Welcome back! Yesterday I shared a layout I made about myself (oh hi! I'm Amy!) and encouraged you to make one about YOU.
Then I realized: you can’t make layouts about yourself unless you have pictures of yourself.
(Well, I mean: yes, you can. You can always make layouts without photos. But, let’s go with needing photos just for the sake of argument.)
Which brings me to something I feel pretty passionate about, and that is photographers getting in front of the camera. You know: letting someone take a picture of you.
And I know: this is really, really hard. Especially for those of us who are used to taking the pictures.
It’s hard to ask someone to take your picture, because it makes you feel vulnerable.
It’s hard to be the subject of a photo because you can’t control it.
And it’s hard to feel like you are enough to be in the picture.
But it matters. It matters so much that we get ourselves into our family’s pictures.
I learned this—not just in theory, but deep down, bone-deep, soul-deep—when my dad died. I was given the task of putting together a slide show of photographs of him. I had a ton of pictures of my dad—with my kids, with my mom, my sisters, my nephews and nieces. Even my husband. Even the cat. But I had exactly one (one!) picture of me with my dad.
And now he’s gone and there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it.
Except for making changes moving forward, which is what I’ve done. I thought about the reasons I feel uncomfortable with getting my picture taken and came up with some solutions. So I thought I’d share what I’ve learned with you.
- You’re going to have to ask someone. I hate asking my husband to take my picture. Not because he’s a jerk about it (he’s not!) but because I feel like I’m being vain. But, since he’s the adult I’m around the most (and thus trust not to drop my camera!), he’s the default. So I talked to him about the possibility of him every once in a while just offering, out of the blue, to take a photo of me. As he is also not a fan of having his picture taken (99% of my photos of him have his hand in front of his face), I thought this would be a big deal. He just said OK and now he’ll sometimes just offer to take my picture. (He's also my Official Press Photographer—lol—when I run races. He's always at the finish line, elbowing people aside so he can get a picture or two of me. Which, you'd think who wants a photo of themselves hot & sweaty after running for two hours? but really: you want a picture of yourself even then. Especially then!)
Moral of the story: communication helps! Talk to the people who might be willing to take a picture or two of you. Tell them if you feel uncomfortable about it, but also tell them why it’s important to you. Give them some suggestions about good angles. Think about how the light might look and then move yourself if you need to. Most importantly, relax! Remember that person loves you!
- Find more than one photographer. My daughter, who loves having her picture taken, also loves to get her hands on my camera. She’s taken some awesome pictures of me when I wasn’t even paying attention. My son, who hates having his picture taken more than just about anything (I think he’d rather have his eyelashes yanked out than pose for a picture), will always offer, every time I am taking family pictures, to take a picture of me instead. It’s his way of getting out of having his picture taken…but it’s OK because we both get a little relief from our discomforts!
Moral of the story: If someone asks to take your picture, say yes. If your best friend wants to take a selfie with you, take a selfie. If your mother gets out her camera, smile back! Also, if someone else takes a picture with your camera, it will be ok. Put the neck strap right over their head before handing it over, tell them to be careful, and then smile.
- Make it a tradition. When I was trying to figure out how to get myself in more pictures, I realized that every once in a while, I’ve had someone take a picture of me with my child on his or her birthday. (I was there for the birth! So their birthdays are important to me not just because of their existence and their celebration, but because I loved the day they were born, and on their birthdays I remember it fondly.) This realization helped me create two traditions: Now, I have someone take a picture of me with the birthday kid on every single birthday. It’s become another part of our birthday celebrations, as inherent to the party as cake and candles. The second tradition is that either on my birthday or on Mother’s Day (my birthday is in April, so they’re close), whichever works out best, I have someone take a picture of me with all of my kids. These have become some of my most cherished images.
Moral of the story: when you create some photo traditions, it feels less & less awkward to ask for the picture, because it’s just what always happens. Do it long enough and you won’t even have to ask anymore; they’ll just know to do it.
- Take advantage of group shots. It’s infinitely easier to be in a picture if there’s someone else in the frame with you. So when you do something—anything, really, where someone takes a picture, which these days is nearly every situation we can imagine—get in the group shot. Let someone else, a total stranger, take the picture so you don’t have to. (I’ve asked people on the top of mountains, in the Coliseum at Rome, at races, on the beach, and of course at restaurants to take a group picture for me.) When you go on vacations, get in the shot in front of the museum or historical monument or beautiful mountain or stunning lake. Family party? Get in the picture. A hike, a family trip to the bowling alley, a day at Disneyland? Get in the group shot.
Moral of the story: If you take all of the pictures of an event or experience, there isn’t any visual proof that you were actually there, too. Your memories and stories matter just as much as everyone else’s.
- Realize that you are worth it. Even though I had my big ah-ha moment after my dad died, and I promised myself to get into more pictures, it didn’t really hit home until a year later, when my mother-in-law also died. (Sheesh! Could I be any more depressing? I learned a lot from those deaths, though, so forgive me!) I had realized that I didn’t have any pictures of her and my husband, and I’d gone so far as to make her promise that sometime in the fall, once she was feeling better from the surgery she needed, she’d let me take some pictures of the two of them. She wanted to wait until she’d had her hair done and she felt pretty again. But then, unexpectedly, she passed away. And I was devastated, of course, but it hit me even harder when I remembered that I’d never done that photo shoot. (And even later, when I realized that I have exactly ZERO photos of her and me together, I felt even worse.)
I understand her wanting to look her best. But now that she’s gone, it wouldn’t matter. If I had a photo of her with my husband, and she still looked a little bit pale from her surgery, and her hair wasn’t perfect? I would still cherish it.
So here’s where I’m going to get a little bit harsh with you.
Right now: look at yourself in a mirror. See that face? That body? That is you. That is what people love and are grateful to have in their lives. So even if you look in the mirror and think “holy ^>=~ *&$*@!~`+=, I’m wrinkled! I’m fat! I need to get my hair colored, when did I get that mole, is that an age spot on my cheekbone? Why do my eyebrows grow back in faster than a 5 o’clock shadow?” (or however your particular complaint(s) about yourself manifest, that’s just my own personal inner dialogue), guess what? The people in your life love you anyway. Strike that—they don’t love you despite your faults. They love you for you, warts and all. (Or age spots. Or moles.) They likely don’t even see the faults that you see, because they love you, the whole package.
They love you for you.
And here’s something else. I’m in my forties now, so I can tell you this is true: It’s all downhill from here. You will never be less wrinkled than you are right now. You might be skinnier—but you might not! You’re going to age; it happens to the best of us. Think about it: I bet when you were ten (or twenty! Or thirty!) years younger, you still had those same negative thoughts about yourself. But when you look back on that twenty-something version of yourself, wouldn’t you like to have it back? That taut skin, that flat belly, those eyebrows that weren’t kamikaze regrowth demons? In another decade, when you look back on the self you are right now, there will be things you’d like to have back.
So celebrate who you are right this very minute. Even with the ______________ (insert whatever you don’t love, double chin, appeared-overnight zit, shadows under your eyes). You are beautiful, someone loves you, you are worth being in the picture.
Moral of the story: just do it. Put some make up on, and your favorite necklace. Definitely your favorite lipstick. And then get in a picture or two.
And you know what that is, don't you? It's a challenge! No, not even a challenge. It's an assignment. Sometime this week, get yourself into a picture. Before March comes. You could even come back here and let us know how it goes. And just so you know I'm not joking, here's a collage of some photos of myself.
(Including the one picture I have with my dad.) (These are all pictures that I both am grateful to have and cringe over. I could point out the flaws...but I'm still glad to have them.) Come on: if I can put a photo of myself in a swimsuit out on the Internets, you can take a picture of yourself. Not even in a swimsuit—wear a sweater if you want! or a parka! Just get in a picture.
And after that? Make a layout! About yourself, because it’s important and fun and a great way to use some supplies. Your stories matter. Your images matter. Even if you detest having your photo taken.
But that's just me. How do you feel about getting your picture taken? Let me know!