If I look that ugly, they should shoot me!
A client recently described, graphically, how bad she looked in photographs. Not even nude or layered in lingerie for a boudoir shoot, but in regular clothes. “You know,” she said, “I can’t be that ugly, I’ve taken men home for the night and they were sober!”, then she gave me the “shoot me” line.
She is not alone, although few move to the “shoot me” stage. A string of constantly bad photographs were in their wake. Each photograph was devastating to their self image until they became convinced that they do look that bad. Or at the very least, they were not photogenic.
The thing women don’t consider is: what if it’s not them? What if it’s the photographers, all taking the same approach. It would like being photographed by the same guy, badly, over and over again. Now if that happened, they would know it was not them but the photographer. Yet successive photographers, all taking the same predictable approach, yield exactly that same result.
Here is what usually happens. They use the lens that came with the camera, the most inexpensive lens available. It’s called a standard lens for a reason. It is designed to photograph a person standing in front of a house with the whole house in the image. When you come in close for a full length or worse, a head shot, it acts like a wide angle lens. If the photographer is standing, which they normally are, and they shoot down to get you all in, things get distorted. It compresses the person, making them look wider. It makes the nose, which is closest to the lens, bigger, but makes the eyes go smaller. If she smiles, the smile goes wider too.
They usually use no extra light, so the light comes from overhead. This makes the subject’s eyes lifeless and dark, any lines in the face are magnified. Or they might use a small flash that came with the kit. It’s a harsh light, worse for lines, really aging you. They rarely adjust for the lighting colour temperature. This often results in slightly yellow, green, or bluish tint giving an ill, or even dead look.
I have told all of my clients that there are only two types of portraits, good ones and bad ones. This is the most important thing to know about each.
If a photograph is bad, it is always the photographer’s fault. He picked the moment, decided the lighting, the pose, the background, and thought that the expression was perfect, or at least good enough to click the shutter. He picked the moment. So yes, if you look bad, it’s because the photographer missed something, or chose badly.
However, if the image is great, then that is all because of you. At the moment the photographer chose to be the perfect moment, you opened up and gave him that slice of you. You gave him an unguarded real moment because you believed in his ability at that very moment.
A photographer can make any women look bad. A local newspaper photographer shot an image of Sophia Loren in a way that she looked very dumpy. I had not thought that possible, but they did it. Or just look at any tabloid at the supermarket checkout when they do their “Who’s Looking Bad” exposes.