What have positive and negative associations got to do with being photographed?

What have positive and negative associations got to do with being photographed? We spend much of our lives experiencing positives and negatives and what we do and don’t like. This can be in the things we choose to do and have to do. Perhaps, we’ve discovered a favourite holiday destination and some will choose to return to the same place regularly. It’s their happy place. We gravitate towards the things we enjoy by choice and strive to keep most of it positive and rewarding. 

Some things may be more of a challenge to us for whatever reason. But often have to be done as a necessary aspect of achieving a more enjoyable life. 

But what has this got to do with being photographed and seeing images of ourselves?

For many, we dislike the experience of being photographed as it reminds us of something really unpleasant from the past. It can be from childhood, or come from anywhere in our adult years. The resulting images just reflect that back to us with a negative reminder. It could be from a specific event, or just as commonly, a combination of learned behaviours and expectations.

Positive and negative associations being photographed – however, interestingly, we seem to remember the negatives more than the positives. So yes, you have positive associations from life. They are simply the things that don’t bother you in the least and you give them little thought. I’ll come onto these further on.

Referring back to my previous blog on “Body Parts in Photographs”. Lets take a look at a few general examples and how an association brought them to their current thinking:

‘I don’t like my teeth showing’

A child may have worn braces as a younger person and told to keep their mouth closed for a photograph.

“I hide my ears with my hair”

At school a child was told to tie their hair back and were teased about their ears.

“I want to lose some weight before I see you”

Weight is a common issue for many and may have been a source of negative comments. Or, we have learned by association through advertising and social media pressure that we should be thinner. This can lead to a challenge with self-esteem. It is further confirmed by the western culture we live in and the expectations placed on us. 

Comments we have had from the past:


“You must have been beautiful when you were younger”


“You always ruined the photographs when you were a child”

Yes, sadly I’ve heard all of these and many many more.

So our current negative thinking towards being photographed can come from strong associations with things that have happened in our lives. In almost all instances, it was never your fault or responsibility. I refer back to another recent blog “What really going on in a photograph”


But as these are learned behaviours and associations, they can be changed.

I mentioned earlier that we also have positive associations. From my own journey, I have a list of both negatives and positives that shaped how I felt in front of a camera. Discovering this has given me power to my elbow (so to speak). It gave me the opportunity to target the things I wanted to change. It gave me the opportunity to reflect and feel good about the positives.

Fortunately society is beginning to change its thinking and attitudes and becoming inclusive to everyone, whatever, size, age, colour, culture, or sexuality. All the things that may have been cause of a negative association. This can also be a generational thing and take society quite a time to acknowledge.

There can be more complex areas of associations, but nearly all connect with how you felt at the time. So part of your journey to LoveYourImage can be identifying these negatives, understanding and changing them. 

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