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Early in my career, I was obsessed with the idea of achieving natural-looking expressions.  How do I get people to smile and laugh naturally?  How do some photographers get such amazingly relaxed and natural poses that don’t look like poses?

I scoured the internet and ate books for dinner; I studied and practiced harder than I ever did in more than a decade of formal education.  If you want to know the tips and tricks I learned, just do a web search and you’ll get the gist.

But here’s the thing – none of the stuff I learned worked for me.  I had photos that looked absolutely natural, but they didn’t feel natural to me.

Simply because they weren’t.

People weren’t smiling or laughing or posing naturally because they were feeling genuinely happy.  They were doing it because I wanted them to.  They had to do it because otherwise, their photos will suck.  Those smiles on their faces were not them at their most natural selves – they were simply results that I was trying to get from them.

One day, I was struck by a thought:
If I truly, truly enjoy my work, people will surely enjoy their time with me, too.

What happened after that were the most amazing sessions I’ve ever experienced, and I couldn’t find the words to explain them, until yesterday, propped on my pillow, wide awake at night.  What happened was this:

I stopped trying to get results, and started giving.

I gave my time to listen.

I gave my heart to feel.

I gave myself a chance to love people as they are.

Instead of gunning for the perfect expression, I gave, and opened my heart to the moments that came my way.

What I received in return weren’t simply smiles that looked natural, but an entire spectrum of real human emotions, from the craziest laughter, to the saddest tears.  Feelings that mere photographs can never faithfully express, friendships that lasted years after the sessions were done.

So this Christmas – and many, many seasons after – give, and open your heart like never before, for what you’ll receive will be beyond measure.