My brother recently dug up a few old photos revealing some hairstyles I have very little photographic record of.
That’s me getting a minor trim from my sister, circa 1991 I think. It took several years to grow my hair to that length. It was probably around 1993 that I finally got sick of it and chopped it off, transitioning to a buzz cut after some short-lived mid-length stages.
And that’s me in my Petersham flat, early 1995 I would guess. Those German army jackets were pretty popular from surplus stores at the time, and the mohawk was specifically chosen for a movie-themed party. In hindsight, it’s a combo that sends all the wrong signals.
When you’re waiting for that epiphany it doesn’t hurt to be prepared, and how can you expect to enjoy a fresh perspective when you’re burdened with a terrible hair cut?
Before and After… see how dynamic and resourceful the latter is? I look like such a young go-getter now. When I lose the wonky glasses in a couple of weeks no one will even recognize the new me!
One problem remaining is that my part is apparently on the wrong side, since parting on the right as I do apparently signals softness and femininity, unlike parting on the left, which signals total macho awesomeness.
The cutest example of this rather dubious theory is in the difference between Clark Kent/Superman.
Side note: How fucking awesome was Christopher Reeve…
A brief addendum to the previous post on online dating: it’s amazing how bad photos are are truly capturing a likeness.
When we see someone in real life, we effectively see them in 3D– or arguably 4D, since unless they’re in a coma there will generally be continuous movement in their face as well. When posting pics on a website it’s amazing how hard it is to really capture what you will look like in the flesh. Several times I’ve had the experience of basically not recognizing a person from their pics, and it’s not just because they used unrealistically glamorous shots on their profile– quite often someone will be much more attractive In Real Life than their photos may have implied. Personally I think I look like shit in photos and assume I am much better looking in person, but that may be just wishful thinking? All I know is that the person I see in the mirror is rather different from the person I see in photos and I don’t think it’s merely the left-right reversal thing.
One of the most obvious ways to see how a frozen 2D snapshot can fail to capture a likeness is to notice how utterly different a face can look based simply on the distance to the camera. To the right is a sequence I shot within 10 seconds, simply walking towards the camera and resizing each frame so my eyes are in roughly the same position – a stop motion version of the popular “silent scream” effect in film. The longest shot is about 3m from the camera and the shortest is about 0.7m. I find it quite disconcerting how much effect this variation in distance has on my appearance, but since I never notice this effect when someone simply walks towards me I think it is more an artefact of the 2D image and the way that it can remove the context of distance, which our brains would normally incorporate when building a mental image of a person.
Many years ago I was fooling around with Photoshop when I noticed that a particular combination of filter and blend amounted to a quick and easy photo enhancement technique, which at the time I christened the "Make Pretty" filter. I have never seen a portrait photo which couldn’t be substantially improved using this technique (especially if it was taken using a flash).
The photo below was taken at a dinner a couple of weeks ago, and before processing is typical of the sort of photo that I hate because it makes me look like a pasty git. After processing I think maybe it’s worth keeping, especially because it is almost impossible to find a photo of me smiling.
Three easy steps to making [white] people look better using Photoshop:
Adjust levels and move mid point to lighten the shadow areas (in over-exposed shots you may need to darken rather than lighten).
Apply a Gaussian blur with a radius such that facial features are still discernable but small details (eg a zit or greasy highlight) are smoothed out. Depending on image size this could be anywhere from 3 to 16 pixels.
Use Edit->Fade and set the blend mode to overlay and the opacity to somewhere between 40% and 70%
-> -> ->
The actual numbers will vary from image to image, but the process is fairly straightforward after you’ve experimented a bit. The net result seem to be that the blurred version combines with the original in such a way as to bring out facial structure and color while de-emphasizing surface detail. The above sample was processed with a blur of 3 pixel radius and a 70% overlay blend. I also cheated a little and desaturated my teeth in this case, but that step isn’t essential to achieve an improvement.
Using values 70% or higher for step 3 you will see significant saturation of colors, to the point where you might want to reapply the original colors (keeping the luminosity from the new image).
Hmmm I think I’ll avoid posting any more pictures of myself for a while, since looking back over recent posts I’m starting to seem a little obsessive over my appearance…
BTW I’m not planning to make a habit of OSX’ing my images– I just like experimenting in Photoshop to reproduce various effects.
Ok, I am well sick of fake blonde now, after trying three different levels I’ve concluded it always looks bad, so I’ve decided to try an equally unrealistic color at the other end of the spectrum…
Dying hair black is a LOT messier than I realized… the actual process took less than half an hour (I’d even bought a second treatment in case it didn’t come out black enough haha), but the cleanup took forever. After mixing the goo to a light tan color and rubbing some in my hair, I looked down to mix some more and when I looked in the mirror it suddenly appeared that someone had emptied a chemical toilet over my head. Wow.
I also tried a bit on my eyebrows (you can see my aim is terrible) but it didn’t seem to make so much difference. I think the reason it worked so quick up top was that after bleaching the hair is incredibly damaged and porous and just sucks the pigment right up. It will be interesting to see what color it is by light of day (I think there’s a fair bit of blue in there).
Another point to note is that fingernails are made of keratin, the same protein that hair is made of. This means that unless you want blue-black nails you should not remove your gloves during the process!
Acceptable comments [just barely] for someone who changes their hair color dramatically:
- Did you have had a nasty fright?
- Your hair looks like my grandmother’s!
Comments which cross the line:
- You so ugly!
- You’re not going to leave it like that are you?
- It’s great to see you’re still doing the kind of crazy stuff we all left behind years ago.
Starting from the top:
Unflattering glasses, with arms too thick for the rest of the frames.
Sickly pallor, especially around the neck.
Cheap hooded pullover, missing the dangly bits of cord. Covers further pallor as well as a recently acquired paunch.
Pale hands with large knuckles and badly chewed nails.
Ill fitting jeans, specially tailored to accentuate the shortness of my legs.
Extremely cheap Converse knock-offs, which would be great if they lasted more than four weeks.
I’d like to think that I might look back on this entry in a year or two and laugh at my embarrassing lack of style, but in truth I expect I’ll probably be dressed much the same. I’ve always been terrible at shopping for clothes, and have a life-long aversion to hairdressers.
Of course the good thing about not having a very high standard is that it requires virtually no effort to maintain :)
- Don’t do it!
Seriously, you will regret it when it comes to the part where you have to take pictures of the back of your head for visual reference, and then you realize that the amazingly cheap electric clippers you bought were cheap for a reason, so you adjust the blades as far forward as they will go, and then next thing you know you’ve got blood all over your fingers and you’re like, What the…? and then you think, Oh yeah, I did have a mole on the back of my neck…
Anyhow, what’s done is done, and overall it’s still a big improvement over what it was before (long, straight and floppy, rather similar to the male Eloi in the original Time Machine movie). I don’t know about you, but I always know it’s time for a haircut when anonymous motorists call me a faggot – Thanks, self-regulating society!
Bonus one step guide to coloring your own hair:
- Pick a color that isn’t the same as your bedroom wall.
Last week when I drove up to visit my parents in Murwillumbah (my old home town) I decided to grab some family photos to bring back with me, so that I could scan them in for easier access and in order to preserve them [many of the color ones have already faded quite badly, even those under 20 years old].
It’s a project I’ve been meaning to do for a while, but now that I have what appears to be about 20kg of photos and albums piled up here next to me, the whole task is starting to look just a little bit daunting. I decided to start with my old school photos, but of course have already become distracted from the task at hand, and have been experimenting instead with attempting to recreate the facial expressions worn in some of these photos. It’s a surprisingly entertaining activity, if a little time-consuming.
The original images – details from group shots – of me aged 11, 12 and 16 respectively [dig that broody 16-year old]:
And here they are again, with me aged 32, 32 and 32 respectively.
The faces were photoshopped in from photos [taken just now] of me mimicking the expressions from the originals. Considering how ridiculously difficult this is to do on your own [trying to get it right without being able to see a side-by-side comparison] I think it worked pretty well!
Hmmm… I’m looking for a new hairstyle, maybe I should revisit that “Helmet-Head” haircut…
Also, looking back though family and school photos in general makes me think: I really should smile more. It’s really annoying seeing that dead expression all the time, but somewhere along the way I developed an irrational fear of smiling in front of a camera, and I’ve never really gotten over it. I just hope I still smile in Real Life…