Tough Love Tuesday: Why People Hate The Way They Look in Photos


Hello, everyone. I would like to introduce you to my double chin. Now I know this is a strange introduction to make but if I'm going to talk about why people don't like getting their photo taken, I should tell you why I don't like getting my photo taken. Yes, the photographer does not like getting her photo taken. Who would have thought? I just don't think I’m photogenic. I have issues with my skin and my hair, which means documenting it isn't one of my favorite things to do. I also have this chubby underside of my chin and it really can frustrate me when I see profile photos of myself. But even with all of those issues, I still get my photo taken. I still don’t enjoy it but I do it because I know as someone who does branding photography for small business owners and entrepreneurs, it’s important to show the person that is behind the brand.

So why am I formally introducing you to my double chin? I want to take ownership of something I just don't like about myself. Why should I let my bad skin or my troublesome hair or my double chin stop me from presenting myself to the universe? I think it’s a pretty silly reason to let it hold me back from the things that I want to do. If I let it hold me back, I would not have gone on local television multiple times. I would not have been interviewed for magazines. I would not have spoken at conferences in fear someone in the crowd would take my photo. I would have missed out on a lot of opportunities just because I don't like how my face looks when it's being recorded by a camera. 

Let me pose you a scenario that we’ve all been in. You’ve handed someone your phone and asked them to take a photo of you. They take a photo and hand the phone back to you and without even registering what is on the screen, you say that you don't like the photo and ask them to take another one. We don't even give ourselves the chance to like how we look before we completely dismiss ourselves and say that we look ugly or we look fat (which by the way is going to be a whole other blog post). 

We are our own harshest critics.

There is a psychological reason why we are like this. It’s called Mere Exposure Effect. "Repeated exposure of something leads to a more positive feeling about it.” We are most used to our mirror reflections so when we see our “reversed” version of ourselves aka how we actually look to the world, we tend to immediately not like it. That’s why people prefer selfie photos of themselves. Not only are you in complete control of how you look (take a 1000 photos and edit yourself into oblivion, no one will stop you), you are seeing yourself just like you would see yourself in the mirror because most smartphone front facing cameras do not automatically flip the photo. When someone else is taking the photo with the rear camera on a smartphone or with an actual camera, you now see how you look to the rest of us, which can be very jarring if you’re not used to getting your photo taken.

I can look back at clients I've had from the small business owners in her 30s to a lawyer in his 60s who all say the same thing. “I don’t like how I look in photos.” “I don’t like what my eyes do when I smile.” “I don’t like my jawline.” “Can you photoshop 10 pounds off of me?” “I hope I don’t break your camera.” I've watched so many people talk so badly about themselves. It makes me so sad because I've been there and I'm honestly I’m still there. When I have to take photos with The Branding Edit girls, I absolutely hate the whole process. I have thoughts about myself that I rarely have outside of getting my photos taken. I talk about how I'm bigger than the other girls and not pretty as them and everything else that makes me “less than”. And I still just go ahead and get my photo taken because I know I need to do it. I wish I knew what the magic thing is that's going to make me more comfortable with myself. It’s a process but every time I am in front of the camera, I try to make a concerted effort to get more comfortable with the process.

Now I have seen some absolutely horrible photos of myself that I have definitely taken issue with. I’ve had some people who in my opinion didn’t really think it through when they posted a photo of me online with my head cocked back, eyes half shut, and my mouth wide open. I’ve definitely sent a message of "what the hell were you thinking?” Even with that, I know bad candid photos of myself will be taken and will end up in my tagged photos on Facebook. It’s not going to stop me from living.

I think we need to have more grace with ourselves and really come to terms with how we look. Even the most confident people are not confident 100% of the time. Not liking how we look in photos isn't helping us out in any fashion. No one is feeling any better. I've watched people not include themselves in group photos because they don't like how they look and that is completely their choice and I will never force anyone to get their photo taken, but it does make me sad that people are so down on how they look that they are depriving themselves from existing publicly on camera.

The thing I have done to make myself more comfortable on camera is put my naked face all over my Instagram Stories. I also hate my voice so why not kill two birds with one stone and just put it all on the Gram for anyone and everyone to see. Surprise surprise, I didn’t die. No one slid into my DMs to tell me to put on some makeup. No one cared and if they did, they sure didn’t have the guts to say it directly to me. I know me showing myself in all my barefaced glory is making other people more comfortable in showing themselves so why don't I just bite the bullet and do it? 

I try to make the photo taking experience as easy and enjoyable as possible because I know how hard it can be on the other side of the camera. I crack jokes and tell stories to take away the pressure. We can have an amazing time yet some people will still be unhappy with how they look. I’m sure that is a crazy thing for the photographer to say but no matter how great of a job I do, my subjects need to be open to see themselves in their best light. “Flaws” and all. I see what makes them beautiful. They (and myself too) need to be able to see it as well.