to live!
2.  The ER doctor told me I had to be admitted to the ICU because I had so much epinephrine in my body that I was now a cardiac patient.

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Life is a journey and apparently, so was trying to figure out what was wrong with me.  This journey took a full four months of tests, medicines, visits to different doctors, and trips to the hospital.  It occupied all of my free time and impacted my family.

With the help of a few dedicated doctors and my husband’s determination, I finally got a diagnosis, found the right medicine, and started to feel better.  Things aren’t back to the way they were, but I can manage my symptoms.

I’ve always believed that everyone has their own set of strengths and weaknesses, and my strength was being grateful for everyday things.  However, this experience took gratefulness to a whole new level.  I am now grateful to breathe!  The first time I was able to take a deep breath after being discharged from the ICU almost stopped time.  I remember the clarity of sounds and smells around me…even the taste of the air.  I had to close my eyes.  So that’s what a deep breath feels like!

I still have busy days (hey, I have 3 kids, a husband, a puppy, a house, and my business) — but I will never forget that the “little things” are often the “big things” in disguise.

Here’s a little collage of photos I took with my phone during the months after I was out of the hospital.  I baked with my kids, went to the library, watched the Warriors win another championship, played with my puppy, held hands with my hubs, ice skated, received the cutest drawings from my kids, hugged them tight…

And breathed.

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So how does my view of the World impact my photography? 

I find joy in a situation, which is why I gravitate towards bright, light-filled scenes and laugh often.

I pay attention.  A touch of a hand or a lean are more meaningful than some may think.  The soft nails of a newborn or the unruly wispy hair of a toddler will be missed before a parent may notice.

No detail is too small.  No stage in life is insignificant.  Every relationship has multiple facets of emotions and stories.

I value authenticity.  I’d prefer to photograph non-smiling people who are real than people faking it for their shoot.

Real-everything is always better than fake-anything. ❤️

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[These are a few photos I took during our road trip after I was out of the hospital.  We went electronics-free and soaked in the beauty of nature and each other's company.  It will always be one of my favorite vacations ever, and hopefully one of many many more.]

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Take deep breaths.    xo ~annie

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6 Comments

  1. Thank God you’re feeling better!
    Great article. Love your work. I especially like your comment that you’d rather take a photo of a non smiling person than one with a fake smile. My feelings exactly and that’s why I love taking candids rather than posing subjects.

    • Hi Larry! Yes, I’ve always believed that. I cringe whenever someone says “cheese”, but I know sometimes you have to just get a group shot of everyone looking and smiling.

      In general, I’d rather capture a real expression than a fake one. I’ve been known to photograph kids crying, which seems like a big no-no, but how they cry is such an important detail since that changes as kids get older. And the even cooler part is how people around the crying child reacts — be it a parent who comes to comfort the child or a sibling who has compassion. Those are great moments to me!

      • I’m relieved you’re on the road to recovery. I can appreciate what you and your family went through.

        I love your work. Your images and writing has shaped the way I try creating my images. I can’t imagine a world without Annie.

        Sometimes I pull out the ‘cheese’ factory tactics, but I prefer my models letting their emotions hang out.
        Recently I saw a shirt with the message “Have your sunshine switched on all the time”. It was meant to be cute, and yet it rubbed me the wrong way. We can’t always be in the up place, and I don’t believe in denying the emotions of someone feeling something other than ‘happy’. I feel that way about my photos too.

        Take care Annie!

        • Wow, Melissa… I am so touched! Thank you for sharing!

          I know what you mean about the t-shirt. I am sure it was meant to be cute, but no one is ‘sunny’ ALL the time, and that is okay! I don’t want parents of children I’m photographing to think their kids have to put on an act because I’m photographing them. Smiles look different when they’re real versus forced too.

          It is nice to know there are others who feel the same as I do! :)

  2. Glad to hear you’re feeling better Annie! Love the idea of having an electronics-free period! Take care!

    • Thanks for reading my blog, Liz! :) My husband and I attempted an electronics-free vacation a few years ago (to Cape Cod), and it was FANTASTIC. Even on rainy days, we played board games and told jokes, or made up stories for fun. The kids found ways to be creative and appreciated their surroundings more. There was more human interaction and more time for reflection. It was really nice. They all kept journals and we took lots of photos, of course. We try to do at least one electronics-free vacation every year since that!