head shots and portraits
When I started to get serious about my photography I took a class/seminar about building a portfolio. This was in 2005. I had been shooting long enough that I had amassed a body of work that I thought was worth showing and wanted someone else’s opinion on how best to present my work in hopes of booking jobs. The class was worthwhile and I left with some good information; I also left with some misinformation. I don’t remember hearing much constructive criticism during my portfolio review. One note was that I was shooting too many landscape images and if I wanted to shoot for magazines I should shoot more portrait shaped images to match the layout of magazines. When I think back to my “skill” level in 2005 and look back at the photos I was making around that time, most of them were shite and it makes me wonder about the validity of her advise during my review. Did she not want to tell me my photos sucked because I payed for the review? Or because I was in a “class” with other photographers on the same level were mine were slightly better than the rest?
The photography industry is rife with people ready to give advise and tips. Some of the advise and education is free and invaluable. Some costs money yet is still a huge value. Look to CreativeLive and Strobist for great and usable photography know-how and education. One is free the not really free but a huge value. Along with an industry of photographers trying to sell me advice there are tons of trade magazines with full of industry “standards” and suggestions…How to show your work, what to put in your portfolio, how much to show.
In that portfolio review in 2005 the photography consultant cautioned about showing more than one image of the same person in my portfolio. Up until recently I adhered to that but as of late I call bullshit. Case in point; Devon. I met and first shot Devon in 2009. In the past four years we’ve shot together six times and every time we’ve worked together we both come away with great images.
There are a handful of other actors and models that I share the same experience with. When I’ve got a relationship with someone and we work well together I tend to work with them over and over since I know the results will be great. Why not show multiple images of the same person in my portfolio or on my website? That rule was dumb.
I bring this up because as I grow and learn about myself and my photography I have begun to make my own rules based on my own experience and information.
As much as I hate updating my websites I’m due for an overhaul. Stay tuned and plan on seeing more than one image of the same person. Especially Devon.
A few years ago I made a slideshow using photos from every assignment I shot during the year. The idea stuck and has become a great way for me to reflect on what I did right and what I did wrong during the year. 2012 was both challenging and incredibly rewarding. All of those experiences brought one theme to the forefront – Family is Everything. And by family I’m not limiting myself to the family I was born into or married into. It’s the people that I have chosen to surround myself with. This year we have had the warm blanket of family wrapped around us when we needed it and we were able to be that same blanket of warmth and strength for others when they needed it. This year was life-changing for so many of our friends and loved ones.
Over the past couple years I’ve skipped using photos of my family in the slideshow, after all they weren’t paid assignments and so many were just snapshots. This year I’ve included them because my wife and kids are my world and are definitely the most photographed subject in my life. I also opted to include more than one image from the assignments. Limiting myself to one single image per shoot didn’t represent the scope and the fruits of my labor.
As with every slide show I always struggle with music. Each year I want to use a song that I fell in love with during the year. This year there were a couple of contenders.
Mumford & Sons – I will wait
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – Thrift Shop I dare you to not bounce your head while listening to this song. I was bouncing my head for a couple weeks before I even listened to the words.
Ryan Adams – From The Ashes In January NPR streamed a pre-lease of this entire album. I listened to it over and over until the day it was released. Go buy it directly from his label/website.
Walk the Moon – Anna Sun This is probably my favorite song on the album but I opted for Tightrope becaue it matched the tempo I wanted for the slideshow.
For those of you that supported me and helped me create this year I owe you a world of thanks. Without you I’d be stuck behind some desk.
This week I had Devon in for another shoot. This is the sixth time I’ve worked with Devon over the past three years. I love working with her because she’s amazing at what she does. When someone is that good in front of my camera it makes me look great. For all our previous shoots Devon did her own hair and makeup. Most models have enough exerience that they know what’s needed to get a certain look on camera.
A few months ago I saw some dramatic before and after glamour photos from photographer Sue Bryce. Sue’s business is a bit different than mine in that she is a modern-day version of glamour shots. Remember the store in the mall that your mom or aunt went to? Sue’s take is modern and beautiful. Real women + great hair and makeup + an amazing photographer and her clients leave with amazing and timless glamour portraits. Hearing Sue speak and seeing her photos sparked enough interest in me that I wanted to do something similar. I wanted to see a transformation. My starting place is quite a bit different than Sue’s “average woman” client. I chose Devon because she is amazing in front of the camera. She epitomizes what I want from every model I work with; confidence, beauty, emotion and sex-appeal; and she’s got all that without the fancy hair and makeup.
I enlisted the help of Sura Radcliffe to help with hair and she recruited her friend and colleague Stacey Ellis to help with makeup. My reference point and inspiration was the glamorous portraits of both modern-day and past film starlets like Scarlett Johansson and Bridget Bardot. We wanted a vintage feel to start with; knowing that we could build on the hair and makeup and bring it to a modern day glamour look. The following images reflect the progression of the day.
During the 45 miinutes that Devon was getting her hair and makeup done I shot some behind the scenes video. The following shows the progression from start to finish.
I love magazines. I love flipping through and looking at the images that inspire me; images that motivate me and push me to create. Unlike most people that subscribe to magazines for the content I subscribe to look at the photos. The editorial content is icing on the cake. I subscribe to magazines because of the photographers they hire. Want to know why I subscribed to Fast Company? It’s because of Jake Chessum. I was browsing a copy in a doctor’s office and loved his portraiture. It was fun, it was real, it was honest and personable. It turned out that I really liked the editorial content of Fast company. It’s smart and current and educational and despite the fact that I don’t see Jake’s name in the magazine any more I still subscribe. Why subscribe to Vanity Fair? Annie Leibovitz. Why would I, a straight married guy, subscribe to Elle and Vogue? Testino, Thompson, Richardson, Lagerfeld, et all….
In our house we subscribe to a lot of magazines. ( PDN, Rangefinder, Fast Company, Inc, Esquire, GQ, Interview, American Photo, Real Simple, Parenting, Us Weekly). If my wife had her way I’d be limited on how many we get. Why? It’s not because of the expense…magazine subscriptions are generally pretty inexpensive. But I have stacks of magazines scattered throughout the house and in my car. I even have magazines dating back a few years that I plan to look through. For me it’s more than the act of flipping through. I rip out pages and keep them for reference. Think of it as old-school Pinterest. Having tear sheets around during photo shoots helps to communicate a vibe, emotion, hair or makeup style that I might not otherwise be able to put into words.
So what’s the asnswer? NextIssue. A new app for my iPad that gives me access to magazines for a flat monthly fee. At first glance it seemed novel and cool. For a monthly fee ala netflix I can get access to ~40 magazines. A 30 day trial and and upcoming vacation motivated me to give it a shot.This is based on my 12 hour review of the app and so far I’m stoked.
Before NextIssue, my experience with iPad versions of magazines hasn’t been spectacular. The idea of paying an additional subscription fee doesn’t interest me and some of my experiences with iPad versions of magazines has been disappointing. Lately I’ve found a few magazines are coming around and giving me access to the iPad version if I’m already a print subscriber. Amazon is even packaging print + Kindle subscriptions. With NextIssue I now have access to a ton of magazines in a convenient, clutter-free, eco-friendly and beautiful package. I might actually be able to stop ripping pages out of magazines soon.
The opposite scenario from the last post about having the opportunity to scout locations is editorial portrait photography. For the most part it’s either budget or time constraints that don’t allow for location scouting. That’s why I test. Over the past few months I have been throwing myself in situations where I go to someone’s apartment or a location of their choosing and try to make situation work. Its my job as a photographer to be experienced and prepared enough to walk into any location and make great photos. On location photography always has it’s challenges. Lighting is probably the biggest challenge, although with enough gear it’s easy to overcome. The next biggest challenge is backgrounds.
In March I wrote about my shoot with Devon. Her apartment was roomy and had great elements and decent natural light. A few weeks ago I went into Hollywood to shoot Kasia. She had mentioned that she had a pink apartment so I figured it would be a great place to shoot portraits and capture a bit of her personality. Before I packed up I asked her about natural light in her apartment and she mentioned it didn’t have much. I brought small speedlights as well as my Elinchrom Ranger. I showed up to find out she lived down the street from a hugely popular hiking trail in Hollywood. That meant parking sucked. I drove around the couple blocks near her place a handful of times and finally settled on a space a block away. Because of the distance and the weight of the Elinchrom (a 35 pound pelican case) I opted to leave the ranger in the car. I took my rolling camera bag (about 40 pounds and a light stand bag. When I got to her apartment I realized I’d need to make a second trip because I’d need the power of the big strobes.
For the first look I used the strobes to fill the room with light. The shots looked a little too safe so I moved her to the frame of her patio door and used natual light. The shots were a bit more dramatic and interesting.
Space in Kasia’s apartment was limited and the pink wall was so defining it was time to move on. We walked around her building and found a couple of interesting spots. These shots were taken in the hallway of her apartment and the elevator. I wanted to add a bit of variety.