I’m fortunate to do many things as a hair artist, from teaching my colleagues in the salon or classroom to presenting my work at hair shows and through photography.The latter is one of my favorite roles—I love collaborating with a creative team on a photo set to produce the best possible images.I create the hair for the Joico photo collections, for my own collections and I’m also hired from time to time to work on sets for other fashion clients.
No matter what I’m shooting, there are a few rules that I always follow, which ensure that I’m contributing to the creative process in the most productive way.If you’re spreading your own wings on photo sets, or even if you’re looking for insights into improving your salon work, here are some of my secrets from the set.
1.Get on the Same Creative Page
Every photo shoot starts with an overall concept and it’s critical for every member of the creative team to completely understand that concept.Everyone must be on the same page about the purpose and vision of the shoot and how you’re all going to achieve that goal.Don’t be a diva, be a collaborator.You’re there to add your expertise, but don’t lose sight of the fact that you’re contributing to the big picture.
2.Learn to “See” Like a Camera
I call this my “third eye.”The camera often sees a hairstyle differently from what you or your client sees when you look in the mirror.Nowadays, film resolutions are so sharp that every hair appears magnified.As a result, your work might look messy, or it might look hard and unreal on film so you have to adjust.It’s also important to be aware of where the camera will focus—it the photographer is shooting the model’s face, for example, you don’t have to spend much time worrying about the back of the head!If you’re uncertain of what the photographer is seeing, simply ask if you can look through the camera.And, nowadays, most shoots are digital so you can look at each shot on the studio monitor and assess it right then and there.
3.Strive for the Oval
Whether you’re working on a client or on a model on set, the objective when creating a flattering hairstyle is always to approximate an oval face shape.The oval is the ideal, and no matter what type of look I’m creating, I always strive to use shape, proportion, light and shadow to give every face an oval appearance.
4.Prepare, Prepare, Prepare!
Preparation is so important.The right foundational set or texture will allow you to get the best end result. So take your time during this phase and prepare the hair carefully and properly—no shortcuts.Use enough of your chosen styling product to get the job done, but not too much or it will show up on camera looking stiff and phony.
5.Step Away From the Hairspray
When it comes to styling products, start slowly and apply lightly.You can always add more but once you’ve applied too much, it’s hard to go back.It’s often necessary to restyle the hair many times during a shoot, so you want to be sure that the hair is never too solid or stiff to manipulate, which can happen if you apply too much styling product or hairspray at one time.
6.Focus on the Silhouette
In a two-dimensional photograph, the silhouette—the outer part of your hairstyle—is crucial.It may be round, square, abstract, messy or asymmetrical but it must be discernible or you basically have no shape to your hairstyle at all.
7.Then Focus on the Interior
The interior is all about the texture, density and feeling of the hair.This is where the concept of the shoot most influences your decisions.If the overall feeling is sleek and modern, you’ll want to use a flat iron to produce a smooth texture; if it’s romantic and embellished, you may want to produce luscious curls with rollers or a curling iron.Think about your desired end result and then plan very carefully how you will achieve that look.Select your tools, your technique, your products—all with that final texture in mind.
8.If It Doesn’t Feel Right, It’s Probably Not
Your hairstyles have to “live” harmoniously with the model, the make-up, the clothing and the lighting on a shoot.If you look through the camera or at the monitor during the session, and your eye and your gut tell you it’s not working, it’s probably not.If that’s the case, don’t be afraid to speak up and change it!And be open to input from other members of the team.Sometimes a fresh eye can uncover something that you simply haven’t noticed.Often all it takes is a minor “tweak”—a different angle, a slight adjustment of height or width—to create a more positive scenario.
9.Connect With the Model
I always try to encourage and communicate with my models—it makes them more relaxed and eager to please.When I’m friendly and considerate, they feel as if they’re part of the team instead of merely a “head” or a “coat hanger” on the set!
10.Go With The Flow
Things don’t always turn out the way you expect, but sometimes that’s ok.It might turn out even better than you expect! Above all, don’t panic and don’t force the hair to do something it doesn’t want to do.If you over-work it, it will always show.
About the Author
Demonstrating strong talent early in his career, Carney served as artistic director and principle trainer for one of London’s top hairstyling academies. He was tapped by creative powerhouse, Trevor Sorbie, to join his legendary Covent Garden Salon.Since 1999, Carney has wielded his scissors and unique artistic vision for Shiseido Laboratories as the “International Artistic Director” for the beauty giant’s prestigious Joico hair care brand.In 2006, Carney channeled his passion for education into establishing Damien Carney London, a modern, mobile hairstyling academy with satellite offices in London, New York and Los Angeles.