... but you're beautiful inside...
January 27, 2008 10:46 AM   Subscribe

I photograph very poorly.

There has never been a picture of me where I like how I look. Pictures taken by other people, pictures taken by myself (tripod+timer, arms length), pictures taken when I don't know I'm being photographed, I always feel that I'm ugly when I see the picture.

Seeing myself in the mirror, I can usually stand how I look. Sometimes.

What are some ways that I can receive unbiased confirmation that, yes, I'm a very unattractive boy, or no, I'm not entirely fugly?

Taking pictures and posting them on Hot-or-Not doesn't really work; what with the whole I-don't-photograph-well thing. Neither does asking friends and aquaintances since they're obviously biased and I would not be comfortable stopping someone on the street and asking their opinion.

Any suggestions, please?
posted by porpoise to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (29 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Send me some pictures, and to some of the hetero- or bisexually-inclined ladies on the site.
I'd be happy to give unbiased info.. and maybe some suggestions on playing up your assets in pictures.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:53 AM on January 27, 2008

Best answer: The tags on this question include "selfimage", but you ask how to confirm with other people whether or not you are attractive. Self-image has to be built from the inside. Think of Marilyn Monroe- many considered her to be one of the beautiful women alive, but by all accounts, she was not able to translate that adoration into something that enhanced her inner life. Do not set up a contest to judge whether you meet some arbitrary standard; work on becoming the you you can value.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:09 AM on January 27, 2008 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Looks are subjective. There is no way to receive "unbiased confirmation" as you will undoubtably be attractive to some and unattractive to others.

This applies equally as well in the so-called blind experiments online because it is assumed that the person posting their pictures is metering the results. Also, despite the anonymous "fucktard" theory (wherein internet + anonymity = fucktard) most people who participate will generally rate on the higher scale since, despite all appearances, most of them are also insecure to a certain degree about their looks.

However, the best advice I can offer is that you need to be comfortable being you. That is the real difference between unattractive and attractive and we can all pick-up on it. If you feel you are unattractive any experiment you put forth will simply re-affirm your belief (hence your comment about friends and family bias). This is referred to as Experimenter's bias which basically says that any study directly controlled by the experimenter will be biased towards their expected or favored outcome.
posted by purephase at 11:16 AM on January 27, 2008

Go to a pro or student of photography. Bring a stereo and your favorite music. Relax and develop a rapport with the 'togger. You'll get some fantastic shots, no doubt. You don't need to be attractive to get a good portrait.
posted by cowbellemoo at 11:22 AM on January 27, 2008

There's an actual mild psychological condition where people dislike seeing themselves in photographs, think they are ugly etc. Usually they are pretty fine seeing themselves in a mirror. I read about some famous philosopher having it, but my googling skills let me down in trying to find out more about it.

If you do have this then unfortunately all the 'you look fine' 'you are not ugly' etc won't be of any help because you'll still think you look ugly.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 11:25 AM on January 27, 2008

I second dirtynumbangelboy's reaction. Your question makes me wanna say "oh, lemme see about that, kid." G'head and send me (bisexually-inclined? check. lady? no comment.) pix if you'd like some gentle feedback. But I'm not uniquely qualified to tell you that everyone's beautiful, in their own way. I think that's Jim Nabors' gig. It's true though, and appearances are the last place you'll get beauty to dwell. She's kind of a bitch, beauty.

For the photo woes, how do professional photographers do with you? It might be a fun expenditure to sit for a portrait (I had to for work not long ago, and though it remained a nerdy work-related headshot, I still like the outcome) and professional photographers can correct blemishes and color issues so very well. If you got a picture you liked out of all that, that hopefully captures your natural smile or conveys your personality, you could use it all the time to represent yourself. I don't think we can all have a million charming candids. Not even Angelina looks sparkling and dear in all her candid photos, eh?

Getting used to it is soemthign I also recommend. I feel like "look, I'm flawed by x, y and z. I know it, other people might decide the same, they'd be right in my book, and so what?" I HAVE OTHER GREAT THINGS TO OFFER. I want you to like yourself before you go looking in the mirror any more.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:25 AM on January 27, 2008

And there are some actors and actresses, some universally acclaimed for their looks, who can't stand seeing themselves on screen.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 11:29 AM on January 27, 2008

Best answer: As a photographer myself, this is something I come across quite often. (I'm also a longtime sufferer of same; seeing it's so common has helped a lot.) I suspect it's the same psychological phenomenon that arises upon hearing a recording of one's own voice. It sounds completely different when it's not 'attached,' as it were, to one's own body. Once your voice is on tape, or your face in a photograph, you no longer have control over it. So your reflection in a mirror is OK because you can control it, and of course you see it all the time, so it's what you're most accustomed to.

The thing is: In the same way that a tape of your voice really is what you sound like, that photograph is actually what you look like to other people. They look at it and see exactly what is captured in the photograph. They see it all the time, every day. It's what they are used to seeing. If you're not walking around all day every day completely self-conscious, if people in your everyday life aren't vomiting at the sight of you, the photographs aren't a big problem. Honestly, you just need (like I did) to let go. Just try not to think about it. (It's silly, I know, but that's really all it comes down to.) Failing that, try to pinpoint exactly what it is about your appearance in the photographs that bothers you, and ask yourself if it's something you can avoid the next time someone pulls out the cameraphone.

Of course, there are going to be bad photographs, but you can just blame those ones on the photographers.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:01 PM on January 27, 2008 [2 favorites]

Erm, "They look at you..."
posted by Sys Rq at 12:02 PM on January 27, 2008

Stop tilting your head. The head tilt kills it.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 12:10 PM on January 27, 2008

Your question has two parts:

1. How can I photograph better?

2. How can I look and feel better?

Well, youre not getting some simple answer for number 2 on some web board. Either accept how you look and do the best you can to dress well, feel confident, and start devauling the idea of superficial beauty or start getting all the plastic surgery you can afford. I think acceptance and playing the cards youve been dealt are the only good pieces of advice here. This process takes years.

For number 1, I am also pretty unphotogenic, but unlike you I dont have body issues. I understand that a photograph is just a split-second in time and people who are usually very photogenic spentall of high school and college learning how to pose instantly in front of the mirror. Well, I had better things to do. I never learned how to pose but I do know that if I smile without opening my mouth I tend to get better photos. I dont have bad teeth, but there's something about a closed mouth photo that registers well on film.

Lastly, youre a dude. Consider yourself lucky. We have it pretty damn easy compared to the ladies when it come to expectations of beauty and fashion. Just make sure the clothes you buy fit properly. Thats really it for guys.
posted by damn dirty ape at 12:32 PM on January 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: seek a therapist
posted by Salvatorparadise at 12:36 PM on January 27, 2008

If the question is just "How can I photograph better", I've found when photographing friends that those with weak chins tend to require a bit more thought in lighting, posture, shooting angle, and other sorts of things to get good photos. A eye-level shot (esp. with a harsh flash) tends to capture just a washed out featureless face whereas a more creative approach can yield much better results.
posted by mathowie at 12:48 PM on January 27, 2008

There's an actual mild psychological condition where people dislike seeing themselves in photographs, think they are ugly etc. Usually they are pretty fine seeing themselves in a mirror.

Wow that sounds familiar. I love being behind the camera, and do a pretty good job of getting people to look good in portraits. But I hate hate hate seeing pictures of myself or being in photos.

So, if this is similar to the OP's quandary, I agree that no amount of encouragement will help. What I did do that helped was to actually ignore it and go the other way. I put my photos on my various profile pages, including my photography website (although it's not there now while I am redoing the site). This helped me to just get more used to seeing photos of myself, making it a little less horrible than it was.

I also had remind myself that people know what I look like, because they see me in person. So, even though it's true that some people do photograph better than others (and better at some times than others), my photo looks like me.

So it might not hurt to get used to seeing photos of yourself. Good, bad, marginal... anything. It's like getting over fear by acclimating yourself to things you are afraid of.

There are also some good suggestions in this previous AskMe.
posted by The Deej at 12:51 PM on January 27, 2008

When you take photographs of yourself, use your image editing software to flip them horizontally. You are used to seeing a mirror image of yourself, so any photograph is going to seem a little off. If you flip the images you'll probably like them better.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 12:54 PM on January 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: There's an actual mild psychological condition where people dislike seeing themselves in photographs, think they are ugly etc.

LOL to continuing the trend of making a psychological condition out of every damn thing and the therapist advice.

How you are seen in a photograph is not at all how you are seen by others. It's a two-dimensional limited-fidelity still reproduction of three-dimensional, full-resolution, moving life. How you see yourself in a mirror is, imperfections in the mirror aside, how others see you, at least in the sense of the visual effect, neglecting self-judging issues.

Furthermore most photographs of people are just not very good. I see this in most photos of me and most photos of others - they all look worse than me in the mirror or other people in real life. If you can find someone who actually knows how to photograph people (or find that lucky picture that just happened to come out right), and I don't mean your yearbook photo or the corporate portrait studio, you'll probably be very pleased. An example is DaShiv's photographs that get him written up in the newspaper through Metafilter's quasi-Second Life-type ability to generate press way out of proportion to number of users. If you don't Know Someone the most reliable way I'm aware of to find someone good at taking pictures of people is getting a well-done head shot as if you were an actor or a model, but that does cost a lot.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 1:05 PM on January 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

My husband photographs pretty well, partly because he's perfectly willing to mug for the camera. He's not trying to look good, but he throws on a big cheesy smile. And I've noticed that when I look right at the camera and smile right up into my eyes (it helps if I like the person taking the photo), that I do look better than when I let myself feel more awkward. It also helps to stand/sit up straight, throw your shoulders back and (if you have a bit of double chin like I do) tuck the chin down but not in, so that you are looking up at the photographer.

That said, some of the very best photographs I've seen of my relatives and friends tend to be candid photos taken when they weren't looking. Most of the best looking were when they were still (all people look funny when talking), and often looking to one side or another. Good lighting helps a lot - I think everyone is more beautiful shot with a low angle warm light, like you get from a winter sunset.

But other than that - as stated above, none of us are used to the way we look in photos, unless we are models, or other performance artists like actors or dancers (who train for this). We usually aren't very aware of how we stand, how we move, unless we are in front of a mirror. We will (conciously or unconciously) change our pose when in front of the mirror.
posted by jb at 1:05 PM on January 27, 2008

Best answer: i experience this exact same phenomenon.

sys rq says: "a tape of your voice really is what you sound like, that photograph is actually what you look like to other people"

i disagree. looking through my pictures of friends i notice that THEY do not look like themselves in snapshots at almost as high a rate as i do not. of course, i CARE a lot more me looking weird.

theonlycooltim, i think, has it: the mirror is a lot more similar to how we are perceived by others than a 2D, static, god-knows-what-focal-length-used, image of us...

of course, for photographs it goes the other way too. as a director, i get a lot of actor's headshots and most of them are so unrepresentative of how the person actually looks as to literally not even allow me to identify the real person from the photograph. (in this case the photograph is always more attractive)

in any event, the bottom line is that the only way you are really going to know what percentage of people find you attractive is by the way they interact with you...

if you are anything like most people, you are probably not the most attractive person in the bar and not the least... sometimes girls who are way "hotter than you" will hit on you and sometimes girls who are "not in your league" will reject you handily...

and as many people have said, and really can't get said enough, physical appearance is really only one piece of the attractiveness puzzle... it's a big piece but it's not the entire picture.

but as someone who has struggled with these same attractiveness issues, i can really and truly say that the best advice is to focus on being truly happy and confident with yourself and not worry about where you stack up on some artificial scale of physical beauty.
posted by robotdog at 1:22 PM on January 27, 2008

I had always thought of myself as unattractive and unphotogenic, and I began to notice that when people came towards me with a camera, I would freeze up, get nervous, freak out, and it would show in the resulting photo. One of my new year's resolutions from a few years ago was to get over that.

I started by using the self-timer on my digital camera and just taking pictures of myself over and over again. And I would practice relaxing my face in the bathroom mirror, and when the timer on the camera was counting down, I would try to relax my face in the same manner.

Years later, and I'm still not 100% comfortable in front of the camera, but I don't mind it nearly as much as I used to, and I even have some nice shots that I don't mind using on my Facebook account.

Good luck!
posted by polyester.lumberjack at 1:32 PM on January 27, 2008

Best answer: Imagine you've been living on a four-foot-wide island for twenty five years. You have nothing to do all day but sit on the same sand, under the same palm tree, next to the same bush. Seeing that you have nothing to do or much to look at, you have probably inadvertently memorized the pattern on the bark of the palm, the shape of every leaf on the bush, and perhaps you've even counted every grain of sand on the island.

There are other islands nearby that you can see, that you do look at, but since you are not living on those islands you don't know how many grains of sand are on them or what the exact shape of their leaves are. You see them, from a distance. There's a person living on each one of those islands, and they can see you from where they sit, but they don't know what the pattern of the bark on your palm tree looks like, or how many grains of sand you've got. They just see a different island, one they haven't been scrutinizing and studying for twenty five years....I bet it's incredibly refreshing.

Okay, sorry...that is kind of a ridiculous, long-ass way of saying that other people do not look at you the way you look at yourself. You've lived with yourself for however long you've been alive. I'm sure, like every other horny teenage on the planet, you spent a lot of time looking at yourself in the mirror when puberty hit wondering if anyone would want to sleep with you.

I used to feel the same way that you did. I hated seeing pictures of myself. All of my physical flaws and "bad angles" or whatever would just pop out when I looked at them. It was all I would see. I rarely ever liked any picture that had me in it. But I started to notice that most of my friends were the same way. They were just as self-conscious. I would hear them say things about their photographs that were the same things that I said to myself when I looked at my own pictures. And you know, except in rare occasions (when it really was a bad angle, or snapped at a funny "wrong" moment) did I ever agree with my friends. When they would say, "Gah I look horrible in that picture!!" I would look at it and think to myself, "WTF? That's you, and you look great!"

I just don't believe that you see yourself the way everyone else will. I think you know yourself too much, well I think we all do. I don't think you need to learn how to photograph better, just find the right mental adjustment to how you think about your photographs. And while I doubt it will be my flimsy island analogy, I hope you find some a new frame of mind that will stick.
posted by Squee at 1:41 PM on January 27, 2008 [5 favorites]

Best answer:
Women tend to be far less concerned about looks than men: we have other superficial criteria (AKA money and status: You don't usually see beautiful young men marrying ugly older women, typically-- sadly the reverse is all too common). Status, wealth and power are to men what looks are to women, generally. So, getting rich might be one way to "solve" this problem. Of course, all generalizations are false.

Symmetry is also supposed to be attractive-- if you are very symmetrical, you can probably consider yourself attractive, although again, there are many exceptions.

Thankfully, human taste varies widely!

Less facetiously, if you are kind, smart and funny, you become physically more and more attractive as people get to know you: if you have "ugly" personality traits, you become more repulsive, despite how handsome or not you actually are. There's actually research showing this effect and I've seen it in real life over and over.

So I would worry less about how you photograph-- unless you are trying to do online dating, in which case, hire someone who specializes in making those photos look good-- and more about changing the things you can.

Also, if you are concerned about looks, weight and muscularity are something you can do something about, also: though obviously this can be very hard.
posted by Maias at 2:00 PM on January 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Do other people think these are good or bad picture of you?

Not whether you're attractive or not, that's too loaded. But just "is this a good picture of me?" is a great thing to ask people who actually know you in real life.

That's the only way you'll know if it's the pictures or you.

This often happens in reverse. I've known many photo models who just were not very pretty in real life, for example.
posted by rokusan at 2:21 PM on January 27, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for the rational and/or kind words everyone.

This post makes me sound like a 15 year old, but it's something that'd been bugging me on and off for a long time.

You guys have really helped me refine my question - what more closely resembles other people's perception of me, my (somewhat unflattering) internal self perception of how I appear, or my (highly unflattering) perception of pictures taken of me - and is it even possible for me to figure that one out?
posted by porpoise at 4:24 PM on January 27, 2008

Interestingly, most photographers have awful pictures of themselves.
posted by oxford blue at 6:21 PM on January 27, 2008

Best answer: Butt clench - we have discussed it before, it seems silly but it does seem to work.
posted by caddis at 6:57 PM on January 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You aren't alone, and be glad you aren't a woman. I'm glad you posted this question because I read a lot of good advice that might help me, as I suffer from the same problem. I have worked around the problem by make sure that all photos of me look awful; this doesn't solve the root of the problem and is pretty immature, but the photos are hilarious. The hard part is the day to day living wondering if you really are as hideous as that person in the photos. I deal with this by not looking at photos of myself as this just reinforces my feeling of hideousness, and sticking with that image I see in the mirror. When I need to get out into the world with a good attitude I make sure that I take a look at myself in the mirror until I get a good smile or look and then leave the house feeling that.

I have been thinking of posting a challenge on craig's list to see if there is a photographer who thinks they can take a good photo of me.
posted by kenzi23 at 9:52 PM on January 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

"In the same way that a tape of your voice really is what you sound like, that photograph is actually what you look like to other people."

This dogma reminds me of when people used to insist, "You don't dream in color." Or, "Boys think about sex every 7 seconds." All pretty much crap.

How you sound on a tape is probably NOT how you really sound, despite what you've (very unfortunately) heard all your life. Tapes DO distort, just as your cell phone makes some of your friends' voices higher and others' lower for no discernable reason.

As far as photographs, even beautiful people have so-so or even bad moments while their faces flit from expression to expression, but you don't notice because their faces are moving. Also, photographs are two-dimensional and do not adequately portray depth. That is why the camera adds ten pounds and makes your ears stick out. It can exaggerate the difference between brightness and shadows. Especially in small, non-professionally taken photographs, subtle detail is lost that may be the very key to your beauty. The cute freckles on the bridge of your nose may become invisible or just look like an ugly smear. The little creases around your eyes are gone, for good or bad. Slightly buck teeth are exaggerated because the darkness around them blends into your lower lip. And so forth. So yes, you probably do look better in a mirror than you do in photographs, and probably even better in real life. Woo-hoo!!!!!
posted by serena15221 at 9:56 PM on January 27, 2008 [2 favorites]

sevenyearlurk: When you take photographs of yourself, use your image editing software to flip them horizontally. You are used to seeing a mirror image of yourself, so any photograph is going to seem a little off. If you flip the images you'll probably like them better.

I flip mine vertically; brings out the right side of the brain, I theorize.
posted by loiseau at 10:42 PM on January 27, 2008

Best answer: I'm a bit late to this, but I can tell you what has worked for me. I am absolutely NOT photogenic; I photograph terribly. However, I was able to teach myself to be somewhat more photogenic, partly by following some of the advice in caddis' link (though I didn't know about the butt clench) and partly by photographing myself A LOT. It sounds vain, but it works. What you do is set up the tripod and camera again, dress yourself in your most flattering clothes, and take HUNDREDS of pictures of yourself, periodically checking the images on the camera, immediately erasing the ones you hate, and keeping the ones that are OK. When I did it, I found the vast majority of the pictures were still pretty terrible, but as I kept going, I figured out what worked and what didn't, and I got more used to seeing my photographed image. I also figured out ways to position my face and body that I felt looked good in a picture. It doesn't necessarily help with candids - in that case, if I catch on that someone's taking my picture, I pretend to eat the head of the person next to me.

Also, from personal experience, I would recommend NOT asking others if a picture is good or not, particularly if it's one you know you don't like. There is no more awful feeling than having someone say that a picture you think is really horrid is a good one. Besides, this is ultimately about YOU liking the way you look in photos, and unless you plan on becoming a model, that's all that really matters.
posted by louche mustachio at 6:57 AM on January 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

« Older How to write opening emails on online dating sites...   |   Photo Sites That Will Do the Mailing? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.