During an event back in Connecticut I was working recently, my job was to go around and ask families if they wanted their picture taken. 98% of the time, people always said yes, eager to have some sort of digital proof that they were there for the day. I also tend to approach people already taking a photo of their friends or family, mainly because it’s already set-up and there’s a definite yes that they want more than just a fuzzy iPhone photo. A lot of the times, I ask the person, usually a dad, behind the camera to get into the photo so the scene can be complete. These people are typically more than thrilled to be able to be included for once, but then there are those who don’t.
We all have that friend/sister/mom/uncle that will downright refuse to be included in a photo, detesting the way they look in front of the camera. Hell, maybe it’s even you. We’ve all been there. There’s always an excuse- they don’t like how their hair is looking that day, or they’ve gained some weight, or are simply used to years of avoiding the camera simply because they, “don’t photograph well.”
Every time I hear this, my heart breaks a little.
As a professional photographer, I am hired to capture moments in time that would otherwise be forgotten. There is no better joy than to hear that someone was moved to tears because they had never seen themselves as beautiful until seeing their faces in my images. Having the ability to hand my clients the physical proof that they are alive and extraordinary is what drives me to continue accepting events to photograph. Every so often, I get an email about a family member in a photo I took that has passed – it’s always about how grateful that family is to have that memory of their grandmother/father/sister because, sometimes, not a lot of other photos exist of them.
When it comes to travel photos, this is just as important.
The next time another traveler asks if you want your photo in front of a monument that took your breath away, say yes. Don’t just take a photo of the glaciers. Put yourself in front of them. Ask whoever is taking them to do more than just one. Have a trusty stranger take your group photo. Say yes to the cute couple selfies, and show the world that you were moved to tears by snow-capped mountains.
Are you cringing at the thought? Hear me out.
When you’re 75, you’ll want to look back at how much of a babe you were at 25.
I mean it! You may not have been able to see the beauty in yourself just yet, or maybe in some time. I don’t care if you hate the slight lines in your face at 25, because you’ll be wishing that’s all you had at 45. And at 75, you’ll be laughing at just how superficial those thoughts and worries are. No matter the age, you are special, beautiful, and worth having a photo of yourself in that moment.
It makes a better travel narrative.
Have you ever scrolled through hundreds of landscape photos from a Facebook friend’s recent travels? I certainly have. As humans, we tend to seek out what is familiar, and if you’re looking to build a great travel narrative, you have to include photos of yourself to break up all the landscapes. You could take a thousand photos of a fluffy, Icelandic sheep approaching you. But think of how much more YOU love looking at photos of friends/family absolutely beaming in front of the animals they pet, versus just a photo of the animal themselves?
Your family will eat those photos up.
My favorite images in my grandparents’ old photo albums are the photos they had taken of themselves in front of the places they traveled. My favorite photo of my grandfather is one of him with his binoculars, looking out at the Cliffs of Moher. It was on one the ships he helped man when he was in the Merchant Marine Academy, traveling the world. The photo wouldn’t be the same without him in it, and is one of the photos I hold dearest to me.
Any time I travel, my mom (obviously) wants to see photos from where I am. After sending a few stunning landscapes or the food I tried she always asks, “yeah but where are all the photos with you in them??”
It’s selfish not to.
Maybe you weren’t expecting this point, but it’s true. And maybe I’m selfish for thinking so. But one of my dear friends unexpectedly passed away two years ago and when her roommate had asked if I had any photos of her & I to contribute to her memorial, the panic set in. She was always hiding her face, or avoiding the camera entirely so there was almost no documentation that we ever existed as friends.
Luckily, her avoidance of the camera prompted me into convincing her to let me do a personal photoshoot because I wanted to show her just how beautiful, inside and out, I found her to be. Knowing I can look back and see her face, happy and carefree, gives me something to smile about.
You’ll regret not taking them.
You will regret not getting more photos of yourself in Thailand, the trip that became a life-changing event. There will be a day you will wish you could look back and see the light in your eyes when you tried an exotic dish for the first time, or the happiness in your face when you finally check the most important travel bucket list item off. And when it comes down to it, in the end, your loved ones aren’t going to look at those photos when you’re gone and think,
“Wow, she was 10 pounds overweight.”
“Her hair was a wreck.”
“He had awful teeth.”
Overall, photographs are what freeze a brief moment in time. We take photographs of what we find exciting special, or important. You are special, you are important, and you are worth being in front of the camera.
Are you afraid to take more travel selfies? Are you guilty of hiding behind the camera? Let me know in the comments!
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