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Portrait Photography and Self-Perception

When I’m doing portrait photography I regularly find that my subjects focus on the things they dislike about their appearance. Meanwhile their family, friends or colleagues look at the photos and tend to see the best in that person. There is a big difference between how we see ourselves and how others see us, and we tend to be very self-critical.

This Dove Real Beauty Sketch has been getting a lot of attention on social networks recently, and it captures this idea very powerfully:

In my work I see this regularly, and with corporate headshots it is especially the case.

Often people arrive for their headshot stating that they hate having their photo taken but they’ve been told that they have to have it done. Sometimes this is because they’ve had bad experiences with photographers in the past, and I am happy to say that I am regularly told that people are much happier with my photos than the last ones they had!

But it also has a lot to do with people’s self-perceptions. All they can see in the photo is the feature that they dislike, while other people either don’t notice this feature or see it very differently.

Furthermore, other people are also much less likely to focus on particular features and instead look to what the photo says about the personality of the subject.

We all need reminding that our self-perception tends to be critical whereas others see us in a much more positive light. Once we appreciate this we can be much more positive about our appearance and learn to see ourselves as others see us.

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