However, I'm not going to lie. Women are the hardest to photograph. There, I've said it. I have no plans to stop photographing them because they are some of the most beautiful creatures on Earth. But still, they are the hardest to please. I've spent quite a bit of time thinking about why that is and have a handful of thoughts I'd like to share with you.
Photoshop is a big factor. I've lost count of the number of times someone has said to me, "You can just photoshop that, right?" The thing is, Photoshop is not a verb. It can do some pretty magical things, but it is not a magic wand.
Second, we have the media to thank. Every day we are bombarded with images of seemingly perfect women on TV, on social media, on billboards, in the movies and everywhere else we turn. They are young, at the perfect weight, with the perfect size bust, flawless skin, tiny waist, no wrinkles and on and on and on. I AM happy to say that as of late, I see a much better display of diversity, showing this beautiful multi-colored world we live it, but we still have farther to go. And again, most of those women have been airbrushed to the nth degree...neck made thinner and longer, thighs made smaller, skin made tanner, nose reshaped and any semblance of wrinkles, cellulite GONE. The first time I really understood this, it took my breath away a little bit. It was this amazing revelation that I'm disappointed I didn't realize sooner. And it was a huge relief.
I don't spend time following celebrity gossip and fashion trends, ever really. However, this story caught my eyes. If you missed the recent Demi Lovato post on social media, check it out. No airbrushing, no skin smoothing. Just the real her with her thoughts about why she did it and the new chapter she's starting for herself. I wish every single girl and woman could see it. It's eye opening and refreshing and REAL. No one looks like the girls in the magazines, not even the girls in the magazines. Maybe some twenty somethings look like that, but it's fleeting and they don't stay in their twenties forever. And I believe that the youngest, most impressionable girls who really need to know this are the ones who still don't. So, lots of kudos to Demi Lovato for the post. The most visible ones must be a part of the conversation if we are to change expectations and perceptions. Even now, in my 40's, I have said to myself and others, I'm not supposed to look like I'm in my twenties anymore.
In a rarer occurrence, fans will call out the insane photoshopping, like in this case with Jennifer Aniston. It's honestly not possible that she still looks exactly like she did while she was still filming Friends. And these dramatically photoshopped photos were just a little too obvious for some of her fans and they weren't going to let it slip by. This gives me some faith that some progress is being made. Aging is real and, with a few things I could do without, I do my best to embrace it as a gift.
As women, we also tend to look at the parts and not the whole. In photos of ourselves, we immediately zoom in on what we think are all of our flaws...our wrinkles, our necks, our waists, our eyes and pick it all apart, feature by feature. But right now, stop and think about whether or not you do that when you look at any of your friends. I'm going to wager that you don't. My guess is that you see their smile and feel their energy and it makes you happy. You see the kindness in their eyes and love their laughter when you share something funny. You aren't thinking about your friends "flaws" or any other thing you pick apart about yourself, right? We say things to ourselves that we would NEVER say to our daughters or our friends. We are the least kind to ourselves. It's something we all must work to change.
Personally, I do not believe in making people look like someone other than who they really are. There is a general rule in photography that you only remove/change things that aren't permanent and may not be there in 3 weeks. So yes, I'll remove acne. I'll remove a scratch on an arm or face. I never touch scars, unless the client asks me to, as they are a part of who you are and your story. I'll smooth out skin a touch if the pores are super visible or I might soften some darker circles under the eyes. But it is never to the point where you stop looking like you or you look 10 years younger. It's not authentic. It's not real. Recently, I did headshots for a wildly, talented Chicago actress who I think it simply stunning (and so does everyone else by the comments on her photos). Of all the comments that were posted this one made me the happiest: "From the other side of the audition table, there's nothing more welcome than a headshot that actually looks like the actor!"
There's a saying I love: sometimes being with your best friend is all the therapy you need. I couldn't agree more!
I've always said that I truly believe everyone is beautiful through my lens. And I really mean it. When someone trusts me to show me who they really are, it can be magical.
So, here is my challenge to you. Who will be next to get in front of my camera? My goal is to do one free shoot each month of a woman who is willing to trust me and show me who she really is. Just you, just me and my camera. No stress, no pressure. Think of it as a gift to yourself. Let's find the place where you are the happiest and go there. Maybe it's your kitchen. Maybe it's a coffee shop. Maybe it's a bookstore. Maybe it's your craft room. Maybe it's your couch curled up with a good book. You tell me. Let's spend some time together and capture who you are. Who will be first?