We all feel it. The camera turns on us and suddenly we are left feeling like we are standing on a stage, looking like total goofs. “Ahh, how horrible do I look right now?”, “are all my chins saying hi?”. For the guys I find that it’s a lot of “is it over?”, “are we done?”, “I hate this, I hate photos”, “we have a thousand photos, why do we need more?”.  

Kawartha Lakes hills for family photos – mary zita payne

n today’s age of social media, it’s difficult not to compare ourselves and judge how we look. This is why some may feel annoyed over “another photo,” as it may be another paused moment for social media.

However, photography can be more than just a product or trend to share on social media. It can tell a story and connect us to one another, leaving us feeling excited and humbled.

For me, obviously I am biassed. I am photography obsessed. It’s my art, my passion, my outlet, I am constantly striving to be better, learn more. So, you likely won’t find me too far from my camera and if you follow me, your feeds likely blow up some days with all of the images that I am excited about (sorry :|)! But photography has quickly become more than just my art. It’s the stories and the connections that I just can’t get enough of and right now I am gearing up for wedding season! I have sat down with sooo many incredible Brides and Grooms, all sharing their love stories and what their big day is going to entail. All of these couples have left me excited and I feel like I have won the jack pot when it comes to my Brides and Grooms! 

One couple in particular left me giddy after sitting down with them. A few months back, I sat down with the lovely Desta and Dermot. We had no friends in common and they had found me through a facebook post and my website! We sat down at Cork and Bean to chat for a consultation so that they could decide if I was a good fit for their big day.

Immediately I knew that I WANTED nothing more than to photograph their love story. They were beautiful, humble, laid back full of smiles, laughs, humour and most of all, you could tell that there was really something special between them.

They met on an old fashioned dating site (pre-tinder), both loved to travel and it wasn’t long after that they met that they were planning their adventures together. They left their jobs and travelled for over 15 months to 20 different countries, always seeking out the mountains and in particular New Zealand’s. When Dermot proposed to Desta, he set the bar high.

He created a ring that he had designed himself using the diamond from his grandma’s engagement ring and he managed to beautifully incorporate their adventures in the ring design. Even the casing holding the diamond was shaped as the new Zealand mountain range. The sweetest, right!? 

Before our meeting ended they told me that they wanted to go with me! PUMPED! I remember going home that night and telling my hubby all about my new besties and how fun their wedding was going to be!

But sadly just a few weeks ago I received a message from Desta. Dermot has just been diagnosed with Hodjkins Lymphoma. He would be starting chemotherapy soon and they were not sure if they would be able to move forward with their wedding. My heart sank for them. Excitement should be in the air. Not illness. 

They asked if I would still be willing to do their engagement shoot before Dermot started his treatment so we set up a shoot at the Cobourg beach front, where Desta had grown up.  

When we met at the beach, I could instantly see that Dermot was not feeling great. He was smiling but through the smiles you could see flickers of pain. He was putting on an extremely brave face. The cancer had spread to his bone marrow and the swelling was placing a lot of pressure on his spinal cord, causing pain. So much pain, that Dermot was on Hydromorphone (a drug that is stronger than morphine).

I felt like crying. I have had families call off shoots due to it being “just not a good day”, but this man was in horrible pain and wanted nothing more than to take some photo’s with his beautiful fiancé. Because he knew it was important to her and they both knew the importance of photographing this chapter in their life, even if it wasn’t going to be “painless” in every sense of the word. 

The shoot was flawless. They giggled, cuddled, kissed, laughed about how awkward they are (they weren’t they were the cutest), and even though there were certain things that Dermot wasn’t able to do, it didn’t matter! They didn’t complain once. Not about pain, not about the cold, they never asked when it was going to be over, and not once did they frown. They were fully present and fully aware that these photographs were going to be a time stamp for a difficult road ahead. They were going to show their strength and their connection and shine some light during a dark period. The shoot and the images were their gift to each other

So why am I sharing? Because I want you to know that you are a gift. Sounds cheesy but it’s true. One day a loved one is going to seek out all their favourite photos of you, of you smiling, you doing something you loved, a photo of you and that person together, a photo of you just being YOU. Even if you are are feeling pain, even if you do not love having your photo taken, stop thinking about it for a second, and enjoy the moment being captured and BE YOU. Because that my friends, will be one of the most cherished gifts that they have of you.

The Journal

Overcoming Discomfort and Awkwardness in Front of the Camera


  1. Brittany Charles says:

    This is absolutely beautiful insight Mary – thank you for sharing. You are a blessing to this family and preserving those sweet moments for them.

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