31 Days of Photographers that Inspire: Day 10 Julie Belton: How taking a risk in your images, life and relationships can make you a better photographer

Julie Belton: How Taking a risk in your images, life and personal relationships can make you a better photographer:


         Open yourself up to constructive criticism and become a member of critique groups!

One of the most painful parts of being a photographer, at least for me, is working on an image for hours on end just to have someone look at it and say… should have done this, that or the other….but recently I’ve found it to be the number one most important element of my images.  When I finish an image as well as half way through, I have my husband look at them.  He stares at them with this intense look on his face and my heart breaks as I watch him see all of the problems I missed by staring at it for too many hours in a row.  Then he starts spouting off all sorts of problems that he sees that are going to make finishing the image a complete nightmare.  Sometimes I cry about it though I’m getting thicker skin, but I always walk away and come back looking at it through his eyes.  After I rework the image I finally fall in love with it.  EVERY TIME.


When I had the unbelievable honor and privilege of filming for The Framed Show’s, The Concept with Brooke Shaden and Lindsay Adler, the absolute most valuable moment of my photographic journey happened to me.  I was sitting down editing one of my images and Brooke came and sat next to me constantly redirecting my light and shadows.  I’ve always struggled with perspective and light no matter how hard I’ve tried to study it.  To have her there really guiding me, I was able to see the mistakes I had been unknowingly making.  I appreciate so much that she didn’t sugar coat it.  My image looked awesome, but it wasn’t perfect and she could have easily just told me that it was great or that I was on the right track and left me to finish.  But she didn’t and because of it, all my images from that moment on were taken to an entirely different level.

When Brooke was on Creative Live, I had seen one of her students, Julie Belton and Brooke had told me she thought we would be great friends.  In a self portrait artist group I watched Julie take risks with her images and with each post, her work continued to grow.  I was fascinated by her concepts and by her clear ambition to take as many creative risks as she had the time to take. Her pictures were brilliant already.  I saw a similarity in her lighting, some elements that Brooke had just helped me begin to see,  that kept nudging at me and making me want to reach out to Julie to give her a bit of the light and shadow awakening Brooke had given me.


I first asked Brooke if she thought Julie would be offended if I offered her help and she immediately said that Julie is learning and soaking up every ounce of knowledge she can get and she knew she would be receptive.  I was still nervous because I know how sensitive I am about my work, but I took the risk.

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From the very moment I reached out, a powerful friendship was born.  Although I was able to give her the lighting advice that had been so graciously given to me, what I gained in return from her was beyond anything I had ever expected.  I am absolutely dreadful at marketing and Julie is an expert. She has become one of my closest friends and someone I can bounce ideas off of and share career dreams, fears and questions with.  This kind of support team is invaluable to artists trying to grow and create.

Just by reaching out to a stranger who inspired me, I gained a friendship that both of us would go to the ends of the earth to support.

Julie inspires me in so many ways.  She is a photographer by passion and love, not profession.  Every day after a long day of working, she comes home and creates.  She is constantly running concept ideas by me, looking at things that inspire her and just going for it.

I’ve met a lot of photographers who think they have to be at a certain level of Photoshop knowledge or shooting knowledge before they’ll begin to take risks but Julie blows me away with how confident she is at making things happen and getting to the gold by hard work, determination and being open to critique.

Her ideas are brilliant and always carry a deep symbolism.  She once told me that she wants someone to look at one of her images and think of it as their favorite picture ever.  That is what THIS image of hers is for me and I have lost myself in it for hours:

 Inspired by the movie “Like Water for Chocolate” – In this story a girl lost her true love. Broken hearted she turned to her knitting to keep occupied and distracted from the ache of her heart. She knitted a blanket so long… it never had an end.


I hope you can open yourself up as naturally and confidently as Julie does so that you can continue to grow on your path.  Or, at least I hope you can open yourself up, be offended, cry like a stinkin’ fool of a baby like me, and come back as a better artist for it.

Whatever your methods of learning and growing are, be inspired, take chances and don’t be afraid to reach out and give as well as accept help! Go show this amazingly deserving, brave woman some love on her Facebook Page!

BUT let me clarify! There is a HUGE difference in delicately approaching someone to give them tips and sounding like a freakin’ know-it-all….YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE if you sound like that.  (At least it seems like you know-it-alls know who you are.  If you know it all, you should know that too, right?  I digress…)

You can follow Bonnie and Gabe Al-Rifai of 2 Birds Photography at or check out my new fine art only website at

Be sure to check out the rest of my 31 Days of Photographers that Inspire!


  1. I am SO extremely happy to read this. I really love and adore both of you, and to see two like-minded people come together and bond is heartwarming, truly. I get to see Julie in a week, we’ll Skype with you!!!

  2. Pingback: 31 Days of Photographers that Inspire | fromthebirdcage

  3. Awilda Crespo

    This is my daughter she wrote about! I am her biggest supported in all she has done,but I have never been more proud of her recent work. When I look at her self portraits, I am blown away and am emotionally enveloped in it. I see the artist, I
    see her creativity, I see the desire to be open and express. I say Yes! Love you baby, Mom….

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