The midlifer's guide to... having your photo taken

Annabel Rivkin and Emilie McMeekan
From the holiday ghost to the Insta selfie... some are more flattering than others - ©JGI/Jamie Grill/Blend Images LLC

We are the most well-documented generation in history. There are so many photographs of us; too many photographs of us. Some good. Many ugly. Others shaming. Best not to think about it too much. Actually, let’s...

  1. The holiday ghost - Look at all those sun-kissed characters who have been lolling around Tuscany for a week already. Who is the Victor Hugo character sitting there, clutching a glass of pink with her luminously  alabaster hand and her wispy, defeated airport hair? Oh, it’s you. And you’ve just arrived. Because you had to work. And some ‘friend’ has made this the cover of the Facebook holiday album, which you in no way consented to. See also: unauthorised bikini shots. These are NOT OK. You get to choose when you feel body positive. THAT’S HOW IT WORKS. 

  2. The skinny - This is the thinnest picture ever taken of you. (Annabel: Mine was circa June 2012 at 6am in Venice as the sun came up over the Grand Canal. Can I find it? What do you think?)

  3. The cut-out - Without a doubt the best photo ever taken of you. You look... exactly as you think you look. Better, actually. Trouble is you are wound around someone you now loathe. Probably an ex. And without psychotically cutting their face out of the picture, you cannot, CANNOT extricate yourself in a way that makes it possible to frame or even post on Instagram. This makes you hate them even more. The lost years, the cheating, the boredom, the bad sex, and now they’ve even taken this away from you.

  4. The freaky one - Something went wonky. Why have you got three legs? Or a strange little baby hand? Why does your head appear to be growing out of that man’s neck? You can never un-see this. 

  5. The Insta selfie - The one in a new frock, sparkly headband (what were you THINKING?) that you made your friend take 7,000 times and (happily) never posted on Instagram. The pouting, pouting, pouting – so much pouting. Each one was more deranged than the last. 

  6. The ‘before’ photo - There will be one. Could be from the dentist/plastic surgeon/personal trainer, but here will be a terrible ‘before’ shot that you were in no way prepared for, but were too embarrassed to say no to. It’s on file. And files are leaked. All the time. 

  7. Ol’ crazy eyes - There’s something about the split-second the camera caught your wild, staring eyes, combined with sticky-outy hair and tracksuits bottoms, that makes you look like you’ve spent the last couple of days doing meth and necking Jack Daniel’s from the bottle. No one who looks at this picture will believe Emilie is sober. And has been for 13 years. 

  8. The wedding picture - It wasn’t your wedding. You were recovering from a catastrophic heartbreak. In every image you look like your smile muscles have been cut, you are wrung out like a wraith. You can feel the papery rustle of your dried-out soul when you look at this picture. The artsy wedding photographer was weirdly obsessed with you, so there you are haunting every shot like Miss Havisham in Karen Millen. 

  9. The post-exertion one - You’ve just run a marathon, swum the Channel, given birth, climbed a peak, cycled to Paris. You are hot and crazy, dishevelled and dumbstruck with relief – and radiant with it. You love this picture. And you are glad that you never have to do this again. What were you THINKING?

  10. The professional headshot - It’s your LinkedIn profile pic, your ‘going back to your old school to talk about your career’ pic. It is at the top of the CV. It is the one you send out when ANYONE wants a professional pic of you. It was taken 150 years ago. It will have to last until you die.

Listen to the Midult podcast I’m Absolutely Fine! here​