Facing The Fear of Self-Portraits

There is a certain allure to keeping your face off Instagram and being a bit of an aloof, mystery blogger, don’t you think? With the allure, however, comes the very real fact that the longer you put off getting your face out there, the scarier it becomes.

This conundrum is true for much more than taking self-portraits, but since I’ve recently taken the leap and braved my face for the internet, the fear (and subsequent relief) is still feeling very fresh for me.

Last Autumn I was involved in the blogging community competition, The Blog Race. I was so thrilled to be taking part and even though I rocked up with heavy doses of imposter syndrome, I was getting involved and putting nearly all my creative energy into the challenges. Then I found out that one of the first challenges was to post to Instagram a flat lay and a self-portrait that told people about yourself. Cue panic.

Flat lays are second nature to me now, so within a few hours, I had sketches, props and a true vision of what my photo was going to look like – I couldn’t say the same for the second part of the challenge though.

Now, at this point, I had never shown my face on Instagram (aside from some very 2013 mirror selfies back in the day). I don’t even think that I’d shared my face on Instagram stories – it was a bit ludicrous to be honest. The reason I’d stayed behind the camera was for one reason and one reason only – I was scared.

I was scared that I’m uglier than I thought, I was scared that it was going to be obvious that I love eating big share bags of crisps all to myself and most of all, I was scared that people would choose to dislike me – and my blog – when they saw me.

Like most people, I create a person in my head when I’m reading blogs. Sometimes the vision I create is made up of things the blogger talks about, how they describe themselves and what they share online. Sometimes when I meet the blogger or just see a proper picture of them, what I imagined is completely wrong and I’m surprised. Not in a bad, or judging way – just in a totally innocent, ‘Oh, that’s not what I imagined!’. So, even though I would never unfollow someone because they didn’t have perfect teeth or had brown hair instead of the blonde I imagined, I was shit scared that people would unfollow me for being a long-faced, plus-size gal.

I know… the way minds work, ey? Photo-24-02-2018-19-42-44 Facing The Fear of Self-Portraits

It can only get better

Despite all these thoughts flying around my head, I took this challenge as a reason to try – so that’s what I did. One humid, grey day, when my boyfriend was home on a break, I dragged him out by a brick wall and got him to take some snaps of me.

In hindsight, they’re not the worst pictures ever, but at the time you may have assumed that I looked like a grey, boil-covered swamp monster wearing a pink coat – because that’s how I reacted. I distinctly remember walking back to the house in near tears, nearly ripping my boyfriend’s head off and proceeding to sob for a few hours.

All my worst fears had come true and I considered dropping out of The Blog Race altogether because surely it couldn’t get better. Could it?

P.S. For my challenge photo, I ended up taking a long-distance mirror selfie, which was pretty creative, but probably not as in front of the camera as it should have been. 

I stopped trying to take self-portraits for a while because I only figured that it’d make me cry again… but then the new year rolled in and honestly, I thought it was now or never.

Hiding my face was holding me back

On New Year’s Day, we did our usual family beach walk, and it was the scenic backdrop, the flushed cheeks from the wind and my new red coat that made me ask Jonathan to take a few pictures of me. It was that simple. I didn’t know if I was going to use them. I didn’t know whether they’d be awful or amazing, I just figured that if I was going to get in front of the camera in 2018, I might as well start straight away.

Whilst hiding behind the camera it had become obvious to me that going out of my way to not be in pictures was holding me back. It was holding me back in blogging, in confidence and just in life.

I decided that I wanted people to know what I look like, that I was a real person and a half decent blogger. I wanted memories to look back on and I wanted to not cringe at the rare sighting of myself in a photograph. Hiding my face, I’d decided, was holding me back – so I broke down the barrier.

In the two months of getting in front of the camera, my whole world hasn’t ended – I haven’t been discovered either – I’m at a happy middle ground and as the months go on I hope to get more creative and more confident in my portraits, which is no longer a door that has always been firmly locked and triple bolted…

If you, like me, have struggled to make the transition from here is my blog to here is my FACE and my blog then I’ve put together some quick-fire tips to get you started – and believe me when I say that starting, and nearly being sick at the first lot of photos you take is the hardest part. It only gets better.

Make the decision – If you’ve been thinking about getting in front of the camera for months, then you need to make the firm decision that you’re going to start today. If you feel the pressure to do it but you don’t really want to, make the decision to not try yet. Make a choice.

Some tips to get you started

Don’t over plan

Some of my favourite photos have come from a moment of me asking a friend to snap me. Sure, going for a walk and keeping an eye out for pretty spots is fine, but overplanning will only make the whole ordeal more stressful. Just go with how you feel.

Dress comfortably

If you’re not comfortable or confident in what you’re wearing or how you look, then those two things are not going to come across in a photo. Even if you want to start fashion blogging, work your way up to the more extra pieces. Get comfortable first.

Grab a safety blanket

I mean, not a literal one unless that’s your vibe, but something you can hold and look less awkward with. I love putting my hand in my pocket and holding my bag, but sunglasses, flowers, coffee or a pet dog could work just as well.

Avoid busy public spaces

If it’s your first time taking some pictures of yourself, then you’ll probably feel more confident somewhere quiet. A pretty car park, back street or even your garden make great quieter spaces to get those shots.

Capture movement

Movement looks much less alien to us than a posed, still image of ourselves. We see ourselves moving in mirrors, so taking a picture of yourself doing something feels a lot more natural initially. I love walking past the camera or turning to face it, rather than a big cheesy smile.

Have you recently got in front of the camera? Let me know in the comments how you got started and why you decided to take the plunge.

If you’re just starting out or wanting to get started, then just try to get some snaps at every opportunity you can, soon enough you’ll learn your angles, know what you want from a self-portrait and feel confident snapping it.

Until next time,