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North Hills Monthly

Creating a Cover—while Social Distancing

Apr 27, 2020 01:20PM ● By Vanessa Orr

Nicole Bell posing for the Inspired Women: Pay it Forward feature. Photography by Dena Koenig Photography

One of the keys to the success of Inspired Women: Paying it Forward is that it’s all about creating a tight-knit group of women who, through shared goals and collaboration, want to make a difference in the world. So it was quite a challenge to gather this group together for a cover photo shoot—with the aim of keeping them as far apart as possible.

“I didn’t think it would happen; because of the physical risk of close contact, I figured the shoot would get postponed like everything else during the pandemic,” said Nicole Bell, head chef and owner of Nicole’s Kitchen, LLC. “It took a lot of ingenuity to make this happen.”

North Hills Monthly Account Executive Holly Anne Conti and Dena Koenig, owner of Dena Koenig Photography, came up with a solution. “This was a unique opportunity to think outside the box,” said Conti, who was in charge of her first cover for the magazine. “We came up with the idea of doing a composite photo, with all of the women coming at half-hour increments, and sanitizing the area in between sessions.”

Koenig first had to scout locations at her home that would fit the cover dimensions while also fitting five people in the shot. “I needed to find anywhere that I could layer people,” she explained of the need to stack people of different heights. “Since I didn’t know the women beforehand, I didn’t know who was tall or short, or what they’d be wearing.”

Koenig placed stools where the women would be standing, and measured the distance between them, marking their places with tape on the floor. She also marked where she and her camera needed to be to ensure that she was in the same place every time.

Each woman was photographed in five different positions, with Koenig paying special attention to how they were posed. “In a regular photoshoot, I would have tweaked where they stood to make them all fit together, but that wasn’t an option,” she said.

Using photoshop, Koenig came up with three options for the cover, including one that featured a bright pink tree in the background—which was added five days after the photoshoot when the buds had reached full bloom.  

“I thought it was a brilliant idea,” said Sally Power, owner of Treasure House Fashions, of the innovative approach. “We all maintained social distancing, and waved at each other from a distance. And when I saw it all put together, I was blown away. They did an exceptional job.”

“I wondered how it would work because during a group photoshoot, you tend to feed off of other’s personalities,” added Julie Snider, a residential real estate agent with Achieve Realty. “But it actually worked out great—and it was done so efficiently that it was probably easier than having the whole group together.”

Social distancing wasn’t the only concern, however. There was a little apprehension about everyone looking their best—especially with hair and nail salons closed…and refrigerators open.

“I had a moment of panic because I didn’t have my hair cut and I’d been eating junk food for three weeks; I wasn’t sure about doing a photo shoot,” laughed Bell. “But the shoot was totally relaxed; I realized that how I looked didn’t matter; the world had bigger problems. We had a lot of laughs and made the most of it. And it was like Christmas morning when we got to see the results!”

When the photos were unveiled, everyone was elated. 

“The pictures turned out great!” said Melanie Saflin, owner of Medicare Choices. “I knew it could be done, but when I saw the results, I thought, ‘Wow! This is good.‘ And it certainly looks better than all of us standing six feet apart!”

“It was wonderful that everyone banded together to make this happen,” added Grace Coleman, executive director of Crisis Center North. “The cover is truly emblematic of our organization—inspired women coming up with a way to work around the pandemic to keep everyone safe while still accomplishing our goal. It was a great experience.”