Another commonly overlooked item: body hair.
I am not here to preach or judge whether a person should or shouldn’t have any. In fact, I’m pretty body hair positive myself. However, depending on who you are shooting with, for, where, and maybe why, that may be different for you. It’s best to find out what is expected.
Usually for any shoot, when it comes to eyebrows of any gender, you want to remember they frame your eyes and mark your expression. They create an important dimension to your face and its readability. If you don’t want to be read at all, remove them entirely. Paint or draw them on if you want as necessary. (My great aunt did her whole life.) Use a pencil to thicken them if you desire. Pluck them if you want.
One of the tricks to looking good in a portrait is to neaten them by plucking the ones that appear to be stray and trimming any hairs that are particularly long. This helps you look neatly groomed, and if there’s a makeup artist present, makes their job a little easier.
I prefer waxing mine if I can because it catches all the baby fine hairs that are easy to miss or very hard to pluck, and the discomfort is over fast and all at once. Typically for me, it makes a neater appearance than if I attempt to do it with tweezers, and the effects last longer.
For individuals with facial hair: trim or shave. If you normally shave any portion of your face, make sure you do so before a shoot. Five o’clock shadows are difficult to deal with in editing if a person wants to appear clean shaven. If you normally have any length of facial hair (from a daily stubble appearance you prefer or a full beard) take the time to trim it the night before or morning of. It makes you look well-groomed, polished, well-kempt, and sharper.
Also, little stray bits that might’ve been sticking up at a funny angle before the trim as they grew won’t reflect lights back at the camera in a funny angle. (Sometimes stray hairs in a beard or mustache have a similar effect as glitter makeup, reflecting light in a bright glary way.)
If you are a person that normally shaves or waxes their legs, you also want to do that before the shoot. Leg stubble is an unexpected sight in print. It draws the eye away from everything else, often because the viewer is trying to figure out what it is. Because legs are not small body parts (like say a chin or upper lip), they take forever to edit. Also, if the retoucher is not very precise or experienced, legs can end up looking like a smeary mess. Waxing legs will give a smooth, stubble-less effect for much longer.
If you prefer shaving, make sure you do some research on doing it properly to avoid razor bumps or cuts. Razor bumps can be just as difficult to deal with in editing as shaving stubble. I thought (like I’m sure most of us do) for years: apply cream, scrape off. No.
Here are some tips that changed my shoots (and sensitive skin’s irritation) forever:
- exfoliate the entire area pre-shaving
- change razors often because of rusting and bacteria
- use high quality sensitive skin gel
- shave WITH THE GRAIN, as in, the direction the hairs go, as many times as needed
- ONLY shave against the grain the hairs grow in ONCE per shave, and only if really necessary for a close shave
- exfoliate AGAIN, after the shave to keep the pores clean of debris
- PAT dry, do not rub
- apply Bikini Zone after shave gel if it’s the genital area
- apply a lotion or moisturizer
- DO NOT SHAVE AT ALL if it’s not necessary: let your skin repair itself and don’t unnecessarily irritate it.
When it comes to armpit or pubic hair… as far as I’m concerned, personally, that’s your call. Trim it if you have it, it looks nicer in a photo. Shave it if that’s your thing.
However, do be prepared, depending on your gender expression and identity, that at this time of writing, it’s still a very biased thing that individuals the reader views as “female” are expected to have shaved legs and armpits, and those viewed as “male” to have body hair unless they are Olympic swimmers or divers. This is still a pretty hard line to try to cross if you’re looking to get into major publications as a professional model. I don’t personally agree with it, but feel it would be negligent to not mention it.
When it comes to pubic hair in nudes, semi-nudes, implied nudes, and glamour, I personally think it ought to be the model or subject’s choice, as well, that’s pretty personal and private. They are also the one that has to live with any discomfort as it grows back. However, if you’re trying to get published, again, pay attention to what that particular publication wants. If it is a shoot for personal use or fine art, that, I feel, should remain the individual’s choice. But again, trim and make it look nice. It’s the little details that go a long way.
Also, ASK THE PHOTOGRAPHER in advance if you are interested in a nude, semi-nude, or implied nude shoot of any kind. Don’t just show up and take off your clothes. Not all photographers are comfortable shooting such material.