Being Photographed: to Be Seen, or Not to Be Seen?

by Adrienne Ryan, Brisbane, Australia

Recently I was assisting a photographer as he photographed some beautifully ordinary individuals. I noticed how relaxed and open the people were. As we went on I came to realise there was a question silently being asked every time the camera was raised: “how much will you allow of you to be seen?”. I felt this myself when the camera was on me and I realised:

We choose how much of ourselves we allow to be seen.

Standing in front of a camera is like standing in front of the world itself with every eye upon us. In the face of the world and all its expectations we make a decision: how much to hold back and how much to let out. 

“To be or not to be?” plays out in front of the camera…
and in front of life.

We’ve played this game for so long that it has become normal. When the camera was lowered the tension of how much to let be seen was relieved and people relaxed, until the camera was pointed again and the measuring returned. It is not a huge change, but a subtle veil that falls between subject and lens.

When people let themselves go and seemed to say with their whole being, “This is me – here I am, you can look at me, I’ll let you see all of me, there’s nothing here I am holding back or hiding or keeping tucked away”, it was exquisite and powerful to behold – like the full sun coming out from behind cloud cover. It felt warm, effortless, mighty, clear, unimposing and inspiring. There was no ‘on’ or ‘off’ button – they remained this way when the camera was lowered.

“To be seen or not to be seen?” is the question we answer every day in front of life… and the question is the same when we’re being photographed. Facing a camera is an instant way to feel how much we let people in, allow ourselves to be seen by the world, capturing how present, accepting and appreciative we are with ourselves. It is not about looking perfect, but being perfectly yourself. It is an opportunity to let go, to not buy into hiding or holding back a drop of the ever unfolding beauty of who you are.

Inspired by Universal Medicine and the work of Serge Benhayon

190 thoughts on “Being Photographed: to Be Seen, or Not to Be Seen?

  1. I love what you share, Adrienne, about no ‘on / off switch’, about consistency. I am going to be asking myself this question as I go through the day – “If someone was taking a photo of me right now, am I shining all of me?”

  2. I was lost and didn’t know who I was. I had totally disregarded my body for as long as I could remember, my health was poor and my self esteem on a scale of 1 to 10 was at two and I was slowly commiting suicide by continuing to smoke tobacco.
    Five years later after being introduced to Serge Benhayon, Universal Medicine and many people in the student body and by attending presentations and courses I slowly realised that I could start making new choices. I learnt that I could smoke myself to death or be a son of god and shine my light to the world.

  3. I really enjoyed what you have shared Adrienne, there is much to consider here. For years I felt very uncomfortable in front of the camera not wanting to reveal all of myself to the world and much preferred behind the camera being the photographer. I love your words ‘it is not about looking perfect, but being perfectly yourself.” Beautifully inspiring, thank you.

    1. And there is a definitely a difference between being polished and professional, vs just being real… really you. Everyone can feel the difference, and of course the camera does not lie either.

  4. We learn from young to smile when we are being photographed or sit straight or ordening our clothes instead of being ourselves. Your blog Adrienne has made me aware of this measuring which I still do when I meet people, especially for a first time, to make a ‘good’ impression so they will like me and then I can slowly drop the guards. A pattern from young that I can let go of and being myself while being photographed will support this process of letting go and being me from the beginning.

  5. You’re so right about the parallel between how we measure just how much of our true selves we show in front of the camera and again in front of life. The camera just magnifies the issue in one snapshot moment, but we can hold it like that through life for weeks, months, years. A life of being measured, giving out only so much rather than being seen for all we are.

  6. Very timely subject for me. I recently had my photo taken and I felt rather uncomfortable. It was very exposing to feel the way I did. “It is not about looking perfect, but being perfectly yourself” – precisely; I could feel that there was a yearning to be seen in full, yet at the same time I held back not being able to trust in full, fearing rejection and judgment.

  7. I just had a photo shooting last week and first i felt a bit hesitant but than there was movement i could do looking away and than look up in the camera. I started enjoying it so much just playing and being joyful me and to show myself as i am. This was such a great experience. Before i always thought i have to have a full smile when somebody took picture, wanting to look good or show myself from my best side.
    This time i did not want anything just being. I have some amazing picture where i don’t smile and just look so openly in the camera, amazing. Honoring my own transformation as i was very shy some years ago looking in the camera.

  8. If we allow ourselves to be seen during a photo shooting we receive such a beautiful reflection and confirmation of our own true inner beauty, when we look at our own photos. How healing to give ourselves appreciation and confirmation for our own inner beauty.

  9. This is such a relevant sharing for me as last week I was at a photo shoot and painfully realise just how much I hold back and hide. What you have written Adrienne is so true. Thank you for highlighting what happens when we face a camera; I have much to ponder!

  10. A great observation you have shared Adrienne, how much we measure ourselves and allow others to see only a part of ourselves that we feel will be accepted, whether in front of the camera or in other situations in our daily life.

  11. An awesome blog to re-visit Adrienne as I have just recently had some photos take of myself and I can often feel I am hiding and not willing to show my true beauty, so I can resort to smiling brightly which often is masking the truth of who I am. I love this line and shall take it into my day -‘It is not about looking perfect, but being perfectly yourself. ‘ – Such a beautiful reminder thank you.

  12. I find being in front of the camera a torture of sorts but your reminder to be “perfectly yourself” is a great piece of advice.

  13. It’s a revelation to look back over even recent photos and see just how much measuring has been captured in that millisecond shutter motion. I can see it in the muscles in my face and in my posture. Poised for criticism, aiming to deliver ‘that look’ – the one that usually gets me through, to a ‘this is a good one’. But the camera as we know, never lies – and when we extend the fact of our measuring to understand that it’s merely a reflection of how we’re playing out our lives more generally, then it’s time for a serious rethink. Being bold enough to ditch the on/off button and just let the sun come out.

  14. So beautiful to read Adrienne, and very timely as I am about to have my photograph taken , I am feeling much more comfortable in my own skin these days and will ponder on your words, how much am I willing to let out and let people see. Thank you.

  15. ‘Facing a camera is an instant way to feel how much we let people in, allow ourselves to be seen by the world, capturing how present, accepting and appreciative we are with ourselves.’ This is so revealing of the fact that it is not just about letting people in but how our relationship with ourselves is crucial to what we allow to be seen. I have spent a lifetime avoiding the camera’s gaze but now that I am feeling much more comfortable in my own skin I am more willing to let others in and be photographed.

  16. ‘It is not about looking perfect, but being perfectly yourself.’ An awesome quote and one that would immediately change the tone and feel of Instagram and Facebook were it universally applied.

  17. To be “perfectly yourself” is the perfect way to be. I love how having our photo taken can clearly show us whether we are being perfectly ourselves or not or are we trying to be someone else in our daily living with others.

  18. Very true Adrienne – point a camera towards most people and they immediately want to present a certain image. The social media has encouraged this behaviour as people frequently post pictures of themselves and others but only to show a certain side of themselves as if to try and prove something. Yet the photos that draw me back time and time again are the ones where the veil is down and I can feel the pull of the person, almost as if their faces are a magnet – and it’s beautiful, regardless of anything else.

  19. Another great observation Adrienne. Love it as it exposes so much about our self. I know for me I have always loved taking photos and disliked having my photo taken. It is just like being unable to speak up in a crowd or a big gathering. I can see that it is a control issue, all measuring is control. Thank you for this it is quite the realisation for me. . . very much appreciated.

  20. Yes I can relate to how much am I allowing to be seen. There is a guardedness and a hesitation to be photographed I can feel when a photo is to be taken of me. But at the same time a deep longing to be seen too. Of wanting to be connected to and with.

  21. Another great blog Adrienne- and a great reminder for me today, to not dull myself down as I take myself out into the world but allow the grace and care that I have to be seen and felt by others as this is something that I have held back in case it is not accepted or rejected.

  22. Thank you Adrienne, this is a great reflection and marker for me to observe how much I allow myself to be seen in any given situation.

  23. The simplicity and wisdom shared in this blog is very inspiring, I love it when people can allow themselves to be totally transparent in a photo – it can be deeply healing and supportive for all who see this.

  24. Thank you Adrienne for the great insight you share here about what being in front of a camera can bring up for us – I know this is my experience too! It is a great opportunity to get to know ourselves deeper and see how we react to being seen…

  25. What a great observation Adrienne and so good that you chose to share it. I had never allowed myself to see this and before reading this I probably would have claimed that I didn’t enjoy being photographed, I didn’t feel I was photogenic etc, but wouldn’t have said that this reflected how transparent I was in life in any way but I can see now, having read this, how I was not being honest with myself. It is like the beard I had for 40 years until a year ago, I would have sworn that I wasn’t wearing a beard to hide behind, but the moment I shaved it off, I felt that I had come out of hiding?

  26. We choose how much of ourselves we allow ourselves to be seen and this is very much how we live and play out our lives in hiding with all we feel and learn to be as we grow up .This becomes a constant and normal way to live but since knowing Serge Benhayon and Universal Medicine we learn to be open and show who we really are and this is the greatest gift in the world we can give ourselves and the world every minute joyfully.

  27. ” It is not about looking perfect, but being perfectly yourself.” It is interesting that when we feel self conscious in front of a camera we are not appreciating who we are and perhaps are aware that we are so much more than we choose to share with the world.

  28. This applies not only to being in front of the camera but when we are with all our family, friends, colleagues and generally going about our daily routine. How often do we enter a room allowing everyone to fully see us? How often do we work closely with our colleagues at work and allow them to fully see us? How often do we connect to our children, family and let them see us? The camera is the physical example. Could it be possible that our every moment is an internal camera still taking all those shots?

  29. “We choose how much of ourselves we allow to be seen.” Yes, and as you say not just in front of the camera. But how are we in front of the camera? Does this reflect how we are in life? As a child I hated having my photo taken and would turn my back on the camera, ruining many a family photo. I was also only thinking about myself at that point. I still find having my photo taken difficult, but as i see the bigger picture I am more able to let go of the ‘its about me’ syndrome, and open up to a wider view.

  30. Thank you Adrienne. I realised in some photos that were taken yesterday that I was actually not bringing all of me to the picture. Admittedly I was feeling tired and weary but is this really an excuse to hide the gorgeousness that we are? Allowing that feeling deep within which in total allows for us to shine in our totality so even if it takes a few minutes it’s worth connecting to that totality if we are leaving our mark in a photo for perpetuity.

  31. Adrienne for me that is so spot on what you have shared: “Facing a camera is an instant way to feel how much we let people in, allow ourselves to be seen by the world, capturing how present, accepting and appreciative we are with ourselves.” Facing a camera is the best reflection ever – as well the fotos you will get!

  32. With the support of Universal Medicine it has been extremely revealing to transform from a woman who loathed having her photo taken, to one who revels in letting the world see the love I am.

  33. I used to hate seeing myself in pictures, and when I look back now I can see the sadness that was in my eyes. Now I see the beauty in my eyes and the freshness and vitality of my face – due to Universal Medicine’s consistency of love and support

  34. I can relate to this, recently I was helping out with a photo shoot in the background and was asked to go into a photo. I froze, I was happy to be behind the lens but when I was to be seen in front of the camera I became rigid, had thoughts of self doubt and just wanted to hide- it was very exposing. At the time I put it down to not being dressed appropriately for a photo shoot but there was much more to it than that. Thank you for your sharing and the reflection it offers.

  35. I love what you have offered here Adrienne for like in life, so many people make it about the outer appearance but in truth as you have shared, photography is about so much more. It is without doubt a great marker of how we are with ourselves and how willing we are for the world to see that. A great sharing.

  36. Thank you for your brilliant blog Adrienne – you have explained so beautifully what is really going on behind our reluctance to be photographed.

  37. Being aware of and honest about the subtle veils that fall between us being all that we are in the world, is where we will discover the power living our fullness, in all its glory. As it is our choice let go of the veils that obscure our light and instead surrender to be at one with the sheer magnificence of our Soul.

  38. “To be seen or not to be seen?” – a great question! I love the simplicity of it – the clarity of the choice we continually have…

  39. “Facing a camera is an instant way to feel how much we let people in, allow ourselves to be seen by the world, capturing how present, accepting and appreciative we are with ourselves” – beautifully said and so true. And we may like to think we can manipulate images to look a certain way, or be ‘good at’ standing in front of a camera, but that’s exactly what is felt, and we do not like being exposed that we have been lying to the world by holding ourselves back.

  40. It is very powerful to allow others to see our fragility and still be okay with it, but many times when I am showing my fragility, there is a resistance felt from others. Could this resistance be a resistance to feeling one’s choice to remain transparent and simply honest?

    1. I have also experienced the opposite to be true, when we allow ourselves to be transparent this gives another the permission to show themselves. We are always offering each other reflections and when we choose to let ourselves feel what they highlight we can discover much about ourselves.

  41. Suberb inspiring article. But an interesting question pops up: to be perfect ourselves is the game. But how do we know we are perfectly ourselves when we have not felt that since – if we actually remember – very young?
    Not feeling ourselves can actually feel very normal.

  42. I like what you have presented here, it’s something beautiful to aspire to, to be all of ourselves in every moment regardless of who we are with or without cameras. It would first of all be an immense gift to ourselves.

  43. A beautiful reflection upon the glory and true beauty that rests within every single one of us, thank-you Adrienne. To hold it back, to veil it and keep ourselves from being seen, is to deny that which we all, in truth are.
    And so claim ourselves, yes, and celebrate all that we are – if we have re-found the great love within, share it without reservation, that others too may find their own inner spark re-ignited…

  44. So very true Adrienne, a photograph in truth ought to capture the essence of who we are, so as you say… ” It is not about looking perfect, but being perfectly yourself”. The photographer also has quite some bearing on this, as his ‘meeting’ of you will either ask and offer you the platform to let yourself out in full, or it will see you in the contraction he or she is also in, and hence you will be more likely to only show the lesser version of yourself, focussing instead on feeling insecure, on your appearance or on your discomfort etc.

  45. This is a great capture of the truth is a very relatable way, we all know our relationship with the camera and how much this exposes about us..what we are willing to share with others and the world. It brings awareness to the power of our every reflection. Love it.

  46. Standing in front of a camera definitely brings up the judgement’s we hold in relation to how we look and the feelings of being judged by those that will look at the photo. It offers an opportunity to connect to how much we have claimed ourselves, how much we truly hold ourselves as the amazing beings we are.

  47. On this question of how much do we let ourselves be seen when on camera or otherwise, I noticed that I have a willingness to be seen but wasn’t then quite sure how to let myself be seen so I would try to go out to the world to show myself (hope this makes sense!). The more I deepen my relationship with myself, the more I understand and feel that to let myself be seen all I need to do is ensure I am feeling my body, for if I am present with myself I am letting myself be seen. The beauty of this is that in staying with myself and not trying to be seen or recognised, I am becoming steadier, more consistent, more at ease within myself and in the world. I’m trying far less then ever and loving the feeling of being solidly in my body.

  48. Spot on, Adrienne. Stepping in front of a camera is for many on a par with public speaking. How prepared are we to be seen? And what kind of gap exists between how much of ourselves we are prepared to show ‘on occasion’ versus doing so every day? Closing that gap is surely the goal if we are at all interested in letting the world know how glorious we are.

  49. We choose how much of ourselves we allow to be seen. I know this too be true having spent most of my life in hiding, hiding my true essence. But happy to say I have outgrown this old need to hide,( believing I would feel safe) and hiding has no place or space in my body or in any area of my life!

  50. I still feel very awkward in front of a camera. I might try asking myself the question you pose, “how much will you allow of you to be seen?” The fact is I am being seen all the time, but when eyes are focused on me, I get uncomfortable. This is something for me to ponder on.

  51. It is beautiful when there are no reservations or holding back when it comes to having photographs done, and being comfortable in front of a camera is a reflection of how comfortable we are with our own relationship with ourselves.

  52. We have played this game for so long and it is time to drop it, ‘We choose how much of ourselves we allow to be seen.’ and instead to allow ourselves to be seen in full.

  53. This is true, it is about letting go of our many veils and be seen in full when having our photos taken, a work in progress for many of us, ‘This is me – here I am, you can look at me, I’ll let you see all of me, there’s nothing here I am holding back or hiding or keeping tucked away’.

  54. I can relate and fully understand this unfortunate reality we have created. I am applying for jobs presently with much opportunity before me – I like this statement “It is not about looking perfect, but being perfectly yourself.” What I like about this particularly in an interview (and being in front of the camera) is that I felt how in the past I have not presented myself with the transparency that will support me not only in life but in the instance of the job I am applying myself to be in. You are setting forth how you will be next either in the job or how you walk out after the interview into the world. Honesty prevails through presenting and showing the world what you know (how amazing you are) and what you do not know … why hold any of that back.

  55. To me it is the expectations we have been brought up with that makes us tense up when we are asked to show ourselves. When we allow ourselves to align to the expectations of life, for instance how to be with our parents, at school, with sports, at work or any other situation in life we actually do not know anymore who we naturally are because we have lost that natural connection with our inner most. Our inner most knows exactly how to be in any situation in life, so also in front of the camera lens.

  56. When I find myself in front of the camera lens I feel a fragility in myself and I know I am the one who decides how much I allow the world to see me, the more I just let myself be, let the fragility be I start to feel a joy in myself which is lovely to share with the world as there is only one of me!

  57. This is so true and when we are in front of a camera we seem to have a pressure on us for this ‘perfect’ photo which also plays out in life when we are trying or looking for this ‘perfect’ person. It’s great to simply be aware of how tense you may become with the thought or reality of a photo. As we all know it matters little with how you look as people will always have their own opinion and so the only thing we have is how we truly feel. The next time you feel put on the spot with something do your best to allow your body to drop, to settle and know people can choose to see whatever they like and come back to how you feel and from there simple appreciate that you felt that.

  58. This blog makes so much sense but it is also very exposing, as I get extremely affected when I am starring down the barrel of the camera lens. I have never liked pictures of myself, I have always thought of myself as quite pretty but then, when I see myself in photos I am always disappointed. I have spent years trying to recreate poses of the few photos I do like of myself and I end up looking like a super weirdo in the process. The ironic thing is that when we try, our true beauty is lost, as our essence just is, it does not need to prove itself.

  59. I never realised how protected I was but I used to be a very poor photographic subject because I would contract when the camera appeared. As I have worked to become more open and transparent so too have my time in front of the camera changed to the point that I no longer mind being photographed.

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