Expert Advice

Hair Magazines Help with Ultimate Makeovers

Victoria Wurdinger | July 10, 2011 | 6:18 PM

Hair Magazines Help with Ultimate MakeoversTelevision shows work what look like miracles with real-life folks. The message: subtle changes won't cut it when it comes to the makeover. Clients want bigger, bolder. In fact, the more metamorphic, the better.

Do the makeover right and not only will you get a client for life, you'll have the most powerful promotional tool in the world: mind-blowing before and after photos with dozens of uses.

Magical transformations start and end with the right model. Frances DuBose, owner of London Hair in Charleston and Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, built her reputation on incredible changes long before they became hot. She says finding someone who photographs well is the number one priority.

The Right Stuff

"You can use existing clients or women you find in a mall, but if they don't photograph well and aren't excited about making a change, you're wasting your time," DuBose says.

Her rundown for the photogenic: great bone structure, near-flawless skin, close-to-the-head ears, a medium-sized proportional nose, a great neckline and full lips.

"You can do a lot with make-up and you can re-shape brows, but you can't change a big nose," she quips.

Double or pointed chins limit photographic angles. The ideal upper lip fits flat on the upper teeth, so that when the model slightly parts her lips, you see some of the teeth, not a black hole.

DuBose has been photographing her transformations since 1978, which makes her the reigning Queen of the Makeover. Stylists flock to her for input, and recently, an up-and-coming color company hired her to handle, from beginning to end, a photo shoot with six models from different backgrounds in a range of hair colors.

Her best advice for making certain your makeover is a spectacular one? Don't rush things. Start with a goal. Tear out pages from salon magazines that depict the feeling and types of styles you want to create. Both cut and color changes make the transformation far more powerful, and commercial, wearable hair will give you the most mileage for your work.

So, too, will avoiding overtly seasonal fashions. Even if you're going for a close-up, the right clothes make the model. When DuBose planned a shoot she knew she'd make into gigantic salon posters, she even picked clothing colors to work with her decor.

During your model search, do a complete analysis of the individual's hair texture, facial shape, eye color, skin tone, bone structure, maintenance routine and features to camouflage or enhance. Discuss the changes you have in mind and always use visuals. You want your model to be as happy and excited as you are.

"Stylists think cutting long hair short is the ultimate makeover, but you don't have to remove a lot of length to make an amazing change," says DuBose. "If you have someone who's been doing roller sets or has a dated look, give her hair a great new shape and flatiron it. The change will be dramatic."

Taking the essential before shot of your model gives you an idea how photogenic she is. All you need is a digital camera and a neutral background in your salon. If it's a go, make certain she'll sign a model release giving you permission both to photograph her and to reproduce her shot in hair magazines and for display. If she's under 18, have a parent sign the release.

Musts to Avoid

Pulling off the perfect makeover means focusing on the don'ts as much as the dos. Two of the biggest mistakes hairdressers make: choosing a model for her beautiful hair and using a friend or relative. Great hair on a less-than-pretty model will never read. And unless your niece is truly stunning to people outside the family, keep the peace by using clients or strangers.

Great make-up makes or breaks more photo shoots than anything else, says DuBose, and you should never work with a make-up artist whose work you aren't familiar with. Check out portfolios to see if they do the type of work you want, and do a try-out.

The same goes for photographers. Some specialize in technical work, not beauty; others are better at shooting indoors than outside. Putting together right team, from model to make-up artist to fashion stylist, puts you more than halfway to success.

And while model theory trends toward "younger is better," that's not necessarily true for photography meant to promote your work. If most of your clients are 35 or older, that's who you should be photographing-or at least models that group will find aspirational. "Career women" makeovers will also get you more ink.

"Whether it's hair color for the right skin tone or a younger look for the working woman, developing a story makes your photos much more interesting to salon magazines and newspaper editors," says DuBose.

She'd know: One of her makeover photo shoots appeared over four pages in an overseas hair magazine because so few submissions featured models other than young girls.


If you've planned ahead, the many details that come into play on-set should be a cinch. Make a storyboard of each model with her before shot and magazine tearsheets of styles similar to those you'll be doing for her after look. This also allows you to pre-plan and arrange all the tools you'll need.

Photo shoots give you the chance to create more dramatic hair color than you'd normally do. In fact, if your work is too subtle, it may not show up on film or digital chips. Color intensifiers and glosses or refreshers help punch up shades.

Unless your model requires corrective color or conditioning weeks in advance, do the cut and color as close to the shoot date as possible. DuBose does all her model prep Saturday afternoon if she's shooting Sunday or Monday.

While she can handle six models a day, novices should start with two, three max, she advises. Plan on two or three style changes for each model. Any more, and the hair will become overworked.

"On-set, I start with the cleanest, simplest look," explains DuBose.

"I flatiron the hair first to check my hair cut. A simple sculpting lotion adds body, and a thermal styling spray helps me work in the shape," she says. "Use hair spray with your last style only. All the time,

I see stylists spray the hair to death for the first look, and discover there's nothing else they can do without shampooing."

Estimate how long it will take you to create each style, and how much time each model will be on-set being photographed. Make certain you get photos from various angles. Assistants can start preparing your next model while you watch the hair on-set or vice versa. If you've got a storyboard, a timeline, all the right tools and a few helping hands, you'll be able to concentrate on doing your best work.

"Be critical of yourself and your work," stresses DuBose. "Some people just aren't able to objectively analyze and assess their own skills."

Extreme Payoffs

DuBose started out photographing her work for black-and-white ads she ran in the local paper. Today she uses her before-and-after photos for everything from gigantic salon posters to client-reminder cards.  Her makeovers are frequently published in style-selector books and magazines.

Recently, one of her shots was chosen for the cover of a national hair styling magazine-the ultimate compliment, she says.

Other great uses of photo work include postcards that depict hair color makeovers, business cards with your work on them, salon look-books, press kits that you send to local newspapers and your salon's website. If you use your own clients, they'll encourage friends to check out their changes online, and you'll reap a whole new community of clients.

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