Saturday, January 22, 2011

Digital Photography: Facing the Camera

Now and again, drama comes up in the lolita community about "over-shooping" or "over-processing" photos to look more appealing or visually pleasing. Everybody has a different tolerance level when it comes to digital retouching, and some people have incredibly strong opinions on the topic.

As a general rule, I like to avoid using Photoshop as much as possible. I prefer to cover any blemishes, even out skin tones and enhance other features through make-up rather than digital retouching. This is just my personal mode of operation, but I feel that it's a pretty sound one.

I have two reasons for this philosophy:
  1. I can't control the photos that other people take of me, so I can't hide a shiny nose or zit from their lens unless it's under my make-up.
  2. Editing photos is easier the closer to "perfect" the subject looks, which means concealing a blemish before the photos have been taken makes processing easier.
So, while I plan to talk a bit in the future about retouching photos to conceal unwanted elements, I thought it would be prudent to cover make-up in a general sense first.

Most people who have been into lolita (or any fashion at all) for long generally have a pretty good handle on their make-up. Whether you buy bargain brands at the drug store, shop Sephora or Ulta or only hit up high-end counters in expensive department stores, you've probably got a favorite routine for your make-up!**

For the sake of this discussion, I'm going to assert that there are three "main" categories of product when it comes to applying make-up: skin, eyes and lips. These three categories are really important when it comes to photography, because a photo can muck around with the appearance of all three.

Skin: Avoid shine, cover blemishes. Prepare the canvas!
This is really the biggest and most important part of preparation. It is your base and your beginning. It's also the part of your face that photos can be the harshest with.

Photography, especially in harsh light or with the use of flash, can do some really noxious things to your skin. It can wash you out, put shiny highlights or gruesome shadows on your face. If you're confident in your make-up skills, you can do some serious contouring and highlighting to really emphasize your features.

Since I'm not nearly that good, I tend to stick with the simpler techniques.

When preparing for photos, I always put on a bit of moisturizer to get my skin ready (you don't have to use lotions with SPF, I just prefer that particular line because it's gentle). Many people apply primer once the moisturizer has soaked in (I generally skip both this step and liquid foundation due to skin sensitivity).

However, good foundation will help you avoid shine, and even your skin tone. Primer will give the foundation something to grab on to, as well as shrink down pore visibility. If you are comfortable using these products, definitely give them a shot! Especially if you're going to be under particularly bright lights.

I do use liquid concealer for blemishes, under-eye bags and any visible veins in my eyelids, then coat everything over with a matte, pressed powder. It's been my experience that pressed powders tend to reflect light softly, which can really help you out in photos. On the rare occasions that I'll wear a liquid foundation, I still use powder over top to soften the effect. I also make sure to put all skin-related make-up on evenly, so that my throat and any visible skin down to the neckline are covered.

Finally, a bit of blush goes a long way. Photos tend to flatten faces from a distance, so wearing some blush or contouring make-up will keep you from being turned into a cut-out doll. Don't go too overboard though, or you'll end up looking like either a clown. You want just enough to give your skin a glow, to bring out your cheeks from the rest of your face.

Eyes: Pump up the volume! Don't let your eyes disappear.
With eyes, if you're not standing up close and personal with the camera, you can really lose a lot of detail. Eyelashes are delicate things, and they can end up looking small, or even lost in photos. Even if you have make-up on, this can still happen. So don't be afraid to put the liner on a bit heavier than usual or apply some false eyelashes!

I generally use saturated colors over primer for photos, to make sure that my eyes just don't disappear. Often, the color doesn't show up very vividly, but it can help them pop out a bit more brightly. Laying on the liner and mascara, and putting on the false eyelashes will give you a bit of an edge over the camera's minimizing power.

Choose colors that suit your ensemble, and that also complement your coloring. You want to have some punch, but you don't want that punch to knock out the viewer. Also: blend. Always blend. Cameras freeze a moment, so if you have funky creases or your eyeshadow is uneven or blotchily applied, it will show, and it can be a pain in the neck to edit smooth.

Lips: Make your smile seen.
Because the mouth is such an expressive part of your face, it's important to make sure that it doesn't get lost compared to the rest of your features.

A bit of lip gloss can do a world of good. Keep your mouth in balance with the rest of your make-up. The goal is to give your lips a nice, even tone and smooth texture. They don't have to be fire engine red every time!

Overall, my last bit of advice is simple:
Figure out what works best for you. This is all a matter of trial and error.

Take test photos until you find the right combination of make-up and find what photographs well on you. There are a lot of detailed tutorials out there for particular looks and styles. Hunt things up on YouTube, or join a make-up community.

More dramatic, theatrical looks photograph better, but may not work for events like meet-ups, so adapt them as you will to your style!

** I'm hardly an expert, and definitely not a make-up artist, so you'll want to take my suggestions with a grain of salt, and go with what your experiences have taught you. Always go with what works best for you.



Thanks for the tips :) tbh, I don't really know anything about make-up. My eyeliner keeps smudging off X|

As for shooping, I really don't mind if they look nice, but it's kind of weird if someone shoops their friends without permission/consultation, then posting it up for everyone else to see.

focusing the lens

@ Butters: Ohman. The ethics of Photoshopping without permission are just ... sticky. Though it can be hilarious when only one person is (really blatantly) retouched in an image! :D


I have that pot of Hip eyeshadow. I love love love it.


These are some really good tips. I keep wanting to get some good eye primer but I just haven't gotten around to it.

I think for those who are a little more advanced at make up, contouring can really make a difference. I'm not great at it myself but I thought it was worth mentioning anyway.

focusing the lens

@ Kate: HIP is awesome. I have so many of their little eyeshadow duos. They're so bright and cheerful!

@ HSP: Oh, definitely. I really need to learn to do it better, because it can make a world of difference, especially in photos where the subject is a bit further away or the lighting is more diffused.


I agree, I have a pot of black HIP eyeliner and it is amazing. I also didn't know about powder reflecting light softly! Thanks for the tips :D


I heard SPF foundations reflect light so when the flash goes off, you get a horrible shot. Most of the time when I'm photographed, I either posed awkward or was snapped without notice so I look so derpy in photos.

My biggest problem with my face would be my eyes. They either get lost from distant photos or my dark circles show through.

Mister Sharaf


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