There are some locations I will never tire of shooting at and Ridley Creek State Park is certainly one of them! Niki and Jen choose this location for their engagement shoot and they showed up SO nervous for our session! I get it though! Having your photo taken is nerve wracking and a little scary especially as an LGBTQ couple but ten minutes in of showing them back of the camera previews and ooo-ing over how freakin cute they are, had these two relaxed and laughing.
I won't lie, I have taken at least 10 attempts to write your blog post and everything always felt short of what I wanted to say about our studio session in West Chester in January. So rather than writing my normal style blog post that is written to my viewers, today, this one is written just for you. I am sharing it with the world because what I have to say I think will resonate with so many women, for so many reasons and because I know your friends would agree with me too.
While I wouldn't qualify our shoot as boudoir, I would say that it is the very definition of why my brand is built around love, worth and strength. Photography so often gets divided into categories...families, engagements, newborns, children, weddings, seniors, headshots, ect. And while I understand the need to categorize what I do, I love when shoots are less about the type of photos I am shooting and more about creating an environment to feel. If a client can walk away from a session feeling more beautiful, more in love, more worthy, more strong than they did when they walked into the session, to me I have been successful. The images captured at sessions like that are already above everything else because beyond having stunning images, my clients have an emotional reaction to the sessions and their images too.
I'll be honest. I fall short of this all of the time. Timelines get wonky, light isn't right, outfits clash, I'm not feeling as creative, locations don't pan out. But you Jenna, in just 45 minutes for a last minute session because I had an opening, reminded me why I fell in love with photography in the first place. I got to remind you that you are beautiful, that you despite how life feels right now, you are loved and that even in the hardest of times, you radiate light.
Being a plus sized, out of shape, slightly awkward, bubbly photographer is definitely intimidating sometimes. Most of my clients are thinner than I am, I think are prettier than I am and are seriously kicking ass at going after their dreams. What's interesting though, is as gorgeous and amazing as I might think you look Jenna, you were still nervous and shy and self conscious. We might look totally different, but you have some of the same struggles I have and that was incredibly eye opening for me. So often I let myself think that these beautiful people I am privileged to photograph couldn't possibly know what it's like to be nervous or not like the way they look. And perhaps that's why sessions that could have been amazing only turned out great. Because I forgot how to relate to the nerves and self consciousness. I forgot that life tells us, especially as women, time and time again that we aren't enough.
You, sweet friend, reminded me that my job as a photographer isn't to make you stronger or to love yourself or see that you are worthy of more than you had. Its my job to capture you, as you are, with your flaws, perfections and all the natural, perfect beauty you have and show you what I see. It's my job to tell you that I have things I struggle with too, that you aren't alone in your struggles and self consciousness. It's my job is to make you laugh, to remind you to hold your chin high, to be vulnerable with you. While the world might tell us that photos should be perfectly posed and airbrushed and edited, I hope these photos of you, raw, perfect and stunningly beautiful reming you that you are worthy, just as you are, without changing a single thing. And while it may be your friends like Jordan and I that are the ones who see that now, know that some day, some perfectly awkward, kind, authentic, trustworthy, stunningly beautiful woman will see that in you too.
Happiest of birthday sweet friend. I can't wait to shoot you again soon!
For many married couples, the day the get married is one of the only times they get photos together until they have kids. Life gets busy, money tight and photos seem like one of those things that just isn't worth spending the time or money on. And while I get it, life in all of its seasons ought to be captured. It goes by so quickly and photos have a way of making us slow down and remember what a particular season of life was like. Debra and Lindsay are two people that value photos and after being married 2 years, they are still looking for ways to have their love for each other captured!
On a very windy day earlier this month, Jordan and I got to spend some time with these two walking around behind the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Debra hand made her flower crown and I loved how well their styled went together for this shoot! Their love for each other was evident in the first 5 minutes and the two of them were great and posing from the start which made their mini session fly by and still allowed them to get so many great images! And I mean come on! The way Lindsay looks at her wife? Swooning ya'll!
Enjoy a few of my favorites!
Its no secret that we love all our of clients. But sometimes we get really lucky and get clients who feel more like friends than anything else. That is exactly how I would describe Trista and Erin! Their engagement session felt more like getting to hang out with two old friends rather than strangers and it got me so excited for their wedding next summer in Michigan!
But how did we end up in Ohio? And why are we shooting a wedding in MI? Great questions! Jordan went to Eastern Michigan University her first year of college and there she met Erin! They became friends and kept up with each other even 8 years later and so when Jordan saw that Erin was engaged to Trista, she reached out and congratulated her. Through a few fb conversations and some luck on my side, these two decided they wanted to bring me alllllll the way from Philly to Ann Arbor to shoot their wedding! And honestly, I am SO excited!
For their engagement session, we decided to meet in Ohio near Jordan's family over Labor Day weekend! They even brought their sweet dog and tons of Harry Potter stuff, which added the personal touch I love to see in engagement sessions! More than all the props and a cute dog though, these two have a love for each other that is obvious and genuine. They make each other laugh, something I have always said you need for a marriage to last. And they are so dang cute!!!!! You just wait and scroll through these! I dare you not to think the same!
Trista and Erin - thank you. Thank you for trusting this wife of a girl you use to know in college to capture one of the happiest days of your life. Thank you for being so down to earth and funny and kind. And thank you for quickly becoming my friends! I can not WAIT for next summer and your wedding day, but for now, enjoy a few of my favorites from your engagement session!!!!
Confession? I don't do this job alone. Sometimes it might feel like it's just me when the editing has piled up and there are so many emails to answer but this job is made possible by so many people who have believed in me. And sometimes I don't thank them enough. You see, several months ago I had the privilege of planning and photographing the wedding of two amazing ladies, Rita and Angela. It was crazy, but it was something I had done before and I knew I would need a small village to pull it off. So I pulled together a team, crossing my fingers that things would go as planned and the day would go off without a hitch.
And that is the furthest thing from what happened. From issues with the venue, making appetizers for 100 people, vendors showing up late and of course, the POURING rain, it was madness. But every time I look at their wedding photos, I can't help but tear up because there were so many people that came together to make that day, inspite of the madness, utter perfection. From Kristin, who was hired to do hair, cutting flowers and setting up tables because she got there early...to her sweet wife who just did whatever was needed...to Lesa for watching our dog and keeping an eye on our house while we were gone...to my best friend Ashley staying up late and waking up early and working all day long making things perfect....to my sister for cutting, popping, slicing, cooking and everything in between...to Simon for rolling with the punches and being the most amazing bartender and bringing in Jackson to help...to Heather for constantly giving me options, smiling and cleaning so much...to Emily for making everyone look amazing...to Sharon for being an incredible second shooter, a calm prescence and there to do whatever was needed...and last but not least, to Jordan who put up with all my craziness and worked her ass off that day, and really, every day. It took a village. And it took two people who believed in me to bring that village together to create the perfect wedding day.
But isn't that the best way? So often I find myself trying to do it all - and I know so many of you are right there with me. We tell ourselves that we can do it! That we are strong enough to do it all. We are told that the best business are the ones who are able to do it all and do it perfectly. Asking for help is often one of the hardest things we can do because it makes us feel as though we don't have it all together. But here is a confession for you. We don't. We almost never do. And when we allow others to help, to love us, and be our village, we can do SO much more than we can alone. If it weren't for the help of all of those people...that wedding would have been a vision in my head, not an actual event that took place.
If you find yourself struggling, in work, in things around the house, in anything really, ask yourself when the last time you asked someone to help you. Have you admitted that on your own you aren't doing all that you want to? Are there people who are around you who you would call your village but you haven't asked them for help in awhile? I would bet that those that love you, want to help and that you'll feel better with them helping you achieve the things you want to.
To my wonderful village...I love you all. Thank you for being the best vendors, friends, family and team a girl could ask for. And here are a few of my favorite behind the scenes photos of that perfectly unperfect wedding day!
I have a confession to make. And it might sound silly, but go with me for a moment.
In my entire life, I never wore a bikini bathing suit. The closest I got was a tankini in high school but even then, you'd most often find me in a one piece. And usually there would be a cover up over top of it. And some of that came from being raised in a conservative family, one where modesty was taught. But even as an adult, one who has pushed back on a lot of the things I was taught, this one seemed to hold. I shouldn't wear a bikini, and that was that.
I bought the only bikini I've ever owned back in March for a photoshoot I did with The STRONG Philly. The whole session can be viewed here but in short, I needed something to wear that people would be able to write words on me, calling to light the mean things I heard my whole life. It was an emotional experience, being that bare in front of people I knew, people I barely knew and knowing that these images would be online. I cried, A LOT, worried what people would think of me, if they would judge how I looked, forgetting to see the message behind the images. But this message of no more bullying was one I felt so strongly about. The day of the shoot, I was all nerves, but as I peeled off the layers of clothes, there was this strange sense of calm. There I was, about as vulnerable as one can be in public, and it was terrifying. But more than the terror. it was freeing.
We got home though, and I buried that bathing suit away. I was so proud of the shoot, but I figured if there was a time where I would need a swim suit, I'd go out and buy a modest one-piece, one that hid my belly better, one that covered as much of me as possible. Because despite the freedom I felt for that shoot, I believed that it was a once in a life kind of moment. That beyond then, this body, my body, should be hidden away.
My whole life I have struggled with that - hiding - never knowing how much of me was wanted in any given context. In high school I was this tiny 105lbs version of myself, that believed that my worth was found in how much I was involved in youth group, how many friends I had and where I would go beyond high school. When I was younger, I believed my worth was found in light of the fact that I was adopted, figuring that if I could know who my birth parents were, maybe who I was would make sense. In college, I was taught that my worth was found in God but being as I went to a Biblical University, I was also told over and over that the person I knew I was, a lesbian, was something that I should hide and run from. I was also retaught the message that my body was for my one day husband and that if I wanted a good marriage, I should cover it up now, never understand it, as it wasn't mine in the first place.
And then I got bigger. After spending my whole life as someone who was small, but told all these messages, my world came crashing down when I looked in the mirror and saw I was another person bigger. Clothes became what I hid inside, trying to draw attention away from my appearance. Summer was the worst...when you are wondering how to understand your own worth and appearance, it's hard to not have a lot of it wrapped up in a little piece of brightly colored spandex. I was depressed. Anxious. Scared that I was going to be alone for forever.
And then I came out. I remember sitting on my parents sunporch, Jordan (my at the time fiance) by my side telling my parents I was marrying her. And while I remember very little of that conversation, 6 words have haunted me since. "You use to be so pretty." My mom said those words, reaching out and tucking a hair behind my ear. I don't know what she meant by it, but I know what my heart heard.
"You use to be attractive." - "You use to be so smart." - "You use to be worthy." - "You use to be apart of this family." - "You use to make me happy." - "You use to have value." - "You use to be worthy of love, worthy of my love."
I bought my wedding dress out of my understanding of those 6 words. I made decisions on how to handle decisions out of what I thought those words meant. I wore the clothes I did for a year a half out of those words. I heard what my wonderful wife said through the lenses of those words and I still to this day take compliments from strangers or friends out of those words...believing they are trying to find something nice to say to a person who is so unworthy of anything. I use to have worth. But now I didn't. And this all came crashing together on Saturday when Jordan and I found ourselves headed to the pool.
I put on that bathing suit. The two piece, bikini top, high waisted bathing suit and quickly slipped my cover up over my head. I'd be ok, I'd just keep that dress on and no one would see. Deep breaths, hiding would totally work. We got to the pool, about 20 people were around and before Jordan had taken off her shoes, this rush of emotions hit me. I couldn't do it anymore. I couldn't hide. I couldn't listen to all the negative voices inside my heart. I couldn't let these two pieces of spandex tell me how to live my life. So off went the dress. And with it the load I had been carrying for so long. I spent two days in and out of that bathing suit, trying to wrap my head around the freedom I felt. And while I am sporting some serious sunburn (#reallywhitegirlproblems), I came home realizing I had to share this as well.
I am size 18. I have bigger boobs and an ass. My belly isn't flat and my thighs always rub together when I walk. I have stretch marks and scars and pale skin and mascara smudges constantly under my eyes. But this is me. And I am worthy and loved and pretty. My worth isn't found in a "good Christian husband" or in saying the right things or knowing my birth mom or making things right with my family or getting skinny again. And neither is yours. You don't have to hide, cover up, run away, disguise, fit in, or anything else to be worthy, loved, strong. You are those things because your human. You are beautiful and wanted and needed and have a place in this world. And if you find yourself feeling stuck, believing the lie that you shouldn't wear a bikini or insert your personal you shouldn't/don't deserve _________ here, its a lie. Its scary, but this is the hope I clung to, the hope you should cling to....that a life lived beyond fear, beyond hiding, is one where we can know and be known.
This Monday, find that thing you are afraid of. Sit with it for awhile. Know why its such a big deal and what it would mean or feel like to try and conquer it. And then, even if it takes you a while, go do it. Be daring and bold and brave. And then shout from the roof tops that you did that thing you didn't think you could. Let people know you and in turn learn to know others as well. Share your stories, confess those deep hidden lies you've told yourself for so long. I'll be right here cheering you on, myself trying to find more fears conquer. And writing more confession of love and worth as I do.
In freedom, hope and sunshine,
When these two got married, I was knee deep in redoing my blog and website and I didn't want to post them to the old site. So I have been waiting to share this wedding with all of you for quite some time! Sophia is feisty, sweet and oh so gorgeous and Lisa is her hilarious, little bit bad ass and so kind other half. I've known these two for a while and when they asked if i would be free to shoot their weekday City Hall wedding, the answer was an immediate yes!!!
These two are so in love. The kind of love that you see on facebook and in real life and know that its not fake or temporary. They embody the idea of being partners, supporting each other and loving each others families. They also keep each other (and me!) laughing with their adorable bickering and commentary on everything! It was a great day and I am so happy that these two have joined the #marriedlesbianclub and are loving life as Mrs and Mrs Crespo!
Lisa and Sophia....thank you for being such sweet friends and for allowing me to be the one to capture the start of this exciting chapter in your lives. I adore the two of you to pieces and can't wait to see where life takes you next. Thank you for being patient for this blog post! And now, a few of my favorites!
I can't believe that I will have the honor of photographing these two again in just FIVE days! Lee and Alex are tying the knot on Saturday at a family farm and last weekend we met up to shoot their engagement photos! It was so fun getting to this awesome couple as we explored around Valley Forge National Park! From the moment we started taking pictures, it was obvious that their love is built on a lot of laughter. And coming from 2 years of marriage, I can tell you that a love that is full of laughter makes for the best kind of life! But seriously though, these two are so easy going, down to earth and obviously in love that you can't help but like being around them.
Lee and Alex, I can't wait for this weekend and being so honored to capture the start of this exciting next chapter in your lives. I am crossing my fingers for the perfect weather and the most amazing day for the two of you! For now, enjoy a few of my favs and look forward to seeing them again real soon!
All week I have read tons of comments, emails, messages and so forth trying to decide who should be the winner of our Launch Day Giveaway! So many amazing people wrote us telling why they wanted to win a free session with us and let me tell you, ya'll made me cry! We have so many loyal fans, sweet past clients and friends who support us and Swiger Photography wouldn't be the same without! And it seems that you all love the new look as much as we do! Our clients images stand out, the client lounge is a hit and so many of you are asking when you will see your images on the blog! And the answer is soon!
But without further ado...let me introduce our giveaway winner and tell you why I am SO excited to photograph this awesome lady!
Gracie Harringotn, girl you are our WINNER! Your email moved me to tears! From the moment I met you bubbly as can be at iCandy, I knew you were someone that I wanted to get to know. Then once I started following you on social media, I realized that much like me, there is a lot more than meets the eye with you.
"This is the reason I am entering this contest: I would love to have photos taken to show my friends and family over social media what a fighter looks like. I hope to give hope to those currently struggling with mental health disorders, by showing them that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I believe that your giveaway could be a way to do this."
You are right, there is so much hope to be given to those struggling with mental health disorders and if I can be even a small part of the journey, I want to. When I started the section of Swiger Photography called The Worthy, it was for women like you that I did. People who need a chance to see the worth inside themselves and to share that with those around them. You dear, have found that worth and you deserve beautiful images of that sweet smile and adorable laugh and so let's get that session scheduled ok? And a HUGE thank you to all of you who entered and made this launch successful!
I always hope for the best weather for an engagement shoot but when a day comes and the forecast says a high of 10 degrees, you email your couples and ask if they want to reschedule. These two, they decided to tough it out and even though they were FREEZING, they looked gorgeous. We walked around the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Waterworks and between the melting ice and Annalise blue coat, they have amazing images with so much character.
Thank you Liza and Annalise for trusting me and allowing the insane honor of photographing your engagement photos!