It’s almost Mother’s Day, when we honor the brave women who brought us into the world. It’s a prime time to take a family snapshot, too. But too many moms run from the camera.
Cary Sommer of Waconia is one of them. “I am really self-critical,” says the 33-year-old mother of two. “I tend to be the back-row person, always holding a kid as a safety net.”
In a recent survey by video app developer Real Networks, 40 percent of moms said they avoid the camera because they don’t like how they look in pictures.
Sommer knows, though, that one day her children will cherish photos of her.
“I have three sisters, and we don’t have many pictures of our mom when she was younger, or of our whole family from when we were little kids.”
She wants her children to be able to look back through childhood images and see a self-confident her, worthy of hanging on a wall. It’s a Mother’s Day gift she wants to give to them.
Sommer and two other mothers answered a Star Tribune query for volunteers to come to a photo shoot and learn tips for conquering camera avoidance. Their aversions, it turned out, were typical of what many women experience, according to Minneapolis studio photographer Liz Banfield, who specializes in wedding, portrait and editorial work (lizbanfield.com).
Banfield says women tend to be their own harshest critics and have unrealistic standards for what they should look like.
“Society has become so airbrushed and Hollywood and the media have whipped us into a froth where people feel bad because they don’t have Jessica Simpson’s body,” Banfield says.
Kimberly Caprini, 51, who has 16- and 12-year-old daughters, is thinking more these days about her face.
“Don’t get me wrong,” says the Minneapolis resident. “I honor every year and ask for 40 more each birthday. But I see that age is starting show. And I want the picture to look exactly how I feel, which is great.” Caprini wants to relax for the camera, but can tell when her smile wobbles or feels forced.
For Maggie Akhavan, 60, it’s her jawline — inherited from her grandma. She doesn’t like the way it translates to photos. “I look in the mirror before I go out the door and I think, ‘I look great,’ ” she says. “Then I see a picture of me and I think, ‘Omigod!’ ”
Akhavan, of Coon Rapids, has a strong motivation for wanting to conquer the camera: Her oldest daughter is getting married in June, so there will be photos. Lots of photos.
What camera-shy moms can do
Banfield says the first thing we all need to do is cop a positive attitude. “Do whatever you need to make yourself feel fantastic. Get a massage, do your hair, buy a new shirt, wear your favorite lipstick. Your confidence will come through,” she says. If you’re hiring a professional photographer, get one who puts you at ease.
Here are some tips from Banfield and other professionals:
People who dislike the camera tend to back away from it. Leaning back, though, can make your neck and body look bigger, Banfield says. Think of a friendly group shot where people have arms slung around one another’s shoulders, moving toward the camera. That’s the feel you want.
If you’re worried about a double chin, tip it down a little and jut it forward about an inch. This tightens the neck area and changes the shadow from your jaw. Practice in the mirror and you’ll be able to see how far to jut without looking forced. Also, the selfie photo trick of shooting from up high, or with the lens just above your eye level, really works. “That angle gives the chin better definition,” Banfield says.
Play with perspective
During our photo shoot of Sommer, Caprini and Akhovan, Star Tribune staff photographer Tom Wallace showed the difference between standing stiff with arms tight to the side and placing a hand on a hip. Getting space between the arm and torso makes the subject look thinner by breaking up the block of the body.
Angling your body, instead of standing full on in a frame, is slenderizing. “Whatever is closest to the camera is biggest,” Wallace says.
Consider your clothes
“Be honest about what you look good in — not frumpy bumpy clothes and not a ballgown unless you’re trying to win a pageant,” says Minneapolis-based stylist Barbara Schmidt (studiostyle.com).
Wallace used a clip to nip Caprini’s boxy sweater in the back, which made her look slimmer. Solid colors work better than stripes or patterns. “Blue is best because it works with all skin tones,” Wallace said. “Any shade between navy and royal.”
Get on your good side
Study photographs of yourself that you like, Banfield says, and find your good side. Akhavan, for example, noted one of her eyes is slightly smaller than the other but they balance out when photos are taken from her left side. She’ll remember that when posing for wedding pictures in five weeks.
Another tip, if you find yourself with a deer-in-the-headlights look, is to squinch your eyes a teeny bit. “It relaxes them,” Wallace swears.
Get a glam squad
“Even if you want to look natural, get your hair and makeup done by a good artist,” Schmidt says. If you do tackle your own look, remember: “Light makeup is good for definition but too much can be Halloween.”
Let there be light
In a studio, lighting can eliminate shadows and add luminosity to skin and a sparkle to subjects’ eyes. At home, Wallace suggests throwing open the front door to get natural light, then leaning by it and shooting with — instead of into — the light. Posing by a window can work, too.
Think happy thoughts
Schmidt suggests thinking of a loved one and a happy moment. “Or think of your pet when they’ve cuddled you or your favorite vacation spot. This helps you emote ‘smeyes,’ or a smile that reaches your eyes.”
Akhavan recently sent photographs from her grandparents’, in-laws’ and parents’ weddings to her daughter, to be displayed on a shelf during the upcoming ceremony.
“My mom died recently, so the photograph is a way of having her there,” Akhavan said. “In one picture, she’s there with heart paper petals flying through the air, and it’s jubilant and joyful.”
Capture that feeling in the photos you create for your children.