head shots and portraits
It’s been about ten years since I’ve shot film. The last time was during a surf trip to Costa Rica where I used an underwater 35mm camera. I have to admit I was anxious. I wanted to see the difference between my 5D Mark III files and the Mamiya. Since I’d never used the Mamiya I wasn’t sure what I would see as a result. Up to this point I had burned through a pack of polaroid film with horrible results. I was afraid the film would look the same.
My first outings with the camera were not productive. I only shot one frame on two different occasions which were forced and didn’t turn out well. When I started encountering the issues with the polaroid back I began to wonder if the camera had issues so I made an effort to shoot through the roll and have it processed to make sure the camera worked.
When I got the email that the film was ready and the scans were available to download I couldn’t resist accessing the ftp via my iPhone. I was pleasantly surprised to see great exposures and solid results. I love the tones and the creamy, rich feeling of the images. I’m still not sure if this is the result of the camera or shooting a roll of film that expired in 2006 (I got a bunch of unused film when I bought the camera).
Even though it’s typically hard to get them to sit still I managed to rope my kids into sitting for eight frames. The following were shot on Ilford optima 400 using my Mamiya RZ67.
I recently purchased a Mamiya RZ67, a five pound, 30 year old camera that shoots a 6×7 negative on 120 film. A few weeks ago I had my first venture out with the camera and it was an entirely different experience. And that new experience is why I bought an overly heavy, 30 year old camera that shoots film.
I booked a shoot with one of my favorite models knowing she could bring what I needed. The experience was completely foreign. Besides having a waste level view finder with the image reversed ,the big catch is that each roll of 120 film only has ten exposures. I had to make them count. I bought the Mamiya to change the pace of my photography. I wanted to slow down and my wish was granted. Going from shooting hundreds of frames to 10 exposures is an entirely different speed.
I have to be honest; I also brought my DSLR to the shoot and used it as my main camera. I still shot hundreds of frames but when I felt like I was on to something special, be it a location or light or a mood I’d pull out the Mamiya. Despite knowing that the shoot was a success I’m anxiously awaiting word that the film has been processed to find out if the Mamiya was as successful. The following is a photo I made with my 5D and one of the reason’s I called Claire to be my first model using the Mamiya.
Since I started working with models in ~2003 I’ve used a number of methods and sites to look for new talent. I’ve used sites like OneModelPlace, Modelmayhem, LACasting, Craigslist and even Instagram. Each time I post a casting there is alway someone that stands out because of how wrong they are for the submission. As the casting process progresses I see more faux pas; and I see them over and over. So if you are a model or an actor this is to help you in the casting process.
1. Read the casting. This seems so simple it’s stupid. I know that booking acting and modeling jobs is often based on the law of averages. The more times you submit, the more auditions you get, the more castings you respond to the more likely a job will materialize. This is true, but if the casting is for a brunette that’s between 5’8″ and 5’11 and you don’t fit in the category then don’t submit. Yes I know you are 5’8″ in heels and that for the right amount of money you would be glad to dye your hair but what your submission says to me is I DIDN’T READ THE CASTING.
2. Don’t lie. A production designer recently recounted story of how an actor lied and it backfired. The role was a window washer to be sitting on a window-washing scaffold 40 feet in the air eating a burger. It was a national commercial so naturally the actor lied about his ability and comfort level being high in the air on a scaffold that was moving and shaking. As the scaffold with the talent, cinematographer and camera assist began to rise, the actor freaked at about 12 feet and couldn’t get past his fear. Thanks for playing please fill out your time card and go home. In addition to wasting people’s time he cost the production company thousands of dollars in wasted production costs. Time IS money.
3. Act professionally. Another suggestion that seems to without saying. I encounter this so frequently that it makes me want to scream. A lot of actors and models don’t consider themselves a business or a product. But you are. You are a business and should conduct yourself professionally. And just like your desk-jockey friends that act professional when they send cover letters with their resumes, come prepared to job interviews and communicate in a professional way with prospective employers you should do the same.
- Make sure your email reply information is correct and accurate. If your email is SuperProModel@aol.com and your name information is not included with your email how will I know who you are.
- Be professional when talking on the phone and sending emails. At this point I’m not your friend nor are we friendly yet. So treat me with the same professional respect you would when you apply for any other job.
- Come prepared. Clothes pressed, makeup ready, lines memorized, portfolio in hand. A few weeks ago a model showed up 30 minutes early, had all her wardrobe balled up in a bag, then asked to do her makeup and hair in the studio. Instructions were to come hair and makeup ready with her clothes pressed.
5 . Use your photos wisely. On the main website I use for castings my view is 24 thumbnail images per a page. Each person’s photo is about 1.5″ wide x 2″ tall. At that size Grace’s head is 1/3 of an inch in the dance photo. Make sure that main image is great. If you don’t look amazing I won’t even bother to look at other images. I know that it costs more money to host additional images on LACasting and other similar sites, but if your job depends on a photo don’t you think it’s a good investment to have multiple images? (see #4)
- Use the size and space wisely.
- Use only professional photos
- Pay for and use multiple photos in your portfolio/site
6. The Internet is forever. Another great feature on the large casting sites is my ability to make notes that stick with your profile. I noticed that a handful of models would submit to every casting I posted but then when I responded or asked for more information they wouldn’t respond. Eventually I started noting who those models were and ignored them on future castings. When you don’t follow the above mentioned suggestions we remember.
It’s simple, if you are an actor, model or any related freelance creative you are a business, now go act like one.
The great thing about being a photographer in Los Angeles is that there is no shortage of attractive people willing to model. I came across Kyle’s photo on a friend’s Instagram feed. I asked for an introduction and it turned out Kyle was just starting to get involved with acting and modeling. This was his second photo shoot.
I started shooting behind the scenes video during shoots (while the model was in hair and makeup) to give me something to do. On most occasions a model will spend 60-90 minutes in the chair which gives me a lot of free time. The more I shoot and edit this footage, the more I learn. I learn by doing. I’d make a video and get to edit and realize it would have been better if…. Next time I made sure that “if” was taken care of. On this particular occasion it meant getting some more action direct to the camera as opposed to finishing the video with stills from the shoot.
This was shot back in June with Jordan Colton and Stacey Ellis. stacey has recently started a new venture. Be sure to check her out at Ellis Salon
The broadway play The Color Purple is heading to London and Attitude Magazine needed help with portraits for their article featuring producer and songwriter Stephen Bray. In addition to his early work and collaborations with Madonna, Stephen helped create the music for the play.
As with any editorial portrait I never know what I am walking into. Will there be light, interesting settings, room to work? Lucky for us Stephen’s home and studio had all of the above. After introductions I asked if I could look around the house for places to shoot. We knew going in that the studio would be one option, but I was immediately drawn to Stephen’s wall-display of records and knew his front porch would be a great option for a simple portrait.
I had Deney Tuazon assist me with the shoot. Having an assistant around for these types of shoots is a huge help. In addition to help with the gear and set up I find having someone stand in while I test my lighting set-ups invaluable. For all three looks we set-up and tested the lights while Stephen got ready. In the end the magazine went with the studio and indoor portrait for use in the story.