Looking Beyond Insecurities
When I have an initial conversation with a portrait client, I’m not meeting the actual person; instead, I’m engaged in a slugfest with their negative, anxious, and brutally harsh alter-ego.
Instead of sharing with me how they serve others (I work with various types of thought leaders and industry experts), they browbeat me with every single insecurity about their appearance.
Every. Single. One.
“Ohhh, I can’t stand how my left eye is smaller than my right. Oh, I have this weird upper lip thing. Ugh, I can’t stand my forehead - too many wrinkles. My nose is crooked, can you shoot me from the other side to make it look straight? My shoulders are really slumped - is there a way to avoid showing that on camera. My eye gets super lazy when I’m tired, so, can we watch out for that?”
And my all-time favorite statement...
“Can you make me look younger and thinner?”
Ugh, this one makes me crazy for so many reasons.
Nevertheless, rather than brainstorming high-level strategy and game-planning for the session, I’m spending the better part of the interaction reinforcing and reassuring them that a) most of the issues you see with your appearance, no one else does, and b) regardless of how you feel about these issues, everything is going to be alright and you will get exactly what you need.
And, naturally, I’m met with resistance at every turn. That alter-ego is one, tough S.O.B. that won’t go down without a fight.
Ultimately, I do end up helping clients get out of their heads and into the moment, so that they are able to reveal authentic aspects of their personalities for the camera.
But, telling someone that they are awesome and they look great is simply not enough to get the job done. It’s an important piece, sure, but an added level of perspective for the client is needed.
And that perspective is simple - these portraits are not for you, they’re for those you serve.
I ask them to put aside their own anxieties, their own perceived shortcomings and their annoyances with their appearance - essentially, to look beyond their insecurities about their appearances and realize that their image content is not vanity-driven…
...it’s meant to ease their followers’ pain.
The informative, entertaining and inspiring stories they share on social are visually punctuated
by these portraits, and they help send home a lesson that will make their tribe better off than they were yesterday.
Now, I’m not suggesting to my clients that they shouldn’t care about how they look in their portraits, and just show up to their sessions looking like they just rolled out of bed.
Far from that.
Although it’s essential to feel comfortable and confident when in front of the camera, a delicate balance must be struck between one’s vanity and their service to their tribes.
Usually, this is achieved through an eclectic mixture of positive affirmations and a healthy dose of tough love - a whole lotta tough love!
But mostly, it’s reminding them of their why and that their expertise is music to ears of those who need to hear it most.
Once they acknowledge and move past the negativity they hold about their appearances, and are inspired to enter into a more natural, mental space to serve their tribes, that’s when the dust settles, the seas part...
...and the magic happens in front of the camera, :)
About the Author:
John Demato is a lifestyle portrait photographer and image content creator who works with high-level entrepreneurs and thought leaders to produce high-quality, highly-captionable images that present informational, entertaining, and inspiring aspects of their brand to their followers. More than just a photographer, John sets his clients up for success beyond the portrait session by educating them on how to best leverage their image content for their websites, social channels, blogs, publications, advertisements, and various other needs. A former television producer, John has over 17 years of production experience, and has been featured as a portrait photographer expert on several NBC Universal daytime talk and reality shows.