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Going The Distance By Cathy Empey

December 2 2010

Today’s guest post comes from the multi-talented and lovely Cathy Empey.  Enjoy!

After my 6th and final baby was born in November of 2007, I was feeling very run down. Emotions that I had felt before with the birth of each child ran through me again, and I found myself bloated, tired, and just generally worn out. I was at a crossroads: I was no longer focused on having pregnancy and babies, and I knew that the time had come to find out what I was meant ‘to do’ with the rest of my life.

I remembered a photographic experience I had in 2004 with one of the top Vancouver baby and maternity photographers, Kathryn Langsford. At that time, I was featured on a program called “Crash Test Mommy.” Pregnant with my 4th baby at the time, I was well over 200 pounds. Yet when the images came back from the session, I felt so completely beautiful. It was the first time that I truly felt that photography was a way to keep memories alive, a way to keep a door open to a time that I could never get back. I was revived when I looked at these photos, and I knew I had found something I could be passionate about.

Sleep deprived and cradling my 6th baby in my arms, I started to spend time on Google, searching for different types of photography. I knew I wanted to pick up a camera again, I just didn’t know what type of photography to specialize in. I knew I wanted to help other women feel as beautiful as I did when I saw my photos. After hours of searching, I found it! There was no one in my area shooting boudoir at the time, and I knew without a doubt that this was the area of specialization for me.

But there were stumbling blocks: I had no camera. I hadn’t used anything but a film SLR in high school and that was almost 20 years ago. Yet another issue, I was a stay at home mom to six kids. I wasn’t just busy, I was really busy and extremely tired. Yet I wanted to do this so very badly. At that time in my life, I recognized that I needed something just for me. I started by making a list of what I wanted to accomplish, and when I wanted to accomplish it by.

After borrowing a camera for a week and reading a loaned book on exposures, I took a quick lesson from another photographer. My husband was so supportive, he knew that this was a long held dream of mine, and he purchased me my own camera. My friends and I started a photography club and blogs, and we worked on assignments.

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I practiced my skills on my children, our house, even Barbie dolls! I kept practicing until I had finished everything on my list except for one last to-do: I wanted to photograph a real woman. This was the hardest hurdle to overcome. I was afraid to fail, and I am a perfectionist, but at this point it was the summer of 2008 and I knew I was ready. I booked my first free boudoir shoot, and although I was terrified, I loved it. And the best part? So did she. I began taking my own bookings from that point on.

After meeting with another local photographer and gaining a lot of wisdom and insight, I knew it was time to start charging. This is a fine line with many amateur photographers, and in order to cross it, you need confidence in your abilities. My friend told me that I had to increase my fees with each booking and that starting a blog was vital. I followed her instructions, and I am forever grateful to my photo friends. They have given me advice, support, and a continued desire to grow and learn.

Finding your style

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I was terrified of photographing my first boudoir client. After months of shooting just children and even Barbie dolls, the prospect of a real, live woman was really scary. Once I had one successful session, I booked many more. These first shoots were a real eye opener for me, and I found to my excitement that both the client and I loved the process. This was, without a doubt, the type of photography I wanted to shoot.

My style came to me through trial and error. I searched a lot of blogs and websites for inspiration, and I would try a certain style out for myself and end up not liking it. I didn’t want anything that was forced, I wanted something light and unusual, even whimsical. After all, I had been called Whimsy by my Mom and Dad since I was little. I began using only natural light, and progressed from light blue grey walls to solid white. I also began removing any props. I don’t mind props, but they aren’t for me. When I used them I felt cluttered, and I wanted to get down to the depth of the woman I was photographing. For me, props distract from the true beauty of the woman I am shooting, so I rarely use them.

I am currently in my third year of shooting boudoir, and my third year of photographing clients with a digital camera. Back in high school, part of my photography classes involved print production. I loved developing my own images, watching them come to life in the chemical bath. I would never have considered a career in photography back in high school. Perhaps printing, but not be the person behind the camera. The industry seemed male dominated at that point in time.

Never stop improving upon your style

I’ve stopped searching blogs and other web sites for a sense of my own personal style. I have come into my own; as I am sure many photographers do when they put their heart and soul into finding their focus. Some days I lack confidence, and that lets me know that its time to take it to another level. Although I feel as though I have found my style, I keep searching and improving. I feel as though you are only as good as your last session, and I strive to do my absolute best for every single client. Boudoir isn’t just about taking photos, its about letting a woman who may be tired, stressed, or just feeling bad about herself, see herself for what may be the very first time. Boudoir is about telling that woman that she’s beautiful, despite what she may think are her flaws. I search for that special quality that all women have, and I am always thrilled to
be able to show it to her.

Moving forward

My one piece of advice for those who are currently searching, whether that be for their special talent, photography style, or their area of expertise:

Sometimes you just have to jump.

Before I became a photographer, I babysat for a time. I tried my hand at belly casting,
home organizing, I even sold kitchen products. When I found photography, I cast away any worries or doubts and I jumped. I was raised to play it safe, to be cautious. I found in the beginning of my photography career that I didn’t trust my instincts. Trust yours. The rest will follow, and propel you forward.

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