The Honest Portrait Project

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The Honest Portrait Project culminated from a few different ideas over the past year or so for me.  First, the Netflix documentary Abstract was unreal, and I specifically loved the episode with photographer Platon on portraits.  His style tends to be a bit more high key and iconic with the lighting, but his way with clients is intentional and gives way to noticing, listening and interacting with his subjects in a manner in which I deeply resonate.  I also recently took a Masterclass with the renowned Annie Leibovitz and I was encouraged by her longevity in the highly competitive photography business as well as her genuine thoughtfulness in how she sets out to craft an image. 

Reflecting over my Christmas holiday, I noticed that I took just a handful of grainy, crappy photos and videos of my own growing kids on my phone and that was it.  They weren't great images by any means, they were not intentional and they were most likely going to be deleted entirely in a few months when I needed the storage and the holiday was long past and seemed irrelevant.  What happened to when we were kids and we took a posed photo in front of the tree in our finest Christmas Eve clothes, or even Christmas morning in our pajamas?!  We used to have a physical roll of 24 images that not only were taken by intent, but taken and kept.  It got me thinking to how we take photos and how we have a more fast-paced world of selfies and device images that are taken in a moment's notice and then added into the mix of media over consumption. Believe me, I'm not at all against selfies or phones or media!  Rather, pondering how an image is taken (not necessarily the means but the method) and what is done with it after it is taken?!  

The invitation for #thehonestportrait was simply to come-as-you-are and to have your honest photo taken.  The idea of a portrait is kind of a lost art, even old-school-- it calls the subject to be brave and stand (or sit) alone (no family cohorts as shields, no wedding party group shenanigans to hide along with!)  My aim was to take classic portraits but with a modern twist- playing with perspective, light, space or personality.  I wanted photos that were artsy, honest, and represented YOU, the subject.

A very sincere thanks to my brave participants and willing subjects.  You all did so great.  No session was alike.  I've collected quotes below the photos from the participants as their own words speak louder than I can express.  But I will leave you with part of this one... "you are doing so much more than just taking photos, I hope you know that."

Much love.  Thanks all.


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The Honest Portrait done by the one and only Steph Hall was absolutely brilliant!!! I love my photos and even the ones that weren’t my favourite - I’m getting used to. That was the honest part for me. Learning to love and accept all angles of ourselves. This was waaaaay more than just a photo shoot. You are a gem Steph!!! 💜
— Kaylene
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I was lucky enough to have my picture taken by the very talented (and kind) Steph Hall of Retrospect Photography as part of her #thehonestportrait project. I’m pretty sure I’m going to use pictures from that day as my profile pics for the rest of my life...
It was such a joy to be part of this! Thanks for the lovely experience.
— Taryn
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Love love love ❤️
— Tory
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She’s my twin and you captured her soul beautifully. Thank you for doing this with her. ❤
— Joella
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I did something I’ve never done before, I had a photographer take my picture for her #thehonestportrait on International Women’s Day. I was pretty anxious that I would get the photos and just pick myself apart, but that didn’t happen. I love them and love that I have them to commemorate the place I’m at in my life. I’ve been doing a lot more for myself these days and it feels right and everyone still gets taken care of and loved without limits...including me. How great is that ✨thanks @retrospectsteph, you are doing so much more than just taking photos, I hope you know that 🦋
— Kelly
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Holy 🍌 bananas, j’adore 💕
— Kelly
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It was such a fun experience, and the photos are so lovely (as well as honest!) and I have never loved my wrinkles and pores and imperfections so much, along with the good bits of me too.
— Kylee-Anne
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Thank you for taking me outside my comfort zone! You made it fun. You do great work.
— Bev
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Thanks again for everything, looking forward to the next time! :)
— Tyler
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Thank YOU!!! 😍😍
— Sarah
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There is something magical at opening up with a new friend and letting her take a picture of your soul. Thank you Stephanie for letting me part of the #thehonestportrait project.
Here’s to the celebration of #Year10 !
— Cynthia
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You just made me cry a little bit!!! Thank you so much for capturing this. You have no idea how much I needed this. I love them.
— Cynthia
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Holy heck! @retrospectsteph just sent over some images of me from #thehonestportrait series she did, and I feel so lucky to have been a part of it! Thanks for the amazing photos! 😄✨
— Emily
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❤️ perhaps my new *everything* photo
— Emily
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Had the best time getting some glaaaaamour💅🏻 shots taken with @retrospectsteph for #thehonestportrait . Thank you Steph, I had so much fun and love all of the moments you captured. Ps just look at my biceps wow
— Lyzanne
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Thanks! I had so much fun.
— Janna
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Steph! I am blown away by how fun and good these are! Thank you for helping me see myself in a different light.
— Megan
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One of my portraits done by the fabulous @retrospectsteph for the #thehonestportrait project! Give her a follow and consider her for all of your future photography! She’s so genuine and sweet.
— Rochelle
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They turned out wonderful!! was so fun to participate in!
— Nicole
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OMG!! Thanks SO much Steph. They’re so great. I totally love your style and how you capture light. I had such a fun time doing this with you.

You inspired me to start an idea I’ve had for a long time- so again, a HUGE thank you for inspiring us to not be small, giving us permission to ‘go for it’ and for having enough moxie for three people.
— Kath
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A huge THANK YOU to Retrospect Photography | Stephanie Strauss Hall for the chance to experience #thehonestportrait & for her ability to capture the essence of the moment, & of the person.
— Katherine

I'll be opening up a new date soon for the Honest Portrait Project and I've love to have you join me.  For the most current up-to-date info, it's best to keep tabs on my Instagram at: @retrospectsteph or on my photography Facebook page.