“I’m not photogenic, so you’re going to have your work cut out for you!”
“After I lose these ten pounds, I’d love to book a session with you.”
“Okay, I’m going to have to warn you: I have stretch marks and cellulite.”
“Can you just Photoshop me to look like Kate Moss?”
Each of these has been told to or asked of me by a client before and even during their session. Sometimes they’re halfway kidding and other times they are heartbreakingly serious. I say “heartbreakingly” because when I look at you I legitimately see a beautiful person and I can actually feel my heart tearing in two when someone feels they have to warn me that they have stretch marks. No. Warn me if you want to bring your adorable pet shark that spits poison into people’s eyes to your session or something. Not because you’re a normal person whose skin stretched.
While, okay, the stretch mark thing is probably not applicable to all my clients, this overwhelming hesitancy towards being photographed or nervousness about seeing your final images is certainly not limited to that one feature. Families, seniors, fiancees, newlyweds, and everyone beyond and in between has had something like that. But you should all know that you’re amazing, and beautiful, and cherished.
And that’s just how I, a somewhat stranger (although we will basically be BFFs by the time of your session!) feel about you. Your husband, your wife, your partner, your children, your parents, your friends… all feel the same way. Trust me.
Now please don’t take this as me invalidating your feelings. You know yourself better than anyone. Indeed, your feelings about your own body, your own self are the most important. Yet it’s because they’re the most important that I hope they are full of love, acceptance, confidence, and pride – not hate, disgust, or embarrassment. That inner voice can sometimes (okay, a lot of times) be the loudest; so it’s nice when it’s, you know, nice.
If you’re a friend or client of mine, you’ve probably heard me talk about my favorite part of the session. We show up and before we even start shooting a client might apologize in advance for being “awkward”, “not photogenic”, having a [insert body insecurity here]. Nevertheless, they trust me and we begin.
About ten to fifteen minutes into it, I’ll show them a little preview on the back of my camera. This is always a game changer when someone is still a little uncomfortable or self-conscious with being photographed.
“Wow, that’s me?! I’m hot!”
“Oh my gosh, I love it!”
“So this is how my husband sees me when he tells me I’m beautiful and I don’t believe him.”
“[insert general squeal of excitement]”
All of a sudden, from this moment on, the client is stoked. And I’m stoked they’re stoked. They get into the groove of being photographed; they see that they are beautiful – and not just for their face or for their body – but also for their personality, their emotions, and who they are. They stop seeing the tiny details about themselves that aren’t their favorite and instead see the beautiful person that everyone else sees, that I see; they see the adoring way their fiancee looks at them and they see their joy when their child surprises them with a kiss.
In the general sense, one probably doesn’t have “a professional photoshoot!” at the top of their List of Things To Do to Gain Confidence and Love Myself, but it should be. I’ve seen it happen. In fact, I’ve even seen tears over it happening.
No matter where you are on your journey through your body, your life, you should love yourself. But it’s okay if you don’t sometimes. We all have those days… or weeks… or months… (While we are still being real over here, I’ll let you know that sometimes I hate my post-baby body, the bump on the bridge of my nose, and my crooked lateral incisor (you bet I just Googled what that was called). But ultimately, we should treat ourselves with the same love and care we’d offer to our friend who might be having a down day too. After all, we would never tell them “I don’t care you just gave birth; you should be able to fit in those skinny jeans!” or “Your nose sucks. Why are you even here?”
So, whether it’s something as simple as putting a sticky note on your mirror saying “Good Morning! FYI, you’re a magnificent person!” with a little hand drawn on it so you can high five yourself every morning, or booking a photoshoot for yourself or with your loved one(s), we should all do something that makes us feel awesome about ourselves – especially on the days we feel less than awesome. Because you’re a beautiful person, okay!?
(PS: I love when movies incorporate the movie title in the script, so I just had to here.)