Woman of a Thousand Faces: Photographer Amanda Chapman Uses Hollywood Makeup to Create Stunning Self Portraits

©Amanda Chapman

Once in danger of fading away, Halloween has grown to become a favorite holiday for more adults than children. Adults are now devoting a great deal of time, energy and money into dressing us as various characters from movies, television shows and video games. Photographer Amanda Chapman elevates “dressing up for Halloween” to a totally new level with her well-crafted images.

She has won awards, been featured in magazines and appeared on album covers. While her images often embrace light and beauty every October, Chapman likes to explore the dark side of life. Since 2012 Chapman has created a series of 31 Halloween themed self-portraits—featuring Chapman dressed as characters from popular horror movies and television shows. Because her transformation is so astounding, the 31 Days Of Halloween series has become an Internet sensation.

We recently interviewed Chapman to find out how she creates her "spooktacular" self portraits.

©Amanda Chapman

Shutterbug: Please give us some background on your photography career.

Chapman: I became interested in photography in 2007. My daughter (who was 6 years old at the time) was my inspiration and muse. I decided to join an online photography community and began sharing my work there. Connecting with fellow photographers and seeing their amazing work inspired me to pick up my camera more and more. By the end of that year, I had booked my first wedding and shot the band Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit for the cover of Alabama Music magazine.

©Amanda Chapman

Shutterbug: Your 31 Days Of Halloween series is amazing. I see that you started the project in 2012 and created a new series of portraits each year. What inspired you to use makeup to transform yourself into spooky characters from movies and TV?

Chapman: Halloween has always been my favorite day of the year even though I was born on Christmas day. As a child I loved dressing up as different characters to go out trick or treating and this continued throughout my adult life—after I had my two children. I've always loved makeup and transforming myself but I never imagined it would become a form of therapy for me and my family. In August of 2012 my husband Greg was diagnosed with cancer (non Hodgkin's lymphoma). This news completely devastated my family. Two months later I decided to do something positive to take our minds off of this negative situation and, literally on a whim, I started each day in October doing a different makeup on myself and then I would share it on Facebook. I really had no clue from day to day what character I was going to do I just knew I had to continue it when I saw the smile it put on my husband and children's faces. 

©Amanda Chapman

Shutterbug: Who does the makeup effects and how do you pick the characters each year? How long does it take to shoot all 31 images?

Chapman: I do the entire process from applying my makeup to styling my hair (or wigs), finding the attire for each character at thrift stores, setting up the lighting of the shot and shooting the photo. All this takes places in my home studio. When I first started my "31 Days Of Halloween" series in 2012 I was creating each character that day and I would then share it on my Facebook page. In the years to follow I would sometimes start in the last few weeks of September to get a head start and still leave days open during October for requests I receive from Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Characters that I dearly love inspired most of the make-ups. I'm a huge fan of horror movies as well as Tim Burton films and The Walking Dead. Each character varies in the time that it takes to complete the entire look. The Mad Hatter, for instance, took about an hour where Pinhead and last year's Walking Dead inspired zombie took about 3-4 hours. Getting the shot is somewhat time consuming as well. Self-portraits are not the easiest thing to accomplish and in this case, since I'm portraying another character, I have to try and capture their personality as well.

©Amanda Chapman

Shutterbug: How do you capture the images? What gear do you use and do you enhance the shots with Photoshop?

Chapman: I have a home studio set-up that consists of a gray seamless backdrop, an AlienBees b800 flash unit mounted in the AlienBees Octagon softbox, two continuous strobes (with gels) and a large reflector. I shoot with the Canon 5D Mark III and the lens I use most for these shots is the Canon 24-105mm f/4L. I do standard touchups in Photoshop like flyaway hairs, skin blemish removal (using liquid latex on the skin can cause this) and any sharpening or saturation I see necessary.

©Amanda Chapman

Shutterbug: Are you planning to do a series for 2015 and which characters do you have in mind?

Chapman: I love this series so much and every year I hope to complete another one. My husband who has been treatment free since 2012 has now started chemotherapy and is scheduled to have a possible bone marrow transplant later this year that could hopefully cure his cancer. This plays a huge role in our lives and schedules this year. If I'm able to do the series again to lift the spirits of my husband and family then I will certainly do so.

©Amanda Chapman

Shutterbug: What advice would you give others who want to create unique self-portraits?

Chapman: The positive side to shooting self-portraits is that you are in total control. If you have a unique idea that you would be too shy or intimidated to ask someone to model for you then try the idea in a self portrait. Be as creative as you desire!  

©Amanda Chapman

Shutterbug: What other projects you working on these days?

Chapman: I am currently working on a photography project that celebrates the history of Halloween. See, I told you it was my favorite holiday. 

©Amanda Chapman

Find out more about Amanda Chapman and see more of her images on her website.