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  • Writer's pictureChris Serafin

How do you look like in the photos?

Recently, it has been brought to my attention that some people look different in the photos than they really are. It was even claimed that photos were over - edited. Having over 20 years of experience in photo editing, I always do the editing in such a way that it is unnoticeable and I dare to say that it usually works. So what makes people think that they look different in the pictures than in reality? As a photographer I am obviously very seriously interested in what my clients might not like, so I decided to find out what exactly is going on.

First, I checked how much the photos in question were edited and found that almost all of these photos were edited at a level much lower than the average editing I do. Why? Because they were all very good. The allegation of re-editing turned out to be absurd, but the question still remained: why does the client think he "looks unnatural".

I analysed all the photos from the same session and here are the conclusions I came to.

Apart from professional models, most of us do not know what we look like! Moreover, we make a lot of effort to look "different" in certain specific situations. It is completely natural for us that the bride is dressed in a white dress with a veil. Would she go to work like that?

Usually, we dress differently for a photo session. So, we look different. Well, but when we take a selfie from the party and compare them with the photos from the session, they also differ. They differ because the phone's camera is wide-angle. In portrait photography, lenses with a focal length of 50mm or more are usually used to prevent the distortions that occur when using wide-angle lenses, i.e. with a focal length less than 50mm. Since the rear camera in the phone is specially designed for taking pictures of yourself with your own hand, due to the distance limit, the lens must be wide-angle to ensure that we fit in the frame. But it is these cameras that distort reality. Just because many of us are used to them, it doesn't mean that these photos look natural.

In addition, the photographer usually controls the lighting and framing of the photo, which makes the photo always only a fragment of reality and not its complete reflection. If we do a typical headshot, does it mean that the model has no legs? Of course not. We just took a picture of a fragment of a person. But at the same time, we draw the viewer's attention to this particular fragment and it may actually happen that a hairstyle that would normally go unnoticed will be perfectly visible in the photo. And if it's not right, you won't like it. Only the photographer is not a hairdresser and has no influence on it.

More importantly, usually we want to look better than usual in photos. Better means different. If the model pinned her hair, although she usually doesn't, it will look different than usual. If, after the session, she decides that it was not the best idea, it is not the photographer's fault.

Clothing is also an important element. And it's not because it's worse or better, but very often people dress in ways that don't make them feel good. “Because it is supposed to be nice and I will survive a few minutes”. And when the photographed person is tense for this reason, it will show in the photo. Of course, I will be happy to advise you on how to dress, but in most cases I have no idea what clothes the client has and how he wants to look. In the case of wedding sessions, consultations are made before the session and the photographer can find out how the couple will be dressed, in what circumstances the photos will be taken, what lighting will be there, etc. But if someone dresses for an outdoor session in their favourite jacket and after 15 minutes they are cold or sweaty depending on the weather, the photos will not come out well. However, the photographer has the right to assume that the client knows what he wants. Which, unfortunately, is not always true.

So here are some conclusions that in my opinion may be useful for people who would like to have a photo session:

- No matter how much you love your favourite shirt, if it is too small for you, choose another one. If you are not a professional model or actor, you will start to experience discomfort before reaching the session. And it will show in the expression on your face in the photo.

- Think what type of session you are interested in. If it is to be casual - dress casually, if formal - formal, but don't mix up styles. Often during the session, clients, mainly ladies, change clothes. There is nothing wrong with that, but the style must remain the same, otherwise the mood of the photo changes and the mood of the model changes. Again, a professional model or actor can handle it. The rest of us usually can't. Nothing is worse than the forced expression of a guy who is strangled by his tie.

- Think before the session how you would like to pose. Or at least how you don't want to. I will be happy to advise you, but if you feel unnatural in any position, the photo will not be good. Only you know which pose suits you and which does not.

- Working with the photographer is in your best interest. Only then will you get the best effect for your money.

- Don't ever rush. Most photographers set a certain timeframe for the session, but don't worry about that. I do not know a photographer who would not extend the session if he sees that a good photo can come out of it. Rushing makes you nervous and spoils the atmosphere. For example, I set very long session times, not because so much time is needed, but precisely so that the client doesn't feel rushed.

- Look through the photographer's photos before you go to him and if you don't like them, look for another. Most photographers can change the style of their photography at the client's request, but usually the client cannot determine what style he means, unless he is also a photographer. Therefore, your photos will be in the style that the photographer prefers. If you don't like this style, choose a different photographer. You will do both of you a favour. It may sound strange, but I'd rather someone not come to me than be dissatisfied afterwards.

- Ask the photographer during the session to show you what comes out in the photos. Check them carefully and tell the photographer what you don't like. In the studio you can preview on the computer monitor, outdoors on the camera display, but it is always available. The photographer is usually an expert and knows what he is doing, but it's your session and you should be satisfied. Sometimes people think they have a defect. Be it postures or uneven teeth. In most cases, these are disadvantages that only these people notice, but… they pay for the photos. And if you want the photographer to avoid some shots, tell him about it. A dissatisfied customer for a baker is an average problem - for a photographer - huge. It is the satisfied customers who create the photographer's brand.

- When booking a photo shoot, talk to the photographer. Before you call, think about what you would like to ask, what you don't know. It is in the interest of the photographer to answer all your questions. It's his job and he earns his living with it. There are no stupid questions, but there are nasty consequences of ignorance.

- If you would like to try a custom pose right after taking a photo, check it out. If it turns out that the idea was not the best, ask the photographer to remove the photo. You will save him a lot of work on editing and unnecessary disappointment when viewing photos later.

- Know when to say enough. If you feel tired after some time and a lot of photos have been taken, end the session. Fatigue is very clearly reflected in the model's eyes and there is no way to fix it. But you feel if you still have the strength, so don't expect the photographer to do it for you. It is worth remembering that the photographer will always make sure that you keep your eyes open and for some of us such a situation in artificial lighting is not always beneficial.

- Usually, a photographer offers a certain number of photos from a session and he chooses the best. Therefore, it is worth checking what comes out in the photos to immediately remove the photos that you do not like. Otherwise there is a risk that the photographer will choose one of these photos as good. Remember that the photographer evaluates photos technically, but only you know that, for example, you do not like your facial expression. By the way - you may be the only person in the world who pays attention to it, so the photographer won't guess it either. I know a lot of people who say they have a "silly smile" while all their friends do not agree with it. But this is your session. If you don't like it, ask to delete the photo. You will avoid disappointment and the photographer - customer dissatisfaction.

In sum. It is worth considering what you expect before the session. Thanks to this, you will receive photos that you will really be happy with.

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