Anna’s recent beach portrait session at First Landing State Park

She came as an assistant to a previous session, saw what it was all about, and wanted one of her own. Welcome to The Model Experience.

There seems to be a misconception that I only work with models. Nothing can be further than the truth. I work with anyone who voices an interest in a session. Sometimes it would be with a model, yes, but the vast majority of the time I work with everyday people. People that just wanted some nice pictures done of themselves for various reasons.

It is my job, however, to bring out their best features and make them shine – to make everyone look like they could be models. I think that’s where the confusion occurs. I like to call this The Model Experience. In this kind of session the person gets to experience what it’s like to be a model. They get doted on, pampered, and generally get treated like they are the center of the universe during their session. After it’s over they also have awesome images to show to family and friends.

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Take Anna, for example. She came to a previous session as an assistant to the person I was working with. She, aside from school pictures, had never done a solo portrait session. She had always wondered what it was like but never had the opportunity. She confided in me during a break that she didn’t feel pretty enough. I was truly taken aback by that but wasn’t really surprised.

We are, without a doubt, the worst, harshest critics when it comes to our own appearance. We only see our faults. We see ourselves in that bathroom mirror every morning and all we see are the “issues.” This is too big, that’s too small, I wish this was up here, et cetera. The kick is that it’s all in our heads. The general public doesn’t see those issues or at least not to the extent that we do. We beat ourselves up for things that only we can see.

I face this issue all the time. This is why I always stop the session, from time to time, to show them the image I just captured in my camera. There is no chance for Photoshop, obviously, so they are literally seeing the truth. They see how I see them. Most of the time they are really “seeing” themselves for the first time.

It melts my heart every time when I see the look of disbelief spread across their faces as they see those images. The widening of the eyes, The little catch of breath. The little voice that asks if that’s really them. I assure them that it is and then we go back to work. This time, though, they move with more assuredness, more confidence. They now know they can do this and it’s an amazing transformation.

This is what drives me to this day. It feeds my soul more than anything else. To see their own self worth and self image literally grow in front of my eyes. Amazing.

Anna is a prime example. She started out a little ahead of the curve as she had witnessed a session and knew what to expect. The transformation still occurred with no less impact as the session progressed. The quiet, shy girl with no previous modeling experience soon blossomed into a confident, radiant, creature that moved with the best of them. I did my best to hang on as the session progressed.

When it was all said and done she was already talking about our next session. I can’t wait to go again with her.

So, if you’ve always wanted to do a session but always had a doubt or didn’t feel you could do it – do it. Come to me and ask for The Model Experience. Life’s too short not to live it to the fullest. The worst thing we can do is to end it with regrets. Regardless of your age, gender, build, shape, ethnicity..whatever. Do it while you’re still here. Take that leap of faith. I’ll be here waiting for you.

Mark Knopp is a Virginia Beach-based portrait photographer covering the Hampton Roads community. Contact him today at for your fitness, senior portraits, retro/pin-up, couples, model portfolio, model experience, engagement, corporate, and headshot needs.

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