Wednesday, January 28, 2009

smoke and mirrors

I spent yesterday at a photo shoot. Between writing my third novel (or at least trying to; that's another story), I'm working these days as the fashion and beauty editor of a women's magazine launching this spring. (I'll post the name of the magazine at a later date; for now the project is a secret.) Part of my job is to go to fashion shoots and make sure I like the clothes.

We were photographing a "real person," which is to say, not a model. The woman in question was very attractive--tall, poised and naturally pretty. She was comfortable in front of the camera. In the magazine, it'll look as if she just strolled off the street into the studio and said Cheese.

It struck me, though, as it always does, just how much work and artifice went into making this one woman appear pretty much the same on film as she does in real life. She arrived wearing no makeup and looked lovely, but had she gone in front of the camera that way, she likely would have looked tired and washed-out. Enter Brandon, a makeup artist with a big smile and a belt full of brushes, who applied layers of foundation, concealer, blush, lipgloss, more concealer, mascara, liner, shadow, powder, more concealer--and those are just the products I remember. It's more makeup than our subject may have ever worn on her face at one time, yet on film she'll seem to be wearing a bit of lipcolor and mascara.

But Brandon wasn't the only soldier in our army. Mark, the hairstylist, did our subject's coif and stepped in between shots to brush each curl back into place. Tiffany, the wardrobe stylist, arrived with a rack full of clothes and spent her time straightening stray wrinkles in our subject's pants. There was the photographer, and two assistants to adjust the lighting. From our magazine, an editor was there to do an interview, the art director to approve the photos, and, of course, me.

Bringing the grand total of behind-the-scenes busy bees to nine.

And that was just for one quick portrait. Imagine what the shoot for a big fashion spread looks like.

Something to keep in mind the next time you compare yourself to a photo in a magazine.


  1. Congrats, lady, on the blog and the mag! Good advice for all -- my favorite part is when the perfect photo is viewed, then it gets all gussied up in PhotoShop, do deal with further "imperfections."

    Nothing seen in print is real, I reckon. So, it has little to do with me! I's real, baby, I's real!

    Miss you and would love to chat when you have a moment.


  2. to quote Leonard Cohen:
    I don't like your fashion business, mister
    I don't like those drugs that make you thin
    I don't like what happened to my sister
    First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin