Beloved Photography

by Guest Contributor Elizabeth Halford

Imagine a world where photography changes lives. Imagine a world where new life springs out of a session with you. Imagine your business, your art, your photography having the power to change the course of a couple’s marriage. Imagine finding out that the grand dreams that drew you into photography in the first place really can come true… enter “Beloved Photography”.

If you follow many other photographers, you may see the word ‘Beloved’ being used here and there. I think it’s one of the most important new techniques for photographers to understand. Beloved has changed my life. And it can change yours, too.

Beloved is the brain child of photographer Jesh de Rox. It’s not entirely simple to just tell you everything you need to know about it in one blog post. Even Jesh has a way of describing it in such a way that you’re left still wondering what it’s all about. I think this is because explaining Beloved to someone who hasn’t yet been changed by it is a bit like speaking to someone in a different language. But when you do get it, Beloved will blow your mind.

The main principles of Beloved are thus:

Not creation. Discovery. The Beloved state isn’t something you fabricate – it already exists in the people you work with.

Give everything. Give it first. If you want people to be moved when they see your work, you must be moved while you’re making it.

Invite into experience. You aren’t the director, you’re the stage.

Reading those three principles doesn’t tell you how to have a Beloved session. And this is the problem I ran across when I wanted to understand what Beloved was about. When I wanted to get past what I perceived as gushy mumbojumbo and find out how to create these extremely emotive images. But that was my problem. I wanted to take pictures. And with Beloved, you can’t just takepictures. You first have to give. In a Beloved session, you become as emotionally bare as your subjects and you must do it first before they will respond in kind.

The first time I heard about Beloved was when I saw this session from London photographerMarianne Taylor. I was instantly captivated. I began Googling this word “Beloved” and found this website. I clicked play on the bottom right and listened to the nearly 2 hours of Jesh presenting the Beloved concept. At the end, I felt so hungry to know more. So I purchased his field guide. When it came, I read each card and thought “how in the world will I ever be able to say things like this to people?!” They were deep, emotional, intensely personal experiential invites. The experiential invites {which I have also heard called “expression invites”} are the meat of the Beloved session. They set the stage for the intensely emotional images you see Beloved photographers producing. Some are lively and fun and the intended purpose is to invite your subjects into a light, joyful, happy place. Others will likely evoke tears. These less ‘fun’ ones I set aside and told myself “I’ll never say that gushy stuff to perfect strangers”.

So here I was with the Field Guide and not a single clue what to do with it. I scheduled to meet a lovely couple I know for a try at my first Beloved session. The session was lively, jumpy, lots of action and LOTS of laughter. It was super fun. But not deep. Or emotional. Or fulfilling like I thought it would be. I felt like having this field guide was like being given a powerful power tool with no training how to use it. In fact, I’d say I didn’t even fully understand its purpose in the first place. Because Beloved isn’t just about taking pictures or creating fabulous visual imagery. I was hearing that this was a life changing thing. And that first session really didn’t change anything for anybody.

I booked my husband and I for a Beloved session with Marianne Taylor. It was a few months until we could have our session and this left me with plenty of time to hunger and yearn to finally experience Beloved for myself. When we met Marianne, she was so calm and peaceful that all my nerves began to melt away. She really seemed to know what she was doing and this made me feel very secure that our experience would be wonderful. During that session, our cups ranneth over. You see, as a couple married for a decade, it’s all there. The love, the passion, the tension, all that. It’s there – no one needed to create smiles or tears during that session. Because they have been there for years. Marianne just invited us to push away the things that make us forget. The things that cloud our vision of eachother. We spent 2 blissful hours drinking eachother in and there just happened to be a photographer there to make it last forever.

And this is what I realised about Beloved in that session:

  • It’s not a photo shoot. There just happens to be a photographer there.
  • That gushy stuff I said I’d never utter to a stranger? It was powerful.
  • Beloved isn’t about physical posing. It’s emotional posing.
  • Beloved was life changing.

During the session, I became unaware that there was a photographer. There were times when I couldn’t hear her shutter, couldn’t feel her walking around us. I have canvases from that session allover my house. They’re not representations of something real. They ARE something real. Seeing them brings back the strong feelings I felt while we were there infront of Marianne’s camera. Having our own session helped me understand what my clients should feel like infront of my camera and how to actually put the concepts in the Field Guide into action.

I’m still on a huge journey of discovery. I’ve only done a few sessions as such and am still learning how to interact with people in this way. And because it starts first with me, Beloved has sent me on a journey of personal discovery and evolution. Although Beloved was originally intended to celebrate the marriage relationship, photographers are finding its power translates to all walks of life.Families, children, even solitary sessions. Beloved isn’t for everyone. Not for every photographer or for every client. But I believe that if you give it a chance to get in you, to show you that photography really can change the world, then it just might change your life, too.

{Further Reading}

Listen to the audio on this website from Jesh de Rox.

I highly suggest participating in these resources if you decide you would like training on the Beloved genre.


About the Author: Elizabeth Halford is a professional photographer and blogger. She gives real photography advice in real.plain.english. Visit her on Facebook and join a community of photographers just like you!

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Jessica Montanez - July 13, 2012 - 9:11 am

Don’t know how I would be able to afford this guide, but I must find a way. This technique speaks to the reason I began this photography journey in the first place. Thank you for making me aware of it. It just might change my life :o)

DeAnn Payne - July 13, 2012 - 10:12 am

Very interesting! It really makes sense. But I am dying to see the images Marianne took of you and your hubs you talk about how it was amazing and how you have these images all over your home but you didn’t share any! Are they on your FB page or blog? Sounds like you had a great experience that is awesome!

Marianne Taylor - July 13, 2012 - 10:41 am

Oh Elizabeth, how beautifully you write about Beloved! It was such an honour photographing you two, and I’m so happy to see the session nudged you towards exploring Beloved yourself. x

Marianne Taylor - July 13, 2012 - 10:42 am

Deann, you can see Elizabeth’s session with me here:

Maggie Herbst - July 13, 2012 - 11:11 am

Thank you Elizabeth! I have been trying to learn more about Beloved for some time now and I am so excited to be able to use these resources.

Pia - July 14, 2012 - 3:12 am

Oh, I LOVE Beloved! I am Beloved photographer, and could not imagine my life, and work without it. :)

Marianna - July 15, 2012 - 6:19 am

Love love love love this! I hope to aspire to this one day. Amazing! How do you find Beloved photographers who are local to you? Hubby and I are 10 years married next year and I would love to do this!

Pia - July 15, 2012 - 1:57 pm

Marianna, I might be able to help you. Send me an email to pia(at)

Lisa Scott - July 15, 2012 - 7:45 pm

I was touched by the Beloved Technique about 6 months ago and Elizbeth I think your post started it all. I threw out everything I was doing and jumped in with both feet to solely offer Beloved Sessions, created a new website, brand, etc… and yesterday I had my first offical Beloved Photo Session and it was amazing! So thank you Elizabeth for posting about your photo session and your journey with Beloved!!

renee bertinot - July 15, 2012 - 8:16 pm

I too want to do this type of emotionally open photography. I would love to know where to get the field guide for this as I cannot afford to attend a workshop just yet. Thank you so much for sharing.

[…] Beloved Photography is het vastleggen van de liefde en die vieren jullie oa. ten volle op jullie bruiloft. Maar ja, hoe nu juist jullie liefde vast te leggen… daar heb ik mij als bruidsfotograaf in ontwikkeld. En met super veel plezier. Zeker weten dat jullie dat ook gaan hebben tijdens de fotoshoot. […]

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