Phighting CameroPhobia

7 Tips for Overcoming Your Absolutely Rational Fear of Being Photographed

  • Feb 26, 2023
  • LinkedIn, headshots, fear, phobia

Or, How to Stop Worrying
and Love Your Headshot Experience

1. Accept that Fear is NORMAL

The fear of being photographed is rooted in scopophobia – the fear of being watched. As such, it is an innate, primal fear that we all share. Because you know who likes to stare at us? Mountain lions, bears, and other flesh-eating predators.

Not surprisingly, therefore, scopophobia can trigger our fight or flight mechanism. Which means it is a survival mechanism.

So accept the fear as real and normal. But then take a beat and realize that such a fear is not actually relevant in this situation, given that there are no known bears in our orderly-ish photo studio.

Seriously, you should realize from this that being nervous in front of a camera is 100% NORMAL. It’s a bit like a fear of public speaking. We all have it, some of us have just somehow developed better coping mechanisms.

2. Relax

Easy for me to say, right? I’m on the other side of the camera…

The point here is to note that being tense will only heighten any phobia.

Our goal, therefore, is to find a path to your relaxation. That could be a glass of wine or a cup of coffee. It could be humor and levity. It could be deep breathing (a great way to reset the nervous system).

The best way to counter fear is by creating a relaxing, comfortable situation.

So please, please, please communicate to me your level of fear and/or hatred of being photographed, and also share some other situations that help you relax.

Also: ask me questions about things you want to know about the shoot. Uncertainty leads to surprises, which leads to fear. So let’s nip any uncertainty in the bud.

3. Act the Part

You truly can use your body to influence your mind. Researchers find that our attitudes often follow from our behaviors.

So here’s a trick: pose confidently, as if you are trying to intimidate a foe or show a room of people that you are The Boss.

By using posture and power poses, you can lift your sense of confidence. Read this great article about the singular benefit of standing tall and proud, about how this can be a body-mind nudge.

4. Mind the Gap

Some people’s fear of photography is rooted in unrealistic societal norms about beauty or status, compounded by the disconnect between what we see as our “idealized self” and the “true self” that can be revealed through photography.

Photographs, as psychology researcher Dr. Shelley Duval has written, “really cause us to focus on the gap between the true self and the idealized self. It makes us overly self-conscious. And self-consciousness is a bummer.”

I seek to make my studio a Bummer Free Zone. So accept that the gap between the true and idealized selves exists, and then let’s focus on presenting your best true side and leaving the idealized stuff for others to deal with.

Every person is beautiful and to be treasured. Take time to think about the quirks and offbeat bits about you that people tell you they treasure, about what gives you your unique spirit and spark. Also think about the physical features that you like best about yourself, not just the parts that may irk you. If you are able to talk about any of all this while we are in the Bummer Free Zone, together we can puzzle it out and find a way to make your true spark surface in our photos.

5. Remember that a Photo is NOT YOU.

As humans, we are constantly in movement, our faces and bodies always changing and reacting to the world and people around us. But a photo freezes time, and often in a very unrepresentative way. Accept it.

Our goal is to take lots of images, seizing on the ones that work and torching the ones that don’t. We will exploit the camera’s weaknesses for our benefit and control the outcome by adjusting posture, lighting, reactions, and levity.

The beauty of modern photo technology is that we can take endless pictures until we get THE ONE that makes you feel amazing. We will just keep moving and trying lots of different things until everything clicks into place. It always happens. Sometimes it takes 5 frames, sometimes 200. There is no right number.

6. Tap Into your Inner Child

Think about your kids. Or, if you don’t have kids, think about nieces, nephews, and friends’ kids.

Have you ever noticed that kids tend to care a lot less about what we LOOK like than how we ACT? They can spot falsity a mile away. So, if you want to connect with them you need to slow down and be genuine, gentle, and honest, getting down to their level and looking them in the eye.

Kids don’t care if your hair is a bit of a mess or if you are or are not wearing makeup. They love you as you are and will respond to you and respect you if you are your true self with them.

This is all to say that if you stop, slow down, and try thinking of the camera as if it were an inquisitive child who you are trying to impress by being frank, open, and honest, it can absolutely be a game changer.

You don’t need to look or act a certain way to be beautiful. You just need to genuinely be yourself. Tap into your inner (or outer) child.

7. Practice

Do you know how you overcome a fear of public speaking? Do it a lot.

It’s the same with having your picture taken. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

Try replicating the experience at home, alone, by using your phone to take pictures of yourself, exploring poses, outfits, and angles that you feel suit you.

Just be sure to get the phone far enough away, and on a self-timer, so that it won’t distort your features, which is what happens when a wide-angle lens is too close.

Take a few images from different angles and then look closely and consider what it is you like about this one but not that one. Take more of the ones you like and keep making small changes until you get closer to something you like.

Then bring that self-knowledge with you and we can talk about what you learned when you come to the studio. It will give us a bit of a jump-start.