Tuesday, May 24, 2016

How to Avoid "Flashback" on Your Big Day

Once upon a time, before mirrors were invented by Venetian glassblowers in the 18th Century, most people lived and died without ever knowing what they looked like.  I know, I know, there are mornings when that would be a blessing.  And then, in the 19th Century, Louis-Jacques Mandé Daguerre invented photography, and we ladies would never look upon ourselves in quite the same way again. 

Copyright by Mirella Patzer - History and Women

Getting your picture taken in those early days was a rare and wondrous event, for which you posed in your best clothes, jewelry and, above all else, your best hat. 

Jennifer Anniston - Dave Hogan for Getty Images Europevia
Fast forward two centuries into the age of the selfie, ambush selfie and candid paparazzi pix, and even the most beautiful of celebrities is not immune from unflattering photos.  So, what possible hope can we mere mortal women have? 

Vintage Couple
No longer do we have the luxury of preparing to look our best for those special occasion pictures as we snap away recording the minutia of our every-day lives and our every-day faces.  When we were young, we could discard the occasionally unflattering photo and no one was the wiser.  Today, those photos end up getting passed around from I-phone to I-phone and plastered all over Facebook.     

Etsy - Wedding Kit

Do not despair, ladies.  With wedding season upon us, now is the time to take advantage of one of those wondrous events to look absolutely smashing.  And, if you are the mother of the bride, you can relax, secure in the knowledge that that professional photographer you hired, whose fee made your husband turn 50 shades of gray, will make sure every picture of you and the blushing bride is a red-carpet photo. 

Last week, my friend, Josephine, whose wonderful, London-based Blog Chic at Any Age is one of my must-reads, showed a great tutorial in her Monday Musings – Fashion Flash post by one of our favorite make-up artists, Lisa Eldridge.  The subject was make-up for the mother of the bride.  If you are over 40/50 and want to put your most photogenic face forward on your daughter’s wedding day, Lisa’s tutorial is well worth watching.  There are lots of great tips and tricks in it that will have you looking picture perfect, one of which is to avoid make-up with SPF. 

Here’s why…………

It’s called “flashback,” and even celebrities who’ve had their make-up professionally applied are not immune from it when snapped with a camera or cell phone that uses direct flash. 

So what causes it and how can you avoid it? 

What Causes Flashback?

Direct flash

Direct flash appears to be the biggest culprit.  Most professional photographers use indirect flash, thereby avoiding the problem; however, when friends and family start snapping away, you may get some flashback on indoor shots, since those cameras and cell phones all use direct flash.  Candid outdoor shots should be just fine. 

Other likely culprits are certain Skin Care products and Make-up

Skin Care Products (Source: Venusglow)

If, like me, your skin is sensitive to chemical sun screen products, you probably wear something with Titanium Dioxide and/or Zinc Oxide.  These ingredients can cause flashback.  They are also key ingredients in BB creams, which are so flattering to mature skin in natural light. 

Make-up (Source: Venusglow)

Micronized powders, primers and products with Mica and Sillica can take years off your face by giving you that glowy and dewy look; but that soft-focus, reflective quality that looks so good in real life, can cause flashblack in photos. 

Highlight and shimmer products can also create white spots, and use a very light hand with that concealer under the eyes, unless…………

you like the Donald Trump reverse raccoon look.  Personally, I’m not a fan. 

How Do You Avoid Flashback?

Maddie Eisenhart of the Blog A Practical Wedding did the hard work of testing numerous products (some of which are no longer available) by photographing them with direct flash, bounced (indirect) flash and natural light and picking winners and losers.  The results were interesting and somewhat surprising.  She found that direct flash was a bigger culprit in flashback than products with SPF. 

For example, one of her “Winners” was Clinique Super City Block primer, which contains an SPF of 40.  In further research on the subject, I found that the difference appears to be in the chemical composition of the SPF, rather than the fact of the SPF, itself. 

Case in point……..

Laura Mercier’s Tinted Moisturizer, which I wear every day, has an SPF of 20 AND contains Titanium Dioxide and Mica but does NOT appear to cause flashback.  Why?  Well, if you look at the list of ingredients, you see that those two ingredients show up at the bottom of the list, which means the product contains only small amounts.  In addition, I always set it with Laura’s Loose Translucent Setting Powder.  As opposed to compact powder, loose powder sets your make-up better, lasts longer and does a better job of minimizing shine, particularly in photos. 

And then there are HD make-up products which were developed to minimize and smooth imperfections for HD movies and TV.  HD is notorious for highlighting every little flaw and imperfection.  While it works beautifully in that medium, it can cause flashback in still photos, so it’s best to avoid HD make-up for photos.   

This may all sound a bit confusing, so I’ll leave you with three pieces of advice for the BIG DAY. 

Put your face in the hands of a professional make-up artist. 

Keep your make-up matte and in warm tones.  Use highlighters sparingly. 

Take pictures ahead of time in full make-up indoors and outdoors, using direct and indirect flash. 

Oh, and BTW, Mother of the Bride, the pride and joy you feel as you look at your beautiful daughter on her wedding day is all the glow your face will need and motherly glow does NOT create flashback. 


  1. I've been watching Lisa for years and made a comment about an application I still pratice today, what she calls her Parisian look; thin navy blue cream eyeliner (upper lashes only) tons of mascara and a bold red lip.
    This weekeind I'll be having my wedding anniversary and still have flashbacks at wanting to do away with my wedding photographer. Not only did he not follow my list of precise instructions but he captured everyone at their worse. Photogrpahy is an Art as is Make-Up and e discerning eye is needed to capture beauty.

    1. Isn't Lisa wonderful? Congratulations on your wedding anniversary. Sorry about the wedding picture remorse. I had an excellent photographer, but I've been married so long that my wedding pictures are starting to take on that Rembrandtesque patina. Actually, I think I look better that way. Maybe, over time, everyone will look better in your wedding photos, too.

      Hope you and hubby have a wonderful anniversary celebration.

      As always, love your comments.

      Cheers, M-T

  2. Thank you Marie-Therese for your mention and link back. My avatar photo was taken in a studio setting by a professional photographer and I was very careful with my make-up on the day. Very interesting that you go into the science behind the flashback. I do have a conflict on the days I do photography as I have to wear a SPF50 every day due to my melanoma history. I used to like the Clinique product. I will check it out again it may be the answer. Very useful information. For my daughters wedding I had a professional make-up artist and for my sons I had a consultation beforehand to get the products right so that I could do my own make-up on the day. None of us want the Donald Trump look!!!!!

    1. Isn't it ironic that the advances in make-up products make us look better in real life, but sometimes work against us in print. Life's funny that way. I did my own make-up for my wedding, but then, everyone did in those days.

      Your blog post was what inspired me to look into this subject. Thanks, Josephine.

      Cheers, M-T

  3. Dearest Marie-Thérèse,
    Do you think that all those photos with white spots in the face are caused by 'flashbacks'? In my opinion is the majority caused by laser therapy for the skin or even by cosmetic surgery and the use of heavy makeup as a result of it.
    We all have to be very careful with the use of makeup as so many ingredients can cause harm to our skin!
    Enjoy your weekend and sending you hugs,

    1. Dearest Mariette,

      That's an interesting point. I did not find any mention of cosmetic surgery or laser therapy causing white spots in photos, but I do agree that we need to be very careful w/make-up and skin irritation. I have ultra-sensitive skin, so I am very much aware of "everything" I put on my face.

      Have a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend.

      Hugs to you and Pieter,

      Cheers, M-T

  4. As a soon-to-be MOB (September), this was a timely and informative post! Thank you for the info. I like Lisa Eldridge, and will have to check out that post. I noticed myself looking very pale in some recent photos, and now I know why! xo Deborah

    1. Timing is everything in life, and I'm so glad my post was timed just right for you. September is a beautiful month for a marriage. I should know. I was married in September 38 years ago.

      This summer will whizz by for you and your daughter. Suddenly, the big day will be here and I know it will be perfect. In the meantime, keep us up-to-date on your wonderful Blog.

      Cheers to the lovely MOB,

  5. Dearest Marie-Thérèse,
    Just letting you know that as a Flash Back in time, I'm thinking about your Mother's Birthday today...


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