The Spirit of Authenticity

I love my neighborhood and surrounding streets.  The houses are older, but full of character and well kept with some impeccable yards.

On a recent “exploration” I noticed a yard ahead of us that had something different about it.

At first I couldn’t tell what it was…

The lawn was freshly mowed, the walks were swept spotless, weeds seemed afraid to take root anywhere near the flowerbeds,

The flowers were in full bloom and seemed to hold an absolute perfection about them…

And then I caught the difference.

The perfection.

I pushed the stroller closer with a hypothesis forming in my mind.  I was right.


Fake flowers were generously displayed in each garden pot.

From a distance everything seemed in place, but as you truly observed the yard with a hope of soaking in the beauty the feeling wouldn’t come.  It totally lacked spirit.

It lacked the essence of being REAL.

I pushed the stroller home, mulling over in my mind the parallels to  photography.

A lot of effort is exerted in this industry to create perfection. Photoshop thins people down, many sessions today are now stylized with trendy props and locations to give a magazine feel to the aesthetic even though many times the subjects have no connection to the props, subjects are coached into poses and expressions to mimic emotions… how often in my past had I myself directed my subjects to “pretend laugh”, or “act excited!”, further encouraging a facade of the APPEARANCE of emotion?  It didn’t seem to matter that it wasn’t real, as long as it LOOKED LIKE IT COULD BE REAL.

The problem is the same.  When we’re dealing with something fake, it is usually only enjoyed from a distance for a fleeting moment.  When we look closer, we’re not left with the ability to feel and experience the spirit that comes with authenticity.

I love how Jesh de Rox preaches that “If you want to feel something when you look at an image, you need to feel something when you make the image”.

I’m on a journey to find authenticity in my work.  To interact with my subjects in such a way that invites real feelings.

Therein is where the true beauty lies that can be enjoyed from both near AND far.

Want a truly great discussion on the topic of Authenticity?  Watch THIS.

Brooke Snow is a Lifestyle photographer in Cache Valley, Utah.  She is on an “Authenticity Mission” in all parts of life.  Whether it be trashing the silk florals in her home and trading them in for real living plants, taking down any piece of home decor that doesn’t match her style, admitting to the world that she truly hates shrimp, keeping her original hair color, or simply accepting the true hard facts that she will never be good at parties and celebrations, its all about keeping it real.

Brooke teaches private photography lessons , and online photography classes.

Did you like this post? Please share it!

9 Responses

  1. I could not agree more. What is wrong with reality? I personally think reality is everything we are looking for in a photo. When I take photos of my kids I am striving to capture their personality and character so I will never forget the different stages of their development. Sometimes there is snot covering their face, sometime they are grumpy and other times they are in a state of utter shock and amazement. The reality is we are not perfect, our faces are not perfect, our lives are not perfect we are world of imperfection on a journey. Imperfection is captivating. Imperfection is interesting. Imperfection has character. Imperfection is tangible.

  2. Amen Jessica! Reality is relateable too 🙂 We will connect with the viewers of our images more–even if they don’t know our subjects–when you can bond over “real life”. There is beauty in the imperfections!

  3. Great analogy, and great blog! I don’t have nearly enough pictures of me with my son because I’m always behind the camera. This weekend I handed my camera to my cousin (who minored in photojournalism in college so she knew a thing or two) and just said, “Shoot away!” while my son and I sat on a blanket, looked at a book, and ate some plums. We’re not looking at the camera and smiling fake smiles in a single picture and in some of them, our faces are covered in plum juice. But I love the pictures so much and I can’t stop looking at them. The tenderness between us is so evident in the photos. You can’t fake that. It was a great reminder to me of the emotion that I want other moms and dads to feel when they look at pictures I took for them.

    1. Sara, those images sound perfectly delightful! There truly is something so endearing about reality, and seeking to “feel something” when you look at images is the highest and noblest photography goal of all 🙂

  4. I agree — babies with skin so photoshopped they appear to be made of plastic and children in elaborate set-ups with 10 different vintage props aren’t my thing. I always wonder at all the effort it takes to take pictures like that when children and babies are already so beautiful (and so is nature! — so what’s with the flowy tents and bunting to block the beautiful bokeh from the trees? haha) BUT I will say this — taking authentic pictures of my children is a piece of cake. They are young, super expressive and find our family adventures to be a wonder and it shows on their face. I adore those photos … but … how do I do that with a client? That’s been my struggle! It’s easy for me to capture real, authentic emotions with my children because I’m always there. And because I climb the mountain with them, or I’m right beside them when they start a water fight 🙂 How do you get your clients to forget you are there? To interact and STILL get the beautiful picture (not a series of snapshots)

  5. Marcie! Congrats on your ability to get authentic shots of your kids! Not everyone can do that 🙂 I have shot plenty of children who have been conditioned by their paparazzi moms to give cheese smiles instead of being authentic 🙂 How do you get those authentic expressions from clients? I think you get it the same way you personally get it with your own kids. 1. You know them. (You know their personality and can anticipate how they will react.) Its important to spend time getting to know the personality of our client/subjects. 2. They trust you. Your kids feel comfortable being with you and act natural because of it. Its important for a pro photographer to establish the same type of trust. Lots of ways you can do this…. 3. You interact WITH them. Just like you said you climb the mountain with your kids and you’re there when the water fight starts… when the pro-photographer knows a bit about the subjects, has their trust, and then interacts WITH the subjects, you’re bound to get the same wonderful authentic shots 🙂 P.S. Everything I know about interaction I learned from the photographer Jesh De Rox. He changed everything for me. just finished taking an online course entirely dedicated to authentic interaction. Changed my life. You’d love it 🙂 Look up “beloved”.

  6. Thanks for the thoughts and the recommendations! I ADORE capturing real pictures of my children together and dream of being able to offer that kind of authentic excitement, emotion and fun to my clients! Thanks 😀

  7. Marcie – I loved your comment about the “tents and props.” I recently took Brooke’s Advanced Pro course and if you are looking for more insight on interaction and gaining strength in your photography – TAKE A CLASS! Advanced Pro was life changing. I took the class because Brooke’s style and philosophy was very much what I felt, but never knew how to articulate. You will learn a lot and grow as a photographer!

    Thanks Brooke – I often forget to come here and comment – reading in Google reader does not offer the commnet part – boo hiss. BTW – I loooove those little blurbs about you near your photo at the bottom of the post – very cute, only TODAY did I realize THEY CHANGE!

    Going to listen to a post you suggested….off to find it! Stacey R

  8. Thanks Stacey!! The Advanced Pro class is one of my favorites 🙂 We do discover some real treasures on creating authentic work 🙂 And keep your eyes peeled for the changing bio 😉 😉 You never know what you’re gonna get!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *