Do You Feel Naked In Front Of The Camera?

I hate being in front of the camera.

That’s probably the phrase I hear more than any other from people when I tell them I’m a photographer. Or when they hire me to photograph them.

I don’t like how I look in photographs. That’s the second most common phrase.

I feel so vulnerable.

I feel naked.

Can I share with you that I understand that feeling?

I feel it intrinsically.

I wrote about my Fight or Flight response to having my headshot made last year. A feeling that snuck up on me unexpectedly and intensely. I was ready to pee my pants and knock people down as I ran out of the room to avoid the entire experience. And I was fully clothed for that experience in front of another person’s camera. What was wrong with me?!

It was a photographer I respected and admired. I had never met him in person before. We didn’t speak beyond the customary + short pleasantries.

I need someone to look out for me when I’m in front of the camera. There’s a bit of neck action that can happen if I’m unaware I need to stretch out more. If I haven’t talked with someone and planned what will happen before stepping in front of the camera, I am so uncomfortable.

I feel exposed.

As I was driving to the airport to fly to Kansas for a photography workshop earlier this month, I was thinking about how I had been telling my husband I really wanted to get a set of hands on my body. I had knots in my shoulders. My neck was tight. Shin splints in my left leg were a sharp reminder with every step.

Then I started thinking about how hands create connection between people. I still had Nanny’s hands with ninety plus years of life experience holding Dorothy circling in my head. I thought about how hands can be healing. They span generations with love and tenderness. And how they impact our lives. So many people leave imprints on us through their actions. With their hands. Their words. Their caring. People bring healing. Peace. Calm.

Which led to thinking about the trust people put in me when I’m hired to photograph them. Whether for headshots, portraits, or on their wedding day.

With headshots, people trust I will professionally and kindly create photographs to represent them well in their business and branding.
With portraits, people trust I will photograph them kindly. In their best light. Capturing the connection and love they share with the people they love the most.

Wedding clients hire me for the way I see this world. To document their emotions.

And wedding clients are different than other photography clients. They place more trust in me than anyone else. There are no do-overs for wedding days. No re-takes or make-ups. Which means my clients are putting an unprecedented amount of trust in me to document the start of their marriage.

To not miss moments.
To show them at their best.
To eliminate the unflattering angles.
To respect their bodies when there is nudity.
To not share the intimate conversations that aren’t mine to tell.
To treat them kindly.
To tell their story.
Without judgment.

All of these thoughts led to thinking about creating this portrait of myself.
With the help of friends I know I can trust.
To look out for me.
And any frivolous neck action.
To create a little curvature where it would help this forty something body.
To treat me and my body with respect.
When I am most vulnerable and exposed.
Literally and figuratively.

I would not be where I am now if not for the help of people whose hands I have placed my trust in.
Who have encouraged me.
Who have wrapped their arms around me.
Held my hand.
Wiped away tears.
Listened to my hopes.
My dreams.
Sat by my side.
Told me anything is possible.
Who have treated me kindly.
Who have given me the space to be myself.

I hope that is something I am able to do for all of my clients.
To represent them kindly.
With discretion.
To not morph them into my idea of what they should/could be.
To create a safe space.
For them to be themselves.

Which is why the wedding days I share may look very different.
My people are different.
They have different dreams + desires.
Different hopes.

Yet their expectations are the same.
To be photographed authentically.

When I first started my photography business, I was told the route to success would be to find a niche and work it.
Stick with one genre.
Create consistency and cohesiveness in my images.

Basically, make sure everything looks the same.
From one session to the next.
From one wedding to the next.
Buy an editing preset and slap it onto the images.

But that feels like a certain route to death, boredom, and inanity.
I don’t want to do the same thing over and over.
I don’t want to make people fit in a box.
I don’t want to make my people all look the same.

I don’t want to take people for granted, treat them as a commodity, or find ways to make them look alike when I’d much rather celebrate their uniqueness and differences.

May I always be grateful and humbled when entrusted with the privilege of photographing another person.
Because I know how hard it can be to stand in front of a person holding a camera.
To trust they will treat me the way I want to be treated.
To be photographed the way I want to be photographed.

It’s hard.
Or not.

A woman standing naked while having breasts and bikini area covered by unknown women.

Behind the scenes information, full disclosure, and the fine print about creating this image.
Yes, I was scared of doing this. I’m the one who wears more of a dress than a swimsuit to the beach or public pools to cover my body. It’s my body. I’m careful with who sees it and how I cover it in public. It’s a work in progress and while I don’t have number goals for the scale or clothing sizes, I do have fitness goals I’m working towards for endurance and strength.

The only people present in this room were the three putting their hands on me and the one handling the camera with my memory card inside it. We did a test run the day before with me fully clothed to work out hand positioning and posing for the most flattering end result while maintaining full coverage that could garner a PG rating. The intent was to portray vulnerability, not sexuality. I’m a wife and mom. There are still parts of my body that are not for others to see or know. I am grateful for the hands, respect, and kindness of Wendy, Candy and Summer in creating this portrait with me and in front of Nancy’s lens.

Pre-planning goes a long way in diminishing nerves and outright fear for most situations.
It helped tremendously with this.

Stools were added on the day of making this image to create more variance in height for the two ladies on my sides and to keep eyes moving around the photograph. A second test run of posing ensued before I undressed and there was another twelve minutes in front of the camera that felt like a good hour of being naked, vulnerable, and cold even though I had the Thermacare heat packs glued to the back of my body.

It was suggested the title for this post be, “How long Wendy held my boobs.” And while that’s great for shock value as an attention getter, I wanted the focus of this post to be on the vulnerability and trust that goes into intentionally choosing a photographer. Ultimately, you need to feel comfortable with the photographer you hire. For headshots, portraits, or on your wedding day.

No, I did not photoshop any part of my body. Yes, I did suck in my stomach. Yes, I did photoshop part of the background to make for a cleaner, wider image without distraction of attic room corners, a few wide floor seams, and a sloping ceiling. Yes, I was making photographs of the photographer while holding my camera out to my side throughout this. Yes, it was heavy and only half were in focus.

Yes, this was hard. But I can do hard things.
We can all do hard things.
I don’t want fear to hold me back from living life wholeheartedly.
I will treat people the way I want to be treated.
I will encourage others to pursue their dreams, do the right thing, and live bravely.
I will be the change I wish to see in this world.
I will do my best to be curious, ask questions, understand others, and show compassion + respect.
And kindness.
Always kindness.

This was shot in natural light on a Canon 5DM3 with a Sigma Art 35mm/1.4 lens at 2000 ISO, f/2.8, and 1/100.

Photo credit: Nancy Meyer – Ordinary Miracles Photography
Nancy has been immersed in photography since childhood, eagerly absorbing her father’s mad photography skills. She was a middle-school teacher, then combined her love of teaching and photography as an online photography instructor. Nancy is eager to teach other mamas how to photograph the ordinary miracles in their own lives. She loves passing on all the tips, tricks, and skills she knows! Over a thousand students from 5 continents have grown their photography skills in Nancy’s classes, which can be found at Ordinary Miracles Photography. You can also read about her family adventures with 8 kids, an amazing hubby, and adoption advocacy on her personal blog, Ordinary Miracles & the Crazy 10, where she’s transparently living life 1/250th of a second at a time.

Head back to the facebook post to comment with your experience about being in front of a camera (good or bad. what you liked. what could have been done better. or differently) or click here to contact me and start a conversation about being photographed.