Online Image for Women With Before and After Photos

Online image and women by Annabel Candy

We had a huge basket filled with costumes, outfits and my mum’s old fifties-style petticoats and skirts when I was a child. I loved dressing up then and I still enjoy dressing up for fancy dress parties – you can see some photos of that here. Which was what it felt like recently when I had a professional photo taken. Professional in the sense that I’m planning to use it only on my digital marketing business website.

It was just a cheapie photo shoot that cost $50 and a fun experiment because I’m fascinated by how important online image is women. I understand branding and online image is crucial for business success but I still resist it so I wanted to play the game and see if I could look more polished.

I read an article recently about how many women bloggers are investing up to $10,000 per shoot for glamour model perfect images of themselves to use online on their websites, Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. It fascinated me because for most women that’s an awful lot of  money to spend on anything, let alone your online image.

Maybe it’s meanness that stops me. Maybe it’s a lack of self-belief or the fear of failure that holds me back from investing big money in regular professional shoots. Or maybe it just feels impossible for a busy work-from-home middle-aged mum like me to compete with the bevvy of female online entrepreneurs who sell themselves and their services by painting a glamorous lifestyle picture, complete with model-perfect looks and clothes, exotic locations and famous friends.

But I get it. They’re selling the dream lifestyle and other women want to buy into that. It makes sense. Image sells and if you’ve got a product to sell it’s smart to present yourself as an extension of your product in the best possible light to make sure it reaches as many people as possible.

Plus all women want to look as good as we can online and in real life. That’s human vanity and I’m guilty of it too. Hence my professional photo shoot experiment.

Before the five minute shoot a friend spent two hours cutting my hair, styling it and putting makeup on my face. That was also the first time I’ve even had my makeup done professionally and I paid $200 for it. For a woman who never colors her hair and hasn’t been to a hairdresser for seven years (someone comes to my home) that seemed like a huge spend.

It was hard for me to sit still for two hours but fun to wonder what I’d look like in the end. The results were interesting too. I like the photo and I’m glad I had it taken but I know it could be probably be way better if taken in a studio or using professional lighting.

Maybe one day I’ll spend more and have a proper photo shoot done to present myself in the best possible way but even if I do that I want to keep it real and present the real me online too, depression, anxiety, breakdowns and all.

It’s fun to play dress ups, good to see you can scrub up and look good when needed but better to know that people like you because of what you say and do, no matter how scruffy, tired or wrinkled you look.

It’s equally important to know that glamour shots of other women are just an illusion, even if they’re not Vogue cover photos, and that even if we don’t look picture perfect we can still feel good about ourselves. That our readers and followers will still appreciate us for the value we add to them and the fun we bring, even if we’re not drop-dead gorgeous glamour pusses.

After all, most writers and bloggers choose to work from home because we can wear whatever we like. I always joke with friends that the scruffier I look the better my writing output. It’s true too.

My best writing outfit is a pair of ancient holey sweat pants paired with an old t-shirt. In winter I add a cardigan and slippers. Right now it’s so cold I’m wearing my dressing gown over my clothes. Not glamorous but comfy. I’ll show you a photo of that another day.

But in the meantime here are the before and after shots from my photo shoot. In the before shot, taken on my iPhone, I was makeup free and had left my hair to dry naturally. That’s the way I look 99% of the time.

In the after shot a fabulous professional artist had spent two hours on my hair and makeup and a photographer took the photo.

Both shots present a different picture but they’re still the same person. You can play spot the difference if you like. It’s a harmless game for children that’s still fun. Just like playing dress ups.


How important is online image for women? Is it more important for women online or in business to appear perfect or to be real and authentic? How can we find a balance between those two things?

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  1. Barbara August 15, 2014 at 10:17 am - Reply

    You are the bomb! Any woman who shows before and afters is a very strong woman, who is sure of herself! So, I totally get what you did here. Sharing both images exposes who you truly are, (which is why I love you), and at the same time exposes so many we know who aren’t exposing who they really are!
    Way to GO!!

    • Annabel Candy August 15, 2014 at 10:40 am - Reply

      Hi Barbara,

      Thank you! You’re so kind. I get why some people present only the good though – it’s scary exposing yourself and presenting the real you, especially online where things can be misunderstood, where trolls abound and where everything you do leaves a permanent trail. And it seems to me that people who present themselves as perfect are more popular than those who are more real… We so want our idols to be flaw free even though we know in our hearts that it’s just an illusion.

  2. Cate August 15, 2014 at 10:34 am - Reply

    Hi Annabelle,
    I totally get what you are saying in this post, but want to let you know that, for me, the beautiful smile that comes through in both photos is what tells me most about who you are and all you have to give.
    The professional photo is a bit sharper quality wise, and I just love the way you have done your hair and the ‘natural’ look of the make-up. The most important thing, though, is whether you feel comfortable ‘wearing it’ up there on your blog.
    For the record, you look gorgeous.
    Cate xx

    • Annabel Candy August 15, 2014 at 10:48 am - Reply

      Hi Cate,

      That’s such a great point. I love smiley photos of people! I think this photo’s fine for my business blog but wouldn’t use it here on my travel blog. Thank you :)

  3. Catherine White August 15, 2014 at 11:39 am - Reply

    Too, I think before and after photos are about a journey of transformation. We know life ‘before’ is not perfect. But, do we really believe life ‘after’ will get the guy, the promotion, or the popularity. We don’t suddenly develop self-esteem when we drop 10 pants sizes or our smile is brightened by a new toothpaste, but I do believe, ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos (without too much photo shop) can unveil an inner essence or radiance for which we rarely give ourselves credit. (btw, lovely shot)

    • Annabel Candy August 15, 2014 at 12:17 pm - Reply

      Hi Catherine,

      Gosh that’s a GREAT point about faking it to make it :) Looking good makes you feel and appear more confident so it’s really important when you look at it like that.

  4. Nikki @ Styling You August 15, 2014 at 2:43 pm - Reply

    My readers see both sides – my everyday side and my glammed up side – every day. I love a professional makeup job and spend good money on regular hair colour and cut upkeep but I get it’s not what everyone might like to do. It makes me feel more confident so I do it.

    And I do recommend a professional photo shoot to update your business photos every 12 months or so. As someone who is often asked to supply a headshot for various media or online sites, keeping a stock of fresh images is part of my business collateral. They all look like me – just a more polished version.

    • Annabel Candy August 15, 2014 at 2:50 pm - Reply

      Hi Nikki,

      Love having your input since you’re my styling mentor! Every 12 months sounds like a good plan and having regularly updated photos makes things more interesting for readers and clients too. I like the way you look at the cost as a business investment – online image is important for all of business women now, not just those in the fashion or beauty industry.

  5. QwkDrw August 16, 2014 at 12:52 am - Reply

    Oh, I knew that was you with the bangs and black shirt — in the photo on right side. No confusion here. No, not for a moment! Okay, a little.

    And everyone needs a “best writing outfit” that provides a flattering contrast to their attractive face and physique. One occasionally needs to write in busy public places. Old jeans and long sleeve t-shirt under a full-zip hoodie provide just the desired camouflage for a distractingly stunning person within… only guessing about that public place camouflage bit.

    Your professional photo seems very appropriately styled and looks great! I’d trust business matters to that woman entrepreneur


  6. Fran @ travelgenee August 16, 2014 at 7:28 am - Reply

    I know it is time for an update for me. Mine is ages old. I just struggle with the cost when it could be spent on a few nice meals when travelling. I was thinking of taking a massive pile of selfies and seeing if one was OK. It might look natural. That’s what I am trying to tell myself. Mind you I would have to do my make up.

  7. Rita Vail August 19, 2014 at 2:58 am - Reply

    I do like the bangs, and I understand why women glamorize, but I think you are just fine in the “before” shot also. My favorite photos of you are from back when you were showing us some cute sundresses you had bought. Personally, I do not think it necessary to spend the big bucks, and I wish all the make-up on the planet would vanish. It makes my eyes itch. But because others wear it, I feel pressured to at times.

  8. Seana August 21, 2014 at 2:31 pm - Reply

    I’ve had makeup done for Tv a couple of times and would LOVE to have pro makeup more regularly. Getting a great haircut is always a boost – booked in for next Wednesday. The pro shots I’ve had done are so much better than others but already feel out of date. I’d so more if I were earning more from blog but maybe in a few months I’ll be better at doing my own pro shots and can do some for us both Annabel. And by the ay I agree with Rita that I love your fashion stories, never hesistate to show us your fave travel clothes.

    • Annabel Candy August 21, 2014 at 2:39 pm - Reply

      Thank you Seana and Rita! Note to self – must buy more new clothes and pose on beach in them ;)

  9. Janet aka Middle Aged Mama September 6, 2014 at 4:58 pm - Reply

    Haha you sounds just like me, sitting at my desk wearing my uggies in Winter. I got professional PR photos done for my blog, cost me all of $50 – if you’re in the Brisbane area I can pass on her contact details!

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