But I don't like having my photo taken!

Something struck me the other day, not literally I'm glad to say, whilst on an assignment at a prestigious private hospital in Kent. I mean if you're going to get struck, I guess this would be a pretty good place for it to happen!

Anyway, on my third visit, I realised that each time I showed up in a new department of the hospital, camera in hand and wonderful recruitment manager at my side, ready to help me style and capture images for recruitment collateral, people either looked at me with horror, verbalised said horror or made their excuses and left! In fact I actually had people speed up past me down corridors and one poor man spilled his coffee as my flash deployed just as he came around the corner of a corridor where we were shooting, in his desperate attempt to avoid being in a photo!!

Now don't get me wrong, there are some people who are totally happy to be photographed and this is brilliant but most people don't enjoy it. They will ask if I can airbrush them and get their good side, having inspected themselves critically in a mirror or their phone camera and asked friends, which side is their best side! Some people ask me to try to not get their nose, lines, bags, chins etc etc in the photo. But the one thing I have noticed with all of these worried souls is that the only people noticing any of these things about them is...themselves! Sadly, whilst things are slowly changing, we are still barraged on a daily basis, with unauthentic, unrealistic photoshopped images of people with an apparently flawless appearance. They appear across the internet and also in magazines aimed at making us feel good about ourselves (or so they would have us believe!) which make us question our own self image with a down beat, self degradation. These images are harmful and unrealistic and often not even what actually what constitutes an attractive portrait!

I would like to say that because no-one else notices the things that we worry about, concerning our own appearance, that that is enough to make it easier to deal with but the fact is that when I say to someone, that I really don't see what they are seeing, I know that it doesn't help. I know personally, where they are coming from. Also many people will have tried taking a thousand selfies in the hope of getting a photo that they 'don't hate' but this in itself is just making things worse because what they don't realise, is that most cameras on phones are wide angled, so that we can take pictures of everything from butterflies on flowers to landscapes and sunsets BUT when you hold a wide angled lens too close (hence why someone invented the selfie stick, which still doesn't help much!) you get lens distortion and you are left with image after image that has changed your face to the point that people can believe this is how they really look! My advice? Step away from you phone's camera, it's a trap!!

Now, I can speak with authority on the subject because even as a photographer, who should know better, I have done the above! I love being my side of the camera but I, like the people I have just described, have in the past, done anything I can to squirm out of having myself in a photo and even tried selfies to get a good head shot so I didn't have to ask another photographer to take one for me! When I rebranded however, I knew a selfie just wasn't going to cut it, so I leaped out of my rather uncomfortable comfort zone and the result was a set of photos that I am proud of and happy with!!

Me happily on the other side of the camera at last!

But that just there, is why I can photograph people who aren't relaxed with the idea of having their photo taken!... I get you, I hear you and I feel your pain. I know you have inspected every feature of your face and/body for flaws to add to your insecurities. I know you feel like the only person on earth who 'looks bad' in photos and I know you wish it could be different. Well, you know what...it can!

Yes I see you rolling your eyes and suddenly craving sugar but just humour me a moment and think about this...

Think about some of your most favourite people for a moment. Now choose one who you are particularly close to, a best friend maybe? Now think about looking at a photo of them and describe what you see. I bet you are already starting to smile! You see their sense of humour, their kindness, the time they cheered you up and all the other characteristics that makes you admire them and love them. Did you focus on their hair, nose, chin, lines or imperfections? No, because you dont see anything other than who they are. And do you know what? That's what they see when they look at a photo of you!

Even a stranger looking at a photo of someone smiling is drawn in and will begin to smile. This is because they aren't studying your features for things to criticise, they are looking at your eyes, your smile and your openness and they will instantly feel happy too. It's part of being human and enjoying happy interactions. It's brain chemistry at play! I always have a few tricks up my sleeve on shoots to help people feel relaxed and it always works, with people being surprised how they feel and look when I show them the photos on my camera's screen, that I have just captured but I want you to feel better about photos in general, whether I will be having the pleasure of photographing you in the future or not! The very talented 'The Voice' star - Jamie Johnson

So please be reassured, if you need to be photographed, just remember how you feel when you look at your friend's photo. Remember what people are really seeing and relax and enjoy it. If you're happy and open, your photo will be just perfect and people will love what they see. Allow yourself to give this a go because its really empowering and if anyone deserves a little confidence boost and empowerment it's you!

Julia x

https://www.juliakeeley.co.uk/personal-branding Acting Extra - Michelle McGovern

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