Photo-Phobic – Did I Exist?

If you looked back over the photos taken since my three children were born, you would be forgiven for thinking that I had upped and left them, birthed them and then legged it. I rarely appear in a photograph. If I do, I’m lurking in the background, usually turning away from the camera or hiding behind random greenery! The very idea of a photo shoot would send me into a flat spin.

I have always hated photos of myself. I can remember being about ten or eleven years old (the age my older two children are now) and seeing a photo of myself in shorts on a family holiday and asking mum to tear up the photo as I had fat knees. That feeling has never really left me (saying that, neither have the knees!). All through my teens and most of my university years – apart from the year where I starved myself to an ‘acceptable’ size 10, I tore up most of the photos that came back from the developers. I then relished in deleting pictures when photography went digital.

Looking Back

I look back on the rare remaining photos now and I don’t see the knees, I see a pretty shy girl on holiday. I see my university photos and think ‘wow, I remember those freakin’ amazing trousers’ or ‘crikey – were you ever that skinny?’.

I’m so relieved that I didn’t live my wild younger years in the world of social media, where my every badly chosen moment or gin-fuelled misdemeanour (there have been many) would be shared and commented on. That moment when I fell off the tables dancing in a bar in Aix is better left behind… But I do confess to a twinge of sadness that some of those crazy moments in my life, as well as the most precious ones; my kids first steps, their first day at school, have a person missing from the photos.

Recently I have taken my photo dodging a step further, buying a digital SLR and hiding behind the lens, taking the shots that immortalise our family moments. But I’m still missing in action.

Why Photographs Matter

A friend of mine lost her mum recently, her treasured mum and best friend passed away,. She left behind a bucket-load of amazing memories but nothing for her young grandchildren to keep in a memory box. Not a single photo (apart from her peering out from behind the greenery) to ‘remember her by’. I know this sounds gloomy, but it really shook me.

So, despite being two stone heavier than I would like to be, despite having to wear glasses that I’m not yet confident wearing, I decided to take the plunge. I decided to face my fears and book a family photo shoot – crazy right?

Prepare Yourself – My Top Five Tips

Hand over the Camera

I handed the iphone and the camera over to my kids for a few days before the photoshoot. They took about a thousand photos of me so that I could get used to seeing some really bad photos of me and some that took me by surprise – they weren’t really that bad. I found that the more I saw myself ‘on film’ the less dramatic a reaction I had to a bad photograph!

Mum on beach with three children

Choose a photographer you like and whose work you love

I chose a photographer who I knew would be comfortable with. Nick had taken the photos at my brother’s wedding and I loved his relaxed style and amazing ability to capture the little things. The moments that usually go unnoticed.

Hold the shoot somewhere you love and in an environment that ‘feels like home’

As a family we are happiest outdoors in the countryside, kitted out in wellies and braving the elements (a bloody good job really as I finally chose to face my fears in mid-November!).

Nick helped us to choose a country location that suited our style and recommended an early afternoon shoot to make the most of the winter afternoon light. Thanks to a rubbish sat nav we missed a good chunk of of this precious light!

I briefed Nick to edit out any photos that made me look (and I quote) ‘fat, old, knackered, ugly or like some mad horsey woman (it happens often in photos)’. He listened well.

Choose your outfits with care and wear things that make you feel good

On Nick’s advice we picked outfits that complemented each other and no harsh patterns, obvious stripes or logos.

We walked, we talked, we trudged the fields, we froze and ruined our new boots, but we laughed and enjoyed the moment.

Be kind to yourself

I got the proofs back yesterday, and, whilst I wished I could have strutted down the hill in a size 12 pair of jeans and lost the extra chin, I don’t look at them with loathing, I bloody love them!

Who Do I See in The Photos?

I see a mama who loves her children to death and children who love her right back. I see a family who enjoy spending time together and a husband and wife who have each other’s backs.

These are the memories that I treasure, these are the important things, and these are the moments I want my kids to keep in their memory boxes. I’m going to hand my camera over to someone else now and again, and, if I ever manage to gain the willpower and lose the two stone, then I’ll have one mother of a celebratory photo session! And if I don’t lose the extra baggage, as the lure of an extra G&T and a box of chocolate truffles gets the upper hand, I’m going back in front of the camera again anyway!