I used to be like many people where I hated having my photo taken. I just knew the photo would turn out awful and I'd hate my body even more. Now of course I don't have as many issues with taking photos, but digital photography has really maximized the changes of getting a photo that you feel good about. Could you imagine taking a set of photos of an outfit with a film canister, only to develop them to see you were squinting, the light was bad, or your stomach was pooched out?
The media takes the illusions further with Photoshop, but this isn't going to be a post about that. Instead, I wanted to share various photos of me in the same outfits or taken on the same day, but looking completely different. When you see photos on blogs, you're only seeing the best of the bunch. You're not seeing all the awkward ones or ones that make the person look less than polished.
I took this photo yesterday in my driveway with a self timer, using a pose that I know usually works well on me (thus why many of my photos are posed this way). My neighbor was looking at me weird, so I just took one photo using my standby pose. As soon as I saw it, I thought, “I know I don't look that small from all angles in this dress.” But that is how I looked from that particular angle, and I was thrilled considering I felt like a pudgy bowling ball yesterday (sluggish, tired, bloated).
Typical pose: Straight on angle, one foot slightly in front of the other, one hand on hip, toothy grin, not in direct sunlight, but in natural light. Camera at chest level. Wearing a Jessica Howard dress from Gwynnie Bee, Old Navy leggings, and ankle boots. Alesya Bag.
This is a photo I posted on Instagram. I was obsessed with the new blazer and didn't have time to set up a proper photo. So, selfie it was. Natural light from my kitchen window, hand on hip, looking straight on, camera at chest/head height.
Later that night, I wore the same outfit and some photos were snapped at the event. As soon as I saw them, I felt deflated.
Super dark room, bright flash, taken at a different angle, shooting up from below rather than at chest/head level.
Another example: Taken within seconds of each other. I think both are cute, but prefer one over the other
Left my stomach is at a more prominent angle because I'm leaning backwards. Right was taken from a higher angle and I'm standing upright.
These 2 photos were taken in the same session, about 15 minutes apart. Same pair of jeans, different tops and jackets. I started crying when I saw the image on the right. The outfit just didn't work – the shirt was way too short and threw the proportion off. Add in the bad angle and wind and it looked like I gained 50 pounds between photos:
I was really distraught, then I looked through the entire sessions photos and realized it was just those in that one outfit that were really bothering me. It helped me realize that an unflattering photo or outfit shouldn't dictate my self-worth.
Just an example of how direct sunlight will totally blow out your image. You lose all the details.
My tips for learning to love yourself in front of the camera. Note that I know virtually nothing about cameras or photography, just know some conditions that can help:
- Natural light is best. Flash in a darker room just creates weird colors and shadows. Avoid direct sunlight though, as it's too harsh and your photos will turn super bright.
- Try different poses and angles. It's not uncommon for me to take 10 or more photos in a matter of a couple of minutes. I just keep moving. Smile, don't smile, half smile, teeth showing, closed mouth, half twirling, feet together, feet apart, walking/in motion, angle body straight on, angle body to the side, hand on hip, hands on both hips, hand in hair, with handbag, without belt, etc.
- Play with the height of the camera lens in relation to your body. Usually, photos taken by kids are shooting from a lower height going upwards and it isn't the most flattering angle. Likewise, photos taken from super high down onto you can make your head look disproportionately large. Photos taken from waist, chest, or head height are usually safer bets.
- Use the camera to figure out what outfits you look best in. Take photos in outfits and see which ones you like the best. It's a great way to understand your proportions. Look at it objectively and try to remove your body from the process. I know it's hard, but it's not you – it's the outfit.
A bad picture doesn't mean that you look bad – it just means it's a bad picture. So stop avoiding the camera!