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Beautiful Octogenarian

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

Do You Like Photos Taken of You?

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.

Tips I Found for Photographing the Elderly

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?


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

Gail Lee Martin - Sixty years ago

A collage that I created on Shutterfly.

A collage that I created on Shutterfly.

Gail Lee Martin in the 1940s.

Gail Lee Martin in the 1940s.

Gail and her husband, Clyde Martin. Their first two children are Owen and Susan.

Gail and her husband, Clyde Martin. Their first two children are Owen and Susan.

Gail with her children, Susan and Owen.

Gail with her children, Susan and Owen.

Read More about Gail Lee Martin

  • Octogenarian Self-Publishes Memoirs
    I self-published my mother's childhood memories. My Flint Hills Childhood won a book award. Learn more about this 85 year old Kansas author.
  • Gail and Clyde Martin - Lasting Love
    What does it take to stay married for over sixty years? Well, first you need to live a long time. Fortunately a good marriage helps you live longer. The nurturing in a committed relationship aids that. This page is a tribute to my parents, Gail and..
  • Gail Lee Martin in World War II
    We need to preserve the memories of those on the homefront during WWII. Here's my mother's experience, most of it in her own words and illustrated with her photos.

© 2012 Virginia Allain

Let Me Know You Stopped By...

Nancy Tate Hellams from Pendleton, SC on April 27, 2015:

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

Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on January 19, 2013:

@greenspirit: Thank you for visiting!

poppy mercer from London on January 19, 2013:

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

Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on January 19, 2013:

@OhMe: Thank you for visiting.

Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on January 19, 2013:

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

pkmcr from Cheshire UK on January 19, 2013:

A wonderful tribute and you are in my thoughts and prayers

Nancy Tate Hellams from Pendleton, SC on January 19, 2013:

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

Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on September 05, 2012:

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

anonymous on September 05, 2012:

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

Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on September 04, 2012:

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

anonymous on September 04, 2012:

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

EMangl on August 20, 2012:

very sweet tribute!

Annbulance2000 on August 20, 2012:

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.

happynutritionist on August 17, 2012:

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

jasminedessy on August 17, 2012:

Nice lens ...

really touch .. i like it

anonymous on August 16, 2012:

What a wonderful lens. Your mother really is beautiful!

randomthings lm on August 12, 2012:

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

Stephen Bush from Ohio on August 12, 2012:

Thank you for the celebration of age. SquidAngel Blessings.

Ann Hinds from So Cal on August 11, 2012:

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

fullofshoes on August 11, 2012:

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

fathomblueEG on August 11, 2012:

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:-)

dsdmiller on August 11, 2012:

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

anonymous on August 11, 2012:

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!

anonymous on August 11, 2012:

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

anonymous on August 11, 2012:

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!

irenemaria from Sweden on August 11, 2012:

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

gottaloveit2 on August 11, 2012:

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 on August 11, 2012:

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

Jack on August 10, 2012:

Both photos are beautiful. Blessed by an Angel.

MrMojo01 on August 10, 2012:

Great lens and great photos of your mom!

anonymous on August 10, 2012:

A Very nice lens about a very nice lady.

Michey LM on August 10, 2012:

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!

jenjeni on August 10, 2012:

she's lovely!

Linda F Correa from Spring Hill Florida on August 10, 2012:

Let's hope we all get to that age

SteveKaye on August 09, 2012:

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

Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on August 09, 2012:

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

Max Globe on August 09, 2012:

Definitely Lens of the day :)

Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on August 08, 2012:

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

Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on August 08, 2012:

@JoshK47: Thank you for your comment and blessing.

jgelien on August 08, 2012:

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.

JoshK47 on August 08, 2012:

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

Elisa Margaret lesmana from Jakarta, Indonesia on August 08, 2012:

The photos look very beautiful and sweet. Gorgeous lens.

Liz Mackay from United Kingdom on August 07, 2012:

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.

Angela F from Seattle, WA on August 07, 2012:

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

Thankfultw on August 07, 2012:

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

SheilaMilne from Kent, UK on August 07, 2012:

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.

JennySui on August 07, 2012:

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

anonymous on August 07, 2012:

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 (author) from Central Florida on August 07, 2012:

@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.

Laraine Sims from Lake Country, B.C. on August 07, 2012:

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 on August 07, 2012:

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)

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on August 06, 2012:

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

raicabogdan on August 06, 2012:

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!

pawpaw911 on August 06, 2012:

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 on August 06, 2012:

Amazing lens buddy, it really touch my heart.

anne mohanraj on August 06, 2012:

Great lens! Very good tips! thanks for sharing.

Deadicated LM on August 05, 2012:

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

kindoak on August 05, 2012:

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 from Vancouver on August 05, 2012:

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

Monica Ranstrom on August 05, 2012:

Thanks for sharing your mom with us! Great job.

Frischy from Kentucky, USA on August 01, 2012:

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 on July 31, 2012:

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

Gayle from McLaughlin on July 31, 2012:

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 from Maryland on July 31, 2012:

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

MartieG aka 'survivoryea' from Jersey Shore on July 31, 2012:

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 on July 31, 2012:

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

Nancy Carol Brown Hardin from Las Vegas, NV on July 30, 2012:

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.

Peggy Hazelwood from Desert Southwest, U.S.A. on July 30, 2012:

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

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