Column: The photos are never as bad as you think

Reporter Kate Saylors writes about what you learn, taking people’s pictures day in and out.

In my line of work, I give a lot of thought to what people look like.

This is because I take photos, and a lot of them. During the summer especially, when the months are light on news stories to write and busy with lots of events to photograph, I develop a callus on the side of my thumb where my camera rests. There are days when the camera doesn’t leave my hand for hours at a time. On a busy week, I take as many as 400 photos and I look at every one. I see a lot of smiles, silly expressions and weird moments. Especially since they’re usually candid photos, not every photo is a winner and that’s okay. Sometimes, you just catch people cross-eyed.

So I spend a lot of time looking at photos of other people. People love having their photo taken, or they hate it, or they’re the grin-and-bear-it type, usually because they’re used to it – politicians, I’m looking at you.

I’ve heard every excuse in the book for someone not to have their photo taken, and it usually has something to do with how they look. I’m here to tell you: no one cares what you look like, and it’s never as bad as you think.

I, too, hate having my photo taken. I shrink away from the camera, or purposefully turn away. There’s a reason my Facebook profile photo is four years old. But the more photos I take, and the more time I spend looking at them, the more I’ve realized I apply a double standard – I think we all do. We’re harder on ourselves than we are on the people around us.

When I’m looking at photos for the paper, I try and capture a few things: action, emotion, colour. The ones I like are usually candid shots. As I was looking through photos a few weeks ago, I realize that photos were making me smile, because the person in them looked so joyful. This is a reaction I’ve had many times, and it’s what I’m looking for when I take photos.

I’ve heard from people in some of these photos that they look terrible – but that’s not what I saw when I looked at the photo, not at all. I really do try to avoid putting genuinely unflattering photos in the paper (and they’re unflattering through no fault of yours); like I said, sometimes you catch people cross-eyed. It does me no good to put those photos in the paper. So when you see your photo, know that I genuinely think you look nice, and no one will be as critical of your photo as you are.

I started applying the same philosophy to photos of myself. I recently went on vacation, and my mom tagged along – let me tell you, vacations with moms mean lots and lots of photos. That’s not just my mom, right?

Rather than resist every time she stuck the camera in my face, I just smiled. When she showed me the photos later, instead of seeing all the things that were “wrong” (my hair is messy, my nose looks too big, I’m not looking at the camera, my shirt is rumpled), I tried to see what I’d see if the photo were of someone else: the big, happy smile and the beautiful scenery.

Hair out of place? Nails chipped? Nose looks too big? Teeth look a little yellow? That might all be true, but when I’m looking at your photo, I see your smile, your kind eyes, the colour of your hair. It’s true.

Some of my most-complained about photos I really believe are beautiful. My favourites are of people laughing – you’ll think you look ridiculous, but I can guarantee it truly made me smile when I looked at it, and everyone else will too.

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