*ooof*: Smile for Santa!

Dear readers – today is Christmas Eve. While you are reading this, I am back home, on the continent, in order to celebrate with my family. The highpoint of December (so far – I am hoping for a few highpoints to be unwrapped under the Christmas tree…) was undoubtedly my trip to Berlin. What an envigorating experience. It was simply amazing to witness the whole event – with a few insights into red carpet photography along the way. Which in turn makes me appreciate professional red carpet photography more than before. And even more so when it produces imagery that is uplifting and heart-warming.

RA by Barry King LA Premiere

Look Mum, I smile!
Richard Armitage at the US-Premiere of THDOS
Photographed by Barry King/Getty Images

Do I need to say more? No frown will do, however hot that is, no scowl and no smoulder. I think we all deserve a smile today. And what a radiant one. There is happiness in these eyes, and in the mouth pulled wide into a gingerbread smile. The blue eyes come out nicely, brightened with the relentless flashing of the photographers’ speedlites straight into his face. And the cheekbones puff quite nicely, smooth as a baby’s arse. Moreover, Guylty particularly enjoys the return of the Gisborne quiff – brought into the 21st century with some generous waves to confine the bangs to the top of the head – and a few rebellious strands defying the force of product and succumbing to gravity. All that is left wanting now is the decisive side parting…

Has anyone ever given Mr RA a lesson in posing for event photographs? It may seem so because his red carpet photos, whether candid or posed, look great, as the recent weeks have proven beyond doubt. LA, Berlin, Madrid. He puts the “-diant” onto RA. And the RA into “ado__ble”. He is lucky that he does not need it, because his face is just… well… perfect! Where mere mortals are disfigured by soft chins, vague jawlines and deer-in-the-headlights gawks, Mr A cuts a striking face with a sharply defined chin and a focussed gaze. His stubble may help to define his jawline, the minute facial hairs catching the light, creating tiny shadows and creating a halo of shadow around the contours of his face. And his eyes, when smiling, take on a pleasant shape that makes him look alert and alive.

You and me may not be so lucky. We are simply not media- or modelling pros. The occasional portrait that we sit for, for the purpose of a corporate headshot or a family photo, is not enough practice for a guaranteed 1-million-Volt smile. Unlike magic, there are certain tricks, though, that can help you through one of those uncomfortable portrait sessions. And if your photographer is good, he ought to have these up his sleeve to get the best out of your face. First of all: Smile! As this picture proves – is there anything more effective than a bright smile? Don’t tell me that your face doesn’t lend itself to happy smiles. Cos the man who has been claiming that for his own face, proves himself quite wrong here. A smile is the most beautiful expression any face can muster. Don’t be afraid to show it – and give it all you have: your eyes, your cheeks, your lips, your teeth. No, don’t give it your nose – a scrunched up nose is cute, but not sexy 😉

As for the eyes – the ultimate tip may need a little bit of practicing. So lock yourself in front of the bathroom mirror, switch on those lights and consider and practice this: Wide eyes usually come out looking a bit too naive and ultimately a bit woozy in a portrait. For a slightly edgier look try squinting a tiny bit. A TINY bit. For that you need to be aware of your eye muscles. Essentially what you need to do is to lower your upper eyelid just a fraction, while moving your lower lid up a tiny bit. It will feel as if you are squinting – but it will (and should) actually not look like a squint. It merely gives your eyes a slightly more inquisitive, lively and focussed look. Armitage here displays exactly the look I like to see on my sitters for a close-up. The eyes are not wide open (cf. Nearmy close-up) but both upper as well as lower lid have been closed a tiny bit. This makes him look younger, more lively and more active than a wide-eye shot imho.

Tip number 2 concerns the problems with shifty chins and undefined jawlines. If you are as fit and sinewy as Mr Gorgeous here, you may not have this problem at all, but if you are more on the softer side, you may want to consider practicing the “neck trick to end all shifty jawlines”. This is a trick that only applies if you are shot with your face directed straight at the camera! While keeping your shoulders back, stretch your neck forward. Just a bit – do not overdo it. Merely tilt your chin up and move your head forwards from the back of your neck. You may want to practice this in front of a mirror, but the effect is most likely not seen there. If you can take a couple of selfies for comparison, you will find that the stretched-neck image gives your jawline a clearer contour, stretching the cheeks and defining the line of your jaws and chin.

As I said before – unlikely that Mr A has to refer back to such tricks. Without a gram too many, his lean face gives us a clear idea where his jawline ends and the background begins. Mind you – I think this particular image, although absolutely gorgeous with the bright smile – is quite funny. And probably involuntarily so. Can you see what I mean? I am quite amused by how Armitage is placed in front of the Hobbit promo poster; or Gandalf, more specifically. The effect is that Gandalfs mane of hair seems to grow from RA’s temples. Granted – the colour doesn’t match (Gandalf the Grey vs. Richard the Chocolate Brown), but silly Billy that I am, I still snigger at the vision… I wonder whether the photographer, Barry King, saw it when he shot. Was he trying to take the piss? Or am I just thinking too cynically here? If so, it’s time for some fun. Let’s make this a happy Christmas, with a happy, funny story, so you can all go to bed smiling tonight – and fall asleep quickly for the big day tomorrow…


“Mate, you really come across quite grumpy lately!” His film star colleague obviously didn’t approve of this, as Jed was known as an extremely cheerful fellow. “I mean, it’s alright on set where we know you try to maintain concentration by keeping yourself apart from the out-of-character fun. But, mate, if you wanna hang around with me, you better wipe that grumpy Thorin look off yer face!” Richard scowled. “See, that’s exactly what I mean! If you could see your face now – the thin of your lips as sharp as a Samurai sword. The knitted brows. The thundercloud eyes. Lighten up, mate, seriously!” Richard took in a deep sigh. “I hear what you are saying, Jed, but to be honest, I am just not made for smiling. I feel like an utter goof when I smile. Ever since Trudy Styler pinched my chin, in fact…” He trailed off, a shadow of sadness flittering over his face. Too many years of hiding his smile were conveyed in the wistful gaze on his face. “My face is not made for happiness. I am better at darkness”, he suddenly said with a decisive shake of his head. “UBC. Utter. Bull. Crap!” Jed interjected. “I’ll prove you wrong, mate, so wrong!”


They met again the next day. “Wear some formal clothes, do everything you would do if you were really going to a premiere, Rich.” Jed had asked him to meet up in Dean’s make-shift photo studio for some “red carpet practice”, as he had called it. When he finally got out of his car in front of Dean’s house, he could hear loud laughter from the garage to the side of Dean’s house – the photo “studio”, in fact, that Dean had knocked together. He followed the noise to the side door into the garage. Politely knocking and shouting a hearty “Well, hello, lads – didn’t realise you were all going to be here”, he entered the garage. The laughter stopped for a split second, only to roar up again, and he was vaguely aware of something pink scuttling to the back of the garage. But he was quickly distracted by the many voices of his friends. “Richard, old boy!” “Talking of the devil, here’s our boy!” “Come ‘ere, Richard!” – Mark, Adam, Graham, Dean, Jimmy, Stephen all surrounded him with heavy claps on his backs and hearty hugs from Graham and Stephen. On second look he noticed that they all had cameras on them. “What… What the hell are you planning, lads?” He asked suspiciously. “Well, Richard,” Dean decided to jump in, “Jed said you needed a lesson in smiling on the red carpet, and we’ve decided to play the press gang, for authenticity’s sake.” “With that???”, Richard said, pointing to Jimmy’s Canon Ixus. Jimmy smiled cheerfully and waved his little compact camera at him. “Remember Richard, it’s not all about the size, you know.

“Anyway, let’s start!” Not allowing any protest, Dean pushed Richard towards the side of the garage where a large movie poster obscured the breeze block structure of the wall. “Now strut your stuff, Richard. And remember, we want to see your teeth!” Richard smirked darkly. These guys were mad. What the fuck had Jed told them. And where the hell was the little bugger anyway?? “Richard!” “Richard, look left please!” The voices came as one big cacophony of sound. After a couple of irritated blinks – while the cameras were already flashing – he decided to just play along with them. The boys should have their fun, who was he to spoil that. “Right, Richard, to the right!” He turned his body to the right, setting his right foot in front of his left and hiding his hand in his pocket. “The bugger is not really smiling”, he heard Mark say under his breath. “Jed said to make him smile.” Graham sniggered. “Ah wait, I have an idea.” He waved his arm at Richard and then drawled in a loud voice, “Look here, Mr Ahmitaaaaaj, look here.” Richard’s left corner of his mouth twitched, and his eyes crinkled – coming from Graham it was actually funny to hear his name mispronounced. But he did not break into a full blown smile… “Where the fuck is Jed?”, he heard Dean whisper under the din of cameras clicking and flashes going off. “I am not sure if we can get the man to smile!”

It was as if a magic word had been spoken – for suddenly there seemed to be only silence, and the lads who had been milling about in a scrum in front of him, all of a sudden pushed back to the sides, leaving a gap in the middle through which Richard could see a fuzzy female apparition… His eyes adjusted on a pink hoodie, a pink mini skirt and fish net tights, all topped by a peroxide blonde wig with a big pink bow on top. In a split second he took in the sharpie and autograph book in her left hand and the little camera in her right. A fan, quite obviously – but with the cut-knife Brophy cheekbones and the caterpillar monobrow wiggling with badly concealed laughter. “Richard, Richard, please can I take your picture?” Jed intoned in a falsetto voice. And just before Richard could guffaw, he added “I’d like to show Santa what I want for Christmas!” Too much. Richard’s howling laughter was drowned in the hiss of cameras going off. “You cheeky bugger – that’s fighting by unfair means!” Richard grinned widely. “Told ya I could make ya smile”, Jed mumbled with a satisfied smile.


Have a lovely Christmas everyone – don’t overdo it with the gravy, and remember:

Peace and Love!

~ by Guylty on December 24, 2013.

26 Responses to “*ooof*: Smile for Santa!”

  1. Love this ficlet – it made me laugh too 🙂
    I wish you ‘Frohe Weihnachten’ and I hope you’ll have fun with family and friends back home! XOXOXO


  2. Thanks for this wonderful *ooof* as always.
    Hopefully the storm is not so bad in your area. We have a howling gale since last night…
    Gravy will be done tomorrow 🙂

    Ich wünsche Dir und Deinen Lieben “Frohe Weihnachten” und ein paar erholsame Feiertage.


    • It’s been really stormy here – but I love that kind of weather. Takes your thoughts off the gravy. Or gravy makers, for that matter.
      Frohe Weihnachten, liebe Ute, im Kreise deiner Familie, mit vielen Geschenken und ganz viel Stimmung und Lachen!


  3. Well, the Bollyknickers family has just had hours of fun experimenting with your tips and the camera! It’s a work in progress…

    Happy Christmas everyone!


    • *hehehe*, yes, particularly the squinting exercise is great fun. (I have practiced in front of the mirror myself, and I nearly pissed myself, looking at the varying degrees of ridiculousness 😉 – mind you, once you get the hang of it, it really works!!!) Happy Christmas down-under. Eat a BBQ-ed saussie for me, Bolly 😉 xx


  4. Thank you for this delightful ficlet, Guylty! 😉 I have used some of those very same tips in taking my own selfies (where DID my damned firm jawline go? Wherever my waist went, apparently LOL)! I also have to be really careful with my eyes, because I can look TOO big-eyed (and thus either terribly alarmed or completely mad, or perhaps terribly alarmed I might be completely mad). Merry, Merry Christmas and have a wonderful time with your family! XOXO Looking forward to many great *ooofs* in 2014. 😀


    • *kheehee* – I am glad to see my theories supported by other photo pros, Angie. I ruthlessly apply all those tricks whenever I am in front of the lens. If I remember to…
      Here’s to hoping that we’ll get much to *ooof* about in 2014. With Hassler’s Chrimbo pressie I can tide myself over to February, I guess *ggg*.


  5. It’s now 12.09 AM here in Sydney, so that means Merry Christmas, Guylty! Thanks for all the gorgeous photos you’ve analysed for us this year- fun and informative.
    I hope you have a wonderful day with your family.


    • Thank you Katharine 🙂 And merry Christmas to you – have you unwrapped the pressies yet??? It’s early morning, so you could… Or you could just feast your eyes on the most recently revealed images from Hassler – a Christmas pressie of a different kind, and one that will last into next year – I can see a good few *ooof*s coming up *ggg*
      Thanks for your comments and support, Katharine – let’s continue *ooof*ing in 2014! x


  6. Thanks, Guylty, you gave me two great Christmas gifts. A lovely image of someone I am expecting to find lounging under my tree tomorrow (after all, I have been a very good girl this year), and tips to make me less challenged in looking attractive in photos. A gift that keeps on giving. Have a lovely holiday.


  7. I’m still giggling at L’Armitage practicing his poses in front of the bathroom mirror. I never think of that particular preparation. Thanks for putting a wide smile under my tree! Happy Holiday’s!


  8. Happy Holidays Serv and to everyone here as well. Thank you all for the pleasure of your company.


  9. Family still asleep so I’m enjoying this quiet Christmas morning with a cuppa before the madness begins. Delectable image on which to gaze, some great tips (which I can’t wait to try out!) and a funny ficlet….perfect start to Christmas Day. 🙂
    Thank you Guylty, for this and all your wonderful ooofs this year. My best wishes to you and Serv and all here, have a lovely Christmas.


    • Thank you Mezz! I hope you had a lovely day with lots of family fun! I’d love to know if my tips made any difference!
      With more images having turned up it looks as if I won’t run out of *ooof* material any time soon. Thanks for reading, commenting and reblogging me on tumblr! Xx


  10. Merry Christmas to you, Guylty. Thanks for the ficlet gift. It was a knee-slapper. And I’m not speaking figuratively either.


  11. Merry Christmas and thanks for another wonderful *ooof*! Hilarious ficlet, too.

    I just wanted to note that I think he does do that thing with sticking out his jaw — if you look at the Getty images vids of the Strike Back premiere.


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