"Oh, Cordelia Brown, what make your head so red?" ~ Harry Belafonte
Like many photographers, my heart sometimes skips a beat when I see an attractive ginger. Man or woman, a handsome, pretty or even interesting-looking person sporting a shock of red hair is fairly unique, at least when it comes to our portfolios.
It's tempting to approach someone right off the bat when we see the hair. If you have any skill at all as a shooter, you figure it's a can't miss. A styling element that will automatically make your image jump off the page.
And maybe you'll be right.
Still, even those of us who are experienced at critically looking at people of every conceivable color, shape, and size - to the point of being our own casting agents - can be fooled by a single strong visual or wardrobe element, and it's often hard to separate the feature that may wow you in person from the way someone will actually appear modeling in a photo.
I know because it's happened. And when it does, and that special someone you swore was perfect when you met them just doesn't look right on your monitor screen, you can only shake your head and wonder what went wrong.
It's a question of learning to really look at a person critically and differentiating between street attractiveness, which many people have (regardless of how photogenic they are), and strong visual features that will come across in a wonderful way when you throw some light on them and the shutter clicks.
So, what is one to do? Obviously, there is never a guarantee that someone you meet in person is going to look amazing or be great as a model at a photo shoot. But, you can put the odds more in your favor before you approach people, and that's what my advice here is all about.
Knowing that a person's hair frames their face, it also becomes clear that beautiful hair or a great cut, or in this case hair color can mask subtle or sometimes even major flaws in that face. So, just as casting agents and photographers often want to see potential models with little or no makeup and their hair pulled back away from their face (something that's not at all very practical when you meet someone on the street), I always try to imagine what someone I'm considering casting would look like with a different color hair.
Now, maybe this sounds obvious. Maybe it sounds odd. No matter. It works for me, and by works, I mean it helps me sift through folks that might have really nice or cool or red hair, but otherwise are nothing special when it comes to sticking them in front of the camera. And in my case, one nice feature is usually not enough for me to get involved with them as potential models.
Obviously, you're free to try to style and pose and shoot whomever you want for whatever reason you want. My point is, women with red hair or more importantly, those who change their hair color or appearance to get noticed sometimes get your attention using a bit of smoke and mirrors and for the wrong reasons.
In my experience, it always pays to take a moment and try to imagine someone without the feature that attracted you to them in the first place, and figure out if all their other stuff is strong as well.
You'd be surprised how often it's not...
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All photos ©Steven Paul Hlavac. All rights reserved.