Most girls I photograph love having their pictures taken. They jump in front of the camera and strike fantastic poses. Big smiles, funny faces, exaggerated gestures. They love it all, and it’s a blast to photograph them.
But something happens between then and when they become women. Their fearless joy at having their photo taken disappears. They become insecure and second guess themselves. Their expressions become guarded. Their poses become less about having fun, and more about flattering their figure. It’s as if someone got to them as young ladies and told them they weren’t amazing, weren’t wonderful, beautiful, powerful, unique, fabulous creatures.
Instead of seeing themselves as fabulous, they see themselves as flawed. Rather than celebrate their uniqueness, they criticize the fact that they’re not like the other girls. Confidence is replaced with doubt, power is replaced with apprehension, fear, and hesitancy.
Perhaps, though, it doesn’t have to be this way. What if we could find a way to reverse this tailspin into insecurity? Is this possible?
I believe it is, and I believe it can be done using many different resources. As a photographer, I like to use my camera as a tool for empowerment, and here’s how.
It seems obvious that when we photographers are shooting, we are looking to capture the outer beauty of our subjects. But what if changed our focus to capture who they are on the inside rather than just the outside? Every girl has amazing potential, amazing talent. Some are artists, mathematicians, or writers, while others love to read, or explore, or play sports. By finding ways to incorporate the heart and soul of each girl into her photos, you can celebrate the amazing person she already is, giving her confidence to be herself.
Perhaps this should tip should come before the previous one, because it’s so important to communicate with girls. Give them a voice and let them tell you what they love about themselves. Ask them if they struggle, and if so, with what? Give them this opportunity to have a voice, and give them your voice, too. Speak power into her life, reinforce what she loves about herself with your camera, and help her through any struggles. Let your camera be a tool of communication.
There is a fine line when it comes to beauty in our girls. While I don’t think it’s something to dismiss, I don’t think it should be the sole feature for any girl. Celebrate the beauty that each girl contains. There is beauty in all of us. Tall or short, black or white, thin or curvy, every single girl is beautiful to behold. And so while it’s important to celebrate who she is as a person (as stated above), it’s ok to balance that with her unique outer beauty too. Find the balance between the two. Don’t make your photos all about her physical beauty, but don’t exclude them or make her feel any guilt for that beauty. Do your best to capture both, and empower her to love it all.
Girls are smart! They know when you’re handing them flattery or false praise. So don’t lie to them, and don’t sugar coat anything. Be real with them. There is PLENTY about every single girl out there that is worthy of praise. Take some time to really see them, and then tell them what you see that is truly beautiful. Let them know that they can trust you, that they can be real back to you. Creating trust, even in just that short time, will allow for more authentically beautiful portraits, ones that she will remember for more than just their surface.
Let this portrait experience be one where your girl experiences respect. No matter how old she is, talk to her like she’s a person, like she’s important, like she’s capable. I have had photo sessions with five year old girls who are extraordinary and capable in many ways! So ask questions, ask permission, and show her the photos as you get them. Make her a part of the process. This could be the first time she’s experiencing control and respect, and it could be extremely empowering.
As well, thank her for spending time with you. Thank her for being so wonderful. Make her feel that her time is worthy.
These are simple but powerful ways to infuse our girls with confidence and self-respect. A camera might be a simple way to capture a photo to some, but to me it can be so much more. For me, it is a tool to educate the girls around me. It is a weapon to encourage, motivate, and love the ladies in my life. It is a resource to show them how to respect and love themselves, too.
Maybe your camera is that for you, too. Maybe it ought to be.