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Photo Stylist Shoots for Perfection

TIMES STAFF WRITER

It’s Leslie Freidson Lawicki’s job to create images that will attract and tantalize someone into looking at a photograph. But it’s not her job to shoot the picture.

That’s left to someone else, someone who invariably gets credit for the image.

Lawicki is a photography stylist. She’s in charge of all the details necessary to make something that is highly planned look absolutely natural.

Her subjects can range from a platter of seafood to celebrities hyping their latest projects.

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“Styling a shot means putting everything together and having it turn out just how you envision it,” said the 32-year-old free-lancer who lives in Mission Viejo. “It can be like a dream come true.

“You achieve this by creating different environments through lighting, location and props or accessories and then putting them together to create an attitude.”

A picture never accurately reflects the amount of work that goes into the finished product. For one food shot, a chef had to make 30 souffles before one was picture perfect.

Because looks are more important than taste in this line of work, it’s fair to use a few tricks to enhance the image. Shaving cream is often substituted for whipped cream because its oilier surface remains separated from the substance it’s topping.

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Other methods of intensifying the food photograph include adding chemicals that produce smokelike steam to make cold drinks look hot, using toothpicks or tape to hold food together, and spraying it with glycerin or oil to produce a shiny appearance.

Lawicki grew up in Anaheim. After graduating from Arizona State University with a degree in graphic design, she returned to Orange County and worked as an art director for three locally based magazines over a nine-year period before starting her own styling and graphic business, Lawicki Design, in March.

A major portion of Lawicki’s work involves fashion assignments and working with models and celebrities. Over the years she’s worked with Paula Abdul, Sean Young, Jaclyn Smith, George Burns, Dolly Parton, Olivia Newton-John and Danny Glover.

The stylist’s job begins long before the day of the shoot, scouting locations and gathering the wardrobe and props, plus commissioning the support staff--the makeup and hair stylists and assistants.

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The day of the shoot, all eyes are forward. It’s the details that can make or break the photograph. Is there a tag or loose thread hanging from an outfit? Are the tops of the model’s shoes scuffed or are her nylons bagging at the knee? Are there dead leaves on a plant used in the foreground?

And the stylist’s job continues after the shoot. The props have to be returned. And then there’s that lingering feeling that the next one has to look even better, especially in a competitive field like fashion photography.

“It’s very difficult to sit down and watch a movie, or look at a magazine to enjoy it, because I’m evaluating it and looking at how people did things,” Lawicki says. “I keep abreast of what’s happening in the fashion world. I subscribe to 30 magazines.”

“I am the kind of person who has a definite picture in my mind, but I’m also willing to let the moment happen,” she said.

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