Two days ago, I received an email at work, asking me to do a photo shoot two days from then. Yes, today. Without hesitation, I replied with an emphatic, “Yes of course!” Screw the fact that I’m almost 6 weeks into a bulk, screw the fact that I can’t see my bottom abs, screw the fact that I’m not “photo ready” lean. SCREW IT ALL! I love love love having photos taken!
Go ahead and think I’m a narcissist, but hear me out.
We live in the age of the selfie, right? At any time we can snap a photo- from any weird, cocked, flattering angle, in the room with the best light, and see what we look like from arms length away. We use our front-facing camera and line it up just so, take 15, delete 14 of them, adjust the light and put two or three filters on it, post that ish on Instagram, #fitnessmodel, right?
Now I’m just as guilty of all of this as the next girl, #fitchick #swolfie, but this is so, so subjective. You really make yourself look how you want you to look, and if you can’t get the angle right, or you can’t get your idiot bangs to cooperate, you don’t post the picture. Take a picture of the cat, or your dinner, and move on.
But when you work with a photographer, you have to relinquish some of that control. You have to let the photographer see you, really see you, and you have to trust your body to do the things you’re asking it to in the way you’re asking it to- tilt your head up just enough but not too much, pull your shoulders back without making it look like you’re sticking your boobs out awkwardly, flex both your abs and your quads; you have to feel and listen to your body- you can’t see it. But the photographer can. And the camera can.
My favorite part about a photo shoot, though, is seeing myself from that photographer’s perspective. No single photographer that I have worked with has seen me the same. I could be wearing the same outfit, performing the same motion, and still look completely different in shots by two different photographers. It is this objectivity that is absolutely incredible to me. I pride myself on being in tune with my body, but I can only know what I see and what I feel, and let’s face it, I’m pretty biased. But photos don’t lie (let’s not start on Photoshop and magazines and all that, that’s another topic entirely- I’m talking about me, a photographer, and a camera). The photographer saw me just as I was in that moment, and he captured it through his own perspective. Perhaps he saw me as powerful in that moment, perhaps he saw me as joyful. However he perceived me, whatever he saw, is going to translate onto that proof when he sends it back to me.
It’s a moment of honesty, when you go through the proofs each time. Initially, at least for me, my instinct is to be critical: “ugh, I know better than to tilt my hips anteriorly, it makes my belly pooch,” “I really ought to add some more direct bicep work in,” or the worst, “time to consider cutting calories.” Nitpicking, criticizing, and bringing that subjectivity right back in.
And then I blink twice. Shake it off, Stephanie, try again.
And suddenly you can see yourself like you’ve never seen before- through another person’s eyes. And they weren’t focused on whether your right calf was flexed enough. They saw how the light behind you hit your right side, and then they asked you to lean just a bit further left, remember? Now look how that turned out- the angles it created. They turned your body into art. You made your body, but they saw it, and they captured it. As a team, you made this.
No matter how well i know my body, no matter how many photos of myself I’ve seen, every single time I work with a new photographer, I see myself just a little bit differently. As an educator. I’m always receptive to learning opportunities, and I believe that a photo shoot is a perfect chance to learn about yourself in a new and interesting way. The chance to literally see from someone else’s perspective is not easy, nor is it common in a person’s everyday life, so if you are given the opportunity to view yourself objectively, to see yourself from someone else’s eyes, I think it’s completely foolish to write it off in favor of picking out each tiny flaw you can find about yourself.
Even if you are feeling a little fluffy.