When I started my business, I got really clinical about what it would take to reach the women I want to elevate.
I knew it would require photos of me. But this was a problem, because I truly hated my reflection. I honestly felt physically sick when I saw a photo of myself. I attribute this to a couple things.
First, women are trained in subtle ways--through the media and advertising--to dislike themselves from an early age.
And second, I had an autoimmune disorder for many years that caused my face to puff up at unpredictable, and frequent, times. Seeing a photo of me in that state reminded me of how sick I felt--not a good memory. In fact, I still don't keep many photos from those years. Why revisit?
But I'm healthy now (thanks to the protocols outlined in the Medical Medium books). I also understand that a photo is a transmission. People may trust your writing, and your message, but we also get a feel for people by seeing what they look like.
It's just one piece of the puzzle, and looks can be deceiving, but as we're all getting more subtle and intuitive, we can read a lot from a person's face. You may have an instant feeling that you can trust someone, or see in their eyes the depth of their compassion.
This is not about assessing a person's physical perfection. It's part of gathering evidence about what someone is all about. It's why companies rarely hire without meeting a candidate in person, or at least over video.
I wanted to overcome my fear of photos, too, because I believe if this planet is going to heal, women are going to have to start loving themselves. Women who love themselves raise well-adjusted children. And it's in all of our best interest to leave a better legacy for the next generation. Hating your reflection is just the tip of the iceberg; it's a sign of discomfort with who you are and the way you're living your life.
I took an exposure therapy approach to my fear of photo shoots. I decided I wasn't only going to schedule one session--I was going to subject myself to it repeatedly! I worked with a handful of very talented photographers. Still, I was so stiff during my first two. Though there were some usable photos from these first few batches (because these photographers are REALLY talented), the overall result was pretty hilarious. I look like I'm in physical pain! Honestly, I was.
But I learned a few things. I loosened up. I realized there is a reason photographers take hundreds of photos in one session. Only a few will really capture who we are! And just like anything else, taking a good photo can be broken down into a formula.
A compelling portrait truly has nothing to do with conventional physical beauty. Every single one of us has at some point encountered the thought form that there is something wrong with the way we look. We can take our power back, and do such a service to other women, by getting comfortable with the way we look and transmitting that confidence through the pictures we take.
Entrepreneurs, I'm certainly talking to you. People want to get to know you, and understand who they are buying from. But if you're working in a corporate job, and you think you can get by with that decade-old head shot on LinkedIn, you're doing yourself a disservice. Elevate the impact you can have by investing in photos that are a true reflection of the magnitude of the person you are.
Here are my tips for a successful shoot:
1) Don't overspend on the first shoot.
When we see an amazing photographer's work, we feel like if we just invest, we'll be guaranteed a great outcome. But photography is a creative partnership. Work out the kinks first on a solid, but affordable, photographer.
Also, don't ask a professional photographer if they can just snap a quick photo of you for free. There is so much that goes into a quality shoot. A good photographer will spend time with you up front to understand the concept and what you are trying to convey, and will plan and direct the shoot accordingly. They will lug around a heavy camera and contort into weird positions to get the right angle. After that, they will upload and edit photos for you. This is time-consuming and requires thoughtfulness and physicality. Would you ask a lawyer to just draft up a quick operating agreement for you for free? Probably not, unless it's a willing family member. Creatives are often short-changed due to a misunderstanding of the value of their work. Don't perpetuate this.
2) Practice with iPhone photos.
Have someone you trust take a few photos so you can get a feel for whether you're showing up as uptight. Or get a tripod like this and set up the self-timer on your phone to take photos of yourself.
It may sound cringey, but it might be more comfortable to practice this way if you're really shy about getting your photo taken by someone else. Just make sure Influencers in the Wild doesn't catch you--maybe practice at home! (Note: if you do this, make sure you clean your phone lens, aim for mid-morning or mid-afternoon light, and position the tripod so that it's near a window with natural light coming in, so that you are facing the window. And try a few shots in portrait mode.)
3) Don't wear anything you wouldn't normally choose.
Your discomfort will come through if you're trying to be someone you're not. If you always wear a black suit, wear your black suit. But if you wear jeans in a work setting, wear your favorite pair. Just don't go out and buy a bunch of new clothes for your shoot. You want to be comfortable and know from previous experience you feel good in a particular outfit.
You also want to calm your subconscious by emphasizing the whole thing isn't a big deal. Stressing yourself out by investing in a new wardrobe signals this is high stakes, which isn't the energy you want.
4) Do your hair and makeup how you normally would.
I got my hair blown out before my first shoot. Then I remembered I've always hated the way my hair looks when someone else does it. Remember how Kate Middleton did her own makeup for her wedding? She was smart. You just don't want to try anything new on a day like this. If you always get your hair blown out, then go for it. Just know today is not a day to switch it up.
Later on, when you get more confident, or you want to play with a creative concept, you can try new things. But for your first shoot, you just want to look like the best version of your everyday self.
5) Schedule your shoot around your cycle.
Do the best you can. Not all of our cycles are regular, and sometimes we have to schedule shoots weeks in advance. But day one of your period is not likely to result in your best photo, if you're not feeling your best. Best to schedule during week two or three of your cycle--if it's possible! If not, don't sweat it. You've had to show up for other important things during this time, and you did just fine. You didn't look like a monster then and you won't now.
6) Take photos in a comfortable place.
It can be fun to shoot in an eye-catching environment, like a downtown urban area or on the beach. But if you're already uncomfortable in front of the camera, it's not going to help to have an audience. Start by having the photographer capture you in your home, or in their studio.
7) Breathe throughout the shoot.
It will be obvious in the photos if you don't do this!
8) Take a second to pause before you start.
My dear friend and creative collaborator, Carla Coffing, has me pull an oracle card from her deck before our shoot that reflects the theme we do our best to channel. We also start with a quick meditation. If this makes your eyes roll, it's not the pre-shoot ritual for you. But don't come in hot, stressed out from your work day. Do something relaxing before the shoot and remind yourself nothing is more important than staying in that chilled out state.
9) Remember why you are doing this.
You are not a narcissistic product of the influencer age. You are a dignified leader who needs photos commensurate with the projection of her mission. Have you seen portraits of Maya Angelou? Does she look like a cheesy Instagram influencer? No. Her photo alone transmits wisdom, care, and depth, and only adds to the impact of her writing.
You've got this. Invest in images that light you and others up as a service to yourself and the clients and customers who are going to be excited to work with you. Then @ me on Instagram @marymargaretskelly so I can see the final product!
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