If there’s one piece of advice I would give any couple getting married it’s this… get a bangin’ photographer. That’s not to say you can’t also have Uncle Raj or Cousin Joe also take some to ‘build up their portfolio’, but I urge you, if budget allows, hire a professional.
I say this because a professional photographer will make you look like rock stars. I love having my photo taken by a pro because even though they’re a relative stranger, it makes me feel safer. As a recovered insecure person, I still get nervous about the end results so I like minimising the risk of a ‘bad shot’. Photos hold power over our self-esteem unlike anything else I can think of (trumped only by video maybe).
Ooph! How quickly a badly taken snap can steal your joy.
Recently I was at my Mum’s house and had the urge to look through some old photo albums (remember them?!) Some random photographs of me aged 18 years old fell out of one of the books. In these photos I’m the fattest I’ve ever been.
I’m sorry to say that even as a body acceptance coach and Anti Diet Riot Club Co-director my immediate reaction was horror. I hid the photos away quickly because I felt genuine disgust at how I looked. I continued to go about my day but I couldn’t stop thinking about these photos.
I realised that having spent years talking to other people about how to make peace with photographs, it was time for me to practice once again what I preach! I went back to the albums and took the photos home with me.
I want to share my tips with you because I believe that ALL photos taken on your wedding day should be enjoyed whether they’re ‘perfect’ or not.
Here are SIX tips to help you heal your relationship with photographs:
- SEE THE WHOLE PICTURE
When we look at photos our eyes are automatically drawn to what we feel most sensitive about. For me, I’m always insecure about my upper arms and thighs.
TIME TO ZOOM OUT!
See the whole picture. Remember the full memory of where this photo was taken in HD technicolor. What else can you take from the photo? Did anything funny happen in that moment? Can you remember any senses e.g. smells, colours, sounds, materials/items you touched? Focus on those instead. What’s happening in the background? Who else can you see?
- SEE IT AS JUST ONE MOMENT IN TIME
Photos are just a snapshot of a moment. They are not true representations of exactly how you look in motion. They also lie. It’s possible to manipulate your body to look bigger or smaller through different poses and how we hold ourselves. Take away the power of the image by remembering that this is not an EXACT representation of you. Don’t let it ruin the feeling from your whole day.
- ACCEPT YOUR BODY AS IT IS
This is a biggie. There’s no denying that in my old photos I’m fat. Now please don’t recoil in shock at my use of the F word. I’m using it as a descriptor. It’s been almost a decade of me working in this field of body acceptance for me to say that with no judgement – AND YET … I’m sad to admit when I saw this photo I recoiled. Why? Because we live in a fatphobic society where fat is seen as bad, lazy, immoral and disgusting. I still have this discrimination within me.
Yet having fat on my body is not something that deserves these thoughts. (Just as your face doesn’t deserve a put down if it’s got caught stuck in a weird angle among a group of smiling pals).
The beauty standard means we judge images of ourselves at entirely unrealistic standards and fatphobia, or ableism or other marginalisation and oppression from the system, means we put ourselves down in the most horrible ways.
The question is therefore, can you find a deeper sense of acceptance and reverence for your body doing its best in relation to your life and its experiences?
Send that angry outwards at the system and see if you’re able to create a softness when looking at yourself.
Important note: If this creates hard feelings that feel too much to hold on your own, please reach out to a trained professional or your GP. Trauma comes with both a big and little ‘t’, both are valid and deserve to be processed and released in a safe, therapeutic environment.
- FIND COMPASSION FOR YOURSELF
This leads me onto my next very important point, if not the MOST important. Finding compassion for yourself. Compassion is just another word for kindness. It really just means seeing yourself as a fallible human.
We are sooooo quick to judge ourselves and throw ourselves into the fire. However, I know from experience that when you’re planning a wedding, you’re working your ass off trying to throw a beautiful, memorable party for everyone.
You would never look at a photo of your best friend or your partner and pick apart how they looked, especially if you knew that on the day that the photo was taken, they’d done their darndest to make you, and everyone around them, happy.
So, try and put a lens of love and kindness over your vision when you see a photo of yourself. Even if you look like a hot, sweaty mess! Welcome to the human race … it doesn’t look like an Instagram filter!
When you look at an image of yourself, see if remembering your pains, struggles and how much you’re trying creates a softening within you… this person, you, deserves your love not your criticism.
- YOU ARE SO MUCH MORE THAN A BODY
It’s easy to write-off photos without a hesitation. We see something we don’t like and immediately want to never see it again. This is because we place too much emphasis on what we look like.
We forget that we are SO much more than our bodies. Think about what makes up the 360 that is ‘you’?
It’s your hopes, dreams, hobbies, desires, sense of human, culinary mastery or lack thereof, how you laugh, what makes you cry, the way you hug, your quirky love of antiques or Lawrence LLewelyn Bowen (that last one might just be me).
When looking at photos, can you try and see what your friends see in you? I’ll say it again… YOU ARE SO MUCH MORE THAN A BODY!
- FUCK THE BEAUTY STANDARD.
Anger is an energy. If you can begin to harness the energy you normally put on your body and spread it OUTWARDS imagine the change you might be able to see in your world.
I grew up in the 90s when ‘heroin chic’ was a thing. There was nothing wrong with my body and everything wrong with the standard of beauty I was trying to fit into. Diet companies profited off my insecurities for over a DECADE.
The ‘beauty standard’ is an ever, shifting moving goal post which is impossible to attain. It is rooted in systems of oppression that reinforce sexism, racism, colorism, classism, ableism, ageism and gender norms. The dog piling that happens on Instagram to women who appear to actually MEET the standard shows there’s literally no winning… so opt out of the contest.
This goes especially on the pressures on having ‘the perfect EVERYTHING’. Put those pressures in the bin babe! Find freedom in focusing on finding what makes you FEEL beautiful whatever that means to you (and this is particularly important when it comes to wedding planning).
Don’t let the BS beauty standard ruin your wedding photos. It’s memories that should be treasured for always, regardless of whether you’re looking at the camera or not.
Harri Rose is a coach, writer and Co-Director and Head of Community at Anti Diet Riot Club. Her work focuses on life after diets and she writes about all things body acceptance, pleasure, self-compassion and joy – these are all the things she calls WONDER. Her first book ‘You Are Enough’ is out now (Octopus Publishing). Get your free introduction to her book at harrirose.com/signup or say hi on Instagram @harri_rose_