Ever see a photo of yourself and think to yourself “that looks nothing like me!”? Well, you are not alone. I myself have looked into the mirror and then attempted to take a selfie and the two just didn’t match. I looked… different. Is it your mind playing tricks on you or Is it something else?
Actually its both.
According to one study, strangers are actually more likely to choose a photo of you that looks the most like you. Apparently people are horrible at picking photos that look like themselves.
This is a phenomenon I deal with in the majority of my boudoir sessions. Women do not perceive themselves the way the rest of the world does. One of the biggest reasons is because we often see ourselves through cell phone photos.
Did you know the average cellphone lens is 26-28mm (equivalent). Ok, Alaynna, why do I care about lens (focal) lengths?
Because focal lengths depict how an image is rendered and how much compression we see! Sometimes pictures are worth a thousand words so here is an example. These images were taken with different focal lengths but distance and everything else remained the same. Did I just blow your mind?
A simple way to understand focal length and lens compression is to think of it this way–The longer the focal length the more compression, which flattens the image. When an image is flattened, all points tend to look like they are on the same plane. Meaning there is less depth to the image. When a lens is wide angle (like our cellphone lenses) then what ever is closer to the camera will appear the largest and have more depth.
So from the 19MM example above (one pretty close to your standard smart phone). You can see that the nose, eyebrows, lips and forehead look distorted. Those areas are a few centimeters closer to the lens. This is why when you tilt your head toward the phone camera in a selfie your forehead looks disproportionately large. In the middle image you’ll notice that her face has a more flattened, natural appearance. Our human eye sees about 50mm (full censor camera) or 35mm (crop sensor). I wont bore you with all the technical details of distance from the lens, censor size or anything else but this gives you a general idea of what I’m talking about. So the middle image is pretty close to what we’d see when we look in the mirror. In the last image, you’ll notice the face looks wider and more flat, there is less depth then the 70mm example.
This also goes for body parts. Try it yourself! Take out your smart phone, flip it to selfie mode and hold it about arms length from your face. Now hold up your hand next to your face and slowly move your hand closer to the camera while keeping your face at arms length. You’ll see that your finger looks HUGE in comparison!
This is a trick that Instagram models have figured out a long time ago! A popular one when taking a photo of their bodies is to stick their ass out so its closer to the camera while leaning their upper body back. This makes their booty look huge and their waist look smaller in comparison. I don’t want to call anyone out so I’ll avoid inserting an example, you get the idea.
So what happens when we live in a world where we are constantly taking selfies? We start to form a mental image of what we look like through these distorted images that don’t match what we see in the mirror! I haven’t even delved into how lighting, angles and Facetune further distort our perception or how we compare ourselves to the “beautiful” people online who also use these techniques to portray a person that doesn’t quite fit what they really look like.
Another way cell phone cameras can affect how we see ourselves are when we are having OTHERS take images of us. We’ve all been there…a night out with the girls and we ask a stranger to take a group shot. The people on the outer edge of the photo will look larger and the women in the middle will look smaller. Lens distortion happens more often than you think.
So again, this doesn’t cover many other reasons on how or why this happens but I’m trying to keep it as simple as possible.
Another issue that can affect how we see ourselves is the mental image we have in our head. Our brains take a while to process change. Ask anyone who’s lost a lot of weight fast! They still see themselves much larger than they are. Same for those that have gained weight or had their body change with pregnancy. Our brains don’t register the change right away.
And lastly, we don’t often see ourselves in movement. We see one moment in time in a photo. We don’t see the little nuances that add to our beauty. Our personality, our mannerisms, our laugh, these are all things that add beauty to our physical forms. In fact, the way we hold ourselves contributes largely to how attractive others perceive us. Did you know that simply SMILING increases our attractiveness?
All this and more is why GlamMarrs’ mission statement is “Reconnecting women’s bodies and minds through the art of boudoir photography”.
My goal is to show you what you look like IN REAL LIFE. Clients are always surprised by how off their own perception of self is. I’ll be honest, I don’t shoot to flatter you. I shoot to show you what my eye sees before I put a camera in front of it. I use your movements to capture those little nuances I spoke of before. Your body is not what makes you beautiful. Your BEING makes you beautiful. Your personality makes you beautiful. Your soul makes you beautiful.
My goal is to reconnect your non-physical attributes to your body image. So you see more than just your physical reflection when you look in the mirror.
I tell all my clients that its a process. Because boy is it ever. Your mind will continue to fight with you about the images it sees during your reveal. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard “That’s me?!?” I could retire…. today.
My clients love MOST of their images but there are always some that don’t appeal to them as much as others. That’s because I don’t just take flattering images. I take images that will force you to see EVERY part of you. Somethings that you love, others not so much. Remember that process I talked about? Yea, that’s a big part of it.
Its not all Oooohs and ahhhs. Sometimes women have an outdated vision of what they look like. They may be holding on to old memories or images of themselves and haven’t come to terms with how their bodies have changed. Its confrontation of the ego. This can take time to process. Women even have a hard time seeing themselves in a provocative pose or with a sexy expression, its a lot to take in! From an outside perspective we don’t see the internal struggle that these women may have. We see them for all the beauty they posses but they themselves cannot. Its like exposure therapy. It forces the mind to start to see the whole picture (pun intended).
In my experience I’ve only had two clients that outright told me that they felt like they looked larger than they perceive themselves in real life. There are probably more that feel that way (or something similar that they struggle with) but didn’t say anything.
Its OK. Its NORMAL. Its part of the process.
Its easy to love the images that we feel we look the best in, its much harder to love images that showcase that dreaded thing about ourselves that we tend to avoid.
Once acceptance comes, and its slow for some and quick for others, that’s when the mind can truly connect to the body. When they can start seeing past the things that they’ve been in denial about or haven’t come to terms with and start accepting themselves as they REALLY are and then seeing the beauty in that.
Because lets face it, we all do it. We pose in photos. We wear clothing and shapers to change how our bodies look. We do everything we can to try to accept our physical self in the reality that we have created but we seldom work on accepting our bodies at all angles, flattering or not.
We tell ourselves negative things when we stand, nude, in a full length mirror, we reinforce that we are not good enough the way we are. We then take 125 selfies to get the perfect one, smooth out the skin, pop on a filter and post it online and let our friends tell us how beautiful we look, reinforcing and further disconnecting our minds and bodies. We get positive reinforcement that the enhanced version of ourselves is better, even though our friends would give us the same compliments, maybe even more so, if we posted raw, real images of ourselves. We compare ourselves to other peoples perfectly posed and edited images online further perpetuating the issue.
Less perfection more authenticity is the key.
So do it. Get naked. Stand in front of a mirror and see yourself the way you look at your friends and your loved ones instead of picking yourself apart. Its gonna be tough at first. God help me I know! I told you it was a process…
Only tell yourself positive affirmations. Sounds hard but try it this way. Imagine you and your bestie were standing in front of a mirror. She’s in a bikini pointing out all of her things she hates about her body. What would you say to her? Would you let her stand there and harp on her body?
Fuck no you wouldn’t!
So be your own best friend. When you say something negative about yourself SPEAK UP and counter that negative thought the same way you would for your friend.
“I hate my big hips”….. Bitch are you kidding?! I wish I had curves like you!
And when you see someone online post a photo rocking their natural body (flaws and all) give them a fucking high five! But please don’t tell them that they are “brave”. You can read why here.
So this brings me to my featured client this Friday. Who also happens to be our resident hair and makeup artist, Mariah.
Remember I said that I have had 2 clients that spoke up that they felt like they looked “larger” in their photos than in their minds? Well Mariah is one of them and my inspiration for this post. She has had two shoots and a long process of reconnecting with her body after having a baby. Here is her words.
I’ve had 2 shoots with Alaynna and the person in those images isn’t the same person in the mirror, my selfies, or my mind.
I had my first boudoir shoot with GlamMarr in 2017… 10 months post partum. I’d gained 70lbs from bedrest and lazy eating after having my son. I didn’t feel comfortable with my selfies, the mirror or others photos. I DREADED seeing that “you’ve been tagged in a picture” come up on Facebook. I still had the image of 23 year old Mariah curves for day smooth thighs, nice perky boobs.
Where those curves were I now saw a mom pouch, my boobs weren’t so perky after a baby had a 24/7 buffet with them and those smooth thighs were feeling more like a drive down 255 in construction season.
Alaynna knew I wasn’t really feeling myself anymore. After years of her helping me become a more confident me, it was all gone. She suggested I do a boudoir shoot. I was so excited! All of the months leading to up my to my shoot I started collecting clothes I thought would look good on me buying clothes for my pre-baby body because I just knew I would be that size again by my shoot.
The day came and I hadn’t lost a single pound and the imagination my mind was creating of me was getting bad. I was avoiding pictures and the mirror at all cost.
The day of my shoot I was so nervous I was shaking and sweating like crazy. We had so much fun though!
I was trying too hard to be perfect for these photos because I wanted to be everything I felt like I needed to be more like “me” again.
The day I got my images back was a mix of emotions I loved them. The person in them was beautiful but she wasn’t me. At least not the way I saw myself at the time.
This girl had a tummy, and large arms, and her boobs were a lot lower than mine I didn’t know this girl at all and I really didn’t know if I liked her honestly. This girl looked tired, and she looked very unsure of herself and uncomfortable.
I had a hard time picking my images because I didn’t feel comfortable with them. I didn’t feel comfortable seeing myself for what I was and how I had changed! I saw this woman uncomfortable in her own skin and I couldn’t help but feel bad. And slightly ashamed. I was supposed to love these photos and I didn’t at the time. What was wrong with me why didn’t I get that aha moment of self love?… But I did actually. I started eating healthier and making better choices and slowly but surely I started losing some weight and my health started improving and my self esteem started improving as well and I started loving myself again. It wasn’t just the weight loss. It was that feeling of getting back to the me I knew I was.
I started taking selfies again. I even started letting people tag me in photos on Facebook again without fear that I didn’t look okay in them because as we all know you don’t ever look the same in a selfie as you do in someone else’s photo.
Time passed and I was really starting to love myself again. 10 months passed and I wanted to try again. I had my second shoot with Alaynna. This time I was prepared I knew that I wasn’t going to look like the 23 year old I loved so much but I would look like the mom who has worked hard on herself and lost 60lbs and I was ready to see that!
I was much more confident the day of my second shoot. I hadn’t told myself a single time I need to lose weight for this shoot I bought crop tops and hey those undies I bought for my pre baby body they did finally fit!
I felt amazing after that shoot. I strut my stuff around like I was hot and I knew it. My last shoot I remember feeling so much confidence afterward I remember feeling so empowered.
So what has this taught me?
My body has been perfect this whole time! It has fought through a difficult pregnancy and brought a beautiful baby into this world, but I didn’t see it that way then. My once perky, full boobs nourished and strengthened a tiny preemie.
I’m realizing it’s not about weight it’s about self worth. There was nothing “wrong” with me in the photos from my first session. I was beautiful then just like I am now, I just couldn’t see it then.
Like Alaynna always says, “Its a process”.
I’m already planning shoot number 3, and GAH! I just can’t wait I know it’s going to be absolutely incredible regardless of my size. I’m focusing on the beauty that is me, no matter how big, small, perky or saggy my body is. And I’m gonna rock it.
Whew! That was a long one I know! Thanks for sticking with us until the end and I hope you gained some insight from this post.
If you’re ready to start seeing yourself and loving yourself its time to book a session. We offer boudoir photography in the st louis area. Boudoir for EVERY body 🙂
Or check out our other blog post here.