"i'm not photogenic." And other lies you should stop telling yourself.
As a photographer, I often get: "I don't like getting my photo-taken," "I'm not very photogenic." or "I'm not really comfortable in front of the camera and I'll probably be really awkward." It always makes me laugh, a good-natured laugh of course, because WHO DOES? Hands please? Verdict: Not many. .
I used to hate (more like loathed) getting my photo taken. I only liked taking selfies because I knew what side of my face is more flattering and because I had full control over what gets deleted and what gets to be seen. Sound familiar? I'm not immune to not liking photos of myself just because I'm a photographer and can edit all the unpleasantries. I will admit I am still a work in progress - Landon takes a lot of photos of me and I will delete all the ones I hate behind camera. There is a very rare amount of people who genuinely like being in front of the camera or whom mildly enjoys it. I've had A LOT of incredible clients in all my years and I can tell you only ONE loved being in front of the camera and she stands out so solidly in my mind. Ruth, girlfriend, I am talking about you. Only one! Everyone else said some variation of the above.
So if you don't like getting your photo taken I am sorry-not-sorry to say, you are NOT the exception. You are not alone and it's actually kind of sad isn't it? There are tons of people in this world who will NOT get photographs of their wedding day because of that reason, or family portraits, or their graduation, or their engagement to the one person they want to be with for the rest of their lives! Madness. Sadness.
We are our own worst critic.
Don't be fooled with the idea that I came in to this world strutting and hair flipping. I've struggled with body image my whole life. I had an eating disorder for 7 years, stayed in toxic/abusive relationships, and got bullied a lot. I was depressed, suicidal, and thought at some point I would die from panic attacks. Life can be really hard, we know this, we have all experienced it in a multitude of variations. If I held on to that feeling of worthlessness, I wouldn't be where I am right now. I would likely still be a very sick, very unhappy person, I would have never built a business, I wouldn't have found this incredible man that I adore, and these words right here wouldn't even exist. Self-love is mecca, it is powerful. It should also not be confused with narcissism or grandiosity because those people are truly unhappy and have no confidence at all. It's just a front; a very heavy shield they cart around to protect themselves. Self-love isn't surface level, its under the skin, it's in your spirit, it's a radiance that can't be bought in a bottle and a confidence that can't be forced or faked. It is unshakeable.
So now knowing that I am a human who has struggles and negative thoughts too - here is what I've learned from hiring professional photographers when my insecure, hyper-critique self has to be the one in front of the lens.
THERE WILL ALWAYS BE PHOTOS YOU WON'T LIKE OF YOURSELF IF YOU DON'T HAVE THE SELF-ESTEEM TO SEE YOUR OWN UNIQUE BEAUTY. IT DOESN'T MATTER WHO TAKES THE PHOTO, PROFESSIONAL OR NON.
We like to cut corners sometimes and it makes sense, why take the long-road when I can take a short-cut? We think photographers have the magic solution, they have the magic wand to eradicate our self-judgment, the quick fix to all our problems, its called... PHOTOSHOP! It literally pains me every-time a woman asks me to photo manipulate her body or features to fit a societal beauty standard. It seriously hurts because that feeling is 100% familiar; wanting to climb out of your own body and disown it is a very painful experience to carry every single day. I know that. I also know that I can't do much but say, "Hey, you're beautiful as you are and I'm sorry you are experiencing this. I don't believe in tampering with gods beautiful creations. You are perfect, I know I can't change your mind, but I hope that one day you do." I wish I had the right words that would snap any one of you who feel that way out of it, but I don't have them. If you want to stop this self-hate train from bulldozing your awesomeness, and hop on the train of feeling at home in your self, you need to do the work. You gotta lace up your boots and get in the arena. It doesn't happen over night. It doesn't happen by chance, it doesn't even happen if you do all the right things like go to the gym and eat healthy. There are a lot of super-fit people out there with body dysmorphia and whom still hate themselves and how they look. Always looking for another goal. Always looking to improve, never satisfied. It takes conscious effort and dedication to wanting to feel better.
Let's talk LOGIC now: Photographers have excellent visual eyes and they would never send you an 'ugly' photo. Why would they want you to share an unflattering photo on every social media platform created? That is just BAD MARKETING! If I do indeed trust the artist and what they think is beautiful, I should I HIRED THEM, then they will send me what they think is beautiful and worth sharing. They deleted the bad ones, I can rest in that. Duh, I do that at all the time: someone blinked, mouth is half open, half crazy eye happening, arm got smooshed, etc. So when I receive photos from a photoshoot, before I start picking myself apart, I stop. I look at the photos that I may not think are my favourite and I try to look through their eyes. I look for what they see or how the photo makes me feel. Is their movement? Emotion? Laughter? What do they see that I am not seeing? This is such a HUGE gift. They are giving me the perspective and awareness outside of myself in a moment that I am living. It's from this place that I can learn to love myself, come to awareness to where I need to shine a little light and love on.
Have you ever noticed that the person you love most, does not and WILL NOT ever look bad. EVER. They could have a sinus infection, a giant zit on their fore-head, crazy bed-head, and smell like old hockey equipment and you look at them and think, "awe I love them, they're so amazing." Because how they look doesn't even compare to their spirit and how they make you feel. Every angle of Landon is beautiful to me. I love him, all of him, every little spec of him, every molecule and no matter how he sees himself in a photo, and no matter how badly he smells after hockey, that will never change. I wish we could all see ourselves through that TRUE LOVE lens.
Photographers can't be held responsible for your self-worth.
This is the hardest truth of the bizz and it's a big weight of responsibility we have to carry on our shoulders every time someone steps in front of our camera. We ALL want you to feel beautiful, we all work hard to capture you in a way that shows every piece of that gorgeous soul of yours, but we can't manufacture self-love no matter how incredibly talented we are at what we do. Trust me, we would prefer if we could! It would make all of this very easy. Sure, we can take one great photo and make you feel good but will it last? For how long? Self-esteem is built within and it should be long lasting. No photo-shoot could make or break REAL esteem and self-love. So when I had my photo-shoots, I realized it would be totally unfair for me to put that expectation on my photographer- it's a HUGE responsibility for another flawed human being to take on, "Make me love myself, please." They have their own insecurities to deal with and now they have to carry mine too? Man, talk about pressure! I DO think photographers can make you fall in love with yourself a little more if you got the inner-mojo already rolling - y'know, some gas already in the car. Photography can AMP up what you already got. Photographers can only rest on what THEY see. They can't pull over a magic lens that shows them all of your deep insecurities to help guide them to photo-perfection. They photograph what they see is beautiful; that is their art, that is their gift, and that is really special.
WE ARE LEFT WITH A FEW OPTIONS...
Allow this idea that we are not photogenic or confident enough to have memories captured forever, to go in to our sessions with fear or unattainable pressure on our photographer that could make or break our self-worth OR better yet- we can decide to allow photography to change our minds. We can allow photography to point out our judgement to ourselves and see that as an opportunity to love ourselves more. We really do deserve that. We really need a world full of Ruth's; people who aren't afraid to shine, be seen and rock what they got. To be loved, adored, and remembered. I would hate to grow old and think to myself, "Man, I wish I got wedding photos done instead of being so hard on myself and afraid of stepping outside of my comfort zone. I wish I smiled more and shown up in all of my glory. I wish my grand-children could SEE how BABELY I was back then and how I've aged so graciously." Haha! *I'm seriously going to be the best most sassy granny ever.*
Photography has a way of allowing yourself to step out of yourself and see you- if you allow it, if you have the coconuts to look in to your own fear and say 'enough of this self-demeaning BS.' If you trust the professional you are with and admire their work, they are going to do a great job! You aren't the first person they heard with the same insecurities and fears and I promise you you aren't going to pose as a more difficult person to photograph and NO, you won't break my/their lens in to a million pieces unless you grab it and throw it on the ground (please don't).
Drop the critic and allow yourself to be seen, change your mind about your thighs, your nose, your toes (This is a bachelor reference) and fight those demons with every loving cell you got. You deserve all the love in the world, stop holding out on yourself, start loving yourself a heck of a lot more and don't let these beautiful moments pass you by without capturing them (especially with you in them.) I know that every day that I fight more for myself the more I can authentically love my partner, my best friend, my family. As Maya Angelou said, "Be wary of the naked man who offers you his shirt." AKA you can't give people what you don't have.
To seeing yourself through the TRUE LOVE LENS, and fighting-the-good-fight,