That is often one of the first things I hear in a conversation about photography. It’s really sad. This is usually a comment on fully dressed images, so there is terror in repeating it in lingerie or nude.
What’s even sadder is that they are convinced the problem lies with them, they way they look, or move or smile.
The truth is, it’s never the subject’s fault.
Here is why.
In photography, there is one critical truth about an image taken. This applies to pros, amateurs, snap shooters and the photographer legends. In fact, I think I may have gotten this insight from one of the legends.
Here it is: if you look bad in a photograph, it is always the photographer’s fault.
They get to pick the moment; they guide and coax you to that moment. They control the light, the quality, the lens choice, the camera position, and props. Everything. They chose, or anticipated, the moment when they thought it all perfect.
Now the interesting thing is, when the image is perfect, you look amazing, and that is always because of you. You gave them the expression, the look, the attitude, the sparkle, or the smile. You took their lead, trusted them, and exposed yourself to the camera in that sliver of the moment the photographer chooses.
A good example of this can be found in Yousuf Karsh’s work. A lot of his subjects are not really pretty and yet, at the very least, they looking interesting and engaging in his images.
Or Annie Leibovitz. She does find the moment with each subject.
Sometimes, though, women have amazing images of themselves, but see them through a warped lens, comparing them to a standard that Madison Avenue has created – which, of course, is fiction. The acceptance of this false status quo is usually arrived at by conditioning.
It’s frightening that bad photographers have subtly convinced people that that bad image is as good as it gets for that person. After awhile, and after the appearance of many photographers saying the same thing, you might become convinced that it is you. That all these different photographers have photographed you and, to different degrees, you look horrid in each one.
The truth is you have been photographed by many photographers photographing you the same way, so it’s like one guy wearing masks. They have usually used the wrong lens, wrong light placement, and never got you comfortable.
But then an experienced photographer – one whose skill is not just technical but human too – photographs you, and your image is amazing.
Then you know. You don’t look horrid – you never did! You have just been photographed by horrid photographers.
So just remember, it’s only your fault if you look fantastic in an image. If you don’t, it’s always the photographer’s fault.