It’s All In the Eyes

Good head shots are all about the eyes. The photographer had stressed the importance of make-up, emphasized it with the instructional video she’d sent a pointer to. But eyes that communicate the right tone aren’t about makeup. Either the look is there, or it isn’t.

The minute she stepped through the door, she knew the room was too warm for the clothing she’d worn — a felt fedora, a black turtleneck sweater, skinny jeans, leather boots, a short cotton blazer.

The photographer stepped up close and peered at her eyes. “You didn’t wear much makeup. Did you watch the video I sent?”

She had watched all thirty-five minutes — filled with demos about applying layers and layers of creams and contouring and concealer, ending with false eyelashes.

“I don’t wear a lot.”

“Mascara?”

“No.”

The photographer shrugged. “Okay.” Her voice was tight, trying to hide a thorn of irritation.

For the next ten minutes, the photographer chatted about trivia while arranging the angle of the enormous lights, changing the backdrop screen, and adjusting the height of a table in front of the stool. The stool sat on a platform directly in front of the camera, which was secured on a heavy-duty tripod.

When she was settled on the stool, leaning authoritatively on the flimsy table that was really just a laminated wood board on a stand, she felt heat spreading across her back. The lights made it worse. She tried to breathe.

Everyone said you needed a photograph. A quality photograph. If you were marketing your services or talents in the online world, a photograph was essential for the human connection. Writers, consultants, painters, workshop leaders, actors, real estate agents, sculptors…everyone needed a head shot.

“Tip your head to the left,” the photographer said.

She tipped her head.

“Smile more.”

She smiled.

“A bit less.”

She let her lips relax.

“Tip your head more.”

She tipped.

“Lift your chin and widen your eyes.”

She complied.

Her gaze hardened and grew cold as the flood of instructions relentlessly ratcheted up her tension.

After forty minutes, the photographer declared the photo shoot complete. “I think we got some really good ones.” She smiled, long teeth taking on the appearance of a wild canine.

The photographer said she’d post watermarked photographs on a password protected site so there was plenty of time to consider the results and choose the absolute best.

Outside in the car, she removed the fedora and shook out her slightly damp, wavy blonde hair. She tapped her finger to one eye, then the other, removing the dark brown contact lenses, revealing the pale blue irises that were so distinctive.

When she saw the photographs, they were, for the most part, forced and frozen. Following the ridiculous instructions had resulted in a posed appearance.

Then, she saw it. A single photograph, the last one. There was a cold, hard glaze in her dark eyes, made almost black in the stylized lighting. A look that could kill.

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