5 Tips for Booking a Professional Photoshoot When You Hate Your Looks

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Female Headshot, Gray Background

Time for a Heart-to-Heart...with Yourself!

It’s morning. You stumble into the bathroom and slowly gaze into the toothpaste spattered mirror. You don’t recognize the face looking back at you. You notice your eye bags, deep. There are dark circles under the stranger’s eyes. You see a big ripe red blemish on the side of your right cheek. A cold sore is starting to form in the corner of the inside of your upper lip. Dark spots are on the back of your hands. You grimace with your teeth. Then you see yellow teeth, darkened by coffee stains. Your gaze moves to your hair. The top of your head shows more scalp than hairs. You think to yourself: “Ugh. I hate myself. I hate how I look. Look at those lines. My neck looks like turkey skin. I can’t get a portrait taken. I look terrible.

Sound familiar? If not, consider yourself blessed. Many clients booking a professional photoshoot start their day off with similar degrees of self loathing. The difference is that most believe they will work with what they have, and the goal of a photoshoot is to capture the essence of their best on a given day. 

So, … here are five things to tell yourself if the morning of your photoshoot starts with self loathing for the image looking back at you in the bathroom mirror:

1. Everyone has flaws. Don’t let your flaws prevent you from presenting yourself in the strongest way possible. Other flawed looking people don’t. That is where the difference lies, not in looks but in spirit and confidence.  Some still take the initiative, regardless of how they feels inside. Clients going to the trouble of getting pro images created are not always beautiful and do not have perfect features. Even the most beautiful models have something they want to improve. And retouching can help minimize, if not totally remove, unwanted blips. Have stained teeth? Don’t worry. They won’t be as yellow in the final image. Retouching teeth is part of standard post processing, as is removing temporary anomalies (e.g., blemishes, bags under the eyes from not sleeping, spots).

2. Recognize that the images you will see during your review should be considered in light of how you actually look, not how someone else thinks you should look or on someone else’s standard of beauty. Even so, many times during culling, clients focus on something they don’t like which I did not initially notice since I am not focusing on every little flaw. I might only see a big beautiful smile or a cute, impish expression. Yet I am often surprised to hear someone say, “…Is my right eye smaller than my left?” “I don’t like my nose.” “My ears are too big.” Is my earlobe too long?” In reality, composition, posing, wardrobe, and yes, a little retouching, go a long way. But in the end you must have realistic expectations and be accepting of yourself. Don’t reject images because of individual flaws. Each can be easily handled in post if they bother you.

3. Keep in mind that when others look at your final image, they are not going to focus on that tiny little piece of hair you want to grow out or your weight, as another example. They will see and notice personality. They see a twinkle in eyes. They see natural beauty or interesting features. It is precisely flaws that make us unique. And if there is something you want retouched, by all means speak up during the photoshoot and your consultation. Professional photographers will keep that in mind when working with you to create images.

4. Toss out preconceived notions about what is chic, fashionable, or trendy – unless, of course, you are a model or a leading actor / actress and going to use the images for that purpose. For most business headshots, however, don’t focus on looking hip or trendy. More than likely, 20 years from now, that off the shoulder or weathered and torn wardrobe and exotic hairstyle will only give you and others a good laugh. However, if you dress with a long term view, a classic look works better over time. Consider this. Go to the internet and search for portraits of famous people. Look at the portraits and headshots created by the photography masters for the choices they made. You will likely find images that are stunning still today, even though the clothes are no longer in style and makeup not relevant. In such images, the viewer’s eyes will still focus squarely on the subject’s face. Go for simple and classic.

5. The images created in your photoshoot will not only serve a particular purpose (e.g., headshot for LinkedIn, portrait for a holiday card, framed print for Mom), but become a stamp of how you looked at a certain point in your life. You will cherish professional images more as you age. All of us age. This moment is as young as we are. Treat yourself like the special person you are and let confidence shine through.

And when you are ready to take the time and make an investment in a professional headshot or portrait, realize you must accept yourself when you look into the bathroom mirror. If you don’t, no photographer can create images you like because the issue won’t be the photographs, it will be your own self loathing. There is only one Christy Brinkley or George Clooney. You have your own beauty to capture! 

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