'You can get everything else in a music video right but if the beauty shot of the singer isn't perfect, chances are it is not going to work,' says Daniel Pearl. He has compiled some 500 music video credits and earned countless awards along the way. 'The beauty shot is a close-up where the diva connects and reaffirms her relationship with the audience.' Following are excerpts of a conversation about beauty shots:
You have filmed a lot of beautiful women?
PEARL: I've been fortunate to photograph many beautiful divas including Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Toni Braxton, Shania Twain, Janet Jackson and others. They are all beautiful to start with, but it's still a precise science. I model and sculpt everything else with light, but that doesn't apply to beauty shots. Film is a two-dimensional medium and a shadow implies depth. There are only a few shadows tolerated in beauty shots and they've got to be in the right places.
Are there basic rules for great beauty shots?
PEARL: It's important for your subject to know you really care about them and you can't fake that. The great divas all have an inner beauty. We have to earn their trust so they show us their inner beauty. They have to feel comfortable and relaxed and know that you are going to make them look great.
How do you decide how to light beauty shots?
PEARL: The first thing I do while we are saying hello is really look at their face. I'll orientate them toward the light. I may ask them to step by a window or to spin around in a chair. I size up their facial structure. Are there weaknesses or strengths? What about the shape of the nose, cheekbones, and jawline? Is their face symmetrical? Most people part their hair to open up the good side of their face. Basically, I use light to de-emphasize things they don't like and to accentuate their best features.
How do you use light to de-emphasize? PEARL: Wrinkles show up as dark lines, but if we drive light into them they disappear on film. It's the same with bags under someone's eyes. You begin with the key light that is usually pretty close to the line of the lens. I shift the light a bit to one side or the other based upon the structure of the face. Some divas look best in dead-on hard light-- depending on where its placed--and others need softer light, maybe through a diffusion frame or a Kino Flo. Someone with a chin problem shouldn't wear high, white collars because the light will bounce back and accentuate the chin.
What determines the angle of light?
PEARL: If someone is tired with bags under their eyes, you want the light a little lower. If there is a strong muscle under the eyes, it should be higher. You always have to put a sparkle in their eyes because that's how they connect with the audience. Often, I'll use a white or silver bounce card from below or maybe an eyelight.
Are there new tools that you find useful?
PEARL: There are new, bigger lights and faster films with finer grain structures, but it also comes down to the individual. I designed a special lightbox to shoot Mariah Carey for MTV Unplugged and often came up with a different lighting rig. I am always trying something new, trying to keep ahead of the game. I tend to shoot the slowest, finest grain film available but its also situational. I have no hesitation about shooting the (Kodak Vision) 500T film and pushing it one-stop because I always shoot in Super 35.
What about video?
PEARL: Why would you shoot video on a beauty shot?
Denis Reggie has been described as 'the great wedding photographer of our day' by Town & Country and 'the best of the best' by Harper's Bazaar - not bad for someone who came into photography by accident. Reggie was born in Crowley, Louisiana, in 1955 but originally his aspirations were purely athletic. His career, however, was curtailed by injury, but in order to keep hanging out with the football team he brought along his camera and starting taking sports pictures; a background that was to serve him well in the arena of wedding photography that can be equally hazardous.
Throughout college, Reggie took photographs for his local newspaper and on graduation he was sufficiently confident enough to realize that there was money to be made in photography and he became a full time photographer in 1976 in Crowley. Today Reggie is best known for creating a photojournalistic approach to wedding photography. He has photographed the weddings of Mariah Carey, Alan Greenspan, author Tom Clancy, Peter Jennings, the marriage of Maria Cuomo to designer Kenneth Cole as well as many Kennedy family weddings in his own inimitable style. In all Reggie photographs 52 weddings each year and his work has been featured in publications such as W, Town and Country, Elle, Vogue, Glamour and Harper's Bazaar. In between this hectic working schedule Reggie makes frequent appearances on television and he has been a guest on Oprah, Entertainment Tonight and the NBC Today Show. Reggie says that he still gets motivated when he sees the reaction of the bride and groom and their parents to his pictures: ' I live for the reward of knowing that I've made someone's life happier and that I've given news to people about an event that they would otherwise not have been able to understand or to see. It's a great profession and I love what I do.'
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