How I Used to Be Camera Shy and Resist Taking Photos (Plus: Join Me in FREE Camera Confidence Workshop by Dove!)

When I was young (particularly in my secondary school and JC years), I hated the camera.

Why? The thing is my photos would always turn out ugly and unlike me. My face would always look much broader and chubbier and my body, stubbier than it actually was in real life. I would also look unhappy and morose, even when I wasn’t trying to be.

Take for example, my class photos (mine is the only face not mosiacked):

My primary school class photo (Rulang Primary School)

Primary school class outing (I was from Rulang). My face somehow always appeared rounder on camera.

My secondary school class photo (Bukit Panjang Government High)

Secondary school class photo (BPGHS). Looking stern and morose, even though I wasn’t trying to be. <.<

My JC class photo (Pioneer Junior College)

JC class photo (Pioneer Junior College, a new JC then).  Same issue of face appearing broader and rounder than it really was. And goodness, my fringe always had a way of looking awkward on photos!

And the thing is, I actually looked okay here compared to other photos of me at that time! Some, I couldn’t even recognize myself!! It was as if it was a different person altogether. Even my friends would ask me why I looked so different in photos compared to IRL, which I didn’t have a response to. <.<”

Many times I would look at my photos and wonder, Is that even me? Why do I look so different/ugly here when I don’t look like this in person at all?

That the guys (AND girls) in my schools would look at photos (neoprints were the trend then) and yearbooks to check out girls and compare who was the prettier one over the other didn’t help. It made me scared of being in photos because I didn’t want to be objectified for my looks inside (or lack thereof).

Hence, whenever someone so much as suggested taking a neoprint/photo, I would weasel my way out of it. For inevitable photo taking sessions like for class photos, I would panic from before the photo was taken all the way till I saw the shot, after which I would feel depressed because I didn’t look good in it. I would then deny the photo’s existence by not looking at it, stashing it away, and/or destroying at some point later.

Hence, I don’t have many photos of my adolescent years. If you were to ask me for photos of myself between 12 to 18, I don’t have many — if any — to share, because I had either opted out of the photos or destroyed majority of my photos from that period.

Breaking Out of My Camera Resistances

After my teens though, I began to warm up to the camera. I was subconsciously tired of hiding from the camera and not having nice photos to remember my life by when my friends and classmates had no such issue.

So, I conquered my fear/resistance, one step at a time.

I started off by taking self-shots with my camera phone. (I was using an old-school Nokia phone then and later a Samsung flip phone. The flip phone with a frontal camera was great for self-shots.) This helped me to learn my good/bad camera angles and gain camera awareness. Seeing that I could actually look nice/good in photos for once built up my camera confidence.

Slowly, I developed the habit of taking photos, especially during my business trips which were frequent in my previous job. (I was in my early 20s then.) After all, who gets to travel to a different country every month? I didn’t want to let these memories pass me by as I rarely traveled before that (my parents always felt traveling was a waste of money). While I was taking mainly environment shots and less of myself, it was a big step forward for the camera resistant me.

Then slowly, I warmed up to the idea of taking photos with me in them. With good friends and for important events such as birthday celebrations, new year countdowns, and my farewell party when I left my ex-company, I would be game for photo taking since it was the best way to remember the day by.

During the last day of my internship (2005)

With my ex-boss during the last day of my internship. (2005)

My 22nd Birthday Celebration

During my 22nd birthday celebration with friends. (2006)

Countdown to 2008 with my friends

Annual countdown party with my friends as we ushered in the new year. (2007)

It got to the point where I became comfortable with not just being in front of the camera, but being on the media, being tagged by filming crews, and being on live national/regional TV where I would be seen by millions.

Celestine Chua on Channel News Asia, AM Live!

Live on Channel News Asia talking about setting new year’s resolutions. CNA is broadcast around the Asia Pacific region, including Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Indonesia, and Philippines.

Close-up shot of me on Good Morning Singapore!

Live on Good Morning Singapore! on Channel 8, Singapore’s most highly viewed channel with 1.8 million viewers daily! (As of 2011.)

At my home with the Channel News Asia crew

Being interviewed and filmed at my home by Channel News Asia (with Suzanne Jung)

Soul Sisters: Filming one-to-one coaching

Being filmed by MediaCorp in day-to-day activities. Here, I’m conducting a private coaching session with Roxanne, a long-time PE reader. (This filming is for MediaCorp’s upcoming documentary on inspiring women; will share more when it’s airing!)

Today, I’ve reached the point where I’m entirely comfortable being before the camera, be it for photo taking or video recording. I take photos of myself and my life on a regular, daily basis: from my daily life, to my travels, to being with my loved ones.

Not only do I love taking photos, I also openly share photos (and even videos) of myself for everyone to see. I’ve publicly shared private photos of my travels, my proposalmy engagement shoots, and even shots of myself without makeup and with glasses on my blog (read by hundred thousands of people each month) and my Facebook (with over 11,300 followers to date).

To me, photo taking is an important way to capture life’s precious memories and to share them with my loved ones (including you!). If you ask me, I wish I had overcome my camera resistance issues much earlier, because then I wouldn’t have to struggle so much with the camera in my teens and I would also have had more photos to remember my teenage years by.

Camera Shyness: It’s Not Just Me

The camera-loving person I am today is a far cry from my past self where I hated and resisted the camera. While I have addressed my camera issues, I thought that my past camera resistances were isolated to me, and hence never referred to it on the blog.

Until Dove reached out to me recently to involve me in their latest Camera Confidence initiative, part of their Campaign for Real Beauty. (Any of you saw their Dove Evolution ad before? I love that!)

For those of you who don’t already know, Dove is an international personal-care brand with skin care, hair care, and facial care products. I personally own a number of their products, from their shower cream to their hair conditioner.

As a brand, Dove is committed to inspiring women to celebrate their own beauty and helping them recognize they are more beautiful than they think. These are philosophies which I vehemently believe in and regularly write about on PE.

Dove’s team shared their global research statistics on camera shyness1 which I found quite appalling. Apparently…

  1. 77% of women are ‘camera shy’ (i.e. have hidden from camera before or feel self-conscious in front of the camera).
  2. 63% of women have destroyed a photo where they didn’t like how they look. Even photos of fun events and important life moments are prevented/destroyed by ‘camera shy’ women, hence causing them to lose precious memories! (How many of you can relate to this?)
  3. 65% of women are more anxious about their looks when having their photo taken/uploaded than if they were speaking in public (47%), going on a first date (44%) or going to a job interview (41%)!! (What??)
  4. 41% admit to altering their photos before posting them online, from cropping out a part of their body (19%), to retouching to erase a facial mark (19%), to removing wrinkles (10%).
  5. Nearly a quarter (23%) of women describe the way they look in photos as too fat, while only 5% think they look beautiful. ( :( I can definitely relate to this.)

And more saddening…

  1. Only 4% of women would describe themselves as beautiful2. :(
    • (If that’s not bad enough, the corresponding figure for Singaporean women is only 2%!)
  2. 55% of women are more camera shy today compared to 10 years ago.
  3. 19% of women do not have photos of a once-in-a-lifetime vacation, 14% of their wedding day and 17% of the birth of a child. :(

Source: The Real Truth About Beauty; Revisited – Dove global research 2010
Source: Camera Shy – Dove global research 2013, conducted among 500 women in eight countries around the world)

(Check out Dove’s Camera Shy video below: it went viral with over 17 million views within four months!)

(If you’re unable to see the video, visit:

Camera Shyness: What PE Readers Have To Say

I found the statistics a little saddening, especially the part about how some women do not have photos of important events such as a once-in-a-life-time vacation or even their wedding.

As you guys know, I’m getting married next year May, and getting a skilled photographer (and videographer) is one of the top to-dos for me and Ken right now. We feel it’s important that we get the best photos/videos of that day because it’s going to be one of the most important days of our lives.

Apparently the issue of camera shyness isn’t limited to just “women out there”. When I did a quick survey on my Facebook/Twitter asking if any of you have camera shy moments, I received similar responses:

Reader Russ shares her views on camera shyness on Twitter

Russ shies from the camera when the camera isn’t hers.

Leonardo doesn't like the camera because it makes him look fatter

Leonardo dislikes the camera as he feels he looks fatter on photos.

Nafy doesn't like his photos because he feels he looks abnormal

Nafy hates photo taking because she looks different from others.

Mary doesn't like the camera because she doesn't like the way she looks

Mary avoids taking photos as she doesn’t like the way she looks.

Laurel is camera shy because it makes her look like a ghost/red-eyed demon

Laurel is camera shy because photography doesn’t always capture her best side.

Charumati weighs in on her camera shyness issues

Charumati is camera shy as she doesn’t exactly know what to do when before the camera.

Rahana is camera shy but wished she took more photos in her teens and 20s

Rahana has always been camera shy but wishes she had more photos of her teens and 20s which are now past.

How to be Camera Confident

Unlike what many may think, camera confidence actually has little (if nothing) to do with how you look. You can look drop dead gorgeous but still be camera shy; I once met this girl who is very pretty but is totally resistant to photo taking or video recording for some reason.

Camera confidence comes from embracing your beauty inside and out. I’m camera confident today not because of how I look (as I mentioned above, I’m totally cool taking and sharing photos of me even without make up, wearing day clothes and wearing nerdy glasses), but because I’ve addressed my beauty anxieties, regained my inner power over the camera, embraced my beauty inside and out, and learned how to let my real self shine with or without the camera.

“Love the Camera, Love Yourself”: Join Me in Dove’s Camera Confidence Workshop!

In line with addressing camera shyness among women today, I’m proud to announce that I’ll be working with Dove on their upcoming Camera Confidence Workshop to help women overcome camera shyness and develop camera confidence! :D Because really, every woman is beautiful in her own unique way and there’s no reason why any of us should resist or hide from the camera. YOU are beautiful and you deserve to shine in your own light and beauty. I will help you to achieve that in this workshop!

Dove Camera Confidence Workshop

Here are the details (oh, did I mention it’s free too??):

  • Date: 30 November 2013 (Saturday)
  • Time: Full day from 9am to 6pm
  • Agenda:
    • You’ll learn how to develop camera confidence with me in the first half of the day through my four-step camera confidence framework.
    • I’ll teach you to break past any camera anxiety, regain your inner power over the camera, own your beauty (both inside and out), and let your real self shine in front of the camera! Many exciting things planned as with my usual workshops/courses, because you deserve nothing but the best! :)
    • Following which, you will get a FREE Dove photoshoot with portrait photographer Suasti Lye, where you’ll get to apply the lessons you just learned! Hair-styling session and makeup will be provided free before the shoot, all courtesy of Dove.
  • Prizes: Besides the free ticket to the workshop, you also receive the following exciting prizes:
    • An exclusive Dove instant camera
    • Dove goodie bag with S$200 worth of Dove products!

It’s a workshop not to be missed!!

How to Sign Up (It’s Free!)

Two simple steps:

  1. Visit and fill up your details.
  2. Share your thoughts about camera confidence (through the form on the site) and why you want to be a part of this workshop!

10 most inspiring entries will stand to win a free ticket to the workshop along with the prizes above!

This workshop is event is only for females in Singapore.

I’m personally very excited about the workshop and look forward to working with you there! :D Dove is a very inspiring global brand and I’ve always been a big fan of their Campaign for Real Beauty, which started in 2004. I can’t wait to work with you beautiful ladies during the workshop itself!

Submissions end on 12 Nov, but do fill out your particulars and send in your entry now as there are already many entries coming in!

Share Your Thoughts!

Any questions about the workshop?

What are your views on camera shyness?

Do you have any experiences or stories to share about it?

Sound off in the comments section! :D

Update: The workshop is now over and was an amazing success! Check out the photos at the workshop plus my feature in Dove’s Video Commercial!: My Dove Camera Confidence Workshop Photos and Feature in Dove’s Video Commercial!

This is a sponsored post in partnership with Dove. The post and content are 100% me. I will never write about something I don’t believe in.

  • Miss Elf

    This is great! Thank you for this fabolous opportunity :)

    • Miss Elf

      And I read it to quickly :) I thought it is gonna be like a video online conference – live on the internet… Oh well, maybe some other time :)

      • Celestine Chua

        Aw it’s a pity you can’t be a part of it Miss Elf! Perhaps the Dove in your country would have a similar localized campaign of some sort which you can join in as a participant. :) Which country are you from?

        • Miss Elf

          Maybe Dove will have or maybe some other company… I come from Slovenia, Europe.

  • jcnurul

    I use to feel uncomfortable with cameras too.
    Til i join Junior chamber international, members there jus love taking photos, and as this year president, i am always required to be in photos.
    So no more camera jus cant afford to be when you are the leader of the organisation.

    So my tips, join youth org and take leadership roles, you will get use to the camera very fast

    • Celestine Chua

      Agree that being in leadership roles will push you to warm up to the camera faster. Running PE and being put in the media due to my work has definitely pushed me to warm up to the camera faster than if I didn’t. And I’m grateful for that because I realized my past camera anxiety and resistance was nothing more than just a mental blockage causing me to miss out on life, not a real physical one.

  • Larry Hochman

    Hi Celes,

    A couple of years ago Dove had an advertising campaign that featured “regular” women. Many were plus size, not very physically fit…and all were beautiful. It’s always the same thing: beauty radiates from the inside out. And I love that more women are starting to figure this out…and some in the media support it. Thanks!

    • Celestine Chua

      Hi Larry, I hear you! I know exactly the campaign you are referring to, though not sure about the “not very physically fit” part, as it’s possible they were fit but were simply plus size. (For example I have this friend who is short, quite stumpy and very plump, but boy that girl can RUN!!! She is very fit but somehow her body is just on the bigger/round-side.)

      I totally second what you said: I love that some in the media are starting to support this, even celebrities like Kate Winslet, Tyra Banks, and Katherine Heigl. It’s an uphill battle but I feel the awareness is now increasing!

  • Madalina Sraier

    I have the same issue with taking photos, but lately I’ve been trying to push through the discomfort and just try to take more photos with my friends. Every now and then I use the same trick you used, Celes, and I take some selfies (but this is a rare thing, I find it amusing to take photos of yourself). I used to look worried in photos because my eyes would be wide open or my eyebrows raised. And I’ve always thought that I look chubbier in photos than I actually am in real life. I’m still not 100% comfortable with taking photos, but I’m working at it.

    • Celestine Chua

      Hey Lina, practice makes perfect!

      I realized that I couldn’t “identify” with the me in photos in the past because I had not come into my own yet (or my “true” self had not stepped out of my shell, so to speak). As I grew into my own, my real personality began to emerge, and I began to see more and more of my real self in my photographs. So in a way, it was through working on myself that my camera anxiety issues began to melt away, which I alluded to in the post.

      Not that that relates to anything you wrote, but I thought that it would be of interest.

      I think re: your eyes being wide open or eyebrows raising, it sounds similar to my issue in the past where I would wonder why I looked like I was scowling or smirking in the photo when I was really trying to smile at the camera! (LOL.) Lack of camera awareness and self-body-awareness were the key issues.

      By taking self-photos or simply putting myself more often in front of the camera, it created a feedback loop for me to learn and correct expressions/poses such that they really reflected what I was trying to convey. I’d say it’s no different from how public speakers improve in speaking by watching presentations of themselves speaking and identifying their blind spots.

      • Madalina Sraier

        I can totally understand how discovering yourself and becoming more of your true self can help with anxiety in front of a camera. When you get to know yourself really well, you become more confident and you’re more relaxed in all sorts of situations.

    • Moonsparkle

      I occasionally take close-up photos of myself with my camera but they tend to end up looking a bit weird because of the angle (I think), lol. I expect it’s easier to take them on a phone but the camera on my mobile isn’t that good quality. I’m planning to get a BlackBerry, maybe I can practise taking more selfies then!

  • Hilda

    Thanks for informing, :), actually I am not that good in front of the camera, so I have sign up for this too.

    • Celestine Chua

      Hi Hilda, that’s awesome! Hope your entry gets picked and we can get to work together during the workshop! :D

  • Sharon

    Hi Celes, Thanks for the invitation! I’ll ask my friend to go with me for this.

    • Celestine Chua

      That’s awesome Sharon! Hope your entries get selected and we get to meet during the workshop! :D

  • Maria G.

    I can perfectly understand you because I`m also very shy and I am always embarrassed
    in front of the camera. I mean not while the photographer is taking photos but while he is taking the video. I don`t even know how to get rid of this problem. Do you have any secrets?))

    • Celestine Chua

      Hi Maria! No “secrets”, but really the four essential steps I mentioned in the post: “break past your camera anxiety”, “regain your inner power over the camera”, “own your beauty (both inside and out)”, and “let your real self shine in front of the camera”. These are the four steps I’ll be covering in-depth in the workshop (it’s a pity you aren’t from Singapore or you’d be able to attend it!).

      I imagine some people have recommendations like imagine the camera is a good friend of yours, then look at the camera as if it’s that person. However, such recommendations may not work for everyone, especially if the person’s phobia/resistance towards the camera is quite high, or if the person has had bad experiences with the camera before.

      Maybe what will help first is to understand what are your camera anxieties, i.e. why are you always embarrassed in front of the camera? Then, work through them one by one. Knowing your anxieties is the first step to addressing the issue; it helps to bring clarity to the problem which will help in busting it.

  • Moonsparkle

    It’s good that you’re camera confident now, Celes. :) I’ve never been that comfortable having my picture taken, although I’m more used to it now because I’ve had pictures taken with my belly dance groups. They are mostly group pictures though. Earlier this year I had a free photo taken at an event because the people taking them persuaded me to have one but I felt nervous and didn’t really like the pic! lol.

    • Celestine Chua

      Hi Moonsparkle! Group shots (especially in *large* groups) will definitely help for extremely camera shy people. :)

      I remember I would “panic” less when taking photos in a large group when I was a teen, though I would still be annoyed when the output wasn’t as desired and there would still be anxiety from comparison effect (as I mentioned in the article, how my peers would take photos and compare how the girls look).

      It’s interesting that much of camera anxiety today (men or women) actually takes root socially, on top of our personal image of ourselves.

      • Moonsparkle

        Hi Celes! I think it’s hard not to compare yourself to others sometimes. We always tend to think other people look better than ourselves. And there are some people who always seem to come out looking better in photos because they know how to pose, lol.

        I think the free camera confidence workshop you and Dove are running is a good idea. :)