I have a confession. I didn't start this business on a mission for others. I started this business for myself. I began focusing on senior photography for myself. It was fun and something I wanted to do. This new business venture was really all about me......until it wasn't.
Stick with me, here...
I had been photographing anyone and everyone for a couple of years, but what I found most rewarding were the times I worked with young adults. I liked it. I was able to be creative. I enjoyed getting to know them. I loved their enthusiasm and willingness to try new things and step out of the box. I had FUN.
After only a few senior sessions, I realized I was hooked. I wanted to keep having fun. I wanted to love what I was doing. I wanted to look forward to every single shoot. This is where I would be happy.
I spent the next year focusing on learning and growing, and as I did, I realized this wasn't really about me. I mean, it was...but it wasn't. Sure, I was having fun, but I started to see why I really loved this. My job was rewarding on so many levels, and I was suddenly doing more than just having fun and taking pictures.
There was this one girl who really made me understand. Super intelligent, witty, fun. I would have wanted to be her best friend in high school. She had it all together. We met for her shoot, and it was then I realized I hadn't seen it all. That day, I saw a girl who wasn't so secure. I saw a girl who wasn't so confident. I saw a girl who didn't really see all those wonderful things about herself. And suddenly...I saw myself. Wow. I.SAW.MYSELF.
Insecure and unsure. <--- That could have been my young adult motto. Who am I kidding? That could have been my adulthood motto. When I looked at her and saw myself, I knew exactly why I was doing what I was doing, and who it was for. For the girl who was always told she was so smart and pretty and funny...but who just never quite felt that way. For the girl who had big dreams...but was never confident she had what it took to make them come true. For the girl who couldn't quite believe what everyone else believed. For me. For her. For confidence. For the future.
And, there it was...my WHY.
That girl I mentioned? We had an awesome shoot, and she came away with a new perspective about herself. Seeing the confidence that comes from just a short time in front of the camera is amazing. You may not believe it can happen that fast...but it DOES. I can see it. I can feel it. Their images reflect it.
I began hearing from parents after the sessions. I was watching tears during the image reveals. What they were looking at wasn't some made up, temporary image of their children...they were seeing them blossom and shine. Parents were watching as their children reacted to seeing the beauty in themselves that the world already sees.
From this, the #FLY program was born. FLY - First Love Yourself. Focus on being the best YOU that you can be.
This is a year-round experience for seniors; a fun way to focus on building self-esteem, creating lasting friendships, and giving back to their community - all of the things that build a solid foundation as they prepare to step out into this big world on their own. I was now on a mission of sorts. Yep. I was doing more than taking pretty pictures, and it was AWESOME!
The reaction from my first year with this program has been unbelievable. Models have expressed how comfortable they are, how their confidence has grown. Parents have written heartfelt messages, like this...
"I can't thank you enough for the time and energy you put into my daughter. I already think she's perfect, but she never saw herself that way before and is now starting to feel good about herself and accepting that nobody is perfect but you just need to be you! Thank you...you have no idea how much her self-confidence was boosted this year! I just wanted to let you know...just all of your work and time has meant the world to her. She feels very special and has loved everything about this year. Looking forward to your successful future!"
I cannot tell you how rewarding this has been! So, yeah...I guess it is still a little about me...because I am definitely getting as much as I give. My heart is full. I am SO HAPPY I jumped off the beaten path and started this program. I am SO LUCKY I have been able to work with such amazing young people. I am SO GRATEFUL they took a leap of faith and chose me! And, I am SO HUMBLED this year has made an impact. How I wish there was something like this when I was younger. How I wish the younger me would have felt better about herself. How I wish the younger me would have been able to see what was there a lot sooner in life....
And, from that thought, I realized there was still more.
SO, HERE WE GO!
Introducing #FLYteens, a year-round program for students entering grades 9-11.
From being part of a group of peers who encourage one another as you share in fun experiences, to growing self-confidence with every shoot, to giving back to our community through events like our exclusive Fashion Show for Leaps of Love - each step of the program is designed to build on your already amazing qualities!
My promise to my team members: At the end of the year, you will be amazed at how much you have grown, and how much you have gained. Lasting friendships, fun memories, and unique experiences are just a few of the highlights of this program that will mold your journey now and beyond high school.
So, if you know of a teen entering grades 9-11, who you feel would be a good representative of the #FLYteen program, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will be accepting nominations through Monday, March 7, 2016. I'm looking forward to making some memories!!