Photo Phun

I’m really running out of title ideas, sorry. But this poorly-titled blog post is brought to you by my RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 8 obsession, Acid Betty:

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Gee, I don’t know what it is about her that fascinates me…

Betty is a controversial queen, because she’s really playing up her bitchy side for the cameras and the editing is responding by presenting her as the villain of the show; it happens every season and usually I cannot stand the girl who gets the ‘bitch edit.’ But Betty’s look is right up my alley, and when she presented this look for the Oscars Runway challenge I had to pledge her my allegiance for the season:

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I LIVE
It’s also easier to love her because she is clearly PLAYING at being a bitch and not just behaving that way by accident; it’s a role she’s been sharpening for years in NYC, but the reality show audience is interpreting her as overly harsh. Whatever. My beloved Pearl from Season 7 was a controversial queen too, but ultimately it’s the look that wins my heart, and Pearl and Acid both have mine in spite of whatever shortcomings might get highlighted by a reality show. Rumor is that Betty doesn’t make it much farther in the competition, though, and that is going to seriously bum me out if it’s true – usually the queens I favor go far in the competition so I will hate it if this time my idol sashays away too soon. But, there is a hell of a lot of good talent on the show this year and plenty of other queens to root for if this is the case. Moving on.

I’m also bummed because I have to  travel tomorrow for a work conference; sure, the destination is San Diego, CA, which is great, but still, there’s the traveling part to deal with, and I hate that. I don’t like flying in spite of how much I love airplanes; it’s not that I am at all afraid to fly (and in fact I actually quite like that part of it) but I hate dealing with airports, meeting deadlines, and most of all I hate packing. The day before a flight I always go into a complete panic, feeling like I am not prepared to travel at all and going shopping at CVS to buy as many tiny bottles of things as I can find, making list after list and double-checking everything out of fear I am going to leave something behind, or get to my destination only to realize that I packed the wrong shoes or am in a climate with dry, cold wind that leaves my lips parched and in need of the Blistex I forgot to bring. This is completely illogical, of course, because unless one is traveling to a remote location boots and Blistex can be purchased in any number of stores, but there it is. I panic nonetheless. I think it has to do, psychologically, with my need for safety, routine, and familiarity; I have a very CERTAIN WAY I like my mundane daily activities to proceed, and when in another location far from home I am thrown off completely. I unpack and immediately realize I don’t want to wear ANY  of the outfits I brought to wear (especially if someone with whom I am traveling brought clothes that look better than mine do; yeah, I’m that vain). I realize I should have brought a comfy pillow since the hotel ones are cheap, or that I really would like to have the flat iron with the 1.5″ barrel instead of the 1″ one I brought along. In short, I am high maintenance, and traveling just ain’t my thing. But off I go anyway.

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Praying I bring the right flat-iron

This past week I worked more with Portrait Pro on the photos I was able to take over Spring Break, and on occasion I continue to use too much skin softening and coming out looking a little plastic. That happened in this case, so I did my usual and added a bunch of texture and overlays to hopefully disguise it a little bit. It’s funny, because clearly I don’t care if people know I edit the hell out of my photos for effect – my face shape, nose, and eyes in particular are completely re-created here – but when I overdo the skin smoothing it reads ‘phony’ to me. And the reason why I end up overdoing it so much is pretty silly too: after sharpening the photo (which is generally the last step) I can magnify the photo to full-size (which is freaking HUGE) and see all sorts of flaws in the skin that the sharpening accentuates, and it bugs me so badly I have to go back and re-soften all the big pores, fine wrinkles, and color inconsistencies that you really can only see if you magnify the hell out of the photo – AS IF ANYONE BUT ME EVER DOES THAT. No one, and I mean NO ONE is blowing my photos up to full size to look at my pores or messed-up makeup application aside from me, and yet I do it every time and obsessively correct all the errors anyway. And there’s the rub: it’s the little lines and flaws that add depth to the face, so when I edit those all away the end result is a face that looks like it’s been sculpted out of butter. I do a better job than most at keeping the texture and sharpness of everything else without going overboard, but try as I might I just CANNOT leave the skin alone. Some day I’ll learn.

Another new feature I’ve tried out a few times with Portrait Pro is the hair-coloring feature – in the photo above, the wig I’m wearing is actually black with dark auburn highlighting in the front (it’s the same wig as the second photo posted here), and in the one below my hair was actually a highlighted blonde (it’s the wig from this video review):

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The software does a pretty damn good job with changing haircolor and maintaining the texture of the hair, if you do it right and have time to play around with it, at least. It’s all so much fun and gives me hours of entertainment; I remember when I was a kid how much I loved to turn the ‘tint’ knob on the television while watching ice skating, because the skaters’ dress colors would change (yes, I am old enough to remember when there was a ‘tint’ knob on televisions, and I was weird enough to actually spend hours doing this). That’s kind of what it’s like to play around with changing my makeup and hair color in Photoshop (I also used to use markers to re-color all the makeup on the models in the JC Penney catalog when we got it in the mail, so I’ve been strangely entertained by stuff like this for awhile). Speaking of re-coloring my makeup – in this shot I was originally wearing bright orange lipstick that really looked horrible on me (I can pull the orange off, but not while wearing watered-down colors like peach and ash blonde) and another fun side note is that the peach top is actually a cardigan, and to use it in these photos I put it on backwards – something I do quite a bit if I really want some of what I am wearing to show in a portrait (see this collage for other examples, all three portraits were taken with a shirt or dress on backwards).

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OK now, I know this photo is over-edited all to hell (especially  based on all the comments it got on Flickr which pointed this out, albeit in a good-natured manner) and yet, I think it really works. I don’t know who I look like here, it’s someone I can’t place right now but it’s definitely not me; I really liked how I was able to bring out (i.e. totally fabricate) the peachiness of the skin and makeup and man, in spite of its flaws that wig takes BEAUTIFUL photos. I hope my friend Lana can doctor it up and wear the hell out of it, because it is lovely.

After over-editing the skin and thinking it looked too flawless (no, I did not wake up like this) I tried out a black and white version, but in the end decided to stick with the color, as I usually do since color is my THING.

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It’s quite interesting to work this closely with my face and learn what tweaks I feel take me from perfectly acceptable to fabulous; I always widen the distance between my eyes because they are a little close-set, and I definitely do slim down my nose, even though my original nose isn’t a feature that has ever bothered me – it’s just more visually appealing when it’s a touch thinner. I also mess with face shape a bit; I usually prefer to shorten and slim my chin a little and widen my brow, making my face more heart-shape than oval, and even though I already have a nice neck (length-wise anyway; age-wise it’s seen better days, but COME THRU Photoshop and it’s all good), I tend to go ahead and make it longer anyway since for a portrait it’s more appealing. My cheekbones are pretty good, and I’m good at using contour to add depth to them anyway, so I don’t have to do much there; and then I go to town playing around with color, completely changing my makeup shades and usually doing something to change the color of my eyes. And yes, in the first photo shared here I made one eye blue and one brown, just because.

Honestly, the main thing that I feel I would change about my face if I could isn’t possible through plastic surgery, which is widening the distance between my eyes. With glasses on they can easily look even MORE close-set, which is why I am so particular about the size of the frames I will wear. But you can’t go to a plastic surgeon and ask him or her to MOVE YOUR EYES TO A DIFFERENT LOCATION ON YOUR FACE, and if you do and the surgeon agrees, please run away quickly and save yourself. So, Portrait Pro and makeup tricks it is. Moving on.

Two more I messed around with this week; I’m OK with these two, but they’re not thrilling, so I don’t have much to say about them. The cloth over my face in the second photo is just a shirt I was flinging about for the hell of it, and believe it or not I captured this shot without trying at all to frame my face with it; the top just flew up that way as the camera went off, so I thought that was pretty cool.

It’s past 9 PM here and I need to get my butt to bed so I can wake up at 4:45 to make my flight, so I’ll leave you with this last shot, which is one I really like; one thing it makes me think to mention is that the Portrait Pro software really only works in shots where the face is looking directly into the camera. The program uses adjustable placement points to determine where the features of the face are, so when the face is in profile or greatly off-center it just starts guessing where the eyes are, or the nose, or whatever. The result of this can be amusing, but unattractive, so I’ve learned by now to use PP sparingly in shots where the face isn’t basically head-on. I used it to shorten my chin, slim my nose, and touch up my lips a little here, and that’s it – but, because the software insists on finding TWO eyes even when there is only one showing, before I edited it out there was a random, misshapen, floating eyeball hanging out in my hair, complete with wonky eyebrow. It was amusing, and I should have saved a copy of it that way for posterity, but I did not. So here she is, without the hairy eyeball, and with this I will say good day, until next time:

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Yep, it’s the backwards cardigan again. And you can see some of the wonky wig hairs at the crown that I mention in my video review, too. But other than that, it’s a lovely wig.

12 thoughts on “Photo Phun

  1. Such beautiful work here! I might steal that backwards top idea for next time I have a headshot taken. My neck is always a struggle because I get a red rash on it and it’s long and skinny. Very long.

  2. It takes a lot of courage to reveal your person in such a candid fashion. “Bravo”. Love it.
    I think your “travel” anxieties are “universal”. I hate to travel for all the same reasons. Your
    photos always the icing on the cake. Travel safe. Catch you next on your return.

  3. OMG that wig is everything in your photos I’m loving it and so can’t wait to rock it. Also wearing tops or sweaters backwards seems to be in right now. Also I think you have very pretty eyes and I think they look fine where they are. Just saying 😉

    • Thanks just got back! And I did try taking some photos without makeup and adding it, but the results weren’t all that great. Keep in mind my middle-aged skin is quite blotchy and uneven, so this might work much better on a younger face. But for me, the makeup definitely helps!

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