7 surprising things I learned at Mia’s Sunday Life photo shoot.

The end result

Mia writes: “Having my photo taken for any reason ranks low on my list of Fun Thing To Do. But in my job, it’s sometimes a necessity. Having been both subject and crew in photo shoots for 20 years, I find them about as interesting as plucking ingrowns.

Which is why, when I had to do a new shoot for my Sunday Life column pictures (I didn’t like the last batch where I was wearing micro mini dresses and silly sky-scraper heels – so not me), I brought the Mamamia team along for some entertainment (theirs) and so we could do a bit of work in the down moments.

Of which there weren’t many (for me – all that posing and changing outfits was FRANTIC I TELL YOU).

But Nicky, Nat and Lana found it all fascinating. Here is Lana’s take..”

I am one of those people that love behind the scenes footage.  I love watching how things are made and I find the whole process of nothing to something absolutely fascinating. Such is my thirst for seeing how things come to be that I even watch documentary programs about manufacturing processes. So you can imagine how excited I was when I had the chance to see the woman that I work with come to appear on the second page of the Sunday Life every week.

I had never been to a purpose built studio before.  I mean I had been to a small studio to get cheesy family shots but that was like going to the park on the corner of the street and trying to compare it to Disneyland.

I walked, rather self consciously, into a giant warehouse purpose built to make people look good in photos.  Before the first flash of the camera I was already in a magazine, a world very different from my own.  The studio was HUGE and white.  Mindblowingly white.  There was no distinction between the floors and the walls.  Everything was just white and did I mention that it was huge? I felt a bit like Alice in Wonderland. Everywhere people around me seemed to fit in  -me? I was just staring a lot so I quickly ran to the bathrooms to compose myself.

The panel next to the toilet

Even the bathrooms were cool.  Exceptionally cool – except for the toilet seat which was HEATED.  Maybe everyone in magazine land has specific toileting issues but this was my first encounter with Japanese toilets that could clean, rinse and er, provide you with an enema.  I probably overstayed my time but I was riveted.  Second time in my life I had taken a photo of a bathroom cubicle (we wont go into the first).

Back in the studio I glanced around looking for a familiar face – there were lots of faces at this stage – a photographer and his assistant, a stylist and her assistant, the creative director of the magazine and a make up artist.  They say it takes a village to raise a child, well it seems like it takes a hamlet to take a photograph for a magazine.

So here’s what I learned at the photoshoot

1. To get a beautiful natural look you need an excellent make-up artist.


The make up artist on the shoot was a little bleary eyed.  Not because she had been to bed really late the night before after a huge rave but rather she had been in New York covering Fashion Week.  As you do.  She applied Mia’s make up so effortlessly and flawlessly she almost made me believe that I could achieve the same results if I had the hundreds of brushes and products she had.  (She did have a LOT  of brushes and they were the cleanest make up brushes I had ever  seen).  After the make up was applied there were plenty of touch ups during the shoot – just a dab of this or a swipe of that.

Lesson learned:   You don’t get to look like you have a perfectly flawless face without someone applying the make up to get just that look.  Also your hair will always look perfect if there is someone to rearrange each strand every time it moves.


2. The subject matter must be a contortionist

I wrote this down at the time.  I am not making it up.  At one stage the photographer asked Mia to “take your  fingers out of your pocket, stand with your hips forward and your chest to the left.  But make sure you keep your head to the right and face the light. Okay now look comfortable”

Lesson learned: Don’t try emulate the stances of models that you see in the pages of the magazines – even they can’t hold these positions naturally.

3. Bulldog clips are an important fashion item

Bulldog clips – the ultimate style “must have”

The stylist, Mia’s friend Kirsten Bookallil (who I fell a little bit in love with) used bulldog clips – nothing more glamorous than the ones you buy from the stationery shop – to hold together the back of Mia’s tops and jackets. This wasn’t real life, it was a picture for a magazine so the clothes need to look perfect, not like in real life when they do silly things like crease, bulge, gape and flap.

Lesson learned: fashion in magazines look flawless because it is styled and perfectly placed just before the camera takes the shot.  Unless you want to hold still with a bulldog clip in your back and a stylist ironing out the creases don’t even compare yourself to these images. And don’t expect your clothes to look the same way. Even if they’re the same clothes.


4. Lighting is everything

Just a “little” light

You hear that a lot don’t you?  I used to think it was a throw away line, but maybe it really is everything – it was certainly the biggest thing on the shoot.  The area where the actual photos were shot was surrounded by ginormous light boxes.  Huge boxes (about 7 foot high ) of filtered light .  And once every 2 minutes the photographer would say to Mia “face the light”.

Lesson learned: You will not achieve the luminescent glow of a magazine Image with a perfectly angled jaw and the light hitting your forehead just right unless you carry a giant light box around with you and keep your head tilted towards it.  This is unlikely to happen.


5. You have to be patient

After 2 hours of constant shooting I heard the photographer say “we’re doing well, we have 1 and half shots”.

Checking it out on the screen

I picked myself off the floor.  He wasn’t slow, in fact he had taken an inordinate amount of photos (I tried to keep count of the amount of times I heard the shutter snap but I can’t count that fast – or that high).  Each photo is checked on the computer by the photographer’s assistant and the digital operator.  They look at every aspect of the shot– how Mia looks, the position of every bone in her body, how the picture will look on the page, the height, the colours, the  contrast,  the hues. The things I did not understand. Mia refused all invitations to come and look. “I never do” she insisted. “Just let the pros decide what looks best.”

Lesson learned: Models may be photogenic but it takes a lot of work by a lot of people to get them to look like they do on the pages of a magazine.


6. You have to have a sense of humour

Imagine somebody said to you “Take 3 steps, kick high when you walk, turn around after the three steps and walk back the same way. Now carry on doing that for about 5 minutes.  Oh and don’t forget to lift your head, face the light, look natural and try and laugh.” That’s what the photographer told Mia to do. Again. And again. Until she got dizzy and almost fell over.

Lesson learned: Humour helps.  In any walk of life

Look – no bulges

7. You don’t have to be a stick

I say this with all respect to Mia and her very beautiful body but when the stylist gave her a pair of jeans and asked her to “squeeze them on like a sausage” she couldn’t get them past her thighs.  She is normal.  Really she is – she even brought a range of control undies for the shoot. Which she happily flashed for our behind-the-scenes camera (left).

Lesson learned: It’s okay to be you.  It really is.

Now click on the gallery of images below to find out the rest.

Got any questions about this post and photo shoot? Ask away and Mia will answer!

nailed it

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