Summer Voices | Cathy Zielske | The Real Life Portrait Page Project

I'm on vacation this week and have invited some friends to share their voice here during my time away. Say hello to Cathy Zielske:

I'm going to tell you something today that I try to convey to just about anyone who'll listen: my house and my life are not perfect.

Don't get me wrong. I'm extremely grateful for the home in which I dwell and the life that I'm fortunate enough to lead, but you're not going to find perfection in either one.

This lack of perfection gave me an idea for a new way of taking portraits and it began with my 16-year-old daughter's perfectly trashed room. Her idea of cleaning is to take every item in her room and pile it up on her bed. Sounds like a great start, right? The problem is that many times the pile gets made and stays for days at a time, forcing her to carve out a tiny sliver of the bed on which to sleep while she procrastinates tackling the inevitable.

Because this is just so her, I was struck with the idea to prop her right in front of said bed, and shoot a portrait that truly captures an authentic slice of her real life.

And the results made me giddy.

I'm tired of the idea that a portrait should be perfection. Yes, I have some nice spots in my home in which to shoot, but this shot? This shot shows me a real slice of my daughter's life; something messy; something imperfect; something quintessentially her.

I want to challenge anyone out there to take up the Real Life Portrait Challenge. How can you photograph the people you love using a less than perfect background? I can only imagine the number of women out there with a perfectly trashed [insert the room here!] Have you ever thought how that just might be the ideal spot for a portrait?

What about in the room you've been trying to paint for the last year? Or the garden project that's hit a wall? Or the mismatched furniture in your family room that you keep thinking will look so much better once it's all replaced?

How can you look at your perfectly non-glamorous life for a slice of portrait perfection?


Today I have a digital package download for you to create your own page built around a perfectly imperfect portrait. Here is the project you'll be making:

The digital package includes everything you need to create a hybrid page as I've done, or a fully digital layout. Also included are a set of printable PDF instructions that will walk you through the steps using Photoshop Elements to create this scrapbook page.

Click on this link below to download the digital package:

Download the CZ Digital Package

Here's to seeing real life in creative and authentic ways. And heck, if it takes the pressure off of shooting for perfection, I say all the better.

ABOUT CATHY ZIELSKE | Cathy Zielske is a graphic designer, blogger, author, scrapbooker and online instructor who has recently become a big fan of reality. Just ask her therapist. You can find her online at or on Facebook or on Twitter. Author of the best selling Clean&Simple Scrapbooking and Clean&Simple Scrapbooking: the Sequel, one of her life’s missions is to take the crap out of scrapbooking, one awesome layout at a time.

53 thoughts

Login or Register to comment.