How is this month treating you so far? From the conversations I've been having with people, it seems like January was the longest month ever recorded, and a lot of us felt a serious lack of motivation; but as soon as February showed up it felt like a heavy cloud had lifted. Perhaps it was the appearance of snowdrops that put a spring in our step, or we all needed a little more time to spring into action… Who knows? (seasonal puns intended - can you tell I'm well over winter now?!)
In all seriousness, I'd like to start this letter by thanking you for still being here. I've been a little rubbish at sending these recently, so I really appreciate you sticking around and I'm truly excited to get back into it. 🖤
I'm in the process of giving my website a little makeover and taking this as an opportunity to check over my copy and question everything I am saying on there. I'm also hunting for a very specific word that I want to completely remove from my website - and my vocabulary: flattering.
A few months ago, I watched an Instagram Live in which a branding photographer said that she refuses to retouch images whenever her clients ask her to - meaning she won't do anything other than basic colour grading to alter the way someone looks. According to her, it's doing people a disservice and we should instead encourage them to accept themselves just the way they are. I ended up chatting about it with another fellow photographer, and it sparked a discussion about the word ‘flattering’ and everything it implies.
As photographers, we're acutely aware that 99% of the people we work with hate being in front of the camera, so we try to reassure potential clients in various ways: this is a safe space, I won't ask you to do any silly poses if you don't want to, it helps seeing yourself through someone else's eyes, and… I promise I know what I'm doing and we'll take flattering images that will make you feel and look good.
I used to think this was a good thing to say — until I realised that in doing so, I was just perpetuating the idea that there was something inherently “unflattering” about people, and that they needed my “help” to look better.
I won't lie - this was a huge slap in the face. As someone who's always worried about the way I look, I was horrified to realise that I'd been unwillingly reinforcing the very thing I was trying to free myself from.
Of course I want people to love the photos I take for them.
I can use lighting and composition to create eye-catching images.
I can ask people to tilt their head towards the light, or move their arm a little to make a photo more interesting.
I can run my images through Lightroom to alter colours, correct contrasts and give everything an overall look and feel that is mine, and likely one of the reasons they booked me in the first place.
But virtually saying “Don't worry, I know you've probably got lots of body issues so I'll make sure I work around them to make you look your best”… Nope. Not okay.
By default, I don't retouch images, apart from the occasional pimple, rogue strand of hair, or crease on a shirt. I don't smooth skin out and I don't make people look thinner, because it's not my place to say “I think this is what you should look like.”
But conversely, if someone asked me to do any of these things… it wouldn't be my place to say “no I won't, because I think you look amazing and you should believe it too”. It's not my place to downplay and invalidate the way they feel about themselves for the sake of promoting body positivity.
We all struggle with the way we look at some point. We all wish we were thinner, or bigger, or taller, or smaller… And as we go into 2021, I want to be more mindful of what I do and say to put my clients at ease, and how I can help them feel confident in front of my camera without accidentally feeding into the diet culture and reinforcing harmful patterns.
When you run a business online or rely on social media to share your work and connect with your audience, coming up with things to say and putting them out into the virtual world can feel like a chore. Believe me when I say that I know the feeling. There are days where showing up feels exciting and easy, and others where all I want to do is retreat within myself and avoid being seen. And when I finally get out of that slump, I look at my content calendar and think… Okay, what the heck can I possibly talk about?
If you've been feeling the same, or if you're simply wanting to mix things up a bit, here are 12 prompts to help you connect with your audience:
What are you looking forward to this year?
What do you do to disconnect from work?
What change have you made in the last month and how did it go?
What idea, process or tool could you educate your audience on?
Share one problem that you help your audience with (and how you do it!)
How can people work with you/where can they find your products?
Share something you've learnt in the past year
How do you deal with [struggle/problem that people will relate to]?
What has your business made you grateful for?
Talk about the service/product you love the most and how it can benefit your audience
Share your process - what can people expect if they work with you?
Share a testimonial or a screenshot of what a client said after working with you!
Thanks as always for being here - I don't take being invited into your inbox lightly, and I'm always happy to hear from you.