Photographs dominate our lives—how we communicate, how we perceive ourselves, whose products we rush to buy and whom we vote for. We know we shouldn’t trust photos entirely (we know what apps and photoshopping can do), but we are still tempted to value ourselves by how great or how awful we look in our own photos.
But the quirks of the camera mean that a photograph is – inevitably – inaccurate. Our examples demonstrate that a photograph always distorts reality, and cannot be a verdict on anyone’s appearance. It shouldn’t dictate our body confidence.
The ability of professional photographers, celebrities, models and influencers to manipulate these quirks has made being photographed an uneven playing field for the rest of us. We take what we see at face value, which can lead to futile comparisons and low self-esteem.
But all of us can learn the art of being photographed. If you understand the way the camera sees the world, you can control how you look in photographs. You can play with your image, your shape, your size and your persona to create photos you feel proud of. Being photographed becomes an opportunity for you to express yourself, confidently and creatively.
By passing on the techniques and tricks used by the media, from influencers to politicians, we hope you will be empowered to not only control your own image, but to recognize the subtle techniques, messages and motives involved in the photographs that surround us every day.
The idea for the Art of Being Photographed project came to me while I was on a specialist photography course at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum of Art and Design. I was wondering if I would ever know enough to show off about the equipment in my camera bag like the seriously techie photographers were doing, when something unexpected happened.
The portrait model didn’t turn up. They announced that we all had to take turns being the model while the rest of the class took photographs. Every one of us seasoned photographers froze in fear. Our brains seemed to lose all of the knowledge we used when we were behind the camera. We just stood there, mutely and uncomfortably waiting for instruction about how to be photographed.
As I took my turn, I realized that we are often passive in front of the camera, and that being photographed is a skill – one that I could use my years of experience as an amateur photographer, and my proficiency as a writer, to help people develop, and to increase body confidence at the same time.
Whether I’m photographing Instagrammers as they travel the world, or creating a great photo for a self-conscious adolescent, or capturing memories for a displaced family, I’ve seen again and again that being photographed can be a gift when the picture captures something special or meaningful about you.
Now I’m beginning a book about the art of being photographed. I’ve learned from experts in the many ways in which a person communicates in a photograph: from portrait and fashion photographers, psychologists, art historians, acting coaches, experts in facial reconstruction surgery, dermatology, textiles, and jewellery.
This website is where I can offer a wider audience the knowledge to help them feel self-assured and happy in front of the camera.
I am an American living in London, and I’ve rounded up friends and relatives on both sides of the Atlantic to help demonstrate how the camera sees the world. From my son’s friends at the University of Southern California to my neighbors in London, the people we’ve photographed for this website have been genuine and natural, and we’re all having lots of fun.
If your favorite model on the website is our golden retriever, you can follow her on Instagram at @puppy.diaries.
Chloe has led the project, editing and refining the concepts on this website and their presentation. Her day job is teaching Philosophy, Ethics and Religion to British teenagers, and she has enjoyed applying her craft to the rather more concrete subject matter of helping people learn how to be photographed. She lives in London with her two highly photogenic cats and her husband, who is a work in progress.
Lucy took many of the photos on this website. She is a London-based photographer who photographs portraits (headshots, personal branding and dating profiles) and lifestyle photos. She has a great skill for putting people at their ease whilst bringing out their sparkle. Find out more through her website, or follow her on Twitter or Instagram.
Lexi built this website and brought it to life. She works with Akros Design, a London-based creative agency dedicated to helping small to medium size brands and businesses make an original statement on the web. Find out more here.
Michael Gerry of Isoplex Productions helped me visualize the Art of Being Photographed project in its early days, and took the photos shot in Southern California. You can follow him on Instagram.