Help us look better than usual
January 30, 2007 9:03 PM   Subscribe

Help me look good for my University grad photos. My partner and I are getting our professional grad photos done next week and want tips on how to look our best. Specifically: to (fake) tan, or not; how much makeup; what colour makeup; what to do with my ugly short hair and; what to do with her dreadlocks. (Good luck with the dreadlocks!)

We will be wearing grad robes and our school colours are royal blue and goldenrod. My hair is growing out from being shaved and is a hot mess (let me tell you). I'm getting a haircut soon, but it'll have to be a cheap one and I don't know what to ask for yet. For now it's about three inches long and mud coloured (my wife calls it 'mousy'). My partner's dreadlocks have not yet matured, but they look pretty good as long as her roots are covered.
posted by arcticwoman to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: No suggestions on hair (do you have to take them with that ridiculous square cap? That might help disguise things at least.), but keep your makeup as simple and neutral as possible. I recently got my univeristy photo proofs back, and I think I looked really nice with just my usual mascara and lipgloss. I think for school pictures its best to look like the best version of your usual self, so don't put on any crazy eyeshadow colors that you wouldn't normally wear.

That said, I would forego the fake tan. You want to look like YOU, not orange-you or burned-you.

The only thing I would say is absolutely necessary is POWDER. I never wear the stuff, but you don't want a shiny face in your pictures. Even if you don't appear shiny in normal light, the enormous bulb flashing in your face will pick up any speck of oiliness.
posted by gatorae at 9:28 PM on January 30, 2007

Best answer: If she can sweep her dreadlocks back into a pony, that would look very nice. If not, pinning hair back from the face is almost always the best way to photograph. Women often mistakenly put this lush thatch of hair all around their faces, which looks nice in real life, but can overwhelm in a photo.

As for your hair, can you manage it into a feminine slick? Something like this, but modified for your length?

I second the powder, but I will add that a sheer, slightly darker liptone will balance out your face. Those bright lights wash out your skin and lips.

Do not fake tan. Never looks natural. Good luck!
posted by oflinkey at 9:34 PM on January 30, 2007

Fake tans don't have to look fake. Granted, most do, but for the past few months I (a dude!) have been using Loreal's Sublime Bronze. It looks very natural, as long as you apply it per the directions. It's all also pretty damn cheap (about $10 for two weeks worth of product). You can buy it at Walmart, Walgreens, etc. It comes in towelettes which your spread over your body.

Important thing is to make sure you follow the bloody directions. Apply it evenly. Don't go crazy without it or you will look orange. If you have the time, I'd give it a test run before the pictures (one application, which takes about 2 minutes to apply, lasts about three days).
posted by JPowers at 9:47 PM on January 30, 2007

Fake tan? Well, my friend* founded many years ago because she was a fake tanning enthusiast, and there's a ton of information there by now.

After years of experimentation with a vast array of products, her conclusion was this: lots of things will turn you orange if you don't use them properly; some things will turn you orange if you do use them properly; some things will work perfectly if applied correctly and meticulously. It depends as much on your skin and skin care regime as it does on the product.

* Full disclosure: my friend will receive US dollars if you buy things via affiliate links on her site. I think the site is one of the better sources of information on the subject independently of my personal connection to it, however.
posted by majick at 10:24 PM on January 30, 2007

The main thing for photos is to apply an illuminator underneath your powder or foundation, or even on a bare face. Just apply it thinly, it reflects the light of the flash in a very pleasing way. I'm talking about something like MAC's Strobe cream–a highlighting moisturiser. If I were you I'd go to the makeup counters in your local mall and get a free makeover, the morning of the ceremony! (I'd probably try it out a few days prior though, and use my digital camera to check out the results, otherwise I suppose it could go awry.)
posted by mjao at 12:57 AM on January 31, 2007

Best answer: Both of these questions had some excellent tips on looking good in photos for free.

There is nothing better than a picture in which you just look great (unless you are so photogenic that you always do) and in my experience fashionable hair, etc. can't save you.

I feel your pain, though. I'm a guy and I hate that stage a few months after a shaved head, my straight hair just sticks out too much. My solution? I try to cut back on the frequency of shampooing, i.e. definitely not every day, and the quantity that I use when I do. The natural oils of hair keep my (thin) hair from poofing out.
posted by hooves at 1:46 AM on January 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

Get stand ins. Hire hot people to pose as you two.
posted by sneakin at 3:09 AM on January 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oops, didn't mean to post that without adding: DO NOT GET A FAKE TAN. I really don't think they make anyone look good. Just orange-y and weird. As for your short hair: I have short hair, too and what I usually do before a big photo op is spend a couple weeks experimenting with different products and mushing it around different ways until I get it a way that I like. Do you have enough time to test drive a few products/styles before the big day?
posted by sneakin at 3:13 AM on January 31, 2007

Either remove the mortarboard hat thing or push it far enough back on your head that it's not casting a shadow over your face.
posted by Violet Hour at 4:02 AM on January 31, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for all the tips, I will definitely either go super light on the fake tan or skip it entirely, and I'll check out the cosmetics you recommended. I hadn't considered the glasses aspect - yes I wear them, and I guess I should take them off for the photo.

offlinky, I think that's pretty much the haircut I'll have to get. In general I like it. My only problem is that I'm gay and really self-conscious about not looking dyke-y. I guess if it's not bleached, though, and I'm wearing some makeup, I'll look feminine enough. (I know this is silly, and I'm not proud)
posted by arcticwoman at 10:21 AM on January 31, 2007

Keep in mind that makeup for photography, especially under flash lights (and it will be for these photos), is different than regular makeup. Anything that adds extra "shine" and so on is very dangerous as it can become overexposed (this is especially a problem if your photos are being taken in the "assembly line" style where one person after the other is shot... the photographer likely won't pay much attention to adjusting the exposure between sets).

I'd have a look at some guides on makeup for photography, I found one:

The main advice seems to be to use lots and lots of powder.

Of course it would probably be ideal if you could get a makeup artist experienced in photography work to do your makeup, but that may be rather pricey.
posted by Morbuto at 10:56 AM on January 31, 2007

sounds like you aren't makeup ladies, so you probably wanna go light for the pics.

if you're wearing tons of POWDER (good idea), go over your EYEBROWS and eyelashes with a damp Q-tip to take the powder off them- whiting out your eye-hair is a surefire way to look weird and tired in photos. dark brown or black MASCARA will be subtle but make your eyes pop a bit.

deep neutral LIP COLOUR will look better than bare lips. layer a bit of regular lip balm, a thin layer of mac "spice" pencil, and a bit of clear gloss overtop-- looks nice on pretty much anyone.

BLUSH on the round apples of your smiling cheeks would be nice too (find a colour close to the colour you see when you squish your fingertip. maybe MAC "dame"?).

i think EARRINGS will make both the dreads and the short hair look more formal. maybe 1-inch silver hoops?

the SHORT HAIR will be cute in a slick- that charlize theron pic was a good lead. anne heche, halle berry, natalie portman, and winona ryder have all rocked the short hair too, so searching for pics may yield inspiration. maybe use a dab of silicone-based shine serum to make it gloss a bit.

as for the DREADS- maybe just draw them back off her face with a headband in a slightly formal fabric that will look good with the robe (like a white scarf, or even a white or red men's necktie with the ends hidden)?

if she's black or mixed-race and the dreads are long enough, sometimes tying 2 or 3 pairs of dreads together so the ends stick up, looks awesome (take the dreads from just in front of the ears and tie them at the top of the head, then slip them back an inch or so). this style is not as good on white people dreads, though (they aren't as floppy and tend to stick out stiffly), so you may need to experiment with that one. my old roommate used to double-wrap a striped necktie around her head, ends sticking out at the side behind her ear, tie her dreads up into wild spikes, and wear giant chunky hoop earrings- it looked awesome.

don't stress too much though, the photos are supposed to show "you", and if "you" involves no makeup and an inbetweeny haircut, so be it.

on that track, my #1 piece of advice relates to the fact that in retrospect, i wish my grad photos showed more PERSONALITY- i tried to look smart and ended up looking squinty and awkward. plus the photographer told me to look off into the distance, ugh, cheesy. if i could do it again, i would look right into the camera with a sassy cocked eyebrow and my mouth pulled to the side to accomodate the tongue in my cheek.
posted by twistofrhyme at 6:01 PM on February 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

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