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Baby Boomers: Keeping Up Our Online Appearances

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Our Online Images- How Can We Keep Up Appearances as We Get Older?
Katie Karlovitz, On Speaking Terms

Is your online web presence missing just one little thing, for example, your photograph? I dodged this vexing question for as long as I possibly could, because I'm safely beyond the age of twenty-five and don't scream with delight at the way I photograph. I’m a baby boomer.

Years ago I acted professionally, and my headshots were updated regularly; when I stopped performing, I no longer needed them. Then came digital proliferation, which made me less comfortable in front of a camera. Too many people preferred photographing a moment to just being in it. It got hard to escape unflattering images of myself. The Internet exacerbated everything, with ubiquitous prompts of, "Your profile is better with a photo!"… as if I hadn’t known.

But it became impossible to convince myself that my grayed-out silhouette was getting the job done. I studied other people’s photos. Some were unintentionally hilarious-older men who’ve decided on a hat to confer character, but end up looking like the hat is wearing them; older women bundled in great woolen scarves suggesting a Currier & Ives skating scene; people of all ages wearing sunglasses in fluorescent-lit offices.

It was clear that I needed a professional photo, so after strenuous procrastination I called my old photographer. It had been fourteen years since we’d last shot together. I think I vaguely apologized for getting older and asked him to call a good hair/makeup artist. The day of our shoot was the hottest yet in NYC. I got to the studio lugging two bags of outfits & sweating profusely…hot flashes during global warming – perfect for finally being photographed! I felt like a stewed tomato.

But when I stepped in to his airy, cool studio something inside me let go…my resistance to looking older, and being photographed as older. And I felt that it would be not just OK, but really good. My photographer, Arthur, took my bags and started unpacking them for me. A steam wand stood next to a rolling rack. He introduced his makeup artist, whose entire kit was already laid out and organized. She gave me cold water and motioned for me to sit.
They knew exactly what they're doing, and I could feel it. I sat in her director’s chair; being attended to and made up was so soothing (after being tied in knots!) that it was hard to keep my eyes open. "Stay with me," she said. She’s used to people falling asleep on her.

Once she finished, it was time to face Arthur. He’d been darting around the space, playing with light…. blending natural with artificial. We started shooting, and his talents and expertise immediately pulled me out of myself. He made me feel not just relaxed, but photogenic. Worth holding his breath over, to say "that's perfect…hold it just like that!" and I did, because in this flash of time I felt ageless.

And everyone who shoots with him says the same thing…"he makes me feel so beautiful." He does, and it's sincere and he gets great results. He shoots people from the inside as much as externally, plus he really understands lighting. You can see his work here http://www.arthurcohen.com/. Study how he shoots people in your category. (The shots of his mom’s mahjong group are rich!)

The next step was looking at the proofs. Once they were ready, I downloaded the files. Then it took three days to talk myself in to opening them. So much for my personal progress, but at last I selected two for retouching. This is the final step.

Because I'm near NYC, I went in person to the reproduction house (photographers no longer do their own re-touching.) There I sat down with Faisel, to discuss what I wanted. He was quick in his work, and had a nice deft style. The results were excellent-they looked like me+. Faisel emailed the shots, and I download them when I got home.

The next morning I read an article about the noticeable uptick in plastic surgery due to social media (Face Book, YouTube, Skype) and the pressure many feel to always be "camera ready."People who’d otherwise be blissfully unaware of how their left profile looks on-camera, are now electing to have plastic surgery. It’s the ultimate re-touching service. Man, was I glad to have my new head shot.

I don’t think we should give away so much personal power to online styles and demands, especially when many top trending sites were started by kids in their early twenties! You don’t need the risk of surgery to get a fantastic headshot.

Opt instead for a professional photo… it’s much less expensive, much more healthy, and let’s you stay in the game in your own genuine (boomer) style. And that’s worth a thousand words.

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