Your true portrait:
I have seen this happen with clients, and I have experienced myself.
Quite often, the elation of having your portrait taken comes from seeing the best version of yourself that you have ever seen, possibly after a time that has separated you from feeling good about yourself.
Remember what you are looking at is a portrait of yourself. For many, when they see it for the first time they fall inlove with themselves either for the first time in a long time or for the first time in their lives.
I cannot describe to you how for some it can be an overwhelming experience to the point of bringing tears of happiness- even for me as the photographer!
This quite often happens after the client has experienced either some trauma or has simply never been able to love themselves in any way in the past. Perhaps they've always believed they were fat, ugly or something else. Perhaps they had a partner that put them down or others that had throughout life and they came to believe that about themselves. I've had clients tell me; "How do you make my arms not look fat?!"
Then... they come into the studio. After my listening to them and their story, I take their portrait interpreting what I have heard from them, and showing them what I believe is their beautiful selves.
I re- connect them with themselves and it's an incredible transformation when it happens- it really is.
Imagine never liking how you looked or being able to smile at yourself in the mirror and then suddenly a photographer shows you what you never thought possible...... that you are beautiful.
Then perhaps over time you look at these portraits that meant so much to you at the time (no matter the photographer who took them) and you revert back to the old programming you had within yourself. You start blaming the portrait.
"Maybe it wasn't really a good portrait to begin with?" you think.
See, I have experienced this with past portraits that at the time I was absolutely inlove with. A few of them I still love but mostly I just simply don't want to show the rest. I started blaming the portrait. I started blaming the photographer in my mind.
Last year I was so convinced it was clearly the photographers' fault that I went to a new one. Again, I loved the portraits. I thought they were fantastic and in my mind it confirmed it was the previous photographers fault and that it really was the portraits and not me.
One year later, I am looking at these same portraits and only loving a few of them. Maybe I just need to do a take 3.
Maybe because I am not beautiful that is what these photographers are seeing and that's what is being shown to me through their lens.
I therefore wanted to get new portraits done. Despite how I was feeling about the images from the second photographer, out of the photographers I had been to, the last were the best.
Was it really that hard to get a nice photo of myself? I started thinking.
Clients have come to me telling me a similar scenario. They say; "Well, I went to a photographer last year and he/ she was great but I just don't really like those portraits of me anymore.... "
With enough clients telling me this, and me having experienced it myself I am starting to see a pattern with us here.
So.... I went to my next portrait sitting unsure of what to expect this time.
The images were simply stunning. So stunning I couldn't believe it was me. The best portraits of myself I have ever seen in fact.
Here is my epiphany I had about my experiences of having my portrait taken:
In order to continue that feeling of elation and feeling good about yourself, you need to do the personal work so that you don't lose your relationship with yourself again.
The signs that you are include starting to focus on every single little "flaw" that you identify, regularly putting yourself down, not being able to be nice to yourself and simply just not being able to smile back at your reflection.
This is your true portrait- can you smile back at yourself?
In other words, you need to spend some time learning to like yourself again or the feeling of elation you experienced following your transformation will disappear.
Remember that feeling. Carry it with you in every step you take in every day.
Know you really are that beautiful as those portraits made you feel. Look at your portraits, enjoy them and celebrate you and remember this every day.
You are good enough just as you are and you deserve to exist in photos.