Behind the scenes at an NEA photo shoot

A quick reminder that the $500 Nordstrom gift card giveaway is still open! (It ends January 4th.)

I have an extra-special post for y’all today! My faculty association is part of the National Education Association (NEA), and my college was recently recognized and selected to participate in a new NEA photo campaign to highlight educators of all kinds. I helped represent my college in the campaign — there were seven of us total, both classified staff and faculty, representing the college in the campaign — and we all got to do a photo shoot!!! Complete with professional makeup artist, photographer, creative director, and a whole team of awesome and creative people.

I thought it would make for an interesting post to go “behind the scenes” at the NEA photo shoot! (My mom, a schoolteacher and school librarian, was also super-excited and was hoping for some behind-the-scenes photos, so this is for you, Mom!) The NEA rep very kindly forwarded me these behind-the-scenes photos and encouraged me to share them.

I was the first one scheduled on the long day of photo shoots, so I arrived bright and early — and bare-faced — to report for makeup. The team revealed that the makeup was usually people’s favorite part! I agree, it was actually super relaxing to get one’s makeup done by a professional. (And yes, even the guys had to get their makeup done. They even highlighted that in the NEA info packet they sent out beforehand!)

Here’s a before-and-after collage that the makeup artist put together. She said she gave me an “Adele-inspired” makeup look, focusing on the eyes and eyebrows and a lighter lip color.

Librarian for Life + Style | Before-and-after makeup collage

I asked questions while she was doing the makeup, which took a half-hour, like what the main difference between “camera makeup” and “regular makeup” was. She said that camera makeup was heavier, and she didn’t use shimmery products because they looked bad on camera with all the lights. I also noted that she had packets of disposable applicators to use for lipstick and mascara, so as to not cross-contaminate amongst multiple uses. Very clever — and hygienic!

Below is a photo I took of her awesome, and organized, makeup table:

Librarian for Life + Style | Makeup table for the photo shoot

After makeup, it was immediately off to my workplace, the college’s library, where the team had been setting up lights. There were three photo stations:  the first was me standing inbetween the periodical stacks; the second was me leaning over a dictionary stand in front of the circulating stacks; and the third was me inbetween the circulating stacks beside a cart of books. Each photo station took about 15 minutes to shoot, so the photo shoot part took a little over 45 minutes in total.

Here are photos the NEA rep took on her cell phone during the first photo station. (By the way, the photographer wore a “Knowledge Rocks” Schoolhouse Rocks t-shirt {similar style}. So appropriate!)

Librarian for Life + Style | Behind the scenes at an NEA photo shoot

Librarian for Life + Style | Behind the scenes at an NEA photo shoot

Here is me doing a “serious librarian face,” as instructed by the creative director:

Librarian for Life + Style | Behind the scenes at an NEA photo shoot

Below is me “smizing” (smiling with your eyes) at the second photo station set-up. The NEA rep and I also enjoyed exchanging tips and life lessons we have learned from Tyra Banks and America’s Next Top Model — that’s where the word “smize” comes from.

Librarian for Life + Style | Behind the scenes at an NEA photo shoot

For some photos, I used my glasses as props, as you can see above. The creative director gave me instructions to concentrate on facial expressions that conveyed pride in being an educator and pride in our amazing students.

The photographer was also great about giving really clear directions in facial and body movements — and often played off my interactions with the photo shoot team! For example, he was joking with one of the assistants who was holding lights, that he kept getting into the shot. I then turned to the assistant, laughing and smiling, and asked if he could be my student in the photo and if he needed anything. The photographer immediately said, “Yes! Keep that expression and look toward me!” 😀 And at the end, the photographer was checking with the creative director — to see if they were finished — and I had been holding a stack of books by the book cart. He said I could put the books down for the time being, so I put them on top of the book cart and leaned over, resting my chin on my knuckles. The photographer looked up and directed me to stay just like that and snapped a few final shots.

I also bonded with one of the assistants because her grandmother was a librarian, who founded a couple of public libraries!

After the photo shoot, I took a couple of selfies and texted them to my husband. I have to admit, I took off most of the blush when I got home, but I did enjoy the dramatic eye makeup for the rest of the day!

Librarian for Life + Style | A selfie of my photo shoot makeup

Our hairstyles and our outfits had to be camera-ready when we arrived for makeup. To help in this, we were also given directions about what to wear (and what not to wear) for the photo shoot, including:  NO all-black, white, prints or patterns, bright colors or neon, or pastels. We were instructed to wear something we would normally wear to work and felt comfortable in. I brainstormed with Sam beforehand (it was SUPER HARD for me to put together something without a print or pattern — y’all know how I like to pattern-mix!), and we agreed on a variation of an outfit I wear a lot for work:  my light denim jacket over a tank top, my wide-legged grey trousers, and a skinny belt. You can see a variation of this outfit here.

When I got dressed that morning, I asked Sam how I looked, and he said, “Ready to go to work!” Perfect! I relayed this story to the photo shoot team, and they laughed — and were very pleased that I had read the memo about what to wear. (OF COURSE I did — I am a librarian!)

Librarian for Life + Style | My work outfit for the photo shoot


We also had to have a backup outfit ready, in case the first outfit didn’t work out. I didn’t have to wear my backup outfit, but I thought y’all would like to know what I had brought along, just in case. You can see this outfit in action here.

Librarian for Life + Style | My backup outfit for the photo shoot


What will happen next with the photos? The NEA rep said it would be a couple of months before they got to the editing phase (they have another photo shoot to do in January), and she would share the final, selected photos with me so I could chime in with my own favorites. I have no idea if they will actually use any of the photos from my photo shoot for their campaign, but I’ll be sure to keep an eye out on the NEA website, just in case!

And there you have it, a behind-the-scenes look at a really special opportunity to participate in an NEA photo shoot. Sam joked that he could now say he is married to a model! Hah! 😉 It was a super fun experience, and I’m very glad to have participated and to help represent — even in a small way — my profession, my union, my college, and my students!

Have you ever done a photo shoot or had your makeup professionally done? Please leave a comment and share your experiences!


6 thoughts on “Behind the scenes at an NEA photo shoot

  1. Erin @ Loop Looks

    That is so cool!! When I did the photoshoot for Crain’s magazine they didn’t have a make-up person although I could have used one, for sure.

    How did the college choose who to submit for the campaign?

    1. Jen @ Librarian for Life + Style Post author

      I was one of three representing the faculty union, and our association president announced it at Faculty Senate. I went up afterward to ask her a question about something else and she slyly asked if I was volunteering for the photo shoot. I laughed and said sure. I thought it would be a fun experience! 🙂 I had to do my own hair but it was really fun to have the makeup done.

  2. Jane Whittingham

    Sounds like a great experience! I actually hadn’t heard of the NEA before, so I definitely learned something new today 🙂 Also, I think it’s great to showcase just how diverse today’s libraries and library staff can be – librarians aren’t just sitting behind desks looking frumpy and grumpy anymore! 😉


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