Wedding Wednesday: The Truth About Flashback
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It’s May, and you know what that means? Wedding season has officially started. If you’re thinking of getting married with your other half real soon, you’re probably already seeking for the best wedding bands that fits your style, such as those custom mens wedding bands which can be found online. Weddings mean photos, which (understandably) can be a cause for alarm. You know they’re all going to end up on twitfacestagram, where they’ll live forever and ever, plus in the photo albums of at least half the people there. So yeah, it makes sense that you’d want to be on top of your makeup game. That goes double for the wedding party, since all eyes will be on them during the actual wedding too. On top of that, the special-occasion-ness means that a lot of people are wearing makeup that don’t normally, so it’s not really a big surprise that lots of questions about wedding makeup start popping up around this time of year. With that in mind, on Wednesdays this month I thought it might be fun/helpful to do a little series of tips on wedding makeup. And these are for everyone too, whether you’re in the wedding, or there as a guest.
Now, I feel like I should throw it out there that I’m not a trained makeup artist (I think you already know this, right?) but I did work for several years as the second photog for a busy wedding photographer. Meaning I’ve been to a lot of luxury weddings, including all the prep/dressing/makeup, and I’ve taken easily tens of thousands of wedding photos. So even though I’ve never done wedding makeup professionally, I still feel like I have a general idea of what works, and maybe a few valuable nuggets of information to offer.
From what I’ve seen, it seems like the biggest concern folks have is how to avoid flashback with flash photography. Certain ingredients can reflect light big-time, and no one wants to recreate Nicole Kidman’s ghostly red-carpet makeup faux pas. That sort of thing can happen when your makeup reflects light back into the camera. But relax and take a deep breath, because there’s good news: it’s probably not a big deal for the professional photos anyway.
Honestly. I don’t remember ever once looking back through my photos and thinking “why the hell is her face so white?” And that’s because of where the light is coming from. Your wedding photographer isn’t going to rely on a super-bright on camera flash pointed directly at you, except possibly for some very specific artistic effect. Or at least, if they are, you have other reasons to be concerned about your photos. Instead, they’ll be depending mostly on their exposure settings to make the most of the available light. A lot of the formal photos are done in natural light (which is why you see so many wedding parties hiking around the park) with a flash on low power to fill in the shadows. Even studio lighting and on-camera flashes will almost always be diffused in some way, or ‘bounced’ off a white card/reflector. Without turning this into a post on wedding photography, just know that the light isn’t being blasted straight at you from the camera – so it’s not going to reflect back directly into the camera from your face. See, doesn’t that make you feel better? If you’re still worried about it though, you can use your engagement photo session as a test run for the unique 3 stone diamond rings or emerald cut engagement rings you plan on using.
Difficulty: the designated photographer won’t be the only one there with a camera. Ohhhh no. Even phone cameras have flashes these days and wedding receptions are notorious for dim lighting, so you can bet that you’ll be nuked by countless flashes anyway. So we’ll talk about why it happens and how to avoid it.
If you’re noticing that your face looks white in flash photos, the first thing to do is figure out whether it’s actually your makeup. A flash held close to your face can overexpose it in relation to the rest of the picture (you’re bright white, but everyone behind you looks fine?) and I really think overexposed photos from flash are misinterpreted a lot as makeup flashback. To rule that out, try taking one in similar lighting conditions while you’re not wearing any makeup/sunscreen/moisturizer, and see how it looks. Alternately, if you’re wearing makeup, hold your (clean) hand next to your face and take a flash photo in a dim room. Are your face and hand close to the same color? If so, the issue is the flash in general, not what you’re wearing. If the barefaced picture looks fine, or your made-up face and bare hand are different colors, then yes, the issue may be with your products. Here are some examples – please excuse the terrible photos, I was duplicating the worst imaginable light and took the photos after a full day at work ;-)
Exhibit A – foundation with titanium dioxide, and a light dusting of silica powder. The flash made a hot spot on my forehead, and you can see that I’ve used a light concealer under my eyes, but no real flashback.
Exhibit B – the same, but with a TON of silica powder piled on. Seriously, more than anyone would ever use (I hope). It actually looks ok in real life, but in the photos there’s a definite white cast, especially across my nose and cheeks – and quite a bit lighter than my hand.
So what causes flashback? Potentially anything reflective, which is a lot of things. But there are a few big offenders-
Titanium Dioxide/Zinc Oxide
This one totally makes sense, because these are sunscreens that protect your skin by reflecting UV rays away from you – and back into the camera. That’s why you always hear advice to stay away from products with SPF for photography. That’s a decent rule of thumb, but like most rules of thumb, not always 100% dependable. Makeup with small amounts of titanium dioxide can look fine; for example, I took a test photo recently wearing Chanel Perfection Lumiere Velvet with flash, and no flashback. Digital cameras are also made to block out UV and infrared light that can interfere with the image, so that cuts down a lot on this effect. As a side note, chemical SPF ingredients like octinoxate work by absorbing light, so those you don’t need to worry about.
How to avoid it: Don’t use things with titanium dioxide/zinc oxide as the active ingredients for SPF, and test any other products that contain it.
This is another major light-reflecting ingredient that you see pretty often in powders – in fact, some powders are pure silica. Luckily, this one is pretty easy to deal with. If there’s a little moisture near it, it will soak it up and turn clear – so if you use it sparingly over liquid/cream products or on oily skin, you should be golden. The tricky part comes when you overapply it or put it on dry skin. Then it just sits on top, just waiting to be reflective.
How to avoid it: Avoid using it on dry skin, and go easy on it (geez).
Silver Mica/Mineral Makeup
Mineral powders are full of reflective ingredients, so yup, they can also cause flashback in photos. It can be more noticeably with mineral foundations, especially, since they’re used with a heavier coverage all over the face.
How to avoid it: Unfortunately I’ve never heard of any tricks for this one, other than don’t use it! The best course of action is to be sure and test it beforehand.
So, hopefully that will help avoid some photo disasters at weddings, or any other occasion for that matter. Feel free to share your own tips on eliminating flashback, or any favorite products you have that photograph well!
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Title image courtesy of We Choose Organic on flickr
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