New Studio in Downtown Joplin

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BIG NEWS. We now have a gorgeous studio in downtown Joplin! (Those windows, right?! And there are four more! It’s heavenly.) We are working hard to get it ready for you to come see during the Third Thursday art walk on May 17, and want to thank each one of you: our clients, friends, supporters, and cheerleaders. I also want to thank Jordan, since we've seen nothing but growth in our business since he joined me full time, and because he is wonderful and creative and I couldn't do this without him.

Oh - and the same month we get this studio happens to be the same month Mitzi Starkweather Photography celebrates 5 years! Wow. For once, I don’t know what to say. I think I’ll just take a deep breath and be grateful for now. 

My long-time assistant and muse Jerica and I broke in the studio last week, and I'm so thrilled to share those portraits with you now. But above all, I am grateful.

Talk soon,
Mitzi

While we are fully booked for the month of May, we have two spots left for our Oregon Coast shoots in June, and three studio (!!) shoots left for June. We are accepting bookings throughout 2018 and popular dates go fast, so reach out at www.mitzistarkweather.com/luxe-portraits if you'd like to get more information!

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The Posing Paradox

"I look at these portraits, and I see myself. It's the real me."

It starts with an email or a phone call. And usually, before I've even met you, I know your desires and fears. 

So we talk about your dream photoshoot, we plan your outfits, and we book date and the makeup artist. When you return for your shoot, you bring armfuls of clothes. As they tend to do, a hundred things come up the morning of your shoot - a flat tire, a sick child, a crisis at work - but you make it here. And you take a big sigh of relief.

And then the transformation begins. The hair and makeup artist styles you beautifully, and you look in the mirror - you start to believe you're beautiful! And then we choose a dress for you to wear. We walk into the studio, and I can feel your nervousness. I tell you, "You've got this.". Then, for each portrait, I pose you down to the fingertips and coach you on your facial expression. I make sure the assistant holds the fan to perfectly caress the right locks of hair, I smooth out the wrinkles in the fabric of your dress, I tell you to take a deep breath. 

And suddenly, we create a portrait.

When you see the portrait, you say things like, "I look beautiful. That's ME." You say, "For the first time, I feel like I am SEEING myself." You say, "You know how your mother always tells you you're beautiful and you believe it but don't see it yourself? Well today, I saw it."

And that is the posing paradox. We planned and styled and made you up, we told you how to stand and where to push your shoulder and how to relax your jaw. We set you up in the perfect environment for your YOU to come alive. And even though nothing about "you" in this moment is "every-day" or "natural," you are somehow the most beautiful and true version of yourself. And that's why it worked. We convinced you that you could do this - be in front of the camera and then love the portraits. It's the same reason why telling someone to "act natural" in front of the camera results in painfully awkward reactions. We need boundaries. They allow us to thrive and create!

And when you tell me you see "you," I see you light up. And I'm so grateful that you honored yourself and believed it could happen.

-Mitzi

Ready to start planning your Luxe Portrait experience? We have five sessions available until July in our Joplin studio, and three sessions available on the beautiful Oregon Coast June 17-19!

Contact Mitzi here to receive the Luxe Portrait Guide and start planning.

Why is the Camera Scary?

Making jokes. Laughing out loud and then shaking the head. Breaking into a sprint. Ducking behind someone taller. Screaming "no" the way you scream it when someone tells you to get rid of the spider in the room. What do these reactions have in common? They are all responses I get from people when I suggest they have their picture taken. 

So why is the camera so scary? Have we ever really asked ourselves this? It's just a little lens attached to a light sensitive machine that captures whatever light and shadow it sees. It's harmless.

So why are we so afraid?

1. WE BELIEVE OUR APPEARANCE DOES NOT MEET A CERTAIN STANDARD

Let's jump right on in. Has someone ever criticized your appearance? Yeah, me too. It's bad enough when they're someone you barely know, but it's worse when they're someone you love. And what about you - what did you tell yourself when you looked in the mirror today? Did you compare yourself to the celebrities you just saw on your favorite show or the friends you follow on social media? You probably did. And I bet you weren't even aware of it. 

Here's a new belief I dare you to try: "People who have criticized my appearance were simply showing me they're not happy with their own. When I compare myself to others, I lose sight of the magnificent beauty I possess because I compare apples to oranges. Instead, I want to believe that I am worthy of a portrait simply because I am a unique and wonderfully made human being."

And if you scoffed at that last sentence or thought it was cheesy, I want to give you a hug right now. I'm sorry that you've been hurt and its made you cynical - I have been too. I'm sorry that people have taken their insecurities out on you and made you hate the way you look. But you know what? Today is new. Today you can choose to believe whatever you want. 

Try giving yourself a chance.

2. "I NEED TO LOSE FIVE POUNDS"

Isn't that interesting. As a portrait photographer, one thing I've been made aware of time and time again is that we all, collectively, as a human race, "need to lose five pounds." Fascinating! I hear it from people who are 20 years old, and people who are 60 years old. I hear it from size 2's and size 22's. I hear it from women who had a baby last month and from women who had a baby 20 years ago. So forgive me if I readily call BS on that statement every single time I hear it. I don't mean to sound insensitive - I just know it's an excuse and hear it for what it REALLY means:

"I need to lose five pounds" = "I'm not good enough yet."

But you are. You are magnificent the way you are right now. (Even if you think you're "too skinny," which is another excuse I hear.) And if you weigh 400 pounds through your 20's and then 200 pounds through your 30's, aren't both eras of your life worth remembering and celebrating? Weight and age are numbers. The only reason we don't say, "I need to lose five years" is because it isn't possible. But we do say "I'm too old," and it comes from the same core belief.

Also, as your portrait photographer, it is my job to advise you on clothing and then light and pose you in such a way that is as flattering as possible! I take this seriously, and I promise it will give you confidence.

Your legacy is worthy preserving and celebrating regardless of how much physical space you occupy. 

3. SOMEONE TOOK AN UNFLATTERING PICTURE OF US, SO WE BELIEVE THAT'S HOW WE LOOK ALL THE TIME

I got this email from a client last week: "I wanted you to know how you have helped me to not be so critical of myself in pictures that I have no control over. There are always going to be those unflattering pictures out there, but I have to remind myself that that’s not me. I have your photos to reflect upon and feel amazing about myself."

It never ceases to amaze me how often I am surprised after meeting a client in person when all I had seen before was a couple snapshots of them on Facebook. They always seem more attractive in person! And isn't that a portrait photographer's job? To see the way each person uniquely lights up and capture the very best version of them.

Maybe you had a bad experience with a professional photographer. If that happened, don't hide from the camera forever. Find someone you trust who cares about who you are and wants to do all they can to create a portrait you'll be proud of.

4. WE LIKE [NEED] CONTROL

Some of us are selfie masters but shudder at the thought of handing someone else the reigns. It's terrifying - I get it! And while there's nothing wrong with a good selfie, it's important to hand over control to a professional who will capture who you really are, along with your interactions with loved ones. Selfies are fun but they're not a Portrait. And if you have a difficult time giving up control, interview your potential photographer first! Ask to see their portfolio (with more than just the 20 year olds who look like models), and look for Before and After images. I do a consultation with all of my clients before they even book the shoot so they can talk with me and get a feel for everything before they commit!

And on a personal note, I finally scheduled a photoshoot with a photographer I've known and trusted for a long time. The shoot is in a couple weeks, and I have butterflies! But do you know why I'm not afraid? Because I know the photographers, have seen their work, have met with them to plan the shoot, and trust them to do an incredible job.

It's easy to think, "Well what if the photographer doesn't make me look as good as I can in a selfie?" when we should really be thinking, "What if they can make me look even better and show me something new?"

5. WE DON'T LIKE OURSELVES

This is the tough one, isn't it. Hi, I'm Mitzi, and I'm a recovering self-hatred addict. Why do I say addict? Because you get addicted to things that serve you. Yikes! Here we go!

- If I believe I'm not good enough, that means I don't have to try. 
- If I believe no one will like me, I don't have to be vulnerable and reach out to people.
- If I believe I'm bad at this or that skill, it means I don't have to push myself to develop it.
- If I believe I am too far gone, it means I don't have to stretch myself out of my comfort zone.
- If I believe everyone will treat me negatively, I'll go into every interaction with that expectation and make it true.
- If I believe I am worthy of accepting who I am, then I have to be responsible for who I am.

Yeah, those are heavy. So here's a question: How do you show the people you love that you actually love them? Do you tell them? Sure. But don't your actions speak louder?

The only way to start loving yourself is to start believing you are worth loving. You'll accept whatever you think you deserve - So start expecting the best.

One of the most powerful transformations I see within our clients happens because they SHOW UP for themselves. We spend time, money, and energy on the things we love. Who do you love, and what do you give them? Have that list in your mind? Good. Now start doing those things for yourself too.

If nothing else, I hope you hear this from my heart to yours: You are worthy of the love you are so eager to give to others. You are worthy.

-Mitzi

Ready to learn more? Contact Mitzi here.

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,

Mitzi

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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!

-Mitzi 

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Where's the Groom?

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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. 

-Mitzi

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.

Love,

Mitzi

Want to say hello? Contact Mitzi Here.

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I want you to see the beauty I see

  GIFT CARDS AVAILABLE HERE

GIFT CARDS AVAILABLE HERE

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.

-Mitzi 

 GIFT CARDS AVAILABLE HERE

GIFT CARDS AVAILABLE HERE