This is the story of how a portrait photographer who hides from cameras was terrified to take her own picture...

There are no two ways about it.  I've gotten fat.  Are there reasons I've gotten fat? Yes, of course.  We all have reasons. For me, over time I started gaining a couple pounds a year. Every year.  I had my daughter, a couple of miscarriages, and then I lost a baby when I was 7 months pregnant.  It was awful. I was sad and gained a bunch of weight, then had my son.  All this was within 4 years. My body took a beating, and since then, I find that I just lack the mental power and the energy to lose this weight. 

Why am I telling you this? Because like most people who have gained weight, I hide from cameras.  Ironic, since I'm a portrait photographer.  It makes it easier, actually.  I just hold a camera and take the pictures so I'm never in them. But recently, I had a realization.

I realized that I'm becoming my mom.  There are almost no pictures of my mom taken within the last 40 years.  She doesn't like being photographed because of her weight.  Eek. Sound familiar?  I have young children, and I started thinking about how much I love my mom and how I want pictures of her.  She's my mom! Who cares about her weight?  Now my children want pictures of me.  We were looking through our family photo albums and there were 2 pictures of me in our 2011 album.  Two! 

If you feel this way, too, why would you want to be professionally photographed? I believe being photographed is not about showing the world you are beautiful, but about showing yourself.  This is a feeling. We want to feel beautiful and then have photographs to match that feeling.  We want to look outwardly how we feel inside.  My outward appearance does not match my inner self.  Inside, I feel great these days.  I feel happy that I have a wonderful family, friends, and a growing business that I built myself.  But outside... who is this person?  Where on earth did she come from?

I have made a study in the last two years of posing and lighting women so they look and feel beautiful.  So I couldn't put it off any longer.  I had to take a self portrait. I was completely uncomfortable with this concept and totally nervous.

Maggie, my makeup artist came in and gave me the full treatment, then she held the camera while I posed myself.  Every few pictures, I would check the back of the camera and make adjustments.  After I was done, I felt great! I had done it.  I had good pictures and I had survived.

As you look at these pictures, I don't look fat.  Not at all.  This is all lighting, camera angle, and posing.  My kids love all the pictures I'm in, and they don't care one bit how I look. But I love these portraits. I love how they make me feel. 

This is why I so strongly believe that all women should be photographed right now.  We shouldn't wait to lose weight or work with a trainer. We should all be photographed at all stages of our life, no matter how we look because we need that feeling of beautiful. 

Stephanie Simpson is a Los Angeles portrait photographer and owner of Simpson Portraits. She specializes in making women feel beautiful in glamour, beauty, business, and high school senior portrait photography. Her studio is located in Glendora.  For more information, visit Simpson Portraits.  Click here to see more before and after portraits.