Thursday, May 26, 2011

Why, in my fantasy life, Annie Leibovitz is my
best friend and travels with me everywhere I go

I was spending the day with a friend of mine recently when she showed me some pictures from a recent family trip. I noticed almost immediately that there weren't any pictures of her, and when I asked about it, she said, "I don't like having my picture taken."

I get it. I really do.

Because that was my attitude most of my adult life—until a few years ago, I HATED having my picture taken and looked pretty awkward almost every time I was forced to do it, which I talked about in my "Who is the girl in the picture" post. I'm still not great about posing for photos now, but I'm working on it and try my best to have a good attitude, which I think is crucial to taking a good photo.

Lately, though, I'm beginning to wonder if it's about more than just having a good attitude. Over the past few months, I've had the opportunity to have my picture taken by more than one professional photographer, and I am always shocked by how good the results turn out. (The photo of me above was taken by one of those pros.)

As a result, it started to occur to me that maybe the reason I hate having my picture taken is because I don't have a professional doing it all the time. In fact, it's usually my husband or one of my friends taking my picture, and they usually do it quickly—in between talking and hanging out—without really thinking about it.

All of this had been in the back of my head when I saw a new photo of a friend on Facebook and actually thought, "Wow, that doesn't even look like her. She is so much more attractive than that." And that's when it hit me—the reason our photos don't look as good as the ones we see in magazines is simply because we don't have a professional photographer following us around all the time.

Maybe this sounds obvious, but I have witnessed too many people—men an women—bemoaning the way they look in pictures for me to believe that people understand this is the case. I think we all want to look like a celebrity every time we have our picture taken even though we don't have half the resources that most of them do.

And then I saw something that made me sure that taking a good photo doesn't usually happen by accident but rather requires some serious effort as well as a professional photographer.

I was watching Letterman a few weeks ago when Courtney Cox was on the show talking about a recent trip to St. Bart's. While she was there, Letterman held up this photo of Cox from that trip:

Letterman oooohed and aahhed over Cox's amazing physique, but she resisted the compliment, explaining that she doesn't normally look like that and that she was doing everything she could to look her best when the photo was taken.

"Well, Dave," she said. "You know when the paparrazzi are there, so that's not real . . . I mean that's real, but I was working it pretty hard . . . We made a joke about it. Let's see how Sports Illustrated we can get. And I really was like . . . I sucked in, I moved my body, and my arms are streched out. I don't walk like that!"

Cox even claimed that Letterman would be horrified if he saw the way she sits on the beach when nobody is looking and imitated herself seaside, hunched over and limp.

Whether you believe it or not, her message was clear: people don't normally look the way she did in that photo. And for some reason, I believed her. I believed that she could suck in her gut and pump her arms and legs in such a way that put her best features on display.

Do I believe I could strike the same pose and appear as hot as Cox does in her string bikini? No way, but I do believe that trying to look good and believing you can look good goes a long way towards accomplishing that goal.

And while writing this post, I decided to Google "Courtney Cox at the beach" to see if there were any pics of her looking the way she described, and believe it or not, one of the first pictures I came across was one of Cox looking the same way she imitated herself looking on Letterman . . .

Is she still beautiful? Absolutely. But she also looks real because she's not posing for the paparazzi.

It's easy for us to imagine that the beautiful people look beautiful all the time, but the truth is, when they're just being normal and goofing around with their friends and an iPhone, they take crazy photos too.

The only difference is that their bad photos never show up on Facebook.

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