We all know what it feels like to pick ourselves apart. We all have conceived flaws, we all have body struggles and emotional pain. I have tremendous understanding and empathy for this experience, especially the pain endured by women. I’ve lived through the ups and downs of physical pain that has hindered me to keep up with the exercise regimen I enjoy, so I’ve had to face head on gaining weight and not being able to control it. I’ve had to embrace my body for what it is, and instead of waiting to be thin to love my body, I’ve committed to self-compassion right here and now. Some days are harder than others. Some days I really can’t love my body, but I can always be compassionate.
So why am I telling you this? Because I think it’s super important to start here when you’re getting photographed. I have so many people who come to me before we’ve even started their photo session with a list of things they’d like for me to keep in mind that they hate about themselves, or with a list of things they’d like me to retouch later, or a grumpiness because they’re insecure, or anxiety because they’re not comfortable with their body, or a worry that they’re gonna have a double chin in every photo, or a note that they’d actually, by the way, like to lose 30 lbs before their wedding. We have so much shame around our bodies. Our society shoves perfection by way of thin, beautiful women and strong, handsome men and here we are, to be photographed in our own bodies for our special occasion and we feel like… not enough. We feel like we are not thin enough, pretty enough, happy enough, etc. etc. etc. forever and ever and ever.
A large part of who I am and what my brand represents is slightly left of center. I am openly spiritual, openly representative, openly liberal, openly caring, openly weird, openly “different”, openly colorful, silly, etc. But it’s still hard for me to push away all of the societal standards set out before us. I still have the thought sometimes that my life would be easier if I were more “normal” and “naturally thin”. I understand why you’d pick yourself apart and why you might feel self-conscious. Maybe it’s even just that you don’t like attention and you’re totally fine with your body. For those of you who are struggling, I just want to say loudly, proudly, publicly OWN WHO YOU ARE. No one else on this planet gets to be you, no one else gets to love like you do, feel like you do, fight like you do, see things like you do, be to your loved ones what you are. Your presence is special and beautiful. Who you are is why we’re here. Why you’re being photographed. And it’s worth celebrating.
Being photographed is vulnerable, so I wanted to share how I’ve prepared myself to be in front of the camera in the past.
Give yourself plenty of time to get ready. Whether it’s your wedding day, boudoir session, engagement session, creative, family, or branding session, you never want to feel rushed to get to something that may already be giving you anxiety. It just adds on more anxiety! So plan your day to be relaxed and give plenty of time to do the things you like to do to feel confident. Like a face mask, a bubble bath, a gym sesh. Whatever makes you feel like the hottest, bravest, badassest version of you.
Have your hair and/or makeup professionally done (especially if you like you’re not so great at either or both of these things). I’m totally fine with doing my own hair but I’m lazy with makeup, so I loved hiring a professional for my last branding session. It made me feel so good to get pampered and also to feel confident in this look that an artist created for me. It also stayed put a lot longer than my drug store makeup could ever dream of.
Take yourself on a pre-session date. Maybe you need a happy hour drink, a new book, a new candle, some food, or just a walk around the city. Sometimes treating yourself is the best affirmation that you deserve to feel good!
Splurge on a new (or new-to-you) item of clothing or accessory for the session. I get excited about hair clips, shoes, and new dresses/jumpsuits, but even if you just grab some new lipstick it’s going to feel fresh and great to have that boost!
Affirm yourself. A great tool I learned in therapy is to have little manifestations and affirmations scribbled down for things I struggle with/want to call in. “I love myself. I am safe and protected. The universe sees my beauty. I am here. I am alive. I am grateful for this gift.”
Give yourself a rule. Mine is “no negative self talk”.
Jam out to Lizzo or whoever happens to be your favorite positive vibes + confidence building artist.
Be real. Be vulnerable. Be you. I get so excited to connect with people and magic comes in that space more than if you just showed up and pretended to be what you think you should be. Spoiler alert: there is no “correct” way to be, just be yourself.
Mediate or self-soothe before your session. I personally love to light a candle, play some fun music, and pull an oracle card from my deck and take that message to heart. Sometimes just placing a hand on your heart and taking some deep breaths is all it takes to ground yourself in the here and now.
Compromise. If you can’t feel 100% that bitch like Lizzo, maybe you can feel 86%? Find the space that feels right to you and own it. Muster every ounce of confidence you have and then add a little more. You got this.