Beauty Photographers & an Eye for Faces
Talented beauty photographers have a special eye for faces and features and love exploring humanity within the scope of what a macro lens will allow. If you’ve read about our portrait photography background, you know that the people are at the heart of what we do and why we do it. Since I was little, I could see a person one time and remember them 5 years later when I walked past them on the street. I may not have known their name or heard their voice, but I knew their face. Eventually, I turned this weird recognition of people and obsession with faces into an art form through photography and casting direction.
The Beauty of Beauty
Beauty is an interesting genre because you have a very small space to play with. In fashion, we can rely heavily on the styling, posing, set, etc. to add interest to the frame. You can ‘wow’ with all of the ingredients in the mixture and get a lot of help from very talented team members. But, with beauty, you are more limited in what you can do.
Beauty is about the face first and foremost, then the concept, and finally the execution. If the face is emotionless or lacking interest, call it quits. If the makeup and hair are just a touch off, pack it up. And if the shot is ‘wrong’ technically or misses the mark artistically, then you’ve let a lot of people down. It’s a sensitive and magical beast, this beauty business; but when it comes together well, it can be pure magic.
Sometimes it Takes Two
I do love a challenge. And shooting multiple models, especially up close and personal, is exactly that. First, there is a natural human factor to consider. What if the two models don’t like each other or are uncomfortable with people in their personal space? Then, there is the synchronization to battle with. You could spend an entire day trying to get the models’ expressions and moods to align. Plus, there is the issue of talent, which is glaringly obvious when there is an imbalance. And before all of this even becomes an issue is the process of casting for multiple faces that will look at home together in the frame.
In casting, you have to consider who will look good together and make sense as a duo, trio, or group for the concept. If you are going to use multiple models, should they match perfectly or are they each serving a different purpose for a different audience? Even if they are both attractive and talented, there are details like skin and hair coloring and whether they complement each other. A lot of people think that getting two caucasian blonde girls together will be an easy thing to get right. Wrong.
Caucasian is not one-color-fits-all, nor is any race (I have a lot to say about race requirements and expectations in casting, but I’ll save that for later). Everyone has their own unique skin tone. There are people with blue undertones, more yellow in their skin, people whose highlights go very red or very green depending on what lighting condition they are in. Makeup artists know this quite well. There are caucasians who have a golden tone that tans easily, which works beautifully for different colors of swimwear. While others seem to stand out like a sore thumb against the sand. So, you have to treat the casting process delicately and give it the consideration it’s due.
Elle & Ali
All that being said, when it works, it works really, really well. Elle and Ali are a terrific example of that. Their coloring complements each other beautifully and they share all of the important qualities to make them feel at home together visually. But, they are also so different looking compared to one another that they each lend something unique to the image.
One of my favorite things about this set is that you have the opportunity to view the women apart and together. In the images apart from each other you can admire them for the beauty that they each possess. Elle’s large, cat-like eyes are striking to see. They are emphasized by her almost heart shaped cheekbones and delicate lower jaw. Ali’s brows are uniquely her own and frame her sultry eyes in a way that is almost haunting. Her bold, broad face encompasses the frame and serves a the perfect canvass for her features, including plump lips that sit perfectly between the base of her nose and tip of her chin like a custom work of art. As you stare at the images longer, you notice how every feature on their faces complements the others.
A Teachable Moment
When Elle and Ali finally come together in the frame, the wonder deepens. You might be tempted to ask, as humans naturally do, what would happen if their features were switched? If Ali had Elle’s eyes and Elle somehow wore Ali’s lips and freckles? What would they look like then? (Like a model version of Conan O’Brien’s “if they mated” game, which I play in my head every week.)
The answer is important and I think significant on a personal level as well. Because as you ask these seemingly silly questions while staring at two remarkably gorgeous human beings, you realize that the answer is simple. They wouldn’t be the same. They would not appeal in the same way. And the magic of these images would disappear. Because they are perfectly created to be exactly as they are.
Making it Personal
Upon reflection, you can start to apply that to other people and if you’re open to it, to yourself. If you had that nose you thought you wanted or the eyebrows you frequently wish for, or fuller lips or a tighter jawline, would you still be the unique version of yourself that you (should) love? The you that without a doubt your friends, family, children, pets, and/or partner adore? Would you be able to make the same silly facial expressions at your dogs or smile to your person in the way that you do now? I won’t answer that for you. But I can tell you that for myself, the answer is ‘no’.
As you continue to stare at these two beautiful humans, you recognize that while they have similar descriptors (blonde, caucasian, tall, pretty), they are quite different from each other. And you must accept that different is really quite beautiful. Being the same and spending too much time coveting what others have is a losing game. And, the worst part is that it takes away from the unique beauty that each of us offer.
That’s one brilliant lesson that I think a lot of beauty photographers learn. With the wide variety of faces out there, we get excited about so many of them. The wildest features tend to appeal to me and I am always on the look out for something I’ve never seen before. Someone who triggers the instinctual reaction in me to pull out my camera and document how special they are. But, the most classic of beauties have also captivated me and inspired me for months on end. In the end, the entire spice rack of humanity is intriguing. The differences and the unexpected similarities. It’s the beauty of connecting with someone on a soul level who you share little in common with. Or, seeing familiar eyes and a homey smile on someone from a completely different continent.
A Note From This Artist:
Now, I realize that this might seem like an unusually deep analysis for several photos of some beautiful women. But, I believe that it matters. Photos speak for us and to us. That’s why advertising is so powerful and has been blamed for so much. I hope and believe that we are starting to change the impact of advertising for the better. Intent is important and messaging cannot be ignored. We must be conscientious of the choices we make in who we cast, what we say, how we depict it, and what is implied. Hopefully this deep-dive into the inner-workings of my brain demonstrates why I love beauty photography and how it has come to mean more to me than it does to most.
If you like this collection, take a look at our shoot in Hawaii.