Behind an Enigmatic Smile of a Model in an Ad

A Professional Crew in Clockwork Harmony

“Give me a smile,” says photographer Ravi Ranjan and the blank face of the model, Laila, instantly lights up with a stunning smile. Behind the glare of floodlights, Guddu Singh, a makeup stylist, Yamini Yadav, a hairstylist and a wardrobe and accessories stylist, Manish Dron and his assistant Bornali are hovering to ensure that the model’s make up shows no smears, no strand of her hair is out of place, her dress has no wrinkles and all props are in the correct position. The art director, Anil Kumar, checks with his reference sketches and shots that the cameraman is capturing what he wants. The light man adjusts the lights and the umbrellas to deliver the right light at the right places.

When you finally see the ad, you feel there is no one between you and the model. But this is far from the reality of a well-organized team that ensures the right shots. In all this hum of silent activity, the model has to present the right pose, the correct expression and an elegant poise.

It takes more than half an hour for the makeup to be applied to the model. After the base makeup, the secondary makeup – natural or formal – is applied. The so-called ‘natural’ make-up with light foundation and lipstick is applied for sports and entertainment products while formal make-up with heavy foundation and dark lipstick is applied for formal and luxury products. Another half an hour is spent by the hair stylist to get the right look. Meanwhile, the right dress is selected by the wardrobe stylist from the rack, ironed and put on by the model in the changing room followed by the appropriate accessories and shoes. The model can wear hot pants or jeans with sneakers for sports and entertainment products but a long dress and high-heels are needed for luxury products. The preparation for the shoot can take up more than an hour. OK, now it’s show time! You are ready to get in front of the camera.

The digital camera has made this task easier as the photographer can instantly see what he has clicked. And also click dozens of shots instead of a couple of them. So at the end of the photo shoot, you get a few hundred shots from which the art director can choose from. Sure, the model is attractive but the aim is to focus on the product. This is the challenge for the model and the photographer.

Despite the presence of the crew, the photo shoot is a silent duet between the model and the photographer. They have to be in complete harmony to get the best shots. The photographer cajoles the model to offer her best pose; the model obliges and looks at the result with concern. If it all clicks, both are relieved. Then they proceed to the next shot which requires two models.

Another model, Aryaa Singh, now appears under the lights and they both position themselves around the product. They both offer a number of alternatives until the art director and the photographer are pleased. Only then, the clicking begins. This goes on with clockwork harmony until the shoot is over.

Photo shoots are booming with Ecommerce catching on in a big way in India. An Indian spends Rs 10,000 or $150 every year online. So all portals and sites selling every product, especially garments and consumer goods, need a constant and huge supply of photos to showcase what they want to push. Thus many sites have in-house studios for round the year shoots. Tall, beautiful girls in college make good money by modelling, in addition to established models who charge bumper fees. Just when digital photography has made almost everyone a photographer, professional cameramen are raking in the moolah. And there is more work for the supporting crew.

One doesn’t know that a whole crew working seamlessly is behind the model’s enigmatic smile in most ads. So the next time, you glance at an attractive ad, think about the model, the cameraman, the art director and back-up crew that crafted the photo; it’s great teamwork!!

* Published in print edition on 13 May 2016

Kul Bhushan worked as a newspaper Editor in Nairobi for over three decades and now lives in New Delhi

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