Why I Hate Having My Picture Taken

A long, long time ago, when I was in my first call centre job of explaining telephone bills to mostly angry people, a colleague wandered over to my desk.   He’d been leafing through a pile of photos we’d taken at the work Christmas party (camera phones hadn’t been invented then). 

“Strange, isn’t it…” he mused, brow wrinkling in thought, “how when you look at photos everyone else looks the same as they usually do, while you look completely different.”

I knew exactly what he meant.  You probably do, too.  How you imagine you look is very often not how you actually look, and this is Reason Number One as to why I hate being photographed.   We’re visual creatures after all, and in just one split-second flash, you can be forever judged on the basis of an awkward snaggle-toothed smile, or those piggy eyes you definitely don’t have in real life (honest!).

I’ll let you into a little secret: I had to be coerced into having a photo taken for my website.  My wonderful web design team told me I had to; I was selling myself after all, so people would want to know what I look like.    

I relented, and our first attempt was a full-on smiley picture that I absolutely hated, because if I’m honest, I didn’t look perfect.  Unless you go to great lengths to manipulate it, the camera doesn’t lie, and I looked like the person I am.  A woman in her late thirties with coffee-stained teeth, slightly wrinkled and with terror in her eyes at the prospect of starting a business from scratch.

So we settled on the picture we actually used.  The one where I’m not actually looking into the camera at all, but down at my writing pad instead.  Any awkwardness can be interpreted as my being deep in thought about what I’ve just written down (clever, eh?).

I’ve been stubbornly avoiding the camera for most of my life.  In group photos I’ll usually be that annoying one who hides her face with her hands, or who moves surreptitiously to the back and hopes no-one will notice that I’m not really in the picture.

I’m not trying to say I’m not vain.  In fact I think it’s far more vain to hide from pictures than to just grin gleefully into them!  Regardless, this camera-avoidance tactic of mine has become more and more difficult as the years have passed and everywhere you go, people whip out their phones to ‘capture the moment’.  Classic ‘moments’ usually involve pictures of a dinner that’s about to be eaten (why?), or to check in somewhere on social media. 

This is Reason Number Two: with all the selfie-taking and dinner snapping, we’re losing our appreciation of a really good picture.

(Yes I know.  That sounds like something only an old person would say, doesn’t it?)

Despite my picture-reticence, I arranged a photoshoot for my closest friends and me, as we approached our 40th birthdays together.  Though I knew there would be plenty of iPhone flashes and social media updates to commemorate the year, there was something special about asking a professional to do it for us. We all grinned gleefully into the camera this time round, and wrinkles included, the results were pretty wonderful.

Maybe that’s the secret to a really good photo: the camera doesn’t lie, so accepting that you’re not perfect (and neither is anyone else!) will make you feel more comfortable, far more natural and more…well, you.  Warts and all.

(Just pass me the photo-editing software, and we’ll be done here).