3 Tips to Looking Good in Photos at Any Size

“Highlight Strategically”

“Show Your ‘Good’ Side”

“Angle Your Body”...

I could go on and on sharing the number of “tips” that a Google search will find about how to “look good” in photos, but I won’t.

Because looking good in photos isn’t what people really want, is it?

When we dig underneath, wanting to “look good” in photos is really a desire to feel valued, accepted, and appreciated by others in a culture that is deeply fat-phobic, and judgemental about appearances (especially a woman’s).

We have all experienced this, and we have likely all perpetuated it.

The reality is we live in a world that treats people who look like the beauty ideal better than others. It’s not fair, it’s not right, but it happens.

So when it comes to having our photo taken, we feel so much pressure for that photo to “look good”. We want to be viewed positively. And if we’re bigger, that often means we want to look “slimmer”.

However, the sum of our wholeness as human beings cannot be boiled down to a two-dimensional, one-second image of us. But that’s how we tend to treat photos. But we don’t have to.

So here I’m going to provide you with some not-so-usual tips on how to look “good” in photos at any size, no special lighting required!

Tip #1: Start taking photos of yourself at ALL angles!

A few months go, I was in a workshop with Vivienne McMaster from Be Your Own Beloved. She encouraged us to grab our phones and start taking selfies, but not your typical posed selfies - random selfies, from all angles. Selfies from high above, from way below, from afar, from close. Selfies of our feet, our hands, our stomach - whatever. It was like immersion therapy for all the parts of our body we try to hide and run away from.

Admittedly, looking at those pictures was hard. I didn’t want to see myself as “unflattering” because I was taught unflattering wasn’t good. “Unflattering” meant I wasn’t good enough, wasn’t beautiful, wasn’t worthy. When I thought about it - those are darn heavy judgements to be placing on myself - yet it’s what we’re often saying when we judge our “unflattering” photos. But what if we didn’t make these photos mean those things - what would be the big deal?

So give it a try. Take some “bad” selfies. Seeing ourselves in photos is one of the biggest hurdles in moving towards body acceptance.

Which brings me to my next tip…

Tip #2: Adjust Your Mental Lens

Just like a camera has a lens, so does our mind. And just like a camera lens, we can adjust the lens that our mind is looking through.

When I was thin and would look at photos of myself, I didn’t see a thin person. I distinctly remember having my photo taken on a beach when I was at my thinnest, and I couldn’t stop seeing my “huge thighs”. I remember thinking “overall I look  thin, but not as thin as I’d like.”

A few years after I gained weight, I looked back at that same photo in shock. I couldn’t believe how thin I was. I couldn’t see it at the time. The sad truth is it wouldn’t have mattered how thin I became, I still wouldn’t have seen it - because I was looking through a judgemental mind.

I felt insecure and believed my worth and value came from being thin. But because that isn’t actually true (our worth and value comes from within), with this mindset I would always see photos of myself through a judgemental lens.

The solution? Adjust our mental lens.

This requires noticing what we are making “unflattering” photos of ourselves mean. I usually write out a list that starts with a sentence like:

I look fat in this photo, and that means that…

I then get really honest with myself and notice what I’m making it mean that I look fat in that photo. I often find thoughts like:

“I’m unattractive”

“People won’t like me”

“People will judge me”

“I’m not beautiful”

It can be hard to acknowledge, but thoughts like these are lying underneath our dissatisfaction with our “unflattering” photos. These thoughts are learned. They are thoughts almost everyone has due to our cultural conditioning. But just because we think those thoughts, doesn’t make them true.

This is when I turn to The Work of Byron Katie to question thoughts like these. The Work is a tool that has helped me shift the lens of my mind so I can see more clearly. I often use the analogy that before questioning my thoughts I saw myself through a keyhole, after doing The Work I was able to open the door.

Give it a try. Shifting the mental lens we look through, can completely shift how we see ourselves.

Tip #3: Remember the Moment

I think we forget that the reason we primarily take photos, is to capture a moment. It’s why we take photos of sunsets - we want to remember their unique beauty. Or why we take pictures of our kids eating ice cream - we want to document their joy.

But in our image-obsessed culture, that erroneously equates someone’s value with their appearance, people take photos as a way to gain validation, instead of capturing a fully-embodied moment.

Now I’m not playing the blame-game, or saying that one can never take a selfie for pure vanity. But it’s worth noting that when we continue to focus on how we look vs. fully inhabiting our bodies, we continue to uphold and validate that appearance is what’s most important, and attach our worth to that.

So, instead, try capturing yourself in moments. Then when you look at the photo, reflect on things like what you were doing. Where were you? Who was with you? Can you feel what you were feeling in that moment?

When we remember the moment, we are seeing not just an image, but a whole person. We can see more clearly the qualities that make us beautiful, just as we are.

No special lighting or angles required.

Are you ready to have a better relationship with your body? Check out my one-on-one coaching program here.

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Photo by Steve Gale on Unsplash