Updated: Aug 14, 2020
Our population is riddled with body-image issues ranging from shyness to hatred. While the psychological suffering around this is vast and deep, there may just be a few practical changes and realisations we can make to help this unfortunate epidemic.
A big problem stems from when see ourselves naked and otherwise. Most often, these situations aren't exactly geared towards aesthetic appeal. After I specialised in cinematography my friends would often roll their eyes or laugh at me adjusting lighting elements in any given room. I'd fiddle with bulb direction or window blinds, anything to make a room more visually appealing. Casual selfies are also funny or annoying for them - I'll swivel our entire group into a position that best shows the background scene and that results in the nicest lighting on all of us.
Understandably, not many people decided to dedicate their education towards light bulbs and window blinds. However, I did and hopefully the following advice can help the way you see yourself in everyday life. This is important, because it is perhaps the root of our self-judgement.
Now, when do you most often see yourself (naked)? Most commonly, the answers will be:
in a mirror
in a selfie
when looking down at yourself
Well, as an intimate photographer I can tell you that this is very unfortunate for technical reasons. I challenge you to actually stand up and investigate your mirror, your phone, and your body positioning for the following situations.
Situation 1: Your Mirror
What's the lighting like at your mirror? Do you stand in a dark space in your room when looking at it? Is there a harsh light source nearby? How forgiving are the shadows on your body? What quality glass is your mirror made of? Does it warp you? Does the two-dimensionality do you justice?
Never. A slab of glass could never encapsulate who you are. With our eyes, as with a camera, shadows are so very important for aesthetic appeal. You'll see in my photos that I always have some contrast on my clients. However, the lighting is mostly soft and the overall exposure is fairly bright. This is important, because why?
We look terrible in the dark and we look terrible when the shadows aren't right. Simple.
Solution 1: Change your mirror position to being next to a window that allows ample amounts of soft light to flood in during the day time.
Solution 2: Have a soft light source installed just above or next to your mirror.
Situation 2: Your Selfie Camera
What's the focal length of the selfie lens? No matter what phone you have, your selfie camera will have a wide-angled lens so as to capture as much as possible at arm's length. Wide-angled lenses distort our features, making them look bigger than they really are.
You can test this right now! In selfie mode, take a photo at normal arm's length. Now, move your phone closer so that your face fills the screen. Can you see how your nose looks so much bigger in this warped photo? Okay, if we reverse engineer this: that first photo you took at arm's length is the warped version of what the human eye normally sees. Also, what quality and resolution is the selfie camera? Definitely lower than real-life.
Solution 1: Intellectualise the fact that this isn't what you really look like, so don't let it have control over you.
Solution 2: Hire a permanent duo team to light and capture you whenever you want selfies. Make sure their camera has at least a 35mm lens on it, preferably 50mm though, and you're good to go.
N.B.: This might be problematic in clubs, restaurants, changing rooms (did you assess the mirror situation here?) and most other facets of everyday life.
Situation 3: Your Body Positioning
What funny quirks are you giving your body when you look down at yourself? What's your posture like? Looking down with a straight spine? Oh, please! And of course you look weird AF twisting around in the mirror like that!
Solution 1: Understand that this isn't what you really would normally look like, so, again, don't let it have control over you.
Solution 2: Stop deliberately giving yourself weird-ass rolls. Anyone who sits or stands like that will look silly. So stop it.
Let's Get to the Real Point
After all of this technical stuff, I think it's important to mention that none of this is really the crux of the solution. Yes, societally we need to change the way that bodies are portrayed. But do we really need to wait for magazines, commercials, movies and brands to exchange their impossibly perfect models for normal human beings before we can accept ourselves?
When you're looking in that now-perfectly-placed-mirror that shows you off in cinematic lighting, you'll still find issues. Unless you stop. You're allowing your emotions to cloud your judgement. How do you really look to others in the world? Firstly, it doesn't matter because you'd be allowing fleeting opinions to define who you are. Secondly, you definitely look better than what you assume because your emotional lens doesn't exist anywhere else but in your pretty head. So then, what is real? Absolutely not the image you have of yourself in your mind. It's blotting out your strength, your courage, and your glory.
I genuinely believe that an intimate photoshoot has the capacity to alter the way you see yourself, from the day of the shoot until forever onwards. I wouldn't be doing this otherwise. You only need to see one picture to understand that the negative image you have of yourself in your head is, and always has been, false.