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Beautiful Octogenarian

Updated on April 25, 2015
Virginia Allain profile image

I'm carrying on my mother's research into our family history. I've self-published some family memoirs & learned a lot about different eras.

An Octogenerian - Captured by My Camera

My Mom isn't camera shy, but it isn't easy to capture the essence of this octogenarian with my camera. First of all, I usually take photos of wildlife and flowers.

People are not comfortable subjects for me. I feel awkward making everyone sit stiffly and smile for the camera. While posed pictures didn't suit me, the candid photos weren't satisfying either. Sometimes they were blurred or the expression wasn't right or there were distracting items in the background.

It disturbed me that the more recent years of my parents' lives were not being documented. We have always treasured our vintage family photos and took pleasure in leafing through the family photo albums.

Getting Mom and Dad to go to a professional photographer seemed unlikely too. On a visit to the family in Kansas in April 2011, I took this lucky shot. I was elated to have a photo to represent my mother at this time in her life. I'll share some tips for getting a good photo of a senior citizen.

Isn't she lovely!

Photo of Gail Lee Martin taken April 2011 by Virginia Allain.

Looking Great at 86


Card available from Zazzle: Fabulous at 86 postcard by DesignsOutOfMind

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What Makes This Photo Succeed?

  1. Be Ready - I had the camera at hand and was able to quickly snap the photo as she was engaged in looking at some pictures and commenting on them. Having the person participating in something they like gives them a good expression.
  2. Expression - Although she is looking down, she has a smile on her face. Look for a situation where the person is doing something they like. Having the person participating in something they like gives them a good, natural expression. I prefer these over the fixed smile of a posed photo.
  3. Lighting - I think the natural light from the window behind Mom is a plus. It highlights her white hair to frame her face. If I'd used a flash for the indoor photo, I think it would have been too harsh.
  4. Get Close - I got in fairly close, but photos can be cropped too. You want to minimize distracting elements in the background.
  5. I used a Canon Powershot SX20is which is a great camera. Even a quick snapshot with a cell phone will get a decent photo if the expression and lighting are right.

Beautiful Older Women of the World - Enjoy this Youtube slideshow of older beauty

What makes these women beautiful in their 70s, 80s, and 90s? In some cases, it is their smile or the look in their eyes or the energy in their pose. I need to watch this over a few times to figure out how I can apply this to my own photography. Maybe I'll be getting more photos of Mom that I can be proud of and that she will like.

One Year Later at 87 - Photo Taken April 2012

I could probably crop this one a little tighter. That would remove the distracting knob on the furniture in the background. The light is a bit too strong and there's a little glare on the glasses lens.

Still, it shows my mom at 87 chatting with a visitor and I like the photo. I think pink is a good color for her.

A visitor suggested that I touch up the photo using Photoshop. Using that, I could remove the things I don't want in the background or blur the edges to make a more artful and focused picture.

Which Photo Do You Like Best?

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Graphic available from Zazzle: bee trail sunflower - 88 years old greeting card.

My mother loved sunflowers, being a Kansas girl all her life.

Gail Lee Martin at 88


This photo was taken by her sister, Carol Jean Garriott about two weeks before Gail died of a heart attack. Despite a month and a half spent in the hospital and in rehab, Mom's spirit still shines through even in repose.

When I Am an Old Woman, I Shall Wear Purple - A book celebrating older women

When I Am Old I Shall Wear Purple: Large Print
When I Am Old I Shall Wear Purple: Large Print

Older women share in their writing what it feels like to be elderly. Over a million and a half copies have sold of this thought-provoking anthology.


Gail Lee Martin - Sixty years ago


© 2012 Virginia Allain

Let Me Know You Stopped By...

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    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 2 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      Your mom was a lovely lady and I know you must treasure these photos.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 5 years ago from Central Florida

      @greenspirit: Thank you for visiting!

    • greenspirit profile image

      poppy mercer 5 years ago from London

      This is a lovely memorial for your mother. Wishing you well at this time.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 5 years ago from Central Florida

      @OhMe: Thank you for visiting.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 5 years ago from Central Florida

      @pkmcruk: Thank you, Paul. We will miss her so much.

    • pkmcruk profile image

      pkmcr 5 years ago from Cheshire UK

      A wonderful tribute and you are in my thoughts and prayers

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 5 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      A beautiful tribute in pictures of your mom. Thinking of you.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 5 years ago from Central Florida

      @anonymous: Thanks for visiting, Aunt Carol. I need to get some photos of you too for my album.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      A lovely tribute to my beautiful Big Sister! Love, Carol

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 5 years ago from Central Florida

      @anonymous: Indeed, I am, Nancy. Thanks for stopping by.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Lovely tribute to a lovely person. You can be very proud of your mom, Virginia.

    • EMangl profile image

      EMangl 5 years ago

      very sweet tribute!

    • Annbulance2000 profile image

      Annbulance2000 5 years ago

      That is a lovely photo. I took a good one of my mum for her facebook, which she likes a lot.Black and white is sometimes kinder and I sometimes ask people to take me in black and white.

    • profile image

      happynutritionist 5 years ago

      This is precious, what a beautiful picture of your Mom. I appreciate your tips, and NEED them:-)

    • jasminedessy profile image

      jasminedessy 5 years ago

      Nice lens ...

      really touch .. i like it

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      What a wonderful lens. Your mother really is beautiful!

    • randomthings lm profile image

      randomthings lm 5 years ago

      Great article! LOVE the contrast in the pics with your mom from 60 years ago and now. Very nice!

    • bushaex profile image

      Stephen Bush 5 years ago from Ohio

      Thank you for the celebration of age. SquidAngel Blessings.

    • Ann Hinds profile image

      Ann Hinds 5 years ago from So Cal

      I hope to age gracefully into a beautiful older model like your mom.

    • profile image

      fullofshoes 5 years ago

      Such a beautiful lens about a beautiful lady. Makes me miss my Mom. ~blessed~

    • fathomblueEG profile image

      fathomblueEG 5 years ago

      Your Mom is timeless and lovely. Any photo you take of your Mom isn't bad at all because every photo contains perfection....your Mom and there's no better perfection in life but having a loving Mom like yours. Thank you for such a lovely lens:-)

    • profile image

      dsdmiller 5 years ago

      Lovely photos of your mom, and thanks for sharing your tips.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Sweet thoughtful lens; a lovely tribute to your mom, and all older ladies. My mom just turned 91 in April, she has AD and doesn't believe she's THAT old! Hope we can all learn to age more gracefully, and truthfully, than what Hollywood would have us do. Thanks for the photography info too!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I just realized that this is my Dad's birthday, he's celebrated in heaven now for many years.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Your sure captured your Mother's beauty inside and out with your lens and it's a surprise you aren't that comfortable taking pictures of people because you sure get their essence. I would not have noticed that knob if you hadn't mentioned it, so I looked for it. My Mom is 85 and camera shy, its time to get some cameo shots of her. Congratulations on home page honors!

    • mariaamoroso profile image

      irenemaria 5 years ago from Sweden

      I have a blog at Blogger called "Now when I am old". The mind is young. I am about 23 on the inside.

    • gottaloveit2 profile image

      gottaloveit2 5 years ago

      So glad you're on the front page! Please give your mom a hug and a kiss from me. I so miss my mama.

    • nicks44 profile image

      nicks44 5 years ago

      I just hope to somehow reach 60, but I guess it will very hard given my frenetic lifestyle :)

    • Jack2205 profile image

      Jack 5 years ago

      Both photos are beautiful. Blessed by an Angel.

    • MrMojo01 profile image

      MrMojo01 5 years ago

      Great lens and great photos of your mom!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      A Very nice lens about a very nice lady.

    • Michey LM profile image

      Michey LM 5 years ago

      Your Mom looks great, and she is enjoying life which it is precious. Great lens


      I am living with my Mom who is 97, in fall 98 year old... she is my daily blessing!

    • profile image

      jenjeni 5 years ago

      she's lovely!

    • linfcor profile image

      Linda F Correa 5 years ago from Spring Hill Florida

      Let's hope we all get to that age

    • profile image

      SteveKaye 5 years ago

      Your mom looks great. I'm sure she's pleased to be featured in this lens.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 5 years ago from Central Florida

      @Max Globe: Thanks for that vote of confidence, Max!

    • Max Globe profile image

      Max Globe 5 years ago

      Definitely Lens of the day :)

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 5 years ago from Central Florida

      @LizMac60: Thank you for visiting and for the blessing. I'm so fortunate to still have my mom!

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 5 years ago from Central Florida

      @JoshK47: Thank you for your comment and blessing.

    • profile image

      jgelien 5 years ago

      Your love for your mother is very apparent in the way you have captured not only her outer but her inner beauty in these photos. She looks like someone I would love to sit down with and just listen. I wish I had been given more time with my mom to do just that. Treasure every moment and thank you for sharing your mom.

    • profile image

      JoshK47 5 years ago

      A beautiful lens for a beautiful woman - thank you so kindly for sharing. Blessed by a SquidAngel!

    • shabbysketchpad profile image

      Elisa Margaret lesmana 5 years ago from Jakarta, Indonesia

      The photos look very beautiful and sweet. Gorgeous lens.

    • LizMac60 profile image

      Liz Mackay 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      Both photos are lovely. My Mum went to glory 12 years ago. I have some good photos from which to remember her. Lovely lens. Blessed.

    • SheGetsCreative profile image

      Angela F 5 years ago from Seattle, WA

      We are all blessed by the glimpses of your mom that you share with us. :)

    • Thankfultw profile image

      Thankfultw 5 years ago

      My parents are 80 and 82, aren't we blessed to still have them! Lovely lens. Love the updates you've provided!

    • SheilaMilne profile image

      SheilaMilne 5 years ago from Kent, UK

      Lovely! I wish I'd had this advice when my mother was still alive, though I noticed she became more accepting of photos being taken as she grew older and that seemed to produce better results.

    • profile image

      JennySui 5 years ago

      Congrats on getting purple star. This lens deserve it. Your mom looks really good.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I feel the same way about photographing people, i hate posing them. your mom is very beautiful, i hope she has a wonderful birthday.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 5 years ago from Central Florida

      @savateuse: Thanks for your offer. That reminds me that I have Photoshop and really need to learn to use it more. I'll give it a whirl with the tool that can take out bits.

    • LaraineRoses profile image

      Laraine Sims 5 years ago from Lake Country, B.C.

      Congratulations on your purple star lens making the front page. So heart warming!

      I love her snow-white hair and she has a beautiful smile! Both pictures are beautiful.

      Angel blessed**

    • savateuse profile image

      savateuse 5 years ago

      Very nice lens! Wish your mum a happy birthday from us next month! The "distracting knob" on the furniture could easily be removed, without cropping too close. I'd be happy to do that for you, if you contact me. :o)

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Your Mom looks really good at 87. The picture really looks good.

    • profile image

      raicabogdan 5 years ago

      Just now my mom' came back from work after just 3 days, however I still missed her and the same for her.

      In this world there's only one mother and father, you need to cherish them!

    • profile image

      pawpaw911 5 years ago

      Wonderful photos. So great that you still have your mother. My mother is the same age as yours. We are very lucky to have her too.

    • thememorybooksh1 profile image

      thememorybooksh1 5 years ago

      Amazing lens buddy, it really touch my heart.

    • anne mohanraj profile image

      anne mohanraj 5 years ago

      Great lens! Very good tips! thanks for sharing.

    • Deadicated LM profile image

      Deadicated LM 5 years ago

      She's precious, btw, I liked both photos 8-)

    • kindoak profile image

      kindoak 5 years ago

      Excellent lens and subject! My mother is 84 and my dad 86, and like you mentioned their recent years are passing by without being documented. Of course, the memory will always be there but we probably should be taking a pic now and then of them... my mom is so camera shy though :)

    • GramaBarb profile image

      GramaBarb 5 years ago from Vancouver

      Congratulations on being featured this week. I am so happy a story about your Mom was chosen. Love the photos too!

    • Monica Ranstrom profile image

      Monica Ranstrom 5 years ago

      Thanks for sharing your mom with us! Great job.

    • Frischy profile image

      Frischy 5 years ago from Kentucky, USA

      Your mother was beautiful 60 years ago, and she is beautiful today. As I round the bend of middle age, I am inspired by so many older women whom I meet. I certainly count your mother among them!

    • gottaloveit2 profile image

      gottaloveit2 5 years ago

      I think your mama is gorgeous! And, she raised a beautiful woman too. I send her the biggest internet hug and kiss ever.

    • Gayle Mclaughlin profile image

      Gayle 5 years ago from McLaughlin

      Virginia-you have a knack for writing about your mom that highlights the love you have for her. I could read about your mom and dad all day. I want to write a lens about my mom and dad--but it is so hard to start.

    • Brandi Bush profile image

      Brandi 5 years ago from Maryland

      Your Mom is very beautiful! What a sweet lens! :)

    • MartieG profile image

      MartieG aka 'survivoryea' 5 years ago from Jersey Shore

      I think your photos of your Mom are quite lovely. Candid shots capture that special aura that some people have and your Mom definitely has it.

    • Magda2012 profile image

      Magda2012 5 years ago

      I think getting older is getting wiser. it's a blessing. Your mom looks wonderful.

    • Nancy Hardin profile image

      Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 5 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      I think your Mom is lovely...there's a radiance around some people as they age that just gives them a glowing appearance. Your Mom has that and you captured it very well.

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 5 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      Your mom is a beauty! I like candid snapshots too, and it looks like you captured her well.