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The Whole Picture—A Professional Beauty Photo Shoot

By: Jesse Hill and Aniko Hill
Posted: August 3, 2010, from the August 2010 issue of GCI Magazine.
The Kitchen Collaborative

Photographer: Jesse Hill; Art Director: Aniko Hill; Model: Amanda Riley/Ford Models; Makeup and Hair: Hilla Peer; Photo Assistant: Stephanie Cottle

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A carefully selected location can add a sense of lifestyle and mood to the image of a beauty shoot. Location selection can be as comprehensive as a casting, and can require weeks of planning and scouting. Location photography is much riskier and often more expensive than studio photography. In addition to the extra rentals needed for a mobile production, there can be uncontrollable variables such as weather. If shooting at a private residence, public beach or park, or commercial interior, adequate planning needs to be done in advance to secure permits and releases for all production elements.


Before digital photography, the editing process was much more elaborate and time consuming. Now, the preliminary selection of the final images is often done on the set with the client as the images appear on the screen. From there, the ultimate selection of the final “hero” image should be done very carefully, and is usually left to the art director and client. The image then comes to life through retouching and color correction.

The use of Photoshop to enhance or correct images is well-known, but good retouching is when the viewer doesn’t notice it. In fact, current research shows that women are very aware of the false imagery out there in the beauty world and are actually more likely to identify with a brand that shows a more realistic interpretation of women. More recently, the trend has shifted away from unnatural, “plastic” faces, and imperfections such as visible age lines are now seen in advertising photography. Dove is one brand that has embraced this concept, having recently completely repositioned the brand and now owning the idea of embracing “real” women. Regardless of trends, the amount of retouching should be appropriate to the product—a skin care shoot, for example, may require a more natural look while an edgy fashion or cosmetics shoot may require more stylized retouching.

Karl Lagerfeld once said: “There is no beauty without strangeness.” To us this means in order for beauty to be believable, it has to be authentic. Even with all the preparation, on-set technique and postproduction magic involved in a beauty photo shoot, the audience ultimately needs to be able to identity with the image of beauty presented—even if it is idealized. If the image is manipulated too far beyond realistic standards of beauty, it can lose its emotional connection to the audience.

Jesse Hill, photographer and art director of The Kitchen Collaborative, realized his passion for photography during extensive travels through Europe and the Middle East, and attained his professional experience in large-scale photography productions working on premier advertising accounts such as Skyy Vodka, L’Oréal and Revlon. His photography is globally syndicated through Getty Images, and his images, including portraits of Oscar-winning actors and Grammy-winning musicians, have appeared in publications such as Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Rolling Stone and Time.