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  • Cynthia August is a Portrait Photographer in Boston.

OH MY GOSH I HATE MY _______________! What to do when the camera’s focus is on you

Christopher is very very busy right now. Please take this photo later.

Here’s the scenario.

We’re in my photography studio, and we are getting ready to take a headshot or a business portrait. Everything is set to go and I lift the camera up. And then I hear something from my client that always makes me a little sad, and full of empathy.

OH MY GOSH I HATE MY _______________! (Insert body part here)

Deep sigh of understanding and compassion. Okay. Let’s put the camera back down for a minute.

I feel you. Believe me I do. One of the reasons I love to be behind the camera is that I don’t have to be part of the photograph happening in front of it, facing up to all those things the world has told me (and the things I’ve told myself) about my appearance. My years as a costume designer made me even more sensitive and sympathetic to those moments. I’ve seen many a Tony Award level actor crumble into self doubt when faced with a mirror, and it makes my heart hurt.  It shouldn’t be the way it is. (more on that in another post.)

But after taking photographs of people for so many years, I have learned some about what we see in ourselves vs. what others see in us. Here are some things to think about when the camera’s focus is on you, and you’re feeling, well, a little…uncomfortable in your skin:

 

We really are our own worst critic. The rest of the world sees you with far kinder eyes than you see yourself. It does. Even if there are a few loudmouths out there (tell me their names and I’ll give them a talking to!), the majority of us see you with a sense of wholeness and complete-ness that you don’t.  I can’t tell you how many times I have heard someone say ‘Ugh! My ____ is so _______!’ only to have my staff in the photoshoot say ‘I never even noticed it until you pointed it out!’ and mean it. Those things you obsess about? Even if someone else does notice them, they give far less focus, time and judgment to them than you do, and spend more time seeing your good stuff. And if they do dwell on it, you might want to consider revoking their invitation to the party that is your awesome life. So really. You are great. It’s okay. Honest.

There is a science to making a good photo. Yup, I said making, not taking. Ask anyone who has worked with me and they will tell you that I have ways to help you stand/sit/move that help you get your best shot without feeling awkward or forced. I research and test this stuff ALL THE TIME (Don’t believe me? Check it out: Proof.)

I can fix a lot of things in a way you’d never notice afterward. Eyes not open wide enough? Yup, can fix that a bit. Blemish? Gone. Rogue hair? Yes, absolutely, I do it every day. Wrinkles? Softened. Jawline smoother? Yup. And while that seems like a lot of Photoshop plastic surgery, remember that 1.) I’m an expert and 2.) I am committed to making your image a photo of you, not some plastic version of you. Natural, intuitive retouching. Always.

Consider what’s inside. Your mindset going in will help create a good photo. This is one of those things you have to do for yourself, and it may be hard if you really hate getting your picture taken, but believe me, it helps tremendously. Give yourself a pep talk, reflect on the good stuff, let it fill you up, and bring that to the shoot. It really helps! Need help with awesome self-talk? Learn from a master.

One last, important thing. You’re safe with me! If you’re reading this and I’m not your photographer, don’t worry. Good photographers feel this way and understand. (If you don’t have a photographer holding the space for you, find another one.) We’re here for one reason – to help you create a picture of yourself that reflects all the terrific things you are.  I personally won’t quit until that happens. Plus I’m nice. So relax. We’ve got this. Really. I promise.

You’re beautiful .

And maybe, just maybe, it’s not only in a photo.

 

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