By Stephanie Fong
Part of my work in the communications field requires me to carry around a camera, snapping photos of people receiving awards, celebrating milestones, or simply doing their jobs.
More often than not, someone will see me walking down the hallway with my camera and panic—they didn’t do their hair that day, they’d rather take the photo once they’ve lost 20 pounds, or they half joke that the camera might break when I hit the shutter button.
We’ve all felt that way (or even said those things). We fear an unflattering photo will confirm our biggest insecurities, and who wants that? Especially in a world of flawless Snapchat filters and perfectly-angled selfies, having someone else in charge of taking our photo can feel like a dice roll.
As the photographer—amateur though I may be—I’ve learned it’s my job to calm those insecurities and get a great photo. Sometimes all the worried subject of a photograph needs to hear is, “Don’t worry, I’ll make sure you look good.”
And then, I try my best to make sure they do look good, whether that is having them rearrange how they are standing, or moving myself to make the best angle, or finding better lighting.
Putting people in the best light and at the right angle can bring out the beauty in us all, and if you think about it, that can apply to more than just photography.
A few years ago, I decided to start taking headshots for staff in our organization who needed an official portrait done. I purchased a backdrop and a few lights and started studying videos online in search of tips.
I am still learning how to do this better and not every headshot turns out perfectly. But one thing I have noticed through taking portraits of a variety of people is that everyone truly has beauty to offer.
Through the months of meeting new faces in need of a photo, visiting with them, posing them, picking their favorite shot, and editing the photo to highlight their best features, I started to see how each person really is “fearfully & wonderfully made.” As I zoomed in on each photo on my computer screen, I noticed how one person’s eyes naturally twinkled or how another’s smile transformed their countenance. Some symmetrical and some less so, each person’s facial features stood out as unique and interesting. That uniqueness—the fact that there is only one person who looks like this in the world—made every person beautiful.
Something to smile about
The best photos during each headshot sitting are almost always some of the last I snap. By that time, I have figured out where to move my lighting, and the person being photographed has narrowed down the angle that looks best when we stop and review what’s been taken so far. And, after sitting together for 15 minutes, we have simply gotten to know each other better; we both have more to smile about.
In visiting about their kids or their summer plans or their upcoming wedding, the person in front of the camera is more relaxed and more themselves than when we started, and their personal beauty shines through, regardless of how well I did or did not run the camera that day.
I always hope the people I photograph are happy with the end result—that they feel beautiful or handsome when they look at their photo.
A few months after having her headshot taken for an award she had won, a wonderful nurse caught up with me at the cafeteria, beaming.
“I just wanted to tell you that photo turned out so nice! I got so many compliments on it. I never thought I was very photogenic, but the photo was a good one.”
For that person to see her best self in her own photo made my day, and it renewed my determination to try to make every photo a beautiful one.
Stephanie Fong has worked in marketing and communications for CHI St. Alexius Health in Dickinson for six years. She has learned to not mind being photographed, because life is too short not to be in the photo.