How to love your larp photos: A guest post by Joanna Piancastelli

When the photos from a larp are released, there can often be a moment of dissonance when how you thought you looked at the time collides with the reality of what the camera captured. When the two don’t line up it can be easy to feel bad and get caught up in negative self-talk about your appearance that can sour the memory of a great larp. 

But by taking some time to revisit photos you don’t love with a clear head, you can often get past an initial negative reaction and start to see the larp magic in them that everyone else sees. Here’s the approach I’ve started taking when photos drop – perhaps next time you feel that lurch of not looking how you want, give it a try and see if it works for you.

Step one

Look through the photos and give the bad thoughts space. Let yourself think them, maybe even write them down. It’s okay to have bad thoughts, self-image is hard and the deck is stacked against us by unachievable beauty standards in the media. Give them a few minutes and then, importantly, continue on through the process.

Step two

Counter the bad thoughts with evidence. Remember the compliments you got, individually or as part of a group. Do your friends the courtesy of not calling them liars by dismissing the positive things they said about your appearance. Every single like you got on your pre-game selfie was someone telling you you look bomb. The fact that the photographer put this photo in the selection that was worth editing and publishing is a statement in and of itself that you, as that character, were worth recording in the moment and worth sharing after the fact.

Step three

Look at the photos again and actively work to lay your gut reaction alongside what an objective viewer who had no inclination to be judgemental might see. Probably less “bloated sack of potatoes in a badly fitting dress” and probably more “cool cyberpunk who is in further over her head than she realises”. In one larp I’ve attended it was even “this photographer is more skilled at taking action photos than making conversations look good”, so don’t feel the need to put everything on yourself.

Step four

Action points. Identify the things you can practically do to make the next set of photos more to your liking. For example, my action points from a recent larp were 

  1. Do longer costume tests so if my costume is going to stretch and wrinkle weirdly after I’ve worn it for an hour at least I know that in advance
  2. Work on my posture, and investigate things like more structured undergarments and heels to give me some help in that
  3. If I’m having scenes with people more than a head taller than me in loud surroundings, sit down
  4. Practice posing for staged photos and not just standing there like a lemon.

(Incidentally, things like “lose weight” or “get younger” aren’t helpful action points, that’s just more negative self-talk. The whole idea here is looking the best version of the selves we really are rather than pessimistically wishing we looked like something else.)

Step five

Now you’ve looked at the photos enough times to get over the initial emotive reaction, look at them again, intentionally optimistically this time. Find the good things, find the ways they look awesome, find the reasons the photographer included it in the selection. 

Because honestly, chances are you look amazing, and if you let that initial gut-punch of not looking like you imagined stop you from ever giving the photos a second chance, you’re going to miss what everyone else sees when they open the shot, which is probably powerful, Hollywood-level intensity and a larper they loved playing with and who looked exactly like they should.

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