Picture Prep

cameraSo there is obviously NO WAY I’d take on a 3 week fat-loss challenge without some sort of reward at the end, right?  Right, but no carrot for this one.  It was a camera.  I had forgotten how nerve-wracking the prize of a self-inflicted photo shoot can be.  And why am I doing this anyway?  Isn’t it a little self-absorbed and egotistical to pay someone to take a bunch of pictures of just you?  Again?  Well, I don’t really think so.  In my world I’m usually the photographer, and even when I’m not, it’s a rare occasion that a flattering image shows up in the family slide show.  It doesn’t mean my little clan doesn’t care about me, it’s just the way mothering sometimes goes.  Add to the fact that I’ve entered my mid-forties and I’ve got quite a small window of opportunity to document this victorious blip on my aesthetic timeline.  It’s proof of my committment, and fuel to stoke my inspiration for continuing this lifestyle.  And if you’ve got it, worked for it…flaunt it!  That’s the beauty of being over 40.  You’re old enough not to care about what other people think, and young enough to still look good doing it.

This time it was a little easier because I’d been through it once before and learned some lessons about the prep work involved and the shoot itself.  And this goes above and beyond your diet and workout regimen.  If you ever decide to do this to for yourself, take note.  There is more work involved than meets the eye.  I honestly don’t know how fitness models do it!

hangersOUTFITS  This can be tricky, because if you’re main goal is to capture your physique, you may not know exactly what you’ll look like until right before the shoot.  So far this has always been the case for me, but I choose the clothes using an optimistic perspective (and a few backup options lined up just in case I don’t quite end up where I want to be).  I usually have a good idea of what I’d like to wear several weeks out, and keep trying things on periodically, right up to the day of the session.

mirrorPOSING  I know it sounds corny, but knowing your best look in which outfit will save a lot of time.  Get friendly with your mirror and find which side it most flattering.  For me it’s complicated.  My left side is best for my lower body, but the right side is best for the upper.  Take a look at fitness magazines and websites to get some ideas and find what works best for you.

TEETH WHITENING  I had custom trays made several years ago, so I’m able to buy replacement gel from my dentist to put in them.  I think these days the Crest whitening strips are an easy and inexpensive choice if you need an over-the counter option.

spray tanTHE TAN (heavy hitter for prep, folks)

  • EXFOLIATION  Before you get your tan on it is IMPERATIVE to get all the dead skin off your body so the tanning solution will go on evenly.  I did it twice before the shoot since I have not exfoliated even once all winter.  It’s amazing what this simple step will do for your skin in general, I need to do it more often.  I use a pair of exfoliating gloves purchased at Target (my second home) in the skin care aisle, next to the loofahs.  These work well because you can use both hands as you move from one body part to the next.  It makes for a quick job.  Also only use bar soap or a non-oil based shower gel.  Any oils will provide a barrier and the tanning solution can’t get through.
  • SHAVING   Ah, body hair.  The bane of most American women seeking general smoothness.  This should be completed before tanning and exfoliation.  You’ll need to hit the regular spots and some uncharted territory if you’re a typical mom in the dead of winter, like me.  This is especially true if you’ll be wearing a swimsuit or other revealing outfit.  You may also want to consider shaving your arms.  I didn’t say under.  Yes, to better visualize muscle definition and keep the retouching to a minimum, this could be worth your time, as it was for me.  I don’t necessarily have dark hair, but there’s just a lot of it.  Too much fuzz-factor.
  • DEODORANT AND LOTION  Both of these niceties should be avoided prior to tanning as they interfere with the absorption of the solution.  It is OK to put on deodorant a few hours after the application, so you won’t have to quarantine yourself entirely.
  • TAN APPLICATION  If you only do one thing for yourself before your photo shoot, please have your tan applied by a professional.  I’ve tried all the other routes, and it’s just not worth the time and effort.  Self application is really time-consuming, messy and hard to do by yourself.  Spray tanning booths like Mystic Tan and VersaSpa are convenient options, but offer inconsistent and sometimes sketchy color.  In my town, $35 will get you a gorgeous custom color with application in a private room by a professional.  Most salons and spas use South Seas, which is the gold standard for celebrities and is the most widely used, high-quality spray tanning solution in the industry.
  • POST TANNING  Be sure to wear dark, loose clothing so your clothes won’t rub any of the solution off.  Plan to allow at least 8 to 12 hours for your tan to develop, which means you’ll be without a shower for that time as well.  If you will be going to bed before your tan is cured, you may want to use old sheets or blankets to avoid discoloration of your good stuff.  After your shower apply an all-over moisturizer to keep your skin hydrated.  Dry skin is the quickest way to lose your tan, so love the lotion.

HAIR   Now is the time to get your color or highlights freshened and stop postponing that trim you’re in desperate need of.

NAILS   This is personal preference.  I am the mom of a small person, owner of 3 animals and a lazy slob in general so I prefer the suburban hag natural look.  Prepping my nails calls for trimming and a few coats of nude or clear polish.  If you prefer the mani/pedi look, then by all means treat yourself to achieve that polished look, literally.

makeupMAKE-UP   I consider myself a decent make-up amateur.  I once worked a make-up counter and used to spend hours in my bathroom trying new colors, formulas and looks.  These days I’m lucky to use cosmetics once a week.  After all, I come from the land of big hair and make-up, so I suffer from premature burn-out.  That said, I still love the look when I’ve got it on.  My skin is a mottly canvas, so a little evening-out is always a bonus.  I have used a professional make-up artist for both photo sessions at the suggestion of my photographer.  I’ve been really happy with the results, especially the false eyelashes.  I dabbled with these arachnid-ish doodads in the past and never quite mastered the skill required for a non-floppy application.  My gal is awesome and makes me feel beautiful.  If you’re not up for the expense, you can find some great make-up tutorials on You Tube.

PROPS   I’ve only used a prop once because my sessions are pretty limited for what I want to do, and a small dumbbell is pretty easy to tote around.  Whatever you decide to use, pose with it ahead of time to be sure it looks right and doesn’t interfere with the focus of your photos.  I had actually planned to use a larger dumbbell, but the size covered too much of my midsection, which sort of defeats the purpose of a fitness shot.

stilettoACCESSORIES   This category covers any and all things you might need when you get to the session.  For me it included the following:

-hair spray or other hair accessories/product

-my own lipstick – I have weird coloring, and the ones   chosen for me aren’t always quite right.

-high heeled shoes – great for involuntary leg flexing, which shows more definition.

-breast ‘enhancers’ AKA chicken cutlets.  I never had much to begin with.  Top that with considerable fat loss and I’ve got a couple of vacant triangles.

-water – I was pretty anxious for both shoots and had a wicked case of dry mouth.

Are you exhausted yet?  I am just looking at all this.  It’s no wonder this last week was so crazy.  I managed to reduce the chaos by scheduling out the tasks on a calendar count-down which was laid out as follows beginning 4 days before the session.  Day 4 was my final high carb day, and days 3, 2 and 1 were low carb days.  I trained all days except Day 1.


  • Day 5:  Teeth whitening
  • Day 4:  1st round of exfoliation followed by a good all-over moisturizer
  • Day 3:  Teeth whitening (I only did it a few nights prior because my teeth were pretty sensitive to the treatment)
  • Day 2:  Day before shoot – Hair appt. (wish I’d have chosen to do this earlier because it ate up too much time with all the other tasks), do nails, shave, exfoliate, spray tan appt.
  • Day 1:  Day of shoot – Pack all outfits, props and accessories, say cheese!

flautasAFTER THE SHOOT   I celebrated with the first cheat meal I’d had in 3 weeks.  Shrimp flautas at my favorite Mexican restaurant.  Delicious and guilt-free!  I plan to hit the gym again tomorrow, and again next week as usual.  Not sure what my next adventure will be, but I’ve really enjoyed your company on this ride!

Any picture perfect plans in your future?