Hi! I'm Jen Lebo. I'm here to help you with all things
photography! Life is more beautiful when you share it, so let's
connect and grow together!
Something is changing. I can feel it.
Every morning, I sit down to write, and nothing comes out. I mean nothing. Nada. Zilch. Writing blog posts is becoming less fun and more challenging. It used to be something I looked forward to, something that poured out of me. Now, I find myself looking at a blank computer screen day after day.
I've been wondering what has changed.
So I've been doing a little digging.
First I went to my blog. I checked out the numbers. Did a little research. I took a look at what blog posts get the most views. What do people enjoy reading from me? I discovered that it was my personal blog posts that were most read. The ones about my own children, my own struggles, my own journey. These are my most read blog posts.
Now, before I say anything else, let me just clarify that I know this is not because my life is so interesting or dramatic. Far from it. I'm a wife, and a mom of three kids, doing some photography work on the side, trying (and way too often failing) to keep my ducks in a row. This is not very different than most of the women I know who are reading this blog.
So what is it then, that makes these blog posts more popular? I'm not 100% sure, but I might have an idea. More on that in a bit.
But first, let's go back to my searching. After I searched through the numbers, I did some searching internally, because this is where I seem most stuck.
As I said earlier, I would spend day after day staring at a blank computer screen, or rewriting that one task on my "to do" list- WRITE BLOG POST. What was it that was making this task so difficult all of a sudden? I found myself doodling over and over, "What do I want to write about?"
I think this is where I'm getting stuck.
Like all of you, my life is not about one thing. I'm a wife, a mom, a photographer, a friend, a woman, a Christian, an American, a liberal. And on any given day, all of those things determine how I live my life.
But what does this have to do with my blog?
As I said earlier, I know that my life is not overflowing with intrigue and drama. I know that's not why women are more drawn to my personal blog posts. I believe it has more to do with who we are as women. We are all complex creatures. We all have loved ones, jobs, personal interests, points of view on everything from sports, to politics, to faith and religion. We all struggle to keep our ducks in a row. So we are drawn to others who understand us.
I believe I have been struggling with my blog lately, because I'm less interested in writing about the basics of photography, and more drawn to writing about things that matter today. The struggles of parenting, the questions I have about my faith and my country, the overwhelming desire I have to help those around me who need so much help. My heart wants to focus on people. Whether those people are my kids, my husband, my friends, my family, or whether those people are people in my community whom I've never met, those who need someone to stand with them. Well, that's where my heart is focusing.
I have always felt that this blog was an extension of my business. Teach moms how to take better photos of their kids. Show women how to prepare for portrait sessions. Discuss the basics of photography.
Perhaps it still is. I don't know.
And so I'm asking for your help. Please!
Before I spend another day staring at a blank screen, I'd like to ask for your input. After all, it's you who read these posts. So tell me...
Do you prefer the tutorials of photography?
Or would you rather read about life? My life? How perhaps it relates to your life?
The statistics seem to show me that you prefer the latter. But the blog that I created was initially intended for the former. On the other hand, I love sharing my stories, and taking you on my journey through life. Still, it is my photography that I believe can help me reach out to serve others.
So what am I doing?
I'm not sure yet. And I apologize for taking you on this carousel of a blog post. The question is still there. What do I want to write about? What do you want to read about? How can my words help others? How can I reach others? Who is my audience? Who are you? How can we connect?
Two of my last three blog posts were about photography, specifically lighting. Today I’m going to talk a little bit about composition. No, not every blog post will be about photography. I do love geeking out on all things involving a camera, but there are other things to talk about, and talk about them we will.
However, today let me share with you a few simple tips on how to improve your everyday photos with composition.
Simply put, composition is the placement of objects and elements in a work of art. So how you decide to compose your photo can mean the difference between a throwaway snapshot and a beautiful portrait. There are a lot of tips out there when it comes to composition. Today I’m going to share five simple ones.
Who or what is your subject? What do you want your viewer focused on? One of the best ways to take the guesswork out of this is to get closer to your subject. Let her fill up your frame. I often tell myself to get close enough to feel like I’m too close. Then get a little closer. Leave no room for question. Let your subject take over.
It is often the case when people are in photographs together that they are uncomfortable with getting too close. But the closer they are, the sweeter the image. So tell them what I just told you. Get them close enough to feel like they are too close. Them get them closer. Have them hug. Get them cheek to cheek. Having them feel this close will sometimes even get them laughing over it, which just adds to a nicely composed portrait. So get them closer.
Another great way to compose you portrait is with plenty of negative space. Negative space is the area which surrounds your subject (your subject being the positive space). While filling your frame with your subject is one way to compose, allowing for negative space is another way. Having both positive and negative space in your image creates a nice balance. And if the negative space is truly that (empty), you evoke stronger contrast between it and your subject. This is one time where bringing in some negativity is a good thing.
Rarely would I advise you to stoop down to your children’s level, but this is one of those times when it’s a great idea. I’m speaking literally here. Get down on the ground. Squat down or sit down with them. Get eye to eye and go into their world. Rather than getting a photo from your perspective, you’ll be suddenly getting a portrait from their perspective. And perspective can be a game changer.
This one might apply to life in general with kids. Don’t fake it. Be real with them. If you want them to smile, don’t tell them to say cheese. Do something to make them smile. Often enough, all that takes is a simple smile yourself. Make them laugh by being funny, or by laughing for them. Laughter, as we all know, is contagious! Get thoughtful expressions by asking them questions that make them stop and think. Engage with them, whoever they are. The more you engage with your subject, the more genuine you are with them, the more genuine the expressions you’ll evoke from them. Perhaps this is a rule for composing life. Be real.
“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” This quote, by Mother Teresa, is one of my favorites. All too often, I have nagging thoughts that I am only one person, and that I cannot make a difference. Perhaps that is true, but this quote reminds me that I don’t have to do big things to make a difference. Doing small, everyday things with great love can make a difference.
That’s what I’m hoping to do with my photography. As I mentioned in my last post, the desire to serve others is leading me to make some important changes to my business and to my work. And as I work through these changes, and the ideas and plans that come to mind each day, one thing remains the same. I want to serve women.
This has always been a constant for me. While I have always been open to photographing and teaching both genders, I am consistently drawn to connecting and giving to women. The reasons are countless, but the foundation of my new plans are based on these three points.
Every woman knows that her family is the most special, that her children are the most beautiful, her sisters the most fabulous, her girlfriends the most amazing. And I would go so far as to say that every woman should have tangible reminders of that.
Think back to your college days. All of us ladies had our walls covered with photos of our besties, of our sisters and brothers, of our special people. Framed or not, taped up on cinder block walls, the faces of our loved ones reminded us of our blessings and made our dorm rooms our “happy place”. Meanwhile the guys had posters of professional athletes, or movies, or even posters of their favorite beers. No photos, no framed memories. No way.
We women have always treasured visual reminders of the ones we love. And I love providing that for women everywhere. But my eyes have been opened to the reality that not every woman can afford the luxury of beautiful portraits of her loved ones. And that’s not ok. This is one small thing I can do with great love.
Deciding to provide more women with portraits of their loved ones, whether they can afford it or not- it kind of flies in the face of everything I learned about business. I’ve been reading and hearing for years that the secret to a successful business is to create a “boutique experience”, to keep the volume of clients low, and the prices high, because if your work is good, and the experience is customized and luxurious, you’ll find that target market that can afford it and will pay for it.
This might be the secret to some kind of “successful” business, but my ideas of success have changed.
My vision of success includes reaching more women everywhere, providing an opportunity for all women to enjoy the experience of creating beautiful memories with her loved ones, giving that joy to more women, no matter who they are.
This vision means that I will return to a “shoot and burn” style of photography, where I offer digital files rather than fancy prints, packages, and custom pieces. This will allow me to reduce my prices and photograph more women, moms, and families.
I also plan to get back to my teaching roots, to create a variety of valuable resources (some free, all affordable) to women everywhere so they can use their own cameras and create their own memories every day.
Finally, I would like to offer monthly events where I take a day to donate all of my time and resources to mothers who have never experienced the joy of owning portraits of their children because they have never had the money. More on that to come.
This will all mean much more work for me, but this is what it means to me to do small things with great love. My hope is to provide something tangible to ALL women. Now THAT’S my idea of success.
I have struggled with beauty all of my life, and the older I get, the more I discover that I’m not the only woman who has. It seems we all struggle with it. Some of struggle with weight. Some of us struggle with our skin, or the color of our hair, or our height or the way our shoulders or hips are shaped. Too many of us live with this struggle. And we are all so very beautiful.
I have always wanted to use my photography as some sort of platform to encourage and inspire women to celebrate the beautiful people that they are, but I have often struggled with how to do that. In some ways I am still figuring this out, but my hope is to use this blog and this business of mine to build a community of beautiful women, who come together to encourage each other, and to find support in knowing we do not struggle alone.
I also want to create and teach lessons on how women can benefit from connecting rather than competing, from encouraging rather than envying. I believe women are most beautiful when they are loving others, when they are seeing the beauty in others. We women need to take care of each other. We need to build each other up rather than push each other down. I would like to create a community like that here.
The final piece of this journey involves wanting to serve women of faith. I am a Christian, and some of my best friends are sisters in Christ. But other cherished friends are Jewish, and Muslim, and Buddhist, and some might call themselves agnostic or atheist. I want this space to be for them too.
I am on a journey to seek the truth. For me that means searching the Bible and spending time with my Jesus. It also means loving my neighbors. ALL of my neighbors.
I would like for this space to become a safe place for all voices. In a world where disagreement often means dehumanizing and disparaging words, wouldn’t it be lovely to create a place to speak freely with respect, love, and grace? I would love for this to be a place like that, and so my hope is to serve women of all faiths, colors, and beliefs with love and compassion, and to create an opportunity for other women to do the same.
I would love for you to join me on this journey. Let me serve you. Or come alongside me and serve with me. Together we can do small things with great love.
Greetings from the land of chaos! I write you from the pit of insanity, as we are moving into a new house this week. We are up to our eyeballs in boxes, and we are pretty exhausted, but we could not be happier!
In all the wonderful chaos of our move, I have most certainly been letting my blogging slide, as well as my family portrait project, but that's OK! Life is about progress, not perfection, and today is a new day to do great things.
I did want to share with you a little nugget of advice for summer fun. How to have the best summer ever.
Now I could have said busiest, because for us it's been about that busy. And you might call this post lame because the answer to this is so simple, but sometimes life is that simple. Not easy, but simple.
How to have the best summer ever?
And that's what I'm doing today. I'm enjoying today, as the chaos awaits, as the little ones still sleep, as another gift of a day presents itself. And I'm sharing with you today some of the other insanely wonderful days we've had this summer.
Here's a recap of what our clan has been doing:
We began with a road trip across the country. We meandered through Iowa, where we stopped at The Field of Dreams (after watching the movie with the kids). We ended our road trip at Grandma and Grandpa Lebo's house, where we rested and enjoyed some down time in Northfield, MA. We also celebrated the hubby's birthday a little early with a trip to Boston and a Red Sox game. The icing on the cake was having our MinJae with us. MinJae and the kids consider themselves siblings, and it was a great way for Scott to celebrate his 50th!
We enjoyed heading back to my alma mater, Colgate University. This is something I hadn't done in 15 years, and had obviously never done with the kids. We also camped for the first time as a family, and did so at Niagara Falls! Go big or go home!
And to cap it all off, we spent a weekend celebrating the love of my baby cousin, Kara, and her now husband, Jake at their wedding in upstate New York. It rained during the ceremony, but that just made it all the more beautiful. She was the most beautiful bride, and it was the most fantastic wedding! We all danced and danced and laughed and hugged and just enjoyed being together. I didn't get a lot of photos that day. I was too busy enjoying my family!
So far, this summer has truly been one to remember! How about you? What have you been up to this summer? Are you enjoying lazy days of rest and relaxation, or living in the excitement of big events? Whatever the case, I hope you've been having a wonderful summer!
Now... those boxes aren't going to unpack themselves, so I'm out! Happy Summer!
Have you ever gotten an idea so crazy that you know you need to tell someone about it before you chicken out? Yeah, that's what I'm doing here today. Telling you so that I don't chicken out.
But I'm also telling you about this idea because as a mom, you MIGHT want to join me in it. Wait… what? Crazy idea and I want you to join me? Heck, yes! Crazy ideas become fun journeys when done with friends.
So here's the story.
The other day I was sitting in bed after another wonderful day of vacationing with my family. I was reading one of my photography magazines, business book open beside it, pouring over my planner, trying to glean new ideas about my business from all of these sources. Our bed looked like a library cubby desk! But there I was, surrounded by all of these resources, and then I saw it.
It was a photo in the magazine. But it wasn't the photo that got me, it was the caption. The caption described the photographer as a mom who had rediscovered the joy of photography by documenting her family in a 365 day portrait project.
Usually, I would read something like that, roll my eyes, and think, "That's insane!" In fact, I bet that's exactly what you just did there, too. Perhaps. But this time, something struck me. I was sitting there surrounded by books on business, pages of beautiful photography, working hard to bring my readers and clients (who are mainly moms) the gift of their children and family. And perhaps headed away from capturing mine in the process.
But this. This could offer so much.
Yes, it could drive my kids insane, and yes it could fall flat in less than 10 days, but what if?
What if, for 365 days, I just commit to documenting my favorite people, the loves of my life, with my camera. NOT WITH MY PHONE. With my camera. Nothing fancy, no need to set the stage. If that feels fun that day, great. But maybe just a morning at breakfast. Maybe under low light. Maybe exploring new angles. Maybe just to be with them.
I'd have my camera in my hand every single day, and not for work, but for play, for exploring, for experimenting. And I'd be documenting the most important people in my life. Not for holiday cards, not for family portraits, but just to capture who we are day to day.
How could I not try? And so I'm going for it.
I decided to start on July 1 because well, that's sort of halfway through the year, and if I wait for January 1, well, we all know that's not gonna happen. So July 1 was Day 1. And I'm going for it.
OK, so it's not like I've decided to go jump out of a plane, but this feels crazy to me, and that's exactly why I'm doing it. As a professional photographer, photographing my family everyday should not seem crazy. But it's gotten that way. Sure, I capture them all the time on my phone. But I rarely take everyday snapshots of them with my camera.
So THREE HUNDRED AND SIXTY FIVE DAYS it is. CAMERA PHOTOS. Not the phone. Daily shots of my loves.
And I'm telling you so that I'm held accountable and encouraged not to quit.
Now… who's with me?