Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What is Beauty?

"Mom, I don't like that picture of me.  I don't think I want to glue it to a card and or add it to my scrapbook."

We grew up hearing that beauty wasn't just skin deep and that it was in the eye of the beholder.  Are those sayings true?  I think so.  Being a photographer, I've viewed my job as capturing that beauty that is more than skin deep.  That sassy personality, the raw emotion of someone who is fighting through a moment or the total surrender that someone can have before the Lord.  I met a woman at a recent photo shoot who didn't want to be photographed.  She saw the camera and asked me to please not take any pictures of her because she was more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it.  This is something that I'm pretty familiar with, because, well, let's face it, if I was more comfortable in front of the camera than behind it, I'd be a model instead of a photographer!  Anyway, I joked with her and said that  it was just because she had never had the right photographer before and that she had given me a challenge!  We laughed and every time she saw me throughout the evening she made a point of acting as if she was hiding from the camera.  I didn't, however, take any pictures of her.  That is my regret.  She is a beautiful woman who didn't realize that she has such a great laugh and smile.  I wish I would have taken her shyness as a challenge and captured an image of her where she could see how delightful she really is.  I didn't even try, I wanted to respect her wishes and not make her feel uncomfortable, so whenever she was around I lowered my camera and let her pass by.  Would it have worked?  If I had gotten that great photo in a moment where she was enjoying the evening with her friends, would she have liked it?  I'm learning that even if I love a picture and am pleased with the personality that it shows, that the person in it isn't necessarily going to agree with me.  I think that boils down to how we see ourselves.  Remember, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Have you ever seen a picture of a close friend and just laughed because it showed their quirky personality in a great facial expression that you've seen countless times in real life but never in a photo?  Did your friend look at the photo and enjoy it in the same way?  I think we view ourselves too harshly.  I am guilty of this as well.  I don't remember a time in my life where I have enjoyed having my picture taken.  There are so many flaws that I see in my physical appearance;  my weight, my teeth, my freckles, my big nose with the two angled slope, my over the top facial expressions, the list goes on and on.  What's funny, is that years later I can view the same picture of myself that I really hated and think, "Why did I not like that?  I don't look bad there."  It's all in the way we view ourselves and our image.

Here are a few examples.  I'm not to the "why didn't I like these" point yet.  I still look at them and cringe a bit.  I love that they are moments that I'm enjoying with my daughters, I do NOT love that my body looks the way it does or the fact that I have a lot of wrinkles now or even that I make some crazy faces.  Are these bad pictures because I don't like the way I look?   No.  My family would really like them.   My kids see them and say, "MOMMY!" when they see them come up on the computer screen, they are a true representation of what I look like, wether I like it or not.

So, if that is just the way it is, how do I get to the place where I am happy with the way I look?  Do I spend hours in a gym working out every day?  Should I get a facelift?  Do I concentrate all day long and make sure that I don't make a crazy face?  I could do those things, but if I did I wouldn't be living life and I would probably still find things to be unhappy about in my appearance.  Why is that?  It's because changing my appearance doesn't fix the problem, the problem is in my heart, what I believe needs to change.  No amount of time in the gym is going to fix that, I need time in God's Word so that I know who I am in God.  The Bible says that He created us in His own image.  Gen 1:27.  I believe that when we are so critical of ourselves, that it saddens God. 

Have you ever met someone who really knows who they are because of their relationship with Christ?  I'm not sure that anyone is fully there but I know that the people I've met that do get their identity from their Lord are beautiful and confident people.  They know that the physical isn't what's important.  IICor 5:16-17  says, "
16Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. 17Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come."   Does that mean that we don't have to take care of our bodies now?  No, I believe that God wants us to be healthy, just not obsessed with our appearance.  Real beauty is not in the outside appearance, it's in your heart and what flows out from it's overflow.  Proverbs 31 describes a truly beautiful woman.  Read it here if you get a chance.  The second to last verse says, "30Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain,  But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised."  I think that when we can get to that point, the point where the Lord is more important to us than anything else, including the opinions of others, THAT is when we are truly beautiful.

So, am I there?  I wish I was, but admit that I'm far from it.  Not only do I still cringe at certain photos of myself, but I also have a tendency to cringe when someone else doesn't care for something I've done.  A few days ago a photographer friend of mine was having an issue with a client.  Her statement to me was, "You have probably never had anyone complain about your work."  "Ha ha ha!"  Was all I could think.  I'll admit that by the grace of God it doesn't happen often, but it does happen.  I remember a time when I was in college and working as a portrait photographer at a studio, one mother brought her daughter back FIVE times for her senior portraits, she disliked them all!  I was a mess.  I had never had anyone not like my work before that point and my self-esteem had gotten completely wrapped up in that.  After five unsuccessful sessions with this woman and her daughter, I was finally able to put a finger on what she didn't like.  We sat down and spread all the pictures out on a table.  I asked, "What exactly do you NOT like about these pictures?"  "It's her smile."  The mom replied.  Now, you know those fake smiles that people (especially kids) give to the camera?  The ones where they clinch their teeth together and then move their lips out of the way to show their clinched teeth?  This was not one of those, this was a genuine, real smile.  I pointed out that it seemed to be her daughter's natural smile.  The lady told me, "Oh, it is her real smile and I don't like it."  Sometimes people have unrealistic expectations of us as photographers or even as a people.  What we can't do is allow our inability to meet their expectations be what defines us and therefore begin thinking that we are worthless or have failed.  That is a tendency that I'll admit I have.  Although, it is getting much better, I only loose my breath for a moment now, as opposed to a week or two.  

When our identity is locked up in our performance then the slightest critique will cause us to panic, God doesn't want that.  He wants our identity to be completely in Him, to the point that it doesn't matter what anyone says, we are secure in Him, even when we do mess up!  I finally realize that He doesn't want me to have those moments of panic where I feel like I might faint or throw up because of what someone else thinks, or even when I've really messed up.  He wants me to rest assured in His love and provision for me.  He wants that for you too.  Is 26:4 says, 4“Trust in the LORD forever, For in GOD the LORDwe have an everlasting Rock."  God wants us to have good, enjoyable lives filled with Him, friends and love.  Let's not get so caught up in little things that we miss out on the important ones!  

All that being said, I am a photographer, so I would like to share some ways that you can improve your appearance when it comes to being in pictures.  

1- Don't give the photographer a fake smile!!!!  Even if you are nervous, remember, confidence is beautiful!  A real smile isn't just something that your face does, it comes from your heart.  Think of something you love, your child, a funny pet, a scene in a movie, anything that makes you happy.  Think of it and give the photographer a real smile that makes your eyes light up!

2- Don't be afraid to show your teeth.  I know, a lot of us wish our teeth looked nicer.  I'm one of them, I have a bridge that overtime has turned my gums slightly blackish, I don't consider it very pretty.  It is however, much prettier than closed lips over a fake smile.  Trust me, even if there are gaps in your teeth, you look so much better when you smile than when you try to hide your teeth.   We all have our little "flaws" and that is part of our individuality and our beauty.  Embrace your flaws and be confident in who you are.

3- Never face your body at the camera straight on.  Turn so that your shoulder faces the camera and then turn your head towards the camera, a slight tilt to your head (usually away from your shoulder)  helps.

4- If you are conscious about your weight, ask the photographer to "shoot down on you".  That is, have them stand on a stool or something and look down on you from above when taking the picture, it is slimming.  The opposite is not usually flattering at all. 

Well, I guess that's enough for today.  I hope you all are enjoying your week!


  1. This was wonderful! I LOVE photos where people are smiling a natural, infectious smile!

    A few weeks after Peanut was born, I was getting dressed and looked at myself in the mirror. As things jiggled and moved into not-so-flattering positions, I actually uttered the word "Yuck." The Lord stopped me and spoke to my heart and said, "I don't ever want you to say that about yourself again. I created you, and you have just given birth to a child who will be my disciple. You are beautiful." It totally changed how I look at myself! I'm far from perfect, but I'm sure as heck not "Yuck!" Not in the Lord's eyes!

  2. Thanks Coby. I don't see how you would be "Yuck" in anyone's eyes!

  3. Hi Jeanette, Fun hearing about photography from a photographers point of view. I like the fun photos; so lively! And, great list of ways to improve appearance!

  4. Jeanette, even when you were young, you helped me to accept myself the way I am. You've been attached to the camera, taking wonderful pictures for such a long time. I was proud of you, so I couldn't say I hate the pictures of me. That was, and is, the way I look--I'd like to do better, but, hey, what you see is what you get--I'm comfortable with myself. Mom

  5. i loved those pictures you chose of yourself. they brought tears to my eyes because i was looking at the memories they created. I think one thing you didn't mention is the fact that a picture is frozen in time. No one stays in one position for long periods. Our movements all flow to make us who we are. So a frozen picture may be what we look like but its not really what other people see. They experience the sounds, the movements and the personality of who you are.

  6. Aww, thanks Mom! I'm so glad you feel that way. Thank you for all of your support throughout the years!

    Peggy, great point!