I first learned about In Her Image Photography when I saw some really gorgeous pictures of my friend Emily. And then my friend Monica. And then an acquaintance I’d met at a wedding. And then I decided I’d book a shoot with them.

I am super self-conscious about being photographed, so there was more than a moment of hesitation. I’ve done portrait photography for a few years for others, so I know that the real trick to getting a good photograph is this–you’ve just got to go in there and smile and not be thinking, “I really hope this doesn’t look like shit.” If you’re thinking about how you hope you don’t look like crap, that shows up in the portrait–you can see it in the eyes, and the eyes don’t lie.

But I had so. much. fun. on this day with In Her Image. Heidi and Tara had me feeling so comfortable, and with two people shooting at once it really diffuses any self-consciousness.

I had intended this shoot to be a celebration–2010 was by far and away the most difficult and transformative year I’ve experienced. Deciding to work for myself pushed me up against all of my rough edges. I absolutely practiced courage–feeling my fear (raw raw raw), leaning into it, and finding that my circle of comfort had, indeed, transformed and grown wider–and I wanted something to mark that time.

It is only after having done the shoot that I see something else–a more outward expression of who I am. I see a woman who has been resisting all of the girly-girl stuff for all these years, the makeup, the dressing up and having fun, really only because I’ve felt so inadequate at it. “I’m not one of those pretty girls,” I’ve often thought, feeling that anytime I ever attempted lip gloss or mascara, I probably looked as much like I was faking it as I felt.

But this day, I went for it.

I went into the photoshoot anticipating that the photos I’d like the best–the ones I’d be most likely to use–would be the ones where I was wearing a simple black dress, or the outfit change I’d brought to wear a simple black sweater and jeans (and, let’s be frank, these really super kick-ass boots made by Dansko):

But at the end of the day, my favorite photos are the wild ones, the ones taken out in a mustard field in Petaluma, California, the ones that were the last half-hour of our session, the ones that involved me getting my boho freak on, wearing bright colors, chandelier earrings, and not just one but three Brazilian bracelets:

I connected to something more than just taking portraits that day…I connected to feeling more comfortable in my own simple skin.

I think that that’s all any of us want, at the end of the day–to look into a mirror, or a picture, or a friend’s face, and feel like we recognize ourselves in that which is reflected back. When I look at these pictures, I like what’s reflected back. I like the woman captured in those frames, and I want to bring more and more and more of her into my life. I realize that the woman who showed up in these pictures is still not fully arrived; she’s still being born; she’s still showing up more and more, stepping out just a little here and there as she gets comfortable with this newer, shape-shifted space.

But she’s on her way.

If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, I simply cannot recommend Heidi and Tara of In Her Image Photography enough!