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Rock stars for a day/ John Robert Williams

Anne Stanton - February 28th, 2011
Rock Star for a day: TC photographer makes you look like a million bucks
By Anne Stanton
Do you remember Glamour Shots, the national chain photography studio that
transformed an “ordinary” woman into a hussy with a red feather boa, sexy
lingerie, and black eyeliner as thick as tread marks? .
“An utter embarrassment,” said John Robert Williams. “No one saved those
pictures! I am all about having a wonderful image that you’ll keep for the
rest of your life—it’s you, only better. But it’s not as easy as just
showing up in front of the camera.”
That’s the goal behind Perfect Portrait, his new team approach for getting
a great picture. Williams shoots a “before” picture — a quick photo just
after you walk in off the street — and then gives you a rock star
treatment with a long massage and a beauty make-over. The client is so
relaxed, so happy, the photography session is nearly effortless—like
shooting a fish in a barrel, Williams said, mixing a metaphor or two.
Colleen Wares, a radio personality on the WTCM-FM morning team, said she
was wary of getting her photo taken.
“John, said, ‘Trust me, trust me,’ and I do trust him. But I’m in my 50s,
and at my age, I don’t like getting my picture taken. I can’t stand it, I
hate it.  So to get it purposely taken made me very uncomfortable. Yet
when I saw that ‘after’ picture, it was all good. I am very happy with it.
When John says, ‘Trust me,’ you can really trust him.”

Williams, a commercial photographer, has long specialized in formal
portraiture, while other area photography studios have branched off to
more offbeat approaches, such as posing high school students near a
stately tree or stream. Not Williams.  He’s a believer in gussying up for
a formal studio portrait.
He laments that many people have only had snapshots taken of themselves.
“That’s taking a picture, not making a picture,” said Williams, who tends
to stress his words. “As a photographer, I can chisel your features,
change the perspective  of your face. I can tell a story of you just the
same as an author can.”
To give an idea of how his new approach works, Williams offered me the
full team treatment, promising a photo to treasure for life. Williams said
that everyone needs a good photo. “Every day, you create your image, your
reputation, it’s something you’ve earned!”

I arrived wearing a round-necked, maroon shirt, but Williams said a dark
v-neck is really the most slimming. I smiled for the “before” shot, hoping
for the best, and then went to meet Heidi Mahler, who has a massage
therapy room right in the studio. The small, warm room is outfitted with
an electric fireplace, plush carpet, bamboo furniture and burgundy walls
with a subtle scent of incense. It couldn’t be more inviting.
The massage revealed decades of shoulder tension from typing at a
computer. I suffer from what my husband calls “grubs”—muscle knots—that
refuse to dislodge from my neck. Mahler explained that these knots are
adhesions, long fibers that are contracting all the time and ultimately
start catching and piling on top of each other—kind of like a lumped up
sheet that needs a strong hand to straighten out. By the end of the
session, I had let go most of the muscle and mind tension, and that’s the
“That tension, all of those thoughts, really affect our face, all that
holding and thinking,” Mahler explained.
Wares, who is much more of a veteran of massages than I am, said it was
the best massage she’d ever had.
“I didn’t expect that. Here’s a massage room set up in a photo studio, and
it seemed kind of strange. But it wasn’t. She was very good, the best, and
I was sad, I was heartbroken when I looked up and realized it was almost
time to be done. She gets an A-plus. I’m going back. I’m going back!”

After Mahler’s magic, I took my relaxed facial muscles into a make-up
room, where for another 30 minutes, Debra Plucker coached me on make-up
strategies, starting with foundation around my eyes (as opposed to heavy
concealer, which  doesn’t blend well into the eye wrinkles). The effect
was subtle—no thick eyeliner, no poofy hair—but I suddenly looked younger.
I told Plucker how great it would be if she showed up at my house every
morning with her make-up kit. She said that every single client tells her
that, but it’s easy enough to learn how.
Her general make-up advice: If you are in junior high, you probably don’t
need much make-up at all, but quite a few wear 10 times too much. If
you’re older and mascara runs down your face, skip the lower lashes. And
no one, of any age, should wear sparkly make-up.
“You should enhance your really great features. I have a friend who has a
beautiful smile with perfect white teeth and she always wears red
lipstick. So she plays up her smile. You can also downplay your worst
features. You can soften your jaw with make-up, and once you know how,
it’s really quite quick.”
Plucker said she sizes up a client when they walk in the door, going for a
natural effect for those who wear little make-up. At the end, she treated
me with a chocolate truffle, promising me the same sensation of falling in
love for the first time. If it were only true!

Next came the photo session, where Williams took shot after shot, while
Plucker occasionally primped and powdered.  He said that when it comes to
television or magazine photo shoots, the make-up preparation usually takes
up to two hours. Then the photo is usually Photoshopped. Bottom line, the
magazine pictures we are looking at are, well, a fairy tale with a
standard of beauty impossible to match.
As for my own photos, I was delighted. I looked like myself, only more
alive and prettier.  We picked out one together, and Williams kindly
touched up my eye wrinkles with a few movements of the Mouse.
Wares, also thrilled with her photo, told me that her “before” photograph
was so disconcerting, that she will likely never let anyone take a picture
of her for the rest of her life.
“But I’m very happy with the ‘after.’ When I look at it, seriously, there
wasn’t that much Photoshopping—it was a lot of both my hair and make-up.
It’s better than how I really look, but I was really happy with it. It’s
how I like to think of myself.”
For more information, call John Robert Williams Commerical Photography at
231-941-4020 or go to

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