Blame it on Google.
At least three or four times a week, we receive a request from readers asking us to delete their photo from our site. In most cases, they are snapped at a party, where they are smiling, with friends or a significant other, sometimes with a drink in their hand. They willingly give their name to a photographer (either from CultureMap or from the organization that submits the photos) and are usually excited to be noticed.
Well, you wouldn't believe the anguished emails and phone calls I regularly receive from readers begging me to take down their photo.
Although the photo looks OK to me, their reasons for wanting it taken down often border on the absurd.
Although the photo looks OK to me — we are sensitive to appearances and don't knowingly publish a snapshot with a person's mouth wide open or with a protruding tummy — their reasons for wanting it taken down often border on the absurd.
They want the photo removed because they think it makes them look fat or they are pictured with a former boyfriend or girlfriend. They have a drink in their hand or — horrors! — they look like they were having too much fun. In one case, a perfectly adorable woman at a Beyoncé concert asked to have the photo removed so her parents wouldn't see it.
I suspect in most cases they wouldn't really care, except that when they search their name in Google, the party photo comes up in a prominent place.
I can't begin to figure out why some photos show up in Google and others don't — when I Google myself, after the first few photos of me show up, there are pictures of Dr. Phil, Britney Spears with shorn hair, Lady Bunny and Dr. Joyce Brothers.
I usually explain that even if we did remove the offending photo, it will continue to show up in Google, because it's already been cached by the search giant. So the photo is going to remain in a prominent position for a long time.
Also, we don't want to get Google mad at us for removing news information from our site. They can tell and they don't like that.
But I don't mean to make the world's largest search engine the bad guy in a situation like this. While we strive to be fair and accurate, and welcome reader comments even when they disagree with us in mean-spirited ways, we can't go around removing stories or photographs just because somebody doesn't like them.
A better option, in my opinion, is to figure out ways to make yourself look better in front of the camera — so that no matter where and how you are photographed, you look fabulous.
I went straight to the source, CultureMap editor-at-large Shelby Hodge — our veteran social scribe who knows the scene better than anyone in Houston, to secure these tips to ensure a pleasing party photo:
- Never stand front-on looking into the camera; you'll always look better if you turn slightly sideways,
- Look in the mirror before leaving the house and determine your best side; for example, if your hair is hanging down in front of your face on one side, you don't want to emphasize that for the camera,
- In a single photo, your body looks thinner if you hold your hands on each hip (that's how the Hollywood stars pose on the red carpet),
- If you are posing in the middle, don't put your arms around the other two people because it will make your midsection look wider,
- Hide your drink behind your body or put it down on a nearby table.
Shelby's predicament is usually the opposite: People at a party she is covering will do just about anything to get their photo snapped. Her tips for them: Arrive early and don't wear black. Colors photograph so much better.
A couple of other options:
- I've been told that if you have yourself photographed wherever you go, the newer photos will eventually push the offending one down in the order of images on Google. So get photographed a lot.
- If you have any hesitation about having your photo published, don't pose for a picture. One woman from a prominent Houston family makes it very clear that she has no desire to be photographed, so we leave her alone.
But I hope you'll agree to be photographed and enjoy the experience. And smile!