How Not To Do a Photography Shoot

imageIt was a long day yesterday.

My friend and I participated in a photo shoot – we had been stopped in the centre of Birmingham last month and offered a promotion (at a huge discount) for a new photography studio that had recently opened. As part of the package, there was champagne, a hand massage, manicure, professional make-up and hair and an hour long photography session, with a free photograph at the end and the opportunity to purchase further prints if we liked them.

We were excited, but a little apprehensive – neither of us had experienced anything similar before and didn’t know what to expect. However, we did as we were asked and arrived with some of our favourite outfits, no make-up and natural hair.

I’m not one for complaining when I go out – after years of working in various jobs within the service industry I know how awkward, demanding and rude the general public can be – so I always try and be as polite as possible. However, if I had paid the price that they are usually charging for the package that we had I would be demanding my money back, and then some. While I’m not going to go into too much detail, I want you to imagine that a couple of students woke up one day, hired out a couple of tiny rooms in one of the roughest areas of the city and employed their mate with an SLR camera to take pictures. The studio wasn’t a new one – the company ‘opening’ this new place had in fact arranged some sort of deal with an already existing, run down business.

My make-up artist was very inexperienced, and despite asking lots of questions about the sort of style and colours I liked she completely ignored everything I had said and proceeded to make me look like Jack Nicholson’s Joker in Batman, sticking bright red lipstick on me and putting one of my false eyelashes much higher than the other, which I then discreetly adjusted and improved in the toilet afterwards. Don’t believe me? This was the before and after…


It’s amazing what your own make-up, toilet lighting and Instagram can do isn’t it!


The saving grace of the day was my friend. I’ve known her for a long time, and she’s one of my favourite people. Neither of us were happy with the service we received, but she put a brave face on it and kept me feeling positive throughout the day. She’s a much stronger character then I am, which I was grateful for as she politely put the photographer firmly in his place when he was inexplicably aggressive with us when we first walked in. To be fair, by the end of the shoot he was laughing and joking with us, and we were making each other laugh by pulling silly faces at each other and after a while I was able to relax and enjoy myself. She’s a glamorous woman and was a natural, taking things in her stride and striking different poses in the beautiful outfits she had brought with her.

After waiting for quite a while after the shoot, we were given the opportunity to look through our photographs. I have huge body confidence and anxiety issues and I while I wasn’t expecting the camera to remove 60lbs from my frame, I was hoping for images that would make me feel a little more confident about myself. It had the opposite effect – the angles in most of the pictures actually made me look bigger than I am, and I was completely deflated. I did purchase a few of them (after lots of bartering as they initially attempted charge an extortionate amount of money for them), mainly because my friend looks great, but there was only one of me that I thought was ok. Here’s one of us together that I liked – we look like we are auditioning for the new series of The Apprentice…


I’m not going to include many of the pics, but this was the one that I originally liked. Unfortunately, when I got home and put it on my tv screen (which was much bigger), it looked totally different than during the viewing process. There’s a few issues that bug me… My left eye (which looks totally black) and The Hand. The poor lighting looks like a random person has shoved their arm in front of my face. The more I look at it, the more I hate it. It’s a dead hand.


I tried to experiment and cut it down, even adding an idea for a potential logo, asked for advice in Instagram and from my bloggy friend Steve, who is good at graphics and design, and The Bloke went to work on Photoshop, but it still annoys me.


Stupid dead hand.

However, it was an experience. I enjoyed spending time with a good friend and we had a laugh.

And the next time someone asks me to go and try out a new photography business, I’ll save my money and take more pictures in the toilet instead!

What about you? Have you ever received any poor services or had your expectations dashed?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog and don’t forget to check out my Facebook page and my Pinterest page

Im now on Instagram too – check out my page

Accepting Average


Six weeks ago a friend and I were walking down the main high street in Birmingham, when we were stopped by someone who was promoting a new photography studio that had just opened in the city. After a conversation, we came to a deal that involved a makeover and photography day for us both, complete with champagne and various treatments at an enormous discount. Since then, we’ve had the date firmly booked into our calendars and we’ve been looking forward to it.

Until today, that is.

The shoot is tomorrow. It is rare that I will discuss issues of body confidence unless it focuses on the positive, but today I had to choose a series of outfits to take with me, and the whole process left me feeling totally deflated.

I’m not fashionable or fashion conscious, and never have been. I prefer to spend my time in sweaters and tracksuits bottoms in my spare time, my hair is scraped back on the top of my head and the last time I put any effort into applying make up was in March for my friend’s birthday. My reflection in the mirror today was quite a sorry state – my hair hasn’t been cut for about two years, I have never had a manicure and my eyebrows are beginning to take over my face.

On an average day, this doesn’t necessarily bother me – I have a busy and often stressful life and have better things to worry about than whether my nails are painted. I tell myself that I’m an average woman and I am comfortable with that. However, the process of getting ready today reminded me of how many beautiful clothes I can no longer fit into – my favourite dresses won’t go past my thighs, jackets won’t fit on my arms, and once baggy tops are now tight, revealing the gut that has steadily appeared over the last five years.

It has served as a reminder of just how much I have let myself go. Having to stand in fromt of a camera tomorrow (even when there is champagne involved) is one of the most daunting things I have experienced in a while. It has made me realise that I’m accepting average, and I deserve far more than that.

What about you – do you like what you see in your reflection? Are you open about body confidence issues with your loved ones?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog and don’t forget to check out my Facebook page and Pinterest page

Want to find out what happened? Click the image below to see the results!



The Greatest Thing You’ll Ever Learn, Is Just To Love… Yourself

istock_loveyourselfI love being a woman. In particular, I love the process involved when getting ready for a night out and can often spend hours excitedly deciding on what to wear, carefully applying my make up, straightening or curling my hair, adding accessories, choosing shoes that look beautiful (and will undoubtedly make me lose the feeling in my feet and give me back ache after about half an hour). I do this solely for myself – I like to leave house before meeting my friends or with The Bloke feeling good about myself and my appearance. Those nights are special, a break from the daily grind of normal life and I think that occasionally it’s an uplifting experience to spend a little bit of time pampering myself after working hard all week and I don’t think that there is anything wrong with this. However, most of the time I dress very similarly to the teenage boys that I teach every day – spending the majority of my time outside of work in sweats, hoodies and jammies with my hair tied back and no make up. I make no apologies for this – I have a stressful job and seem to spend a large amount of my time feeling tired and anxious and I take comfort every evening changing out of my suits and putting on something cosy. When I meet friends for a quick drink in the pub or go to the cinema with The Bloke, this is how I usually present myself, sometimes swapping my sweats for a pair of jeans.

When watching television last night, it occurred to me how many advertisements appeared in a very short space of time that were designed to ‘help’ women address the things that are deemed to be wrong with their bodies – dull, lifeless skin, bags and dark circles under the eyes, tired eyes, small eyelashes, thin lips, limp hair, frizzy hair, dry hair, hairy legs, hairy faces and endless workout videos designed to assist us in weight loss or the development of abs and curves.

It made me look at myself and think about all of the the things on my own body that were highlighted in those adverts and that I am insecure about. After gaining 60lbs in the last five years I don’t have a flat stomach (sporting more of a keg than a six pack), I have a large bottom and thighs, I have my father’s large chin, a pointy nose, my skin is oily in some parts and dry in others… I could go on forever. I took the opportunity to ask some of my female friends what they would change about themselves if they could, and the results were extensive:

  • Eyes too small
  • Small eyelashes
  • No waist – flat shape
  • Flat bottom
  • Bottom too big
  • Too skinny
  • Fat
  • Hair too thick
  • Hair too thin
  • Boobs too small
  • Boobs too big
  • Too tall
  • Too short
  • Acne
  • Skin too pale

It’s no wonder that last year the beauty industry in the UK employed more than one million people and was worth £17 billion. However, it isn’t wrong to want to make the best of ourselves. It isn’t wrong to want to spend time making ourselves look and feel good. It isn’t wrong to go to the gym, wear make up, dress in a certain style and regularly visit the hairdressers, as long as this is what makes you happy and helps you maintain a positive lifestyle. Nevertheless, I am always concerned when women (and indeed, men) are doing this for the benefit of others and stop liking themselves and their bodies when they do not match the so-called beauty ‘ideals.’.

Why do we feel that we aren’t good enough the way that we are? Who creates the rules that tell us how our bodies should look?

We could blame the beauty industry. We could blame the magazines, the media, the fashion designers. We could blame the film industry, the actresses, the models. However, I think that, as women, the only people that we can blame for our insecurities are ourselves. Instead of celebrating who we are and how we are made, we allow others to dictate what the ideal of ‘beautiful’ is.


In the spirit of maintaining a positive outlook for 2015, I took the opportunity to look at my body and highlight all the things that I am grateful for:

1. The ‘Barnes’ hips. All of the women – my mother, my two sisters and I – on my mother’s side of the family have large, childbearing hips that we inherited from my grandmother, whose maiden name was Barnes. While one of my sisters has desperately tried to get rid of hers over the years by going to the gym six times a week, she has now accepted that the Barnes hips is part of her genetic make up and a link to her ancestry, and I’m proud that we all share the same shape – it’s probably the only thing that we all have in common.

2. My eyes. I have inherited my mother’s blue eyes and they are usually the thing that is commented on the most when meeting new people.

3. My slightly curved fourth toe. While some may balk at this and suggest getting it straightened, this is another feature that I have inherited from my mother and her father and over the years I have become quite fond of it.

4. Strong legs. After years of participating in sporting teams as a teenager, my legs have always maintained their strength with small definition in my lower calves, even when I have put on weight.

5. My shoulders. I swam for years and consequently have wide shoulders that look good in halter-neck tops.

6. My ears. They aren’t too big or too small for the shape of my face, and I occasionally like to wear drop earings to accentuate them.

7. My hands. I have always been told that I have perfect piano players hands with long, thin fingers, and even though my nails could use a bit of work (it’s impossible to maintain manicures when working as a teacher) I like the way that they look when I wear simple, silver rings.

Remember, the greatest thing you’ll ever learn, is just to love… yourself.

For the New Year, I am issuing you with a challenge. Instead of thinking about all of the things that make you unhappy about yourselves, I would like to to focus on something that you like about your body, and post it in the comments below.

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog and don’t forget to check out my Facebook page


Image Credit 1:

Image Credit 2:

A Question of Beauty



After a conversation I had with my friend in the pub, started by the fact that he was lusting after one of the barmaids, I started thinking about the idea of beauty.

imageSamantha Brick made herself a household name in the UK a few years ago by claiming that she was victimised for being ‘too beautiful’. Consequently the backlash that she received was immediate and on an enormous scale – some chastised her for being arrogant, others accused her of not being anywhere as beautiful as she felt she was, while some simply assumed it was an April Fools joke. She made the headlines earlier last year again by proclaiming that her eating disorders had allowed her to remain skinny and that her husband would leave her if she put on weight.

I read the article and I must confess that I was among the people who, when they saw a picture of Samantha, responded with ‘really?’, – in my opinion she isn’t a particularly attractive woman (both inside and out after reading the awful things she’s written), but it did get me thinking about the role that beauty plays in our lives.


As a woman I believe that we are under a lot of pressure to be ‘beautiful,’ despite the fact that nobody really knows what the absolute definition of beautiful is. However, I do feel that beauty is often directly linked to weight, and as women I think we put a lot of this pressure on ourselves. We can blame magazines for projecting the image that skinny is best, and yet we still continue to buy them. We idolise celebrities who are skinny, with the exception of a few, and take great delight in ripping them to shreds if they gain even a few pounds. Kim Kardashian is the perfect example of this: when she was heavily pregnant her increasing body size and shape was the subject of daily ridicule on the Internet. The poor woman must have been feeling awful about herself as it was (although I could argue here about being fame hungry and the perils of achieving it).


I always wonder who it is we are trying to look beautiful for. I suppose, essentially, we try and make ourselves as attractive as possible for the purpose of receiving attention from potential mates, like many different species do in the animal kingdom. However, I think we as women have an unrealistic view in our minds as to what men want. Ultimately, yes, most people instantly are attracted to looks, but not all men want a skinny girl with big boobs and false eyelashes. The majority of my male friends and The Bloke want a ‘girl next door’ look, and their girlfriends are natural looking women who take care of themselves but don’t look ‘plastic fantastic’ when they leave the house.

I’m not beautiful, but I don’t consider myself to be hideous either. I’ve never been fashionable or interested in following trends, and I prefer to spend my time in jeans and hoodies. At school I wasn’t one of the popular ones – I remember that the person in my year who was considered ‘attractive’ was the opposite of me-short, skinny, brown curly hair that was moussed to within an inch of it’s life – the boys practically jumped on her whenever she walked into the room. When I went to Sixth Form I started to get a little bit of attention from the boys, but nothing of significance.


It was only when I went to university that I started to become aware of beauty and looks. I lived with a girl who was on a fashion course. She was generally considered to be a beautiful girl – fairly short, very skinny, always wore fashionable clothing etc… And the boys loved her. She couldn’t walk down the street without someone whistling at her or stopping to stare or try to talk to her. I remember one night, as poor students, we went clubbing with £5 between us. We returned home hours later with £20, we were drunk, we’d eaten, we’d been into several clubs and we’d had a taxi home paid for us. All she did was to smile and talk to men, and they fell over themselves trying to offer her free stuff. She was gorgeous, but she knew it, and had developed the art of using her beauty to exploit men into getting her what she wanted. Her beauty afforded her an easier life than some – she bagged several rich boyfriends that paid off her debts and living expenses, and she was often given presents.

I read an article by Sidney Katz, who explored the idea that beautiful people have a better quality of life simply because of their looks. After spending time with AG, I can believe it. It leaves me questioning my own beauty and how it affects my life. For example, I’ve noticed that when I go shopping I will be treated differently depending on the way I’ve presented myself. If I’m wearing a hoodie and jeans, I’m ignored. If I go in ‘suited and booted’ with good hair and make-up on the shop assistants won’t leave me alone. I’m still the same person with the same salary, but it is assumed that I can afford more if I’m smartly dressed.

However, the issue of weight with regards to beauty is always a contentious one.


Lots of ‘plus sized’ and curvier women naturally get very defensive about the subject of weight because of the stigma that surrounds it. I have often heard it proclaimed that there is ‘no excuse’ for a woman gaining weight, and this isn’t helped by the fact that many high street stores make it difficult to buy clothes in adequate sizes, despite the fact that the average UK size for women is a size 16. I have gained 60lbs in the last few years and cannot shop in the same stores that I used to, simply because they don’t make items of clothing that fit me comfortably, and have been demoralised when I have found a beautiful outfit that would suit my figure perfectly, only to find that the sizes made are two sizes smaller than my own. I have had comments made by people that I know, and have even been asked ‘when the baby is due.’ The truth is, I don’t consider myself to be fat, and have been embarrassed when it has been suggested that I am. The fact that I am embarrassed seems to prove to me that fat is deemed to be a negative thing.

Similarly, my naturally skinny friends have often had to justify themselves for their weight. One in particular once told me that no matter how much she eats she can’t seem to put on weight, and has been upset on more than one occasion by being informed by complete strangers that she needs to ‘eat a cheeseburger.’

Would I be living this life if I was skinnier or more attractive? Would I have a different career? Different friends? At least I can be sure that I have what I have because of me, and not because of how I look. The Bloke has seen me at my absolute worst, and still wants to be with me. And more importantly, while I would like to improve my fitness, I can still look in the mirror and be proud of what I see.

When it comes to beauty, I think that it is far more important to value your opinion of yourself than that of others. We’re all unique, and we all deserve to celebrate our lumps, bumps, small boobs, big boobs, big booty’s, skinny legs and flat butts without feeling that we aren’t good enough. I’ll leave you with a quote from the fabulous Marilyn Monroe:


What do you think? Is beauty in the eye of the beholder? Do women create false expectations for themselves?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog



A Fat Disney Princess

I have a little confession. I’m thirty-two years old and I’m still in love with Disney. There’s nothing nicer than curling up on a Sunday afternoon with The Bloke, the cats and a bar of Dairy Milk Oreo ‘the size of my face’ to watch a Disney film.

Last year I posted a blog entitled ‘Why Carrie Bradshaw Needs A Slap’, which focused on Carrie’s lack of self-respect in SATC. I received a comment in reply to this post from Anna Allen Chappell, from the site ‘Pretty in Dixie’ about her dislike of Disney films for exactly the same reasons. Continue reading