Take that

Hey middle aged women, life is short. Take this selfie. here’s how

Alone on the beach, the writer wanted to keep a memory and decided to turn the camera on herself.

Like so many women of my generation, I came to the art form of selfies later in life. My archive of digital photographs contained mostly photos of children, friends and travel photos, but almost no photos of me alone. But on my very first trip alone in 2017 at age 43, I found myself on a small Spanish beach on the Costa Blanca, wanting to share the experience and my joy with someone. Too embarrassed to ask a local to take my photo, it occurred to me that I could just take one of myself. Worriedly, I turned my phone to face me. Raising my arm slightly above my sunhat-covered head to capture the Mediterranean behind me, I snapped and posted the image to Instagram with the caption “Happy turista.”

While the photo was not a work of art, the comments came fast and furious. “Beautiful!” “Looks like you’re having a good time.” ” Have a good trip !!!! Suddenly, an ocean away from home, I wasn’t so alone anymore.

Sharing selfies became a way to center myself in my story, to own and fully embody what it means to be a woman living in this time in my late 40s. A way to document my growth, my sorrows, my experiences and my joy, to feel like a stranger to myself when my marriage ended, to stand on my own feet, to build a career, to raise children and to learn to love again.

While selfies are often scoffed at rather than viewed as a meaningful form of self-expression, sharing photos of ourselves is part of how social media provides a platform for those who have been left out of stories. mainstream so far. They allow marginalized people to step up and change the narrative of who can be in the spotlight. Selfies also place you as the director and star of your story, with the subject also being the photographer and deciding what to take and share, rather than letting someone else decide for you.

Why middle-aged women should embrace the selfie

As our physical selves change with age, many middle-aged women may be hesitant to take and share a selfie, feeling uncomfortable in front of the camera. But the power of having full control over your image means you can play with the portrait however you want. At 40, Toronto-area vlogger and influencer Tina Singh thinks there’s no better time to start. “Being 40 or older is one of the best times to do this,” Singh says. “I have thicker skin from all the things I’ve been through.” An occupational therapist and mother of three boys, Singh launched her social media after realizing she was so busy she wasn’t documenting her children’s lives.

Embracing yourself fully as you are via a selfie can be a very powerful thing, but first we have to recognize the scary parts. “What is the thing you are afraid to see in a photo? asks Teri Hofford, body image educator and photographer from Winnipeg. “Are you afraid to see your rolls, your wrinkles, your cellulite or your double chin? Everyone has something.

In her online self-portraiture course, Beyond the Body, she begins by encouraging her students to take pictures of the thing they are most afraid to see. “Because once you see it, you’re like, ‘Oh, I’m still alive. I’m still here. I am always loved by people who care about me and appreciate me. That split second where my rollers or my cellulite or my wrinkles were in that picture doesn’t take away from who I am as a person.

Singh says having been raised in a South Asian home and culture, honest expression of feelings and sharing was not always encouraged. So she tries to show real life as it is, the mess and all. “If I have a difficult day, I share it. I shared struggles with weight gain during the pandemic. I think when you share authentically, you can connect with people on a deeper level. »

How to take a really good selfie

From a technical point of view, the lighting makes all the difference when taking selfies. “Natural light is your best friend,” Singh says, mentioning the bright, warm golden hour light just before sunset that usually makes everyone look good. “There is 5 p.m. and then there is the early morning, like 7 a.m.”

Hofford agrees, suggesting that any kind of flat light that shines evenly on the face is best for selfies. “Find a window and stand in front of it,” she said. If overhead lighting like recessed lights is unavoidable, Hofford suggests turning your face toward the light. “Seek the light to make sure there are no hidden shadows.” Hofford also encourages experimentation with lighting, such as playing with backlighting or getting creative with lamps, spotlights or flashlights.

But how about feeling comfortable when you take that photo by yourself? Some selfie aficionados record a video of themselves, giving them time to sit in front of the camera and pose continuously. Then they capture their favorite moments when they’re done. “Personally, I like using the 10-second timer,” says Hofford. She also recommends different apps, like CLOS, which uses artificial intelligence to take a photo whenever you move or change your pose.

When it comes to angles, Hofford wants you to explore without self-judgment. “The word ‘flattering’ is usually synonymous with ‘skinny’,” she explains. “Instead, I encourage people to challenge themselves to try different angles to achieve different feelings that go beyond the standard of beauty.”

Here are her tips for posing for a great photo:

  • Look straight in front of the camera, or face on, to appear more confident and sure of yourself.
  • An upward angle can make you look more cocky (in a good way), powerful, dominant, and strong.
  • A downward angle will create a more submissive, soft and sensual feel.
  • Create dynamic images by creating asymmetry when posing. For example, one shoulder higher or more forward than the other or one hand on the waist and one hand above the head.
  • Look for triangles and curves to make the photo more appealing: think pointed toes, bent elbows or knees, supple wrists, relaxed fingers.

To filter or not to filter?

As for filters, Hofford recommends avoiding them if you can, as it’s important to get familiar with how you actually look. For Singh, it depends on the filter. “Some filters really bother me. [But] there is such a range of filters. There are filters that add just a little sparkle and filters that completely change your face, so it’s a matter of what you’re comfortable with. I would never tell a woman she shouldn’t filter her photos if that’s how she feels comfortable. But I think we should all work to get to a place, myself included, where we can post a photo without a filter, right? »

Hofford and Singh say it’s more about how you feel when you take the shot. “One of my tips for getting great photos is to be in the moment with what you’re doing, where there’s an authentic feeling behind it all,” Singh recommends. “I think those lead to the best pictures.”

“Shift your expectations of what your body owes you, what photography owes you, and what emotions should look like in photographs,” says Hofford, who recommends taking a photo when you’re feeling sexy, and not taking it. judge based on the version of sexy. we have been sold. “Did you feel sexy when the picture was taken? So this is what a sexy photo looks like for you.

Selfies tell stories and preserve memories

Singh says that just like wanting to document her children’s growth, she also documents her own life journey and that’s important. “It’s not really what you look like, it’s about the moment.”

“I think mostly of the women who are in that middle age gap, over 40… They didn’t exist in the photos unless there were other people there,” Hofford says. “Part of the problem is that they don’t know they can be alone in the photo. And that’s fine. She jokes that most people will have pictures of dead people on their walls before they hang a picture of themselves. “At least have a photo where you are just full body, you feel confident.”

For me, as a writer of personal stories, posting selfies has become a new way of storytelling. Looking at our faces and seeing our life stories told through growing wrinkles, dark spots, grimaces or smiles can be deeply transformative. I wish someone had told me a long time ago that a lot of life is all about experimentation and that creativity can be found anywhere.

From documenting new adventures and cute outfits to capturing how I felt or who I was on a particular day, selfies remind me that I’m progressing. A way to refer to myself and see myself differently in the process. Like I’m saying, “Hey, you’re getting old. Get used to it. Find what’s beautiful here.