Photo Tips

Women in the Photography Industry Bringing Change

Me Ra Koh

Where We Started

I remember attending my first photography conference in Los Angeles.  Eighty percent of the audience were men.  Twenty percent were women.

My first thought was ‘Where are all the women in the photography industry?’

Back then everyone was shooting film.  Facebook, Instagram, and blogs weren’t around.

Finding community was not available online.  It was in-person and tough.

I’d heard about a group of women photographers in my local area who were getting together once a month.  When I found out, I asked if I could join.  The thought of having other women to connect with sounded like bliss, especially around the topics of juggling a photography business while being a mom to young children!  But I was told their group of four was full and a couple of the women felt threatened by my new found success.

The rejection was hard to swallow, but I’m thankful it happened.  From that moment on, I made a commitment to play a role in improving the atmosphere of women in the photography industry.

We can be our greatest cheerleaders or greatest competitors. I’ve seen not only men criticize mom photographers but also women.  Even worse, I’ve seen women leave their feminine wisdom behind and try to be men in proving their validity to call themselves a photographer.

As women, we can bring out the best and worst in each other.

I decided to choose the best.

After all, if women want change, it needs to start with us taking action.

And every change we work toward creates space for our daughters.

What Role Do You Want Play?

We all have a role to play with women finding more voice and influence in society.

Instead of asking the question “What role do you see yourself playing?”  I think it’s more powerful to ask “What role do you want to play?”  Sometimes we become buried in responsibility that we forget to make sure it’s a passion that aligns with our gifts, desires and strengths.

What role can you play that gives to you, makes you excited, and challenges you?

Every role, no matter how big or small, is significant.

I decided to be a pioneer.

When I saw the lack of women in the photography industry back in 2004, I told Brian I wanted to be a voice to help pioneer a wider path for more women.

There were powerful women photographers who came before me, but we can always use more.

There is still more work to do.

I was already traveling with my first book, Beauty Restored, and speaking at women’s conferences about healing, restoration and confidence.  Why not interweave my message with my passion for photography?  I was also a mom when I first picked up a camera in 2002.  Why not be a champion for moms with cameras?  Through our wonderful partnerships with Oprah’s Nate Berkus team, Live with Kelly, Disney Junior and Sony, we’ve been able to reach millions of moms.  Our 2-Day CONFIDENCE Photography Workshop for women has sold out for over a decade.  It’s incredible to be a part of empowering lives through hands-on workshops and TV.

Partnering with Sony

I have an AWE-mazing story of how I first met Sony in 2007.  This will have to be a separate blog post.  But the one thing I’ll never forget is when they presented the opportunity to partner.  I responded by saying “But did you know I was once locked in a psychiatric ward?”  Brian couldn’t believe I said this!  However, the VP of Marketing at Sony didn’t miss a beat.  He looked at me, smiled, and said “Actually we did know.  And that’s why we want to partner with you.  We believe the world is hungry for more authentic, real voices. And we want to help you empower more women by making your platform a little bigger.”  A huge corporation said that and for the last ten years have proven it!

The rest is history.

I want to fill my space.

When I think of showing up, I think of a woman who fills her space without making apology for who she is.  How many of us struggle with apologizing for who we are?  The smallest compliment we disregard or deflect. But when we believe we are worthy of having a voice and worthy of being noticed, we create space for other women to do the same.

This is why we need women to role model something different, something powerful, by simply stepping into who they are meant to be.  For example, when I see other women speakers filling their space on stage by being their unique selves in how they tell a story, share their passion and share their pain, I feel like oxygen is released into my heart.  My creative lungs expand.  My boldness goes to a new level.  By the speaker filling her space, she is creating more space for me to be myself.

 Delivering the Keynote at WPPI, Photo: Garrette Baird

Delivering the Keynote at WPPI, Photo: Garrette Baird

There are Many Options to Choose From

You don’t have to stand on a stage to make a difference.  There are many options to choose from…if nothing else, start from.

Maybe you’ve been asked to take family photos for a friend, and you are debating whether or not to do it because you’re scared you might fail. Go for it!  We all feel terrified on our first shoot, and we all have to start somewhere.

Do you want to use the camera as a way to extend bring healing to your subjects?  This is one of the most important roles I’ve chosen to play the last fifteen years.  See my article on this topic, Art that Heals, in the January/February Anniversary Issue of Click magazine.

Have you survived powerful storms throughout your life and have some wisdom to share with the rest of us?  Write a blog post, magazine article, maybe even a book!

Are you a career woman that has insight into what it means to be successful while embracing your feminine wisdom?  Please identify yourself.  There is a scarcity of you, and we need you.

All Ages Needed.  Women and Men.

Would you identify yourself as the mom with a camera?  You love taking photos of your kids. Did you know one of the greatest gifts you can give your family is to find a tangible way to say “I See You”.  Photography is a powerful tool to make this happen.

Are you retired and feel unsure of where to give and who needs you?  Oh, I can’t tell you enough how much younger women need you.  I would love to see more blog posts from women who have gone before me and have encouraging words for moms who are sending their first to college, experiencing the empty nest, my list goes on.

Maybe you have a father’s heart.  You have life giving words of encouragement to speak into women’s lives.  For example, John is a retired Vice Principal that came with his wife on our Portrait of Italy Photography Workshop and Tour.  After spending nine days with John, I saw that he had a gift of encouragement.  I asked him to be a vocal part of our private Confidence Facebook group because I know many of our women didn’t grow up with fathers who spoke life into us.  Sometimes John’s encouraging posts bring me to tears.  He may not realize he is playing a role for women photographers in the industry, but it is powerful.

The most amazing man that comes to mind is my husband, Brian.  He has dedicated his life to empowering women alongside me.  Strong women are blessed when we have strong men behind us.  Whether you’re a father, husband, brother or friend, you can be one of these strong men for the women in your life by cheering them on. Encouraging them not to give up and dream with boldness.

The Progress We’ve Made

In their anniversary issue, Click magazine and Clickin Moms addressed the incredible progress and future of women in the photography industry;

As we mark our 5th anniversary and our parent, Click & Company, reaches its 10th year, we celebrate the milestones women photographers have achieved in recent years. Women have changed photography — as an art form and an industry. Women represent its increasingly exciting future, but we also recognize the continuing need to address certain inequities, from equal pay among professional photographers to equal representation and diversity throughout the industry at every level.

When I first met the CEO and Founder of Clickin Moms (almost ten years ago) they were feeling a little upside down.  They were atWPPI (Wedding Portrait and Photography Conference) in Vegas, and we grabbed lunch when I was done speaking.  I had heard about these brave women who were wanting to empower moms with cameras, and I wanted to know them and applaud their work.  I was so frustrated when they told me about the horrible things other photographers had said to them throughout their first couple days.

Yet that was our reality.

We were pioneering a path for women together, and the push back was real.

I’m so thankful the AWE-mazing women at Clickin Moms don’t scare easy.  The transformation they’ve helped bring to women in the photography industry is a living legacy that makes room generations to come.

The key is to expect the push back.

Anytime we step out and pursue something we love or feel passionate about, we must ALWAYS expect push back.  I think it’s a way of God allowing us to be tested, to build our muscles on some resistance exercises, so that we can really make a difference.

Women Photographers Who Inspire Me

 Brooke Shaden

Brooke Shaden

Nowadays, when I speak at photography conferences more than half of the audience is made up of enthusiastic women.  It is a beautiful sight to see.

Through the world wide web, we now have access to powerful women leaders who are authentic, passionate and pressing in to find what it means to fill their space.

These are some of the women photographers who inspire me most;

Every week I’m inspired by Brooke Shaden, a Fine Art photographer whose self portraits cause me to press in deeper and live more fully.

Cristina Mittermeier, is like my big sis, a conservationist photographer who has dedicated her life’s work to saving our oceans through her non-profit Sea Legacy.

Caroline Jensen creates breath taking imagery that looks like Renaissance paintings, inspiring me to press deeper into composition and lighting, while reminding me to savor the slow life.

Katrin Eisman is an amazing example of a photographer who gives it away.  She has dedicated her life to empowering her students at the School of Visual Arts in NYC.

Vivienne Gucwa captures amazing, dream-like city scenes that tell a story of magic and wonder.

I’ve had the honor of getting to know each of these women through the Sony Artisans of Imagery program.  Not one of them is like the other.  This is what I treasure most.  Their richness is diverse, stretching both deep and wide.  Each of them are genuine, passionate about empowering others, and filling their space in their own unique ways.

 Cristina Mittermeier

Cristina Mittermeier

 Caroline Jensen

Caroline Jensen

 Katrin Eismann

Katrin Eismann

 Vivienne Gucwa

Vivienne Gucwa

Small, Daily Opportunities. Not Overlooked but Signficant.

Jenny is a retired teacher in our private Confidence Facebook group.  She often shares encouraging words with the younger women in our group.  Her love photography runs deep.  And she’ll be the first to tell you that she still has much to learn.  Yet, everything she learns she also gives away.

Dustin is a mom who often posts images of her little boy.  By simply being brave enough to share her journey, she’s inspiring others in our group to risk a little more and share their own images.

Jill, co-owner of This is Family, is a professional birth photographer who shared her clear, measurable business goals with the group last week.  Her tenacious determination rallied all of us to get more clarity about our own dreams for the coming year.  Her work continues to inspire me as she grows each year in focus and purpose.

These are only three examples of the many voices we have in our Confidence Facebook group.  But I love the difference each one of us makes when we press in to our own dreams and allow others to journey with us.

When we pursue our own dreams and desires, we make room for others to do the same.  It’s like a powerful domino effect.

Do you have a community that you are growing with, sharing with, and finding encouragement from?

If not, get into our group.  There is no reason you should feel alone.  We’re here for you!


What is ONE Action Step You Can Take Today?

The sky is the limit on how you can impact women in the photography industry for the better.

We are making a path for our daughters and granddaughters.

If you are ready to step forward with more confidence, pursue the desires and dreams in your heart, being willing to make mistakes along the way, be rejected, embrace progress and not perfection, and keep pressing forward, WE NEED YOU!  There is a scarcity of women doing this.

The photography industry, and society in general, needs women who want to take action by embracing who they are without apology.

What is one step you can take today to do this?

Maybe it’s joining our private Confidence Facebook group and introducing yourself.

Or, maybe calling that family back who wanted photos.

Are you unsure?  Try setting a time for 4 minutes and being still as you recall the desires and dreams you’ve carried but can’t remember.

Each one of these things are a step forward for not only you but all women in the photography industry.

When we come together, we can make a difference.  And we have no idea how much courage and life it is giving to the women around us.

I leave you with my daughter’s post on Instagram this morning.  It seemed timely and true.





  1. Julie says:

    Great post, Me Ra! Several months ago I was challenged to find my “why” in something I was involved in. My why was: “I believe we should all know who we are and be who we are, without apology.” The without apology part was key for me as so often I’ve allowed what other people think of me, or even what I’m afraid other people will think of me, to cripple me and keep me from even attempting new and exciting things.

  2. Jenny says:

    What a wonderful outreach to women everywhere! I’m honored to be among several women mentioned here. I’m always searching for clarity in purpose in my retirement, and Me Ra is a guiding force in helping me to delve deeper. If you haven’t taken her Confidence Women’s Workshop, give yourself the gift of a weekend in Dallas, TX with Me Ra Koh and Brian. You will be amazed at the richness that will fill you up. Or better yet, join one of the travel workshops. Our time in Italy was just wonderful! Not only did we see the country, but we met new friends and honed our skills in photography. Great memories!

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