Magic Monday: The worst part of Professional Photography

I’ve debated several times on whether or not to write this post.  The title sets up an expectation of a negative rant–which in the long run is NOT my intention!

There are so many incredible things about photography–which I believe is why so many people are drawn to it–you have the magic ability to capture memories, freeze time, preserve beauty, and the most important element of all–I believe–is the ability to help people see themselves as they really are.  Beautiful. Loved. And important.

But what happens when that DOESN’T happen?

When instead, they see the distorted self image that they have created in their own minds?  We, of course, are our own worst critics and are hyper conscious of our perceived flaws, (often oblivious to the rest of the world).

There is a lot that the photographer can do to help people look and feel their best.

  • Knowledge about flattering poses that help subjects look and feel comfortable and natural
  • Genuine compliments and enthusiasm about how great people look and how well the session is progressing
  • Knowledge of lighting and camera technics, can all contribute to a more flattering image
  • Great composition and creativity can draw attention to the subject in such a way that they can honestly look at themselves in a whole new way than they ever have before… which helps assist in them discovering how we see them (which is sometimes far more flattering than how they see themselves).

One of the greatest feelings I enjoy while photographing, is the experience of capturing an incredible image of someone and rushing up to share it with them on the back of my screen.  I LOVE to see their look of surprise, and then watch this almost sacred realization they have as they actually see themselves as beautiful!  There’s a quiet confidence that comes after that moment and the rest of the shoot progresses really well.

Oh how I wish that could happen for everyone!  One of the worst feelings I find in photography, is when I have an incredible image, and the subject still doesn’t see themselves in reality.  It doesn’t happen often, but when it does my heart just aches.  I’m really happy to say, that in over four years of shooting, I have had very minimal “photoshop” requests.  You know, those annoying requests that detail desires of “make me look 20 lbs lighter, thin my legs and hips, turn my hair blonde and make me taller”.  But the extremely rare occasion the request pops up, I have cause to shake my fist and curse our media pop culture influence on warped images of beauty.

Perhaps this is why I am so incredibly drawn to Dove’s campaign for Real Beauty.  I saw this video a few years ago, but the message is still incredibly powerful.  I so want to be part of the Self Esteem workshops they have.

Please share your thoughts!

(Google Reader followers… you might have to click to the blog to view this. Its worth traveling over for! )

Brooke Snow is a Lifestyle photographer in Cache Valley, Utah. She recently learned how to yodel so she could perform upbeat polka songs in the kitchen for the baby boy she is smitten with. Her delightful husband sings bass and does a great oom pah line to accompany the yodel chorus. She wrote an opera once, and dabbles in cowboy poetry.

Brooke teaches private photography lessons , online photography classes as well as local photography classes in Logan, Utah.

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12 Responses

  1. I first saw this video in my Sociology of Gender class. It is amazing and heartbreaking the impact the media can have on us. Unfortunately, it is mostly negative. I definitely believe that we are influenced by the media, that’s why I think it is so important to just shut out the media some days. I find myself wishing I was taller, thinner, and curvier all at the same time when I am tuned into the media. But really we are ALL different. My healthy body doesn’t equal anybody elses’ healthy body. I think that is important for every girl and woman to understand. I am especially fond of the Recapturing Beauty campaign going on at BYU right now ( They are challenging women to really learn to love their own beauty and to fight against the unattainable, photo-shopped beauty the media presents to us daily.

  2. Oh katie! Thank you for that link! I’m sad I’m not on campus anymore to be a part of such a stellar campaign! Thats awesome! I’m excited to read through the site! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Interesting subject to blog about. I recently had an experience where I took the best photos of my life (I’m not kidding) and everyone just looked amazing. I was super happy with the photos. Sadly one of the subjects just didn’t seem that excited with my work. I’m pretty sure it came down to body image issues, client couldn’t see what was right in front of them. They just saw the flaws. Luckily they did recognize that I had done a good job, but they couldn’t see what was obvious to everyone else; their beauty. They just saw a really good photograph of a body they didn’t like.

  4. Yep this is a hard topic! I totally have had a hard time with my own body image. I grew up with a mom who was heavy and constantly on a diet. So even though I was thin when I was younger (like REALLY thin) I just thought we were supposed to not be okay with our bodies because of all the things I heard my mom say about herself and how she treated herself. I try REALLY hard not to do that to Lucy. But it’s hard! LOVE that Dove campaign!

  5. Oh Rhonda, you’re so smart in setting a great example for your daughter. This makes a HUGE difference. I think parents can have a “make OR break” impact on children’s self esteem and body image. I was always the tallest girl in the class, and seriously thought for years that I was the largest girl in class too 🙂 Not once ever did I hear anything but positive compliments from my parents–despite my likely frumpiness. Dealing with my own negative perception was hard enough, but it really helped to have a positive reinforcement at home.

  6. Wow…that was unbelievable. I have never seen that clip before. Thank you for sharing it. I love photography for many of the same reasons. My camera has trained my eyes to recognize beauty in almost everything I see, which I am more and more grateful for everyday. But with every good thing I guess, it can be twisted for bad. What a horrible way to use the wonderful gift of photography. I never knew it was so easily taken that far.

  7. Brooke! I love you and the way you express yourself, through photos and words. Seriously, you are amazing. I 100% agree with you, and you gave some great tips that I will try to use during my own shoots. As for the dove stuff – I’m hooked! I saw that ad a few years ago and loved it. I still love it today and think it is a very powerful message. I think the first time it really hit me how everyone truly is beautiful in their own way is since having kids. I think my own kids are gorgeou, booger nosed and all. but then I see other children, and suddenly I see how beautiful they are too. Grace tells everyone that they are “so cute” or “so pretty” and she’s right – everyone IS. I’m grateful for the lessons my daughter teaches me.:) thanks for sharing these great thoughts. You are awesome.

  8. Also, I am sad I don’t live closer to you so I can take more of your great classes. I have to thank you, your class helped my photography improve ten fold! seriously, I work with light so much better. I’m no pro yet, still a work in progress, but so much better thanks to you. If you are ever doing a shoot around Spanish Fork, let me know and I’ll come be your free assistant. haha. thanks again!


  9. I’m so glad you wrote this post. Earlier on this year I finally dealt with a client who still wasn’t happy (and I had done some of my best work) that I couldn’t make her look different than the way she was (and let me tell you, she was one of the best looking clients I had! Totally jaw dropping gorgeous!) And I remember distincly remembering this Dove clip and wishing there was some way to reach her and let her know that she really IS beautiful, despite the image that the world tries to portray as beauty! It made me sad that there really is only so much I can do as a photographer, the rest of it is up to the client to realize that they are still who they are in the photos (but hopefully the best flattering angle, expression etc.), and that to really love pictures of yourself, you need to focus on the beauty that the Lord gave you first and then you can appreciate and love what a good picture really captures. Does that make sense? Any ways, your words perfectly express the feelings I had earlier on, and I hope they can reach more people and inspire them to love who they are instead of comparing what they want to be to someone else. Thanks again for the post!

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