The Camera Actually Lies

I found myself slipping into old habits this week – namely negative self talk about my appearance. It all started from our trip to the winery in Hunter Valley. I had an amazing day, but when I looked back on photos I hated how I looked.

I had liked my outfit when I tried it on in the morning. I felt casual but still like I had dressed up a little, but then I saw the photos and hated myself. I felt like I looked so top heavy and like I was about to topple over. I thought the polo neck made my face look rounder. I thought my skirt looked too short. I thought that my arms looked doughy and pasty. Despite feeling good on the day, there wasn’t a single thing I liked about myself when I saw the photos.

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I sat with my negative thoughts for a while, trashing myself and how I looked. I questioned if I had let myself go, why Jack would want to be with me, how could I wear a bikini in summer if that’s what I looked like in clothes – my mind went to some really dark places, places it hadn’t gone to for a very long time.

Then I remembered something I had seen a while ago on Instagram, about how a person was at a beautiful location and tried to take a photo of it but the photo just didn’t do it justice. They tried different angles, but the photo never matched what they saw. The colours didn’t look right, the image looked flat and it just didn’t capture the place. It made it look less beautiful than it was. The person wrote that if we can accept that sometimes photos of scenery aren’t always accurate, then why can’t we accept it of ourselves?

People say the camera doesn’t lie, but sometimes it seems like it does. There’s an old saying that the camera adds ten pounds, for starters. I have seen photos of people and not recognised that it is them in the picture. I have seen the difference that lighting and camera angles can make to an image. I have taken selfies before going out, then looked in a mirror and felt like they represent two entirely different people. Maybe my outfit didn’t look as good as I felt in it, but did that really mean that I had to talk to myself so negatively and fill myself with so much self hatred? What was there to achieve by doing that?

Even though I write about body positivity, I am not immune to feeling self conscious or low in myself. It’s taken years to get to a point where I feel more comfortable in myself which is great but it also means that I can fall back into habits of telling myself I need to look a certain way easily because they are habit. If I try on a few outfits and don’t like any of them, I will lie on my bed and say I don’t want to go out anymore. I will take a stream of selfies until I find one that I like. I will compare myself to others. I know I’m not the only one who does these things. I even have friends who won’t let themselves be tagged in certain photos or take your phone and go through your photos to delete ones of themselves that they don’t love. It’s sad that we let photos overshadow and impact our perception of ourselves and the memories made. The Hunter Valley was a great day out for me, but for a while it was tainted by my self confidence issues.

I guess the point of this article is to not take things too seriously. In the age of Instagram where we have to show perfect, polished versions of ourselves at all times, an unflattering outfit or a bad photo isn’t the end of the world. I don’t want to look back at photos from that day and think ‘if only I’d have dressed differently’ – I want to remember the unique experience I enjoyed with new people.

We view our life through a lens. I can’t count how many bars or venues I have been to that have something like a flower wall because it will look good in Instagram. Most businesses ask you to photograph their products and use a unique hashtag to identity them. We have been programmed to look at life as if we are taking a snapshot of it for social media, which means that unfortunately we look at ourselves in the same way.

But we are more than a photo. We are more than the right angle or good lighting. A sunset photo never looks as good as the real thing. The next time I see myself in a photo that I hate, that’s what I want to tell myself.

9 thoughts on “The Camera Actually Lies

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  1. Since I’m a bit older (seasoned as some like to call it) there are two things that jump out at me.

    I think it’s great you admit your human flaws while celebrating body positivity. When you’re growing up it is very hard to listen to people talking about things you yourself are struggling with and constantly questioning yourself how they do it (be/look/act so perfect). In reality, we are all flawed in some way and try to improve or manage those traits. Seeing others struggle the same way, helps us to find strength and hope in ourselves.

    The second is more technical. I’m no expert, but I have decades of observing photography and movies behind me and intuitively feel that light (and makeup to some extent) makes all the difference. The angle can bring out emotion and specific mood, but if you master the light, you’ll always get a good – if not memorable – picture. That’s why certain places look absolutely magical through a professional photographer’s eye, but when you are there it feels mundane. Time of day, season, weather and location make a huge difference when talking about natural light. And sometimes photographers wait for hours if not days to capture that one perfect still.

    My advice is not to dwell on photographs when you had a great time. If you want to improve, focus on the skills that can make a difference, like light, composition, angle… The most important thing is that you had a great time and nothing should sway you from that. I know, easier said than done, but here we come back to the “work in progress” that we all are, as mentioned above. 😉

    1. Seasoned is how I will start referring to myself now – I like it! I definitely think that dwelling on photos you don’t like takes away from the good time experienced which is the last thing I would want to do. I also don’t want a few ‘bad’ photos to ruin confidence that has taken a while to build up. I loved the paragraph about photography – it really is an art form and I am afraid that my battered iPhone is not quite the perfect tool! Thanks so much for this comment, I’m definitely a working progress but also happy to be one too 😊

      1. I think any iPhone after 4 is just fine. Getting the light – be it natural or artificial – is the key.
        For example, if you want to get a nice picture of the subject, have the sun behind you. Yu can’t get a naturally illuminated face AND a sunset behind it at the same time. Unless you use mirrors to reflect natural light back into the face.
        My point is that all iPhones have good camera(s), especially when used in a well-lit environment.

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