Why (Most) Women Are Camera Shy

Here’s a photography study by, surprise surprise, consumer giant Unilever’s personal care brand Dove. Right, they want women and men to look and feel beautiful. According to a new Dove global research, self-awareness and photography are closely related. If you don’t feel confident, you don’t want to have your picture taken. Women obviously feel less confident about their appearance, ergo they are missing out on some of life’s most memorable moments because they are not happy with the way they look.

Anxiety about appearance prevents many from capturing precious memories, including photos of a beach vacation, their own wedding pictures or even photos of the birth of their child, according to the study. 77% of women are camera shy, citing that they often feel self-conscious or uncomfortable having their photo taken because they do not feel they are beautiful.

Now why is it that women (not my wife!) hide from the camera as an adult, but loved the camera as a little girl. That’s why Dove produced the 60-second ad below to tell women each and everyone’s beauty is a source of confidence, not anxiety.

The spot from Ogilvy & Mather, London, shows various women dodging the camera to jazzy strains of “Peek-A-Boo” by Rose Murphy. Although the ad’s tone is lighthearted, it makes a serious point: “When did you stop thinking you were beautiful?”

What does this tell the photographer? It’s all about making people feel good about themselves before you snap them.

These are the study’s key findings to combat “beauty anxiety”:

  • More than half of women (57%) admitted that worrying how they will look is likely to have a negative impact on how they feel in front of the camera.
  • On average, women become more self-conscious in front of the camera at the age of just 24.
  • 55% of women are more camera shy now compared to 10 years ago.
  • Women are missing out on capturing memories.
  • 63% of women have destroyed photos of themselves (does my wife all the time).
  • Digital photos are increasing women’s sense of camera shyness: digital photos are even more likely to be destroyed than printed copies — 55% vs. 25% (see?).
  • Nearly one out of three have stopped photos being taken or later destroyed photos of a beach holiday, a significant party with friends/family and even their own graduations.
  • Being tagged in a photo on a social network causes more than half of women to feel more anxious about the way they look.
  • Almost half (46%) have de-tagged, deleted or removed a photo of themselves.
  • 41% have done something to a photo of themselves to enhance their looks before posting it online (“do something to a photo” seems to be an euphemism for post-processing…).
  • Women, it seems, are their own worst beauty critics and will actively avoid situations when their appearance is brought into the spotlight, such as having their photo taken. When confronted with a photo of themselves over half of women (55%) only saw the negative, considering themselves “unattractive,” “ugly,” or “too fat.”

To help women say goodbye to a camera shy mindset, you might consider these tips:

  • Avoid beauty-bashing comments such as “I look so fat” or “I’m having bad hair day.” Negative talk makes everyone feel anxious about their looks. The more positive affirmations you make about her own beauty, the more her self-confidence will soar.
  • Nobody is perfect. Remember that those “perfect” images of celebrities have been styled and retouched by a team of professionals from start to finish. There is no such thing as perfect beauty.
  • Women should not get caught up about how they look in a photo, but rather think about when they are 70 and remember how great it will be to have captured that time in life.
  • Do not fear making memories. Instead of stressing about looks in a photo, women should think about how they will feel when looking back 5, 10 and 50 years from now remembering the joy they had at the beach with family or the celebration shared with friends. When women focus on the type of memory being made, they will find that their face and body will relax, resulting in more natural, genuine smile and true enjoyment.

Well again, my wife is certainly not cameraphobic, she’s the right opposite. Dove tells me she’s different from the rest? Well just because most women don’t want their picture taken doesn’t mean they want to walk around with a bag over their head.

It’s a pretty patriarchal ad campaign. Didn’t the authors spend a little time on Instagram or Facebook or any number of other image-focused sites to find thousands of mirror shots and selfies? Which, of course, is not to belittle the fact that, yes, many women are, in fact, camera shy and do question their beauty whereas most men don’t question anything at all. Except camera matters.

  • James

    I don’t find that most women are camera shy. If so, you wouldn’t have most American women on Facebook (or having had an account at least once in their life). I find that in the digital age, since 2006, women are very much in front of the camera. Being camera shy is different from self-criticism. Camera shy people don’t have their pictures taken!