From Girl to Woman

For Emma's 15th birthday, her parents decided to give her a Luxe Portrait session, and her mom Whitney joined in. Here's what she said about the experience:

"I love, loved watching my daughter light up while she got her hair and make-up done. It was obvious she felt special and pretty. When you are 15 there are so many comparisons to others and a lot of insecurity about who you are becoming. Having this time to just relax and be pampered meant so much to her. Not to mention how much she and I loved her portraits! As a mom watching my teenage daughter navigate a time that can be challenging and awkward, it was such a pleasure to give her an experience that made her feel pampered and beautiful. I love that I have these portraits to remember her sweet transition from girl to woman. And I especially loved that I was able to join in and share this experience with her! As mothers, I believe it is our role to show our daughters acceptance of our own flaws and how we can own our beauty even when it is not perfection in the eyes of the world. Plus, we just had giggly fun with all the sparkly dresses!" -Whitney Scott

I love the "in-between" years. We have classic child photography milestones like newborn and toddler, but it's so easy to forget about or put off portraits until senior year in high school. Early teenage years are such an important time (imagine if you'd been able to see yourself as beautiful and celebrate who you were during those tumultuous years!) We had such a fun day watching these two and playing dress up. Whitney's right: Moms set the example for their daughters. (And I have to mention, since Whitney is a professional portrait photographer, that she really stepped up to the plate and practiced what she preaches! It's easy for moms to hide behind the camera - and man, I'm glad Whitney decided to get in front of it this time.) 

Sound fun? Fill out the contact form here and I'll send you our Portrait Guide with all the details!

Talk soon,



Mother Daughter Legacy

Missy and her husband wanted a portrait of their two daughters, and while we sat down to plan this portrait, Missy decided she and her mom should be photographed too. "I don't think my mom would want to be photographed, though," I remember her telling me. 

And so I told her what I tell every woman who assumes her mother won't like to be photographed, "Tell her that if she won't do it for her, it will be a gift to her family. Then she'll do it!" And of course, like every mother or grandmother or sister or daughter, she happily agreed to join the photo shoot for both individual and group portraits. (The lesson here in case you missed it: We often assume the worst of the people closest to us - we assume they'll refuse to be photographed - but know that if there's something truly important to you, it never hurts to ask a loved one if they'll come along. Nine times out of ten, they will be thrilled to.)

"Spending the day with my mom and girls was absolutely precious to me. Playing dress up and seeing them look and feel so beautiful was one of the greatest things we could have done together. Mitzi made everyone feel comfortable and confident and it shows in all of our portraits. I am so thankful to have these memories and photos as a reminder of this day! Thank you so much Mitzi!!!" - Missy 

We had such a fun Girls Day with these four, complete with hair and makeup, mimosas, and lots of dress up. One of my favorite things that happens during a Girls Day photo shoot is when someone tries on a gown from our wardrobe and nervously shows everyone to see what they think, but is greeted with whistles and "Yes!!" and "That's so perfect on you!" We women are often much more encouraging to others than we are to ourselves :)

Someday, when Libby (the youngest) is in her seventies, she'll have these portraits to show her own children. And until then each of these women will have a beautiful memory of a day that celebrated not just each of them individually, but the love and laughter they share together as a family.

Who do you want to be photographed with? Let me know here and I'll send you our Portrait Guide so you can start planning!

I hope you enjoy and are inspired by these portraits from Missy's Girls Day!



Where's the Groom?


There she spun, folds of gown in her delicate fists, tall shoes on her feet, rouge on her lips - the Trocadero and sunrise with the cool breeze and the pigeons. Others crowded to the ledge, waiting to capture their dream forever on film. And a man with a camera leaned over to me and pointed to her. "Where's the groom?" he asked. As if a woman dancing in Paris had to be in love. As if a woman in a gown had to be betrothed. As if a woman fulfilled had to have permission. So I paused and looked back at that beautiful creature who, like the tower behind her, stood tall, strong, and worthy of admiration all on her own.

Paris. September. 8 am. Bright rays of sunlight and cool wind. The Trocadero and pigeons. And on the ledge from which millions have viewed Paris' most iconic landmark, there are several photographers. There is a bride and a groom, and there is a recently engaged couple, and then there is my client, in a lavender-grey gown and her favorite stilettos. She spins, fists full of layers of tulle and embroidery, and she laughs. The wind catches her hair. 

The other photographers at this ledge are kind and accommodating. We stay out of each other's way, get our shots, and trade places. They are kind and I'm appreciative. And then one of them looks at my client and then back at me. "Where's the groom?" he jokes.

Of course, there is no groom. And no one noticed his apparent absence until now. My stomach drops - I know my client heard his words. But then I look back up at her. She stands tall, like the legendary tower behind her, beautiful and breathtaking all on her own.

Why must women in our society only be worthy of beautiful gowns and jewelry and special days if they've been proposed to? I ask every woman who comes to my studio, "When was the last time you were photographed?" 99% of the married ones say, "My wedding day," and 99% of the unmarried ones say, "My senior pictures." Now these are both beautiful milestones, but women are worth celebrating at every age. At every size. At every stage of life. 

If we have names for "wedding portraits" and "senior portraits" and "maternity portraits," I say we start naming the types of shoots I do every week: "just healed from a devastating divorce" portraits, "just lost 50 pounds" portraits, "I'm the heaviest I've ever been but I need to celebrate myself anyway because I am still worthy" portraits," "I worked my butt off for my Master's degree and want to treat myself" portraits, "it's been 20 years since my wedding and I am a completely different person now" portraits, "I've made it through three miscarriages and want to love myself whether I'll ever bear children or not" portraits, "I just got out of an abusive relationship" portraits, "I work really hard at my career and want to pamper myself" portraits, and finally, my very favorite, "I just want to" portraits.

Grooms are awesome. I have an incredible one. But in the past seven years of marriage, I've learned that self discovery, self love, and self celebration build strength, clarity, and satisfaction. (Fasten your own oxygen mask before assisting others.) 

And you, woman. What I write to you is meant to be an invitation. An invitation to believe you are worthy - all on your own. 


The Permission Addict

Luxe Portraits Mitzi Starkweather Photography

Hi, my name is Mitzi and I am a permission addict.

When I was a child, I was very obedient and considerate. It was second nature for me to ask for permission, and if I was ever reprimanded for proceeding without it, tears would flow and sorries would abound. Of course, training children to ask for permission is a good thing. It's how we stay safe and learn about the world.

But when I hit adolescence and opened Seventeen Magazine, I asked it for permission too. "Am I allowed to feel good enough?"

It said no.

Or so I thought... Those makeup ads and sparkly new clothes and ab workouts, were they really telling me I'm not good enough? In a sense, yes - all advertising exists to tell us it will fill a need - but now, at 27 years old, I will say that it was not the beauty magazines that made me feel unsatisfied with my pre-teen weight, hair, interests, or love of film soundtracks and 60s poetry. I was the one who wasn't okay with any of it. Like all humans, I looked into the mirror of media and peers and they simply reflected back to me what I already believed. "You don't fit in. You don't look right. You aren't this, you aren't that." The intense self-hatred I became addicted to as a teenager still would have existed had I never opened a magazine.

As I endured my teenage years I looked for permission everywhere. I joined activities that gave me permission to be smart. I went to church events that gave me permission to dress up. I read books that gave me permission to dream. I poured into friendships that gave me permission to be the more stable/put together/helpful person. I gave up on potential friendships with people who inspired me simply because they didn't chase me down first... they didn't give me permission to believe I was worthy of their time and affection. (This particular issue is one I still struggle with.) "May I have permission to believe I could be loved by you?" is essentially what my heart asks. And it translates to, "May I have permission to be loved at all? Even by my own self?"

Each phase of life has brought new challenges around identity, and therefore new desires for permission.

Am I allowed to charge money for my art?

Am I allowed to have a career?

Am I allowed to have fun?

Am I allowed to say bad words?

Am I allowed to take care of myself?

Am I allowed to say I'm not okay?

Am I allowed choose what's best for me?

Am I allowed to stop seeking external validation?

Am I allowed to say no?

Am I allowed to say yes?

Am I allowed to get angry?

Am I allowed to be myself?

More and more each day, as I work with women for whom giving themselves permission for a three hour makeover and photoshoot is a huge deal, the more I realize I'm not the only woman who seeks to overcome this. For me, change began when women I respected gave ME permission to, well, stop needing permission from "everyone else." 

As a social human being, I think I'll always desire permission to some degree. What's changing for me is where I seek it. I am working to rewire my brain to accept that my own permission is just as valid as someone else's. In many cases, it's more valid. And my own permission should certainly drown out the permission of "people" (yeah, the vague term we use to describe a mass of peers in our social circles - many of whom we wouldn't even say hi to at Target). And again, seeking permission from "people" becomes an addiction, like any other, because it serves us. 

Why do you think many self-employed people complain about being under appreciated and underpaid? We entrepreneurs often look to clients and customers to give us permission to charge decent money, which serves us because we can avoid facing our own disastrous beliefs about self value and money and instead blame "everyone else" for not valuing us. (It's not just entrepreneurs who do this - Just like we accept the love we think we deserve, we also accept the time, wages, relationships... You fill in the blank.) 

When I ask others if I am enough, I don't have to truly look at myself. Because they'll never give me the validation I need (not long term anyway) so I'll always be able to blame them and keep my victim identity. I've asked their permission to accept me for who I am - and when their validation inevitably comes up short, it serves me because I can go back to my comfortable belief that nothing ever works out for me, no one ever thinks I'm good enough... Like the old song goes, "Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, I guess I'll go eat worms."

Here's a story: It was my first paid Luxe Portrait Shoot. The client was in her sixties, dealing with an incurable illness, desperate to celebrate her life and leave a gift for family. We had planned her shoot in great detail. Fresh roses, lace shawls, a forest clearing... magical locations in and out of the studio and five beautiful dresses. The shoot went perfectly, and that evening my heart was more alive than it had ever been. I started to think, "Maybe my passion will turn out to be a viable and exciting career! Clearly there are women who want this and will trust me to create it for them." 

I went to sleep that night and just as I was drifting off, a voice crept into my head. "You really think today went well? Sure, she had fun, but you encouraged a sixty-something year old woman to wear her extensions, put on false lashes, and twirl around in dresses. Everyone's going to think that's ridiculous! Oh, and even if she pays for this, no one else will." I felt my heart pound. My eyes shot open. "What on earth have I done," I thought. "This IS stupid. Sure, the shoot was fun, but everyone is going to laugh at me, and worse, they're going to laugh at her. What was I thinking?" Eventually I fell asleep. And when I woke up, the first thing I did was review the portraits from the day before. They were beautiful. I thought back to the voice in my head from the night before. That insecurity had always been there, and for years I'd listened to it. I looked back at the portraits, and several days later when the client returned to view them and cried, I shuddered at the thought of needing permission from anyone but her and myself.

And now, almost two years and a hundred clients later, I'm so glad I asked myself for permission to specialize in and pursue women's portraiture. For me, the only other opinion that matters is God's (and I do mean God, not American Christianity), for God wrote this passion on my heart long before I had the words to express it.

And you, friend, are probably a permission addict too. Does your source of permission really have your best interest at heart? I hope it does. And if you're seeking permission from the wrong source, in what way is it serving you? In other words, how is that behavior keeping you from growing or taking responsibility for something in your life?

I'll tell you this right now: If you ever want to learn what you truly believe about life, the world, money, people, and yourself, open a business, run it, and sell the art that comes from deep down inside of you. *makes throw up sound effect* It is a crash course in peeling back layers of wounds to get down to your core beliefs. To grow, you are forced to stare them straight in the face. 

But that's the human life, isn't it? When I was a child, my legs ached at night as I grew and stretched to five foot four. And now, as an adult, my heart aches some nights as I fail and face the choice of getting up or giving up. I can never tell in the moment, but each year as I look back and and I see growth, the sources of permission I feel I need to trust become more and more clear. I know now that I have divine permission to feel worthy - worthy of the love I am eager to bestow upon others - and I hope that if nothing else, you know that you have this permission too.



Want to say hello? Contact Mitzi Here.


I want you to see the beauty I see



Have you ever seen it? Not beauty - I'm talking about seeing someone revel in someone else while they themselves feel beautiful. Have you ever seen that? It's the way the matron of honor stands back and starts to cry while the bride spins in front of the mirror in her wedding dress. It's the way a daughter looks at her mother when she lets her dress her up and make her feel her best. "See mom? I told you!" It's the way a friend says, "Yes. Get it," when her friend walks out of the fitting room in a dress that makes her shake her hips.

I see this in our studio. Until recently, I think I got used to it. But then I look over at a daughter watching her mother laugh the way only she can and come to life in front of my lens... or I look over my shoulder in a quiet moment while I photograph her daughter and the sunlight beams down over the backdrop onto her hair. I know her mom is watching from the doorway, quietly, trying not to cry.

And you: Who do you love? Who do you think is beautiful? Your mom, sister, best friend, partner, daughter, child... How about yourself? Who do you want to FEEL as beautiful as you already know they are? 

It's the season of giving gifts, and we've made beautiful gift packages available for you. (And did you know all of our shoots include hair, makeup, and styling for two people, and family is welcome to join at the end?) Simply contact us so we can customize the perfect gift for the one you love, or purchase gift cards directly here.

What a beautiful season. What a beautiful year we've had. Thank you as always for joining us on this journey.




Each portrait a story

"Some of us have broken stories, some of us have love stories, some of us have both. But it's up to us what we use it for. We can use our story to bring light to others." -Patty

Patty has a broken story that became a love story, and she generously agreed to let me share it with you to accompany her portraits. You see, when Patty was six weeks old, her mother gave her up to foster care. She was already living with her own mother and had another daughter, so she was told this baby couldn't stay. Patty was eventually adopted, but there weren't the background checks there are today. Her adopted mother struggled with addiction while Patty struggled for her approval. She died of alcohol poisoning when Patty was barely an adult, and all that time had never once told her daughter she loved her.

Patty met the man she then married. He loved her in a way she hadn't ever experienced before. He was strong, hardworking, and kind. They raised a beautiful family together, and for nearly two decades Patty traveled the world for her job. (When I asked her how many countries she's visited, she said she didn't know but they just added twenty pages to her passport.) About a year and a half ago while she was on one of these trips, she received one of those phone calls that you have to sit down for. Her husband had unexpectedly passed away.

On the anniversary she wrote, "January 5, 2016-January 5, 2017. One Year. The saddest, longest year of my life, yet still surreal in many ways. Recently, I heard our bodies produce 30 gallons of tears a year. Surely, my tears would have filled a rain barrel this past year." But she didn't lose hope. In fact, she got the word tattooed on her right arm. "I trust The One who transforms the dark night of my soul into sunlight and hope." 

I talked with Patty this fall after she saw her friend Rachel's Luxe Portraits. We chatted at one of Rachel's parties, and Patty's comments really struck me. Usually, new clients aren't so specific with their vision for their shoot. But Patty told me at our first meeting about how she envisioned portraits showing her love for her late husband, her heart for travel and the world,  and her hope for the future. She wanted to give these portraits to her children and grandchildren. 

Yesterday at her Portrait Reveal, I learned why Patty understands the power of portraits. "I grew up wondering what my birth mother looked like. I would sit and daydream about her. My husband and I spent years looking for her, and eventually, in 1989, we found out she had died of cancer 5 years earlier. But we also found out I had an older sister! The first time we talked on the phone, she told me she would mail me photographs of our mother. I'll never forget receiving those in the mail... To finally see the image of the person I imagined most of my adult life was so powerful. And that Christmas, I met my sister for the very first time."

So many people who come to us have a story like this. They've come to understand the unique power of portraits in their own way. And I think there are two kinds of people: those who have personally been impacted by a portrait, and those who will be. 

What an honor it was to make your vision come to life, Patty. And someday, long after you're reunited with your husband, some little hands will open your box of portraits and then ask their mother to tell them your story. And what a beautiful ray of light that will be. 

With the fullest heart,

Ready to celebrate your story? Send us a message here.


I believe in you


The first thing you do is warn me. You warn me that you're not photogenic, that you have stretch marks, that you have wrinkles, that you're awkward in front of the camera, that you don't know what to do. You warn me you're too fat, too thin, too this, too that. And you apologize. You apologize to me before I even have a chance to learn what makes your heart beat fast.

But I don't blame you - I think we women are conditioned to measure ourselves to some ridiculous ever-changing standard and then deal with the ways we ourselves don't measure up. And I know that the thought, "I'm too __________ to be photographed" usually means, "I'm not worthy." 

You, reader. (Hello - we may not have met but I do hope to meet you someday!) Today is November 9. And before I attempt to dazzle you with holiday promotions and beautiful pictures and captivating phrases, I want to tell you that I believe in you. I believe in my own ability to create the best portrait you've ever seen of yourself, and I believe that you can show up for it and yes - actually be in awe of yourself. Why do I believe this? Because I think women are incredible. We are strong, vulnerable, passionate, gritty, delicate, caring, loving, supportive, and selfless. And I believe in your ability to show up for yourself. Facing a camera can be terrifying but when you embrace that space it can be life-changing. (I've seen it.) Because the truth is, in those dazzling holiday promotion photos the women pictured are just like you. They're just like me. 

Sometimes I get so caught up in the day to day grind of work, routine, emails, and details that I forget about the bravery required of my clients. I can forget that they are insecure like I am. They're tired and busy, they've rearranged schedules and set up childcare and gone shopping in preparation for their photo shoot. They've pushed past the last minute urge to cancel because of nerves, and they've shown up. Ready, open, willing to give themselves a chance and see if they CAN indeed stand in front of a camera and then be happy with the result.

A client called me this week. She had cancelled her shoot this summer and wanted to get in before the end of the year. I won't soon forget the peace with which she said these words, "You know, I did a diet and tried to lose weight first but that didn't happen. And I thought, well, this is just me and I'm going to be okay with it." 

You are good enough now. You are worthy. And if you give yourself the chance to believe that, I think you might just see yourself differently.


Ready to book a shoot? Send me a message here and I'll reply with our beautiful Portrait Guide. We have four spots left for 2017, and are booking for 2018.



"I'll be 60 years old next year, and I've never seen aging as a bad thing. You know, I love every age I've ever been." -Nancy

Is it still considered rude these days to ask a woman her age? I don't think it should be. Is age something we should be ashamed about or apologize for? After all, do you know the women I've met in my short half decade as a full time photographer? Do you know how incredible they are?

We launched Luxe Portraits about two years ago, and in that time I'd say about half of our clients have been aged 45-65. And do you know what I've learned again and again? That I, at a mere 27 years of age, haven't seen anything yet. The women I photograph are wise, beautiful, comfortable in their skin, sexy, strong, vulnerable, and they are so inspiring. Yes, my 21 year old clients are beautiful too - but I think a 21 year old woman is easier to convince to be photographed than a 55 year old woman.

"I'm too old."

"I've gained weight."

"Can you fix my wrinkles?"

"No one wants to look at me!"


I don't know about you, but when I look at my wedding photos (taken only six years ago), I marvel at how different I was then. I can only imagine who I'll be and how I'll want to be photographed when I'm 40 and 50 and 60 and 90! In fact, next week Jordan and I are having family portraits done for the first time since our wedding. We don't have kids yet, but someday I'll show them who we were in 2017.

After her Portrait Reveal, Nancy said, "I can tell you this. I love looking at my mother's beautiful pictures. I always wish I could have known her when she was young. Her pictures are dear to me. So I would say do it for yourself and also for your family.  It was so lovely to see that Mitzi was able to capture who I am at this stage of my life. I don’t want to try to look 20 or even 40 but it is sweet to feel glamorous and special. That essence is captured in these pictures."

And you, when was the last time you were professionally photographed? We include outfit styling, hair and makeup, and your family is even welcome to join you at the end. Send me a message here if you'd like to get in touch.

Thank you, as always, for reading and supporting what we do.