Janet Martinez spent part of last week indulging in a fantasy.
Pampered for 2 1/2 hours at Elegant Images, a photography salon at The Mall in Columbia, Martinez had her makeup applied by a cosmetologist,hair done by a professional stylist and pictures taken under the direction of an aspiring fashion photographer.
The results were glamorous, illusionary and fleeting.
Still, those kinds of results have had women, as well as some men, flocking to Elegant Images and asking to be transformed from the ordinary to the extraordinary -- at least long enough to have their pictures taken.
For Martinez, it was her second trip to the salon. She was the store's first customer when it opened last October.
"I enjoy the whole idea of treating myself," she said. "I usually run around all day doing things for other people. This I do for me."
Her first set ofglamour photos so surprised her friends and family that the compliments were often backhanded.
"People would look at them and say, 'Whoa, you can look like that?' " she said.
Making the unbelievable achievable is the art of Elegant Images, said John Segall, who foundedthe company with his brother Jeff in 1989. The Segalls also own Segall Majestic Photography, a traditional photo studio that has operatedin Baltimore for 54 years.
Segall said he and his brother had considered ways of branching out for years. After seeing other studios popularize glamour photography, they took the idea and added a twist.
Originally done by established photography studios as an income booster, glamour photo sessions were generally elaborate affairs involving costumes and full-body poses. The emphasis was often on transforming the client into a sexy pin-up model, and prices were often in the$1,000 range.
At Elegant Images, the emphasis and prices have been scaled down.
"We wanted to emphasize pampering and make people feel good about themselves," said Segall. "We wanted the photography to be almost an afterthought."
By offering only cover-girl poses --from head to shoulder -- and eschewing costumes, Elegant Images combines glamour photography with the efficiency of a fast-food operation.
Segall said that an Elegant Images salon can handle up to 45 customers a day, giving each client a 2 1/2-hour session. Prices range from about $60 to $264 for a make-over and photos.
Sessions begin with the application of theatrical makeup. Then, instead of a costume,stylists drape the customer's shoulders in fabrics, which are manipulated into bows, pleats or braids to look like an expensive evening gown.
Clients have their choice of fabrics, from brightly colored lames, to pastel silks and laces. Hats and coats of fur and leather can be added as props.
Although the salon draws more women than men,some couples and single men have been known to venture in. Teen-age girls with dreams of becoming fashion models also provide a steady clientele.
There are 14 Elegant Images nationwide, including four inthe Baltimore area -- at White Marsh Mall, the Columbia mall, TowsonTown Center and Annapolis Mall.
Most of the stores are franchises, including the Columbia mall salon that is owned by Billie Roogow and her husband, Buddy, the former Howard County administrator.
Roogow, who currently is director of operations for Gov. William Donald Schaefer, said he and his wife took a major risk by purchasing the franchise because neither had been involved in retailing before.
But the risk has been worth it and business is good, he said.
Billie Roogow said the salon averages between two and three clients an hour. Sessions are usually by appointment only, although the salon occasionally accepts walk-ins.
"Sometimes when a person needs that little bit of a lift, we make it affordable for them and they can do it," Mrs. Roogow said.
But she also cautioned that the look is not permanent, except in the pictures. The makeup used is theatrical, not street makeup and the hairstyling does not involve cutting.
For a 14-year-old girl, a session can add five years' of sophistication. An adult can be transformed into a movie star.
That's what Janet Martinezwas hoping for last week.
"I used to look at stars in the magazines and think, 'My God, I could never look like that,' " she said. "But after coming here, I realized that if you can be pampered the way they are, you can look that good too."