you in the picture

In the last three years, I’ve taken over 200,000 photos. Most of these are pictures of my family. My kids, my husband, parents, etc.  I just went back and looked at all of them. Guess how many of these photos have me in them?


I am not making this up. Out of the hundreds of thousands of photos we have of our family from the last three years, my face is in eleven of them. Eleven.

I hate having my picture taken. Since I am the official family photographer, I rarely ever face having to be in the pictures myself. On the rare occasions when someone asks me to get in the photo, I always respectfully refuse to do it. I am quiet about it but also firm. This is how I’ve successfully managed to avoid being in most of them.

I’ve learned that many photographers are like me; they prefer to stay behind the camera. For me, the biggest reason is that I have a hard time seeing myself in a picture. When I look at a photo, all I can see is the bulges of fat or the imperfections in my features. I see the blemishes on my face. My too-big nose. My belly. My sunken eyes. Bushy eyebrows. I can go on and on. I don’t see the happy mom or the loving wife, I just see a flawed human being.

I don’t know how much of this is common across all people and how much of it my low self-esteem but here’s what I do know: I need to get over it.

I need to get into the picture more often.

There are many reasons why it’s important to take the time and effort to be in more of our photographs. This list might be different for each person but here are some of my reasons:

I lost my grandmother last February. One of the first things I did after she passed away was collect all the photos of her I could find. I wanted pictures from all throughout her life from childhood to old age. Those photos were the faces of all my memories of her. They are what brought my thoughts to life and I held them close for a long time. They allowed me to mourn and remember all at the same time. I don’t think it’s fair to deny that to my children or loved ones. I can’t imagine a world where I didn’t have any photos of my grandmother. Photos are one of the most significant ways we’re remembered. People don’t look at how big your nose was,; they’re just so happy to have anything of you left to them. So I remind myself that even if I don’t want to do it for myself, I owe it to my kids, to my husband, and other people who love me.

While it has tangible benefits to others, I think having my picture taken more often is also going to be beneficial to me. Repetition has numbing power. If I just get in the photos all the time no matter how dressed up I might or might not be, I think I will stop seeing all the details of myself in each photo. It will just become the norm that I am in pictures and I will start looking at it the way I look at the other people in the picture. Seeing myself again and again, hugging the people I love, smiling, and being happy is bound to have a positive effect on me eventually. And even if it doesn’t, it means I will have hundreds of proofs of my joyful life.

Because I get my photo taken so rarely, I have never experimented with different angles or looks. I don’t know if I have a good side. I don’t know if it’s better for me to lean on one foot or lean forward. I don’t know if I should smile with an open mouth or a closed one. Many of these things might seem silly to think about but a lot of being photogenic is about knowing the small details about yourself. Even the most beautiful person can look terrible if the picture is taken from the wrong point of view. So having more photos of myself will give me exposure and opportunity to learn.

I take pictures of people all the time. I do professional shoots of families. I take photos of my kids, my husband, my parents and even strangers. I guarantee you that most of these people feel the discomfort of being in front of the lens. As a photographer who never has her own picture taken, it’s easy for me to forget how uncomfortable it feels to be in front of the camera. And since I do this as a profession, I think it’s important for me to remember that delicate feeling. It will make me a better photographer.

Because of these reasons, and more, I decided that 2011 will be the year when I get in the picture more often. I will create opportunities to make sure it happens. Each month, I will set up our tripod so we can get a full-family shot. I will hand over the camera to my husband. I will learn the intricacies of the self timer and find the best spots to use it in my house. I will experiment with angles and creative shots. I will take enough photos of myself that I can see myself as just another person in the photo. I will do this for myself and for my children. And I won’t wait until January.

The holidays are the best time to start such a project because there’s a lot of joy and festivity. Also because most people have visitors during the holidays so there are more people to hand over the camera to and more reasons to capture each moment. So, if any of you are like me and tend to avoid being in the picture, I challenge you to get in the photo more this holiday season. Just let go of your worries and embrace the opportunity. Hand over that camera and hug your loved ones. Put on a big smile and say cheese. I am confident you will not regret it.

In the meantime, I would love for you to share the last time you were in front of the lens. If you can’t find one, how about you take a photo right now and share it with us?

Image and words courtesy of Guest Blogger / Honorary Sister Karen Grunberg of Karenika.


  1. dlmoore says

    I am on a family vacation right now. I was thinking of this very thing today – I'm rarely in photos for the very same reasons you mentioned. I'm so self-conscious and I envy those who just enjoy the moment and smile. My role with the camera is one of observer, record keeper, etc. Being behind the camera both brings me into the moment and puts a shield between myself and the moment – does that make sense?

    Today, we went snorkeling for the second time. The first time, my young son (he's 8) was a bit leary. Today, he claimed the underwater camera. I made sure he had it – recognizing it would take his mind off the parts of snorkeling that make him uncomfortable while giving him a reason to participate. it worked! Maybe he's more like his momma than i thought!

    You put into words exactly how I often feel. This trip, I even thought about one day, it may be hard to find photos of me. Especially, since so far, I've shot nearly 600 photos on this vacation and I'm in 2 of them — and they're two shots of the same pose!

    Your piece both hits a deep nerve and inspires me. I'll try harder the last few days of vacation and let you know how it goes.


    I still think everyone will automatically be drawn to my incredibly double chin, thinning hair, and appearing-way-larger-than-they-must-surely-be hips!

  2. says

    I'm another who hates having my photo taken. I'm not pretty. I'm not stylish. I'm not good at doing fancy things with hair and makeup.

    But this weekend just gone, I threw caution to the wind, and broke out my new tripod to get a photo of myself with my tiny 7 week old daughter. Tripod. Remote. Baby. And me. Not pretty, not stylish, just a mama and her girl, and a stolen moment in the evening.

  3. says

    Every reason you stated for not being in the photos are the exact same reasons I decline having my photo taken. These reasons seem ridiculous when I start to talk about why I DO take photographs of everyone and everything else. It was only recently that I started to think that maybe my sons would like to have pictures of me and not just of themselves and their step-dad. They see me regularly and don't have an issue with my "Eddie Munster" forehead, double chin, pudgy fingers, & crooked smile so why would they have issues with seeing me in photos? I gritted my teeth and hopped into an impromptu photo with my family and we're using it as our Christmas card this year:

    It's a start right?

    Great post to start off my week. Thank you for sharing.

  4. says

    I know how you feel. Really. But as a scrapbooker, i realized a few years ago how important it is to be in scrapbooks- which means in photos- no matter how fat i get. Today my kids and i set up the christmas tree and i set up the tripod & used my remote to take pics of the process. I'll be in my kids' scrapbooks :)

  5. jan says

    I actually have a phobia of having my picture taken that began in childhood! Picture day at school was always so stressful for me. So, I've hidden through the years and there are very few photographs of me as my children grew up. I'm trying to change how I handle being on that side of the camera as I learn more about being on the creative side. Thanks for sharing. Seems like this is a sisterhood within a sisterhood!

  6. Kathy Jo Camamcho says

    When you look at pictures of your grandmother, do you look at the picture and find her flaws? No – I know you don't. You see how beautiful she was. Her smile. Her joy. That is what people will see when they look at photos of you. They won't care if you are over weight, have a pimple, or a bad hair day. They love you. Your children will look at your photos and see the fun, and joy and love on your face. Go for it! Get in front of that camera. You won't regret it.

  7. Amy says

    The last photo I was in was a self-portrait:

    And not a particularly creative one. Other than the few selfies I have, I'm not in many photos either, for all the same reasons. But I've discovered that taking self-portraits once in a while helps on so many levels. First, you can control the shot, so if you want to dim the lights to minimize skin imperfections, or wear makeup that you typically save for special occasions, or put on a costume, or even wear a hat to hide behind, you can do that. You get to control how you look, so if you don't like the shot, you can just do it again. Second, it helps you learn how to look your best in a photo. I have recently gained a LOT of weight, and I'm self-conscious about it, but taking a few selfies helped me to learn that a) I'm not as fat as I think, and b) if I keep my head level (not tilted down or up), I don't have to showcase my budding double chin. So if someone wants to take a picture of me now, I know not to go to my old default of tipping my chin up in the air.

    I would advise anyone who is self-conscious in front of the camera to look through some self-portraits on Flickr — not just the super-fancy ones, but even the simple, camera-in-the-mirror shots like the one I took here. You'll see that nobody is perfect, but everyone is beautiful in the right light.

    I would also advise everyone here to be kind to yourself. Be kind in your self-talk, but also be kind in the way you dress yourself and take care of yourself. Find out what makes you feel beautiful, and do it every day. And likewise, find out the things that make you feel unpretty, and cut them out of your life. If you have a shirt that's comfy but doesn't make you feel pretty, get rid of it and replace it with something that does make you feel pretty. If you hide inside drab colors and frumpy shapes, give yourself a rule that you will not buy any neutrals for a whole year, forcing yourself to try some color (I had to do that, and it was the best thing I ever did for myself!). If you hate your hair, spend the time and effort to find a haircut that you do like, and maintain it. Don't wear pajama pants during the day unless you're sick or exercising — get dressed in clothes that make you feel good about yourself, even if it's just jeans and a comfy top. Spend 5 minutes every morning doing something that makes you feel pretty — if wearing makeup makes you feel pretty but you never want to spend the time on it, just do the basics like concealer and blush and lip gloss and do that every morning. It takes less than 5 minutes. Or if you don't like makeup, but you have these earrings that you love and can never find the occasion to wear, put them on. Do something to make yourself feel special. Then when the camera is pointed at you, you will feel more confident to begin with, so it will be less disconcerting.

  8. says

    This is why I'm currently doing a 365 of self-portraits. I'm covering my whole 35th year. I prefer to be behind the camera, but like you, for the longest time I hated every photo of myself and stayed out. Then I'd regret not being in shots when we went places. So. I don't love every shot I take now but I feel more and more comfortable. And I actually like myself in many shots. Go figure!

  9. MJ Evans says

    I hope by stepping in front of the camera more often you will begin to see how beautiful you really are. This picture of you and your baby is wonderful and you are very pretty.

  10. Kristen Hardy says

    Thank you thank you for posting this. I just forced myself to become familiar with my tripod and purchased a remote control for this reason. I relate on two levels. I lost my mom 7 years ago to breast cancer. I sit with our family albums and wish so badly that she was in more of them. I treasure the ones I have of her.

    Second, I have recently divorced and found myself to be a single mom of 3 beautiful kids. I want them to know that I existed…..and to not let these moments go by. Moments where I as a mom are involved as well. I think this is so very important.

    My theory is that women or mom's may tend to be the more sentimental ones. They are the ones to think to pick up the camera to capture those moments that go by too quickly. So we tend to be in less of them.

    Thank you for this….I am going to work hard at being in more shots!

  11. says

    Wow, this post really hits close to home. I'm surprised at how many feel the same way.

    In most of the pictures with me in them, I'm hiding my face or turning away. I'm very self critical and I search out the flaws photos of me (which leads me to delete the majority of them)

    I used to have no problem being in photos, and thought I looked pretty good in them actually. Then someone looked at a not so good photo and said to me " You are not very photogenic, are you?". This was the turning point for me in photos. I believed them and somehow that made me tense in front of the camera, rather then be free and natural and comfortable.

    I'm hoping that changing my inner thoughts from "Im not photogenic" to "I'm so photogenic!" will help me view myself in a different light.

    thank you for this post!!

  12. says

    I would venture to say that the vast majority of women feel this way (a need to hide from the camera). My feelings as to why? How can we possibly "stack up" to the unrealistic expectations of both the media's and society's rigid standards of what is considered "a beautiful" woman. So, we run! There's nothing new here that I am expressing yet most of us still fall prey to the "I'm not pretty enough, skinny enough, photogenic enough" mentality…fill in your own personal blank.

    I think that a great point was made….images of one's self are a gift that we give to our loved ones. And when all is said and done, those gifts (and all the others that come from the heart) are some of the most important legacies and memories we'll leave behind. PS-I'm still working on the in front of the camera thing myself :)

  13. says

    The amount of comments shows you're definitely not alone, Karen. I have felt the same way, especially after being sick for a while and having my appearance change. But, I started a 365 as a newbie to Flickr last year (didn't even know people did non selfie 365's at the time) and have been liberated. Plus getting a new camera helped :) I used the pictures to document things in my life quite a bit and let my blog posts follow. It's almost over, but I'm so glad I did it.

    Blog musings on the end of 365:

    Full project:

  14. Libertad Leal says

    Well, I guess I am sort of strange, because I actually enjoy having my picture taken. Either by others or myself. I have a growing collection of self portraits. At first I thought it would be so strange to do a self portrait, but the more I do them, the more I enjoy it. I have actually started a little project called "Everyday Mother" in which I take self portraits of my everyday life as a mother. They are challenging to take, but I enjoy it very much. here is the link:

  15. says

    Thank you for your post. I, too, just deemed 2011 and the holidays as the shift for me to appear in more photos. I just wrote it as one of my xmas wishes in my blog post from Saturday. But, sure enough, as we were decorating the tree yesterday, my husband brings out the camera (usually my job) and I froze up and even got biligerant about it. My hair wasn't right or the sweater I was wearing made my stomach look unusually large or the lighting was bad. It was terrible. Just days after I made the committment!!! THis is definitely going to be a lot of work but it will be worth it in the end. I want to have pics of me and my babies, me and my husband. I want to leave them behind for the kids because I know how important it is when a person is gone. Looking back I don't have nearly enough of anyone in my family and it's hard. I won't make the same mistake for my kids…but it is going to be painful in the meantime :)

    Thanks again! beautiful post!

  16. says

    Loved the sentiments expressed in this post and it inspires me to be more conscientious about creating space for myself in my documenting. Thx for lighting a fire! :-)

  17. Liz Nelson says

    I am with you. Sometimes I get home from a trip and realize that there is not one picture of me. Need to start passing the torch every now and then.

  18. Karen says

    This post also hit very close to home for me and is so timely that my mouth dropped. My husband and I are in the process of adopting a baby. One of the steps is to pull 50 photographs that can be shared in our adoptive family profile that the birth parents will view and use to select the adoptive family for thier child. Well for a part-time photographer that seemed so easy, but It has become quite a challenge and really forced me to see that I am rarely in a photograph. Now, I am setting up opportunities to be photographed – working in the yard, baking, etc. in order to complete this task.

    While I will have left quite a legacy of photographs of my family and friends, I have cheated them from having the same of me. I don't like having my photo taken either as it is just not as comfortable as being behind the lens. However, I realize now how foolish it is to always hide yourself behind the camera. I am thankful that I learned this lesson now while there is still time do something about it!

    Thank you for your post!

  19. Lesley says

    Thank you for the reminder. It really hit home!

    p.s. When I look at your picture I see a beautiful child and equally beautiful mama :)

  20. J;ane Martin says

    As far as I am concerned, the existence of remote controls, self timers, tripods, bean bags and the hands of others, including virtually any stranger I meet, are so I can be in the picture, particularly when my husband and I are somewhere and there is not another person around! My personal rule is: if the camera is pointed at me, I am smiling! In every picture I have of my grandmother, she is scowling or looking sad and I vowed a long time that when I am gone from this earth, I do not want folks–anybody–looking at pictures of me and thinking, "What a grouch." Nor do I want to be remembered as a crabby old woman, even if I am one! It's all about being part of the group, be it family, friends, co-workers or whomever, not just the historian. Documenting is nice and it's fun, but it's not everything and it's not necessarily the example you want to set. My almost 4 year old grand-daughter loves "blinkin' lights" and that timer gets a smile from her every time! You can do this! It will make everyone happy, including you.

  21. says

    actually, I experience the opposite situation. When I started photography, I practiced taking photos of myself alot. It got to where I was fairly comfortable in front of the camera-I know what angles look good on me, etc. I also used self photography as therapy-as you mentioned-a way to help reconsile and heal my relationship with myself and my body.

    So when I get really self critical client (like last weekend), I am always surprised by their critique of how they look. What do you mean you look ridiculous there or fat here or don't like your nose??? Can't you see your unique beauty??? Don't you know that my job is only to capture your beauty? So, because I see the beauty, I don't always first think of any uncomfortable feelings they may be having and I intend to be more open to those feelings and address them before hand.

  22. says

    I'm okay with taking self-portraits, because I have control over how I look and can exclude any that I don't like, but I typically run from the camera when anyone else is holding it (though I end up in more photos than I'd like thanks to the work that I do as a music blogger). Thanks for this post – that photo is really gorgeous. I'll think twice before shielding my face from the camera next time.

    Here's the last photo that someone else took (that's me on the right):

    I feel like I look silly and tired and not at all the way I want to, but I adore it because the girl on the left is one of my very best friends, and I only get to see her when I go to NYC. I want more photos like this because they mean so much to me.

  23. says

    The last time I was in the frame was this Thanksgiving. Why? Because I lost my dad to cancer last month and when we went hunting for photos for the memorial, the only family photos to include me were wedding photos…from 10 years ago when I was the bride. Like today's blogger, it was mostly because I'm the family photographer (and I don't like photos of me). So, the first family holiday after losing dad, I set up the tripod and self timer and stepped into the frame with my husband, daughter and siblings.

  24. Becky R. says

    I didn't take the picture and I don't have a copy of it. However, the last time I was in front of the camera was at work. The boss wanted to take a group picture for a greeting card and there we all were in our glory. It's something I don't do often.

  25. says

    Oh so true of my own experiences from behind the camera….all that you wrote, has been on my mind A LOT this year. I too want to step out of the safety zone, see my sides – all of them…and not be afraid. Maybe even learn to love what I see. I nearly got there a while ago…but then stopped stepping in front of the lens, and lost my ground. I want to get back on that path. This was a reminder of all I quietly agreed to do, soon. But why wait. Thanks for the inspiration!

  26. Marina D-K says

    Your words ring true for so many, including me. I tend not to wear makeup or get "dressed up" too often. (By dressed up I mean not wear jeans and a sweatshirt or plain long sleeve) I sometimes wonder if by choosing not to get "dressed up" it gives me a constant excuse to not get in front of the camera, an excuse on why I don't look so great in photos, and a million other excuses. I think for me next year maybe I should try just a bit more often to get dressed up and feel confident in front of the camera NO MATTER WHAT.

    Here's one I took a couple weeks ago right after I woke up (The only way I currently get in front of the camera is via my iPhone in secret =)

  27. says

    i have been trying to be more present in the pictures. i finally have a recent picture of me on my blog (my profile picture). thank you for the reminder of capturing ourselves.

  28. Maureen says

    You know what is sad, I am not in the picture because no one cares to put me there. It is not that I am unloved, I am just alone in my love of taking pictures. There are many many vacations and holidays where the only thing of me present in the photos is my point of view. I always want someone to put me in the picture, but can't find a willing participant. Sorry for the pity party, but this is a sensitive subject, and I really have to do something about this. I do think my kids will be sorry when I am gone and they don't have any images of me.

  29. says

    Thank you for posting this!

    Lately all I've felt were the 20+ extra pounds I'm carting around the the "adult acne" all over my face and neck… I took one picture with my best friend on her 30th birthday, then promptly deleted it…

    So one afternoon last week, I was bored and figured if I piled on the makeup, no one would notice my acne. What resulted was a really fun self photo shoot.

  30. says

    Thank you for writing this, I am TOTALLY with you! I have the same phenomena, very few pictures of myself and I prefer to be behind the camera. For so many reasons. Many of which you listed.

    Okay, I too will step out, hand over the camera. Play with self timer. and release my fear of being imperfect in images. It is the time.

    thanks shuttter sister(s)!

  31. says

    Oh, this really hit home for me …. I've been thinking the same things about how I am not creating photographic memories of me for my children. I have all the same issues about being in front of the camera, am so so critical of myself and how terrible I look in photos ….. but it's not like I am going to get any younger or more beautiful or get different features in the coming years, so I ought to get on with it and have some photos to look back at and remember how young I look now (at 45!).

    And even though I do the exact same thing about picking out all my flaws, I was still completely shocked to read your list of imperfections. I see a beautiful face, with features that are well balanced. You saw sunken eyes with bushy eyebrows. I saw big, warm, intelligent eyes beautifully framed by your lovely dark brows. I thought you looked fabulous in the photo and envied you your photogenity! It made me sad that you didn't see that …. sad for you, and sad for me, as I am just as hard on myself.

    Here's to feeling different about images of ourselves over the next year :o)

  32. says

    well, you are beautiful for sure.
    I just realized this not too long ago and am trying to make an effort to be photographed….not going so well. We have our second (or first official) family photo shoot coming this weekend. My kids are 8 & 6…..this will be the second family "togetherness" photo session.
    I think it would be fun to learn some self-timer tricks and tips for us to pop in with our families and have fun with it. I wish I had a cordless remote too.

    Thanks for sharing this. I recently started working with people with Alzheimer's Disease and have older grandparents…..memories, not just for us, but for our kids and families are important to have (photos of us).

  33. says

    I totally relate to this! I used to be terrible about seeing photos of myself. Since becoming a mom however, I do occasionally make sure to get in front of the camera because I really want my daughter to know that I was in fact a part of her childhood! I've found that it gets a lot easier. For one thing I think we're not used to seeing ourselves other than straight on in a mirror and find other angles and views of ourselves kind of surprising, but once we see more of ourselves as others do, we get past that. I have also made an effort to view myself in a less literal way, i.e. instead of analyzing the asymmetry of my face I try to notice what energy I'm projecting.

    I'm just going to go ahead and give you a view of a very dorky picture of myself to inspire you to let those inhibitions go.

    and by the way, i think you look beautiful in your photo, tender and happy.

  34. NorthGeorgiaGal says

    Well I certainly identify with this post and most of these comments. I hate having my picture made (I think I don't like seeing myself aging) but lately I have come to resent that family members don't insist that I be in the family pictures and they assume that I will take all the pictures of them… is that totally insane? So much so that I don't bring out my camera or offer my capabilities any more. I need a good therapist for sure…

  35. says

    As a photographer, how do you feel when one of your incredible friends or family members hides from the lens? You wish that they could understand, that they could see what you see.

    Photographers look for the beauty in the world, in amazing feats and in ordinary moments, on wonderful days and on awful days. It's in the muddy puddles, in the weeds on your lawn, in the falling-down barns, in the graffiti on train cars…

    Does it make sense that we would've been left out – when everything else has beauty?

    Please get in the picture – whether that means taking self portraits or handing your camera to a family member or stranger. Like any other kind of photography, the more pictures you have (of yourself), the more likely it is that you'll find some that you like.

  36. says

    This post really resonated deep within me. I am super crtitical of my looks in photos, and even if I do have 11 shots of myself, I reject most of them as unsuitable to show. Thanks for sharing this!

  37. says

    hey.. i love reading your post. i definitely understand the reason why you only have 11 pictures out of thousand of photos you have taken. most people actually feel the same way like you do, why they dont want to be in pictures because they dont want to see what they will see in the photo. they believe that they really dont look good. i admit, i used to be like that as well. but i have learned that it would make me feel more pity with my self because im always not on the picture. feels like im not part of the family. promise, i love your post. and ive seen your gallery, its lovely. thanks again for sharing your thoughts. more power to you.

  38. says

    Wow! This is an amazing post & I wish more women could read it & really listen to your message. 11 photos of you is just not enough!!
    When I was growing up my mom was always very vocal about not getting her picture taken. She hated it & was very critical of the few photos she did end up in. I never understood what she was talking about ~ to me she was my beautiful mom, perfect just the way she is.
    Now as a mom, I found myself doing & saying the same thing. For some reason last September I decided I wanted to be in more photos. Going through all of our photos I was in very very few. I still struggle with being comfortable on the other side of the lens, but I am slowing getting over it. I am also learning how to pose to minimize the flaws that drive me nuts :)
    I also don't want to teach my girls to have the same negative self image. They get enough of that from society. I can do my own little bit to offset all that. To them I am their beautiful mommy ~ I have to work really hard to remember that.
    I just posted this photo taken of me yesterday. Truly I look horrid (I'm sleeping & the angle is BAD), but I am doing something that I cherish & won't be able to do much longer. So not only did I not delete it, I put it on the internet. :)
    I also made myself hand over the camera to get a photo of me with one of my good friends.

    Thank you so much for sharing this!

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