A while back, Allegra was at a 60th birthday party - a real fancy 'do with a professional photographer. She noticed that some women kept running away from the photographer. Not because they're in the witness protection program, but because they hate how they look in pictures. You'll be unsurprised to hear that I have thoughts on the subject.
Stop Erasing Yourself
I know you have a shelf of photo albums from the pre-digital days. I want you to dust one off and flip through it. Memories will rush back as you look at snaps of your best and dearest. Now imagine what this experience would be like if one of your favorite cousins had spent the entire time avoiding the camera.
You look at these photos and reminisce over how Aunt Simone did the can-can on a table at your wedding (true story, but not my wedding) or how your sister scared you with ghost stories while you were camping. But Aunt Camera Shy? You'll remember her fear of cameras more than that food fight she started or that stunning blue dress she had.
That double chin you're hyper aware of? Some people think it's downright cute. Others don't think about it all. People will notice how happy you look. You're the only person on the planet who cares that your face is a little rounder than it used to be. I've actually found that I stop looking like myself in photos when I try to conceal my double chin - it makes me look generic.
Yeah, I know. Pep talks are all well and good. You want some practical advice.
Of course you're going to every event in an outfit that makes you feel like a million bucks because those are the only kinds of outfits you own. (If that's not the case, that is whole 'nother conversation that we most definitely will be having.) (Pro tip: prints look really good on camera.)
A professional photographer takes better photos than your nearsighted uncle who has a touch of dementia. A pro will make sure that the lighting is good and they will never tell you to scrunch or lean so you fit in the picture. Trust them.
Of course all your relatives who fancy themselves shutterbugs may ask you to stand in front of a window with bright light streaming in and squeeze together. In that moment, I want you to kindly and confidently say, "No." (It works on my pushy family, so it should work on yours.)
Contorting yourself so that everyone is in frame is how you end up looking weird in pictures. You're standing or sitting in an uncomfortable, unnatural position, so of course it looks awful. Stand or sit up straight and let the photographer step back to fit everyone in. Shifting your weight to one leg also leads to better photos than the straight-on, mugshot stance.
Another thing that can make you look odd in photos is saying, "cheese." No, really. Do it in front of a mirror sometime. It doesn't create a smile, it creates a grimace. Say, "hi," instead.
As for lighting, I've found that saying, "how about we stand over here instead," goes over well. Pro tip: For about $10-15 you can buy a light that clips to your phone so your selfies are well lit. They're very bright, so you can also use them to light a non-selfie. In that case, don't clip the light to the phone. Instead hold it just out of frame.
OK, fine. If a photo of you looks truly awful and someone insists on posting it online you can ask them to take it down. I've done that myself. On Facebook, you can untag yourself so that people looking for photos of you won't find it.
And when you look at photos from an event, try to see how happy you look instead of how you look. It's what everyone else sees, so you might as well see it too.