I was recently photographed. By another photographer. I got my hair and makeup done at a salon, then drove to the photographer’s studio, where I had an appointment. I was photographed for 45 minutes, during which time I did not try to pose myself, I simply obeyed her direction and soaked in the experience and the vulnerability of being in front of the camera, all alone. No kids. No husband. Just me looking straight down the barrel of her 50mm lens.
It was both frightening and awesome.
Someone asked me why I got photographed and I didn’t really have an answer. Maybe they were asking like, “why not just take your own pictures?” or maybe it was more of a “you’re 43 years old, why do you need pictures of yourself?” I’m not sure about the root of the inquiry, but after some consideration, I now have an answer.
First, I believe with everything in me that it’s vital for photographers to become subjects. Many photographers developed a passion for photography at a young age. We were the kids on the school field trips toting our cameras around. We dragged our cameras through high school, working on the yearbook committee, taking pictures of our friends. We took pictures at our friends weddings (embarrassingly over the backs of their hired photographers). We took pictures at every kid’s birthday party, every vacation, and at every other opportunity (real or imagined) that we could justify pulling out our cameras. We were the photographers long before we were actually photographers.
The point is, we weren’t the subjects. We weren’t IN the pictures because we were taking them. And that became our comfort zone. We got realllllllyyy good at taking them. In fact, over time we learned to expertly assess light, pose, direct, capturing connection and love and emotion. But when it comes to being in pictures, we suck. Bad.
Aside from the obvious problem: that we have no photos of ourselves with our loved ones (I’m personally missing in photos from 2000-2009), we need to become clients. We need to go through the process that our clients go through. Definitely with our families, but maybe even by ourselves.
Some people pull off getting photographed like it’s nothing, they just go through life perfectly photoready. That’s not me. Getting photographed is a major life event for me. It takes weeks of planning and primping. I’m basically the opposite of photo ready, I’m barely presentable…like I avoid mirrors.
So when I made the appointment for my photoshoot, I knew it was on. I’m talking cutting carbs, extra workouts, hair cut & color (I normally let such things go), nails, wardrobe shopping, freak out sessions with closest girlfriends, dreams of it all going wrong. So fun. Kinda like going to the dentist fun.
But I did it. And it was good and healthy.
When I showed up with butterflies swirling, I flashed back to so many of my clients who confess that they’re nervous when they arrive at a shoot. Then there’s the investment, the time, effort, and dollars put into this event that creates a certain pressure for it to go well. The vulnerability (what if the photographer doesn’t get my best angle?). And the wait. There’s no instant gratification; the rules of time seem to change when your waiting to see your images. Experiencing these things first hand puts us in our clients’ shoes and renews our empathy. Becoming photography clients makes us better photographers.