Day 335. Say Cheese

It’s funny.  You have no idea how much time I’ve spent at photo shoots over the years.  Countless.  As a writer/creative director in advertising it was part of my job, along with photomy art director partners, to attend shoots.  To make sure we were getting the shots we wanted.  It was the same when I worked in the fashion industry.

That’s why yesterday’s WordPress Daily Prompt really resonated with me:  “Are you as comfortable in front of a camera as behind one?”  

Over the years I developed a really good ‘eye’.  Just standing there, watching, I could pretty much tell which shots were working and which weren’t.  Poring over contact sheets and low res scans has never been a problem for me.  And I can always tell how to crop a photograph for the most drama and impact.  What’s necessary and what isn’t.

Photography is also a hobby of mine.  Not that I’m good technically.  But, again, my eye is good.  I can spot an interesting shot immediately.  And most of the time when I take a picture, I shoot it cropped.  I never realized I did that until my trip to India.  One of my fellow travellers is a professional photographer, and she made me aware of it one day, when we were comparing photos.

I don’t try to do it.  It’s just the way I ‘see’ the shot, as I’m taking it.

All to say I’m very happy, and comfortable, behind the camera.

Vastly different from how I feel in front of the camera.  When I’m the subject.  When someone is taking my photo.  D O    N O T    L I K E    I T    O N E    B I T.  Not one bit.  And, to be fair (to myself), there’s a good reason.  Most pictures of me are hideous.  Once in a blue moon someone catches me when I don’t know they have a camera pointed at me — you know — a candid shot — and it may turn out not bad.

But when I know, I inevitably freeze.  I tense up.  I blink at the wrong time.  I move at the wrong time.  I end up with a stupid smile on my face.  Or a scowl.  I end up looking lop-sided.  Deranged.  Pissed off.  Like a fool.  Cross-eyed.  Like I should be institutionalized.  Like Public Enemy Number One.

Having my photo taken is something I dread more than almost anything.  I’d rather have root canal.  Needles.  Bunions.  Stomach flu.  I’d rather be squeezed into Spanx in 90 degree weather, quite frankly.

With good reason.

When I worked at BBDO, the honchos decided they wanted the entire management team to have new photos taken.  All by the same photographer, so there’d be a uniform look.  Yeah.  Shit.  Shit.  Shit.  There were several of us who weren’t excited at the prospect.

They chose a mother/daughter team.  Yanka and Yolanda.  Yanka is the mother and a former model.  In fact, I knew her very well.  She had modelled for me when I worked in the fashion industry.

No sooner did I arrive than I was thrust into a make-up chair, facing a huge mirror.  Yanka did the hair, make up, wardrobe and psycho babble.  Yolanda was the photographer.  My hair and make up took almost three hours.  No, I am not that ugly.  At least I hope not.  She did it very slowly, so I could appreciate the transformation.  So I could see my features and bone structure become more defined, more accentuated.  I have to admit it was pretty mind-blowing.

And all the time she was blending and shadowing and shading and contouring and covering and outlining and highlighting and glossing and blushing and brushing and dusting and powdering and curling and tweezing and penciling and teasing and blowing and ironing and crimping and fluffing  … she was preparing me.  Mentally.

While staring at my reflection in the mirror, she’d make me talk to myself.  Say out loud how I loved my cheeks.  And my nose.  And my lips.  I kid you NOT!!!!!  She had me saying stuff like “I love my baby cheeks” as she pinched them.  She made me do exercises to loosen our facial muscles.  Don’t ask how ridiculous that looked!!  Thank God there were no iPhones or social media back then, is all I can say.  She went through the same routine with each and every one of us.

According to Yanka, “The key to a great photograph is to be relaxed.  When your muscles tense, the photos always look horrible”.  And that’s what she was doing.  Relaxing me.

Easy for her to say.  I cannot tell you how stupid I felt.  How stupid I thought I must look.  Imagine blowing kisses to yourself in the mirror.  And saying how much you love your chin.  Really!

Finally it was time for my photo.  She did some last minute fiddling with my clothes, added some jewelry and more lip gloss and dragged me on to the seamless.  Suddenly Yolanda appeared, with one camera slung around her neck and another in her hand.  Lights were adjusted.  And she started snapping.  From all kinds of different angles.  While Yanka was jumping around like a rabid monkey, cooing at me.  She was here, there and everywhere.  Like a jack-in-the-box.  Popping on and off the edge of the seamless, barking (nicely) orders and encouragement at me.

Seriously it felt like I was in a Monty Python movie.  Or an asylum.  I swear I’m not doing it justice.  I was shell-shocked by the time it was over.  Exhausted, I headed back to the agency.

The results, however, were astounding.  Outstanding.  Out of hundreds of shots taken, there was not even one bad one.  Everyone else who’d had their photos taken said the same thing.  None of us could believe it.  It was nothing short of a miracle.

Having said that, if it’s all the same to you, I still prefer to be the one behind the camera, calling the shots.


17 thoughts on “Day 335. Say Cheese

  1. Yep.. me too. One of the few.. very few.. that I was ever really happy with, that caught ‘me’.. was the one I use as my profile pic, a candid shot taken in a moment of utter mischief last winter.

    I care less as I get older.

    But I doubt if I will ever be comfortable facing the lens.

    • It’s probably in storage with a bunch of my other agency days stuff. If I even kept it after I left BBDO. But she was right. Being relaxed made all the difference. And the make-up specifically applied for the camera. And the lighting. She applied everything she knew from being a model for years. It wasn’t that I looked like someone else. I still looked like me. So much so, you’d probably look at it and wonder what all the fuss was about.

  2. Pingback: Daily Prompt: Members and Mayhem…Kinda… | The Arkside of Thought by Sahm King

  3. I am known for my ability to duck photos. My child will think she was raised in a single parent home and I have a shredder for a reason. I have never been comfortable in photos or videos. I think I learned it from my grandma who could stay mad for days if caught in a candid photo.

    • I’m pretty good at ducking too. At weddings and events I hightail it into the bathroom whenever I see photographers approaching 🙂

  4. This is a great story, well told! I have to ask the obvious question however, when are you planning to share some of the photos?? You can’t just tell us how wonderful they were, I want to see!

    • HaHa! Another friend asked me that same question. I think they are in storage with a bunch of other work-related stuff I don’t use. I will have to dig around and see what I can find. But you know, it isn’t that I looked like a movie star. I looked like me — just without the usual weird facial contortions :). Glad you enjoyed the story:)

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