New Workshop - Unscripted!


Me Ra Koh WPPI 2011 Lecture Notes

March 14th 2011 5:27 PM


Shooting from the Heart

Recap and Review by Lindsay Chavez []

Ask any mom-turned-photographer out there how they came to be a photographer, and there will surely be a touching story involving their children. The story that Me Ra shared at the beginning of her WPPI talk was as touching as it was gut wrenching. This Sony Artisan of Imagery boldly shared the trials that plagued her life as a young woman starting with a scarring date rape incident in college that led her life to a downward spiral of despair.

Then MeRa began to write. From the depths of her sadness and struggles, a book, entitled Beauty Restored, was born. And on the day the book hit the shelves, her daughter, too, was born. The book was a love letter to women, where she shared her story and meant to empower, encourage, and enrich lives. Her life was finally turning around, husband, daughter, book, and another baby on the way. Yet in another terrible turn of events, during her book tour, her baby was lost. She was back in sadness. Laying on the couch. Watching her life pass from behind a murky depression. Missing her daughter grow up.

It was in these depths that she realized, that she needed to capture her daughter’s life. She went to Costco and purchased her first camera. Her photography was born. But what is important to know is that photography for MeRa emerged out of a need to heal herself, not to start a business.

MeRa today is a celebrated children and wedding photographer. She has been featured in several wedding publications such as Grace Ormonde’s Wedding Style. She also has been featured on VHI Weddings, The Oprah Winfrey Show, Lifetime, and is a regular on The Nate Berkus Show. MeRa hosts Confidence workshops for women and through her SOAR! Scholarship, helps three women each year realize their dream of creating a photography business.

MeRa’s purpose for her WPPI talk was to help women, and a few men, to “Shoot from the Heart  and find confidence.

“As artists we struggle with confidence, we put our hearts out there,  shared MeRa.

I was captivated.

What new or veteran photographer out there doesn’t struggle with confidence from time to time?

Straight out of MeRa’s mouth, or Me-Ra-isms as I like to call them, here are three things that you need to know, to know enough to be confident.

MeRa-ism #1 – Know that you are smarter than your camera.

Say it with me, “I am smarter than my camera. 

Come on, say it louder. “I am smarter than my camera. 

I can’t hear you!!! “I AM SMARTER THAN MY CAMERA! 

Good. This means, know the basics. MeRa started with understanding aperture, her personal favorite. Telling a story using various apertures. Then move on to understanding how shutter speed is used to freeze moments, and finally learning ISO. MeRa herself began in aperture priority mode before she was comfortable enough with shooting manually. This means that a new photographer must learn to meter and using it to get the photo that you want.

Confidence begins here, with conquering your camera.

MeRa-ism #2 – Be a storyteller.

According to MeRa, your work must make the “reader  want to turn the page. Use emotion to grab people into the image. Shoot details that define the moment. Show the settings where the stories are taking place. Don’t forget that less is more! Use framing and don’t be afraid to get in tight.

MeRa sums it up simply with one phrase, “Refuse to say cheese! 

MeRa-ism #3 – Embrace your weaknesses and embrace that you can shoot like a woman!

Men are more adept at compartmentalizing. Women, on the other hand, bring everything with them. Feelings, emotions, Kleenex, tears. In this one afternoon, we women learned that it’s ok to come into a shoot, a wedding, a session, it’s ok to walk in feeling. Just feeling. MeRa shared that we must be aware that we are creators and artists and because of that, it’s ok to walk into a photo session without an agenda and just play with our clients.

“All the things that you think make you weak as a woman, makes you a strong photographer. 

Then MeRa asked us to do something that really struck a chord in me and probably single handedly changed my perception of my photography business. She asked us to write down our three biggest weaknesses. I know my weaknesses, I think about them all the time, they swim in my mind and make my head spin. But when I put pen to paper and saw my weaknesses solidified in my notebook, I found it difficult to hold myself together.

Then MeRa said, “You can’t take your weaknesses too seriously . . . they hired you because they saw something that struck emotion in them. Your clientele does not see your weaknesses, Lindsay. 

Ok, so she didn’t say my name, so she wasn’t talking directly to me. But the thing about MeRa is that she just knew me so well. And in a room of about 500 women, I knew that they each felt the very same way.

The afternoon spent in a cold, cramped, MGM conference room was more than I had imagined it to be. I knew that MeRa was inspirational and energetic, but I didn’t realize how much it was going to hit my heart, change me as a photographer, and as a person.

MeRa encouraged us to embrace the thing that scares us the most, because if we can do the 3 MeRa-isms, Be smarter than your camera, be a storyteller, and know that your weaknesses are your biggest strengths, then how can we not be confident?

I will end this review with a favorite MeRa-ism from that day, I hope that it strikes a chord in you like it did in me.

“When you feel like you’ve hit your glass ceiling. Remember that glass shatters. It’s okay to feel your life is shattering around you. It means that you’re breaking through to the next level.  _Me Ra Koh

Lindsay Chavez is a wedding and portrait photographer based out of Southern California.

View her site and blog at

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Co-Founder of SLR Lounge and Photographer with Lin and Jirsa Photography, I’m based in Southern California but you can find me traveling the world. Click here to connect on Google +

Comments [1]

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  1. Joseph Prusa

    Thanks for sharing.

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