Back in May I wanted to challenge my creativity and consistency so I revamped a project I'd put together last August. The project was called SPEDIM, or Self Portrait Every Day in May (or August, as it were). The goal was simple: take a creative self portrait every day. The only rules were that they had to be taken on my DSLR and had to be creative, no selfies allowed!
When I came up with this idea last August I only lasted about 11 days, so I didn't really know how hard this could be. There was a bit of combined inspiration for this project, first from Leon Bridges's photographer Erin Rambo who uses light more beautifully than I've ever seen, and second from this YouTube trend called VEDI-insert-initial-of-month-here, which is a project in which people make a video every day for a month.
First things first, I very much do not like having my photo taken, even by myself. I'm not a huge fan of taking selfies and I feel a bit uncomfortable posting a lot of pictures of my face. It's a lot of attention just on me whether people are responding to the images or not. So I had to confront the idea, whether real or self-imposed, that people might get sick of looking at my face.
Also, creativity. It's difficult to come up with a unique, dynamic idea to keep people interested every day (and not fulfill my fear of getting sick of my face). What I began to do was take ideas from artists that I admired. Not so much in an effort to copy their work, but to expand my creative capacity. It's been told that Hunter S. Thompson rewrote The Great Gatsby and A Farewell to Arms word for word in an effort to get a feel for what it was like to write "The Great American Novel," I wanted to know what it felt like to take "The Iconic American Photograph."
It's also incredibly difficult to feel up for taking self portraits when you're ill. I caught a pretty intense sinus infection about 4 days into this project, but I was determined to keep going. But the question became "how to I take creative self portraits when I look like death?" Well there were a lot of shots that obscured my face for two weeks!
If you're looking for a way to improve your confidence as a photographer I would definitely recommend taking up a project like this (even just for 10 days, like Adam Elmakias's Instagram challenge that starts today!). I found a lot of confidence and tried a lot of new things I otherwise wouldn't have considered.
What has helped you grow most in your creative endeavors? Leave a comment or tweet us @mjbhomeent!
"Alright Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up". A famous line once spoken in Sunset Blvd. and repeated many times and in many iterations ever since. In fact, many photographers use this line in a joking manner to help their clients relax and hopefully get that perfect look and expression.
The moment a client steps in front of a camera, a photographer must be able to make their client look their best. At the same time, figuring out how to get that perfect facial expression capable of making a viewer go WOW!! And if they're an actor, capable of opening doors to casting directors and agents alike.
Every person whether they're actor or not, wants to have that perfect expression while being photographed, but it can sometimes be a bit tricky. It's human nature to be nervous or self conscious when having your photo taken and knowing your very soul is being captured. For many, it's almost like stage fright, and can sometimes be nerve-racking letting others in and letting them see your soul and this translates into very unflattering facial expressions. A deer in headlights comes to mind.
That's when the photographer steps in. They can see what the face is actually doing and with the proper direction get a persons expression under control. It's not always easy, but with a little bit of patience and confidence, a really great photographer can get the job done without frustration or ignorance. And from that point on, the client begins to feel at ease and confident in knowing that they are going to get great results, thus making the photographer's job that much easier.
The bottom line is everyone is vulnerable when put on camera, and they are not always ready for their close-up moment for many reasons, but with a little bit of time and patience, they will be able to produce the expressions that they're capable of creating and find the best of themselves...with the right photographer!
Are you ready for your close-up? Comment below or tweet us at @mjbhomeent
With the media constantly beating into our heads that we need to be "perfect" it gets exhausting trying to keep up. New beauty creams, new Botox injectables, new apps to remove wrinkles and lines. It's crazy... and disheartening!
When working as a stylist on a shoot, I am always going for perfection. Flyaway hairs are no match for me! Necklace off center? Not a chance. But sometimes it's really hard to reach perfection. Spoiler alert: it's actually really hard because it's impossible to achieve.
It's especially challenging while working outside. As the photographer and I work against the elements of lighting and wind, I'm on my toes - ready to jump in at any moment. Hairspray can in one hand, iPad loading in the images in the other.
I was on a shoot just the other day and the wind was being unpredictable - coming in full force at any given moment, then a couple seconds later dying down. My adjustments had to take three seconds or less because we had to get the shots. I breathed a sigh of frustration when the client looked at me meticulously arranging her hair. She smiled and said, "Flaws are fine, don't worry about it."
That's when I realized that sometimes flaws in a photo are a GOOD thing. They show real life, they show authenticity. Hair isn't usually all in perfect straight line. We all naturally have little quirks that they don't show in magazines.
Next time you come in for a headshot session, and you're stressed about things being perfect, breathe a sigh of relief that it doesn't have to be. Perfect isn't "real life."
Do you have a "flaw" about yourself that you've fallen in love with? Comment below or tweet us at @mjbhomeent
Because of copyright issues, I cannot post the headshot I am referring to on this page, but you can see the exact image by clicking this link:
Donald Trump Headshot
First, what about this headshot works and doesn't work?
Let's work from the outside in, starting with the environment, moving to the subject, then m to the expression, and finally to the inner emotion and true self.
1. Black background: The background is intense, which is awesome, but it blends in too much with his suit and looks almost as though he is surrounded in darkness. I wish there were some sort of edge light coming from the right side of the photo and hitting his jacket to separate him, but maybe they were going for that effect.
2. Lighting: The lighting on his face is great. It's harsh enough to accompany his intense expression, but it's also soft enough to not create any harsh, distracting shadows. I find it interesting that the photographer chose not to use a hair or edge light. This creates a more intense overall feeling to the image.
3. Centered in the Frame: He is centered directly in the middle of the frame, which adds to the intensity overall of the image.
4. Crop: The image has been cropped so closely that most of the top of his head is cropped and part of his tie knot has been cropped. This also adds to the dramatic effect of the shot by making him appear larger than life and more menacing.
5. Skin & Retouching: This image could definitely use some retouching to soften up the darkness under the eyes and discoloration on the face. It does look as though his neck has been retouched, as you can see a harsh line around the jaw and shirt. Likely a double chin was fixed there. But because nothing else was retouched, chances are the lack of retouching was not a mistake, and done to increase the harshness and intensity of the image.
6. Expression: There is no hint of a smile on his face, and his chin is lowered down into an menacing position. His eyes are squinting to show intensity and confidence. It looks as though he is experienced on camera and knows how to give the expression he wants.
7. Inner Emotion: The emotion being portrayed in this image is actually the most interesting part (and usually is when you analyze a headshot to this level). If you look closely, although on first glance there is intensity built around this entire image, you can actually see, especially on the right side of the image (left side of his face), that he almost has a sad look in his eyes. The left side of the face is, according to numerous studies, the more emotional part of the face because it's connected to the right side of the brain, and this headshot is no exception. His unconscious emotion is coming across ever so slightly, and it gives us a glimpse into his inner self.
So many people out there see Donald Trump as an intense, mean, harsh person. It's funny, because this image conveys exactly that if you look at it briefly. We clearly see that Donald Trump and the photographer were aiming for a confident, intense look in every conscious part of the shot.
But a headshot can tell us a lot more than we think. Looking at this picture closely, the unconscious softness in his left eye (right side of the camera) shows that there could be a softer side to Donald Trump, something he is afraid to show. Is he worried? Is he fearful? Is he not completely confident in his own abilities?
Or is Donald Trump not who he is letting on to be? Is it all just for show? There is clearly an internal conflict going on in his mind, but I don't know what it is.
Do you have any thoughts?
If you're looking for cool cityscapes and beautiful photos to show your friends, New York is undeniably the place to be. Especially at this time of year, the long days make the entire city so incredibly photogenic.
When not snapping away at those headshots, I love to go out and explore a bit. Here are some things I've learned along the way! They might help you grab that next great image for Instagram.
1. Don't underestimate the power of a sunset on the Hudson
No matter where you are on the Hudson River Park walkway, sunsets over the water can be absolutely phenomenal. If you're on the East River, Brooklyn is illuminated by the sun, leaving Manhattan in the dark. But jump over to the west side and you'll find that everything glows.
2. Don't forget to look up
Being downtown, everything is larger. The grandeur of Manhattan grows with each street you take towards the end of the island. The amazing thing about New York architecture is the way reframes your sense of size. You feel yourself shrink as you walk into this inconceivably large maze of buildings. The magnitude of the skyline coupled with the general beauty of the summer air can give you a perspective like none other.
3. There's more opportunity for night shots, take advantage
Unlike in winter when the evenings are windy and blisteringly cold, summer time lends itself to capturing Manhattan in a wonderfully unique way. No matter when you're here the city glows. So many shots I see of New York, especially of people visiting the city, are day shots. This makes sense, but the atmosphere of Manhattan changes completely once the sun sets. With a warm summer breeze, why not head out of time square (which is bright as day no matter what time you're there) and really capture some of that atmosphere? Give it a go, I promise you won't be disappointed.
Do you have any tips for photographing cities? Let us know with a comment or tweet us @mjbhomeent!
"I just got my haircut and I hate it"
This is a sentence i've heard many times, working with both corporate professionals and actors alike. Typically i've heard this from women but i've heard it from many men as well. A bad hair cut can really break the spirits of someone getting a headshot and can often make them apprehensive from the get go. When I hear this I often tell them a little bit about my hair history.
I'll show them my picture on the website and then a photo from a few months before, they'll often laugh when I tell them about how I've never been able to keep my hair to a specific style.
Since I first started going to salon's instead of barber shops when I was 14, I've made sure that each visit made a statement.
My favorite story in regards to my hair is my high school yearbook from senior year that features myself with not 2 but 3 different hairstyles! The third being the first time I went from long hair to a pixie cut.
As of 4 months ago I made the most drastic change I ever have, I made the choice to shave my head. My hair was incredibly damaged and it was easier to start from scratch than to try to repair it. It was scary and I found myself unsure if it was something I felt ready to do but I took the leap and I can honestly say I've never been happier.
I wasn't hiding behind the curtains that were my hair and I had found confidence in something that I thought I'd want to hide.
Now I don't expect you to go out and shave your head, if this inspires you to do so POWER TO YA, but if there is something I have taken away from this its if you have confidence in yourself the world will have confidence in you. That bad hair cut will become the next it trend that all of your friends are talking about because you rocked it during your headshot session.
Whats the craziest thing you've ever done to your hair?
Comment below or tweet us @mjbhomeent!
I grew up in the era of MySpace, where the “selfie” may have very well originated. It was all about the MySpace angle, the duck face, the (clearly staged) pose and how many comments you got on your photo. I would borrow my older sister’s digital camera and take up to 200-300 pictures in hopes of getting “The ONE.” I’d have mini photoshoots and plan out my outfit, background, and theme of the photo. I gained some knowledge through these “shoots" like: take the photo from higher up instead of below, take the pictures near a window to get good lighting, and sometimes you do have to take a couple pictures to get a really nice one.
Fast forward to today, I consider myself a selfie sensei. Between my middle school photoshoots, to now working in a professional headshot studio, I’ve got all the tricks for a good picture. When people go to take a picture with me they almost sigh because it becomes a whole production. “Here, lets get underneath this tree, it blocks the light from above but gives us good lighting on our faces.” or “Jack, can you take a picture of us? Here… Nope, up and tilt, Jack! Up and tilt, you need the right angle otherwise we’re gonna look ridiculous! Take a couple more just in case.”
But people never seem to complain when they see the photos! They’re always pleasantly surprised when they see the pictures I orchestrate, and are always the first to say “Let Heidi take the picture!”
What are your selfie tricks? Let us know if the comments below or tweet us @mjbhomeent!
Sorry for not posting this last week; I was too moved after having had the opportunity to shoot free headshots for New Yorkers with Special Needs. So much so that I felt I had to write a blog post about it (Heart Shots: Part 2).
Anyway, back to my story. (See Martin's Story Part 1 Here)
So how then did I transition from making movies with my dad's video camera and running a craft stand on the side of the street to running a headshot company?
Well, it all has to do with how my filmmaking passion slowly evolved as I got older.
When I was fourteen, my family moved to Colorado and I began high school. Of course I primarily focused on my studies, trying to get as many A's as possible so I could go to a good college. But I also heard of a school called Warren Tech that offered half day classes on video production. So I decided to take the course during my junior and senior years and it was there that I really refined my skills of videography and decided I wanted to shoot weddings.
So what happened?
Well, a friend of mine recommended me to his sister as a videographer and I offered to shoot their wedding video for a super cheap rate of only $500. They jumped on the opportunity and I shot it for them, and they loved the video and wound up recommending me to all their friends.
Within a few months, I was shooting weddings and events every few weeks. I was a senior in high school. During that time, some people asked if I could do photography, so I bought a camera and taught myself how to shoot wedding photos.
Of course, once I graduated and moved to New York to attend NYU, I lost all my clients because I was no longer living in Colorado. For the first two years or so of college I didn't shoot any events. but I focused all my time on studying film production and refining my directing skills.
However, I still had my digital SLR camera, and I knew many actors who were attending the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU. Some of them asked me if, as a friend, I would be willing to take a free headshot for them.
Well, I had no idea what I was doing, but I very much enjoyed shooting their headshots and so decided to create a website around headshot photography. I already had one for weddings and events, but I wanted to make one specifically for headshots because I enjoyed shooting them so much and could envision myself as one of New York's top headshot photographers.
I worked on getting my website to show up on Google for about two years, and finally it did, and then I was able to really start building my business.
I love what I do and wouldn't trade it for anything!
Comment below or tweet us @mjbhomeent!
Once upon a time in a land called My Adolescence there were people who lived in harsh, brutal conditions. These people used highly primitive forms of communication known as the "home phone" or "land line." Sometimes they wrote "letters" and used something called a "beeper," which the world's top anthropologists are striving to understand. This epoch is known as B.I., or Before iPhone.
We cannot fathom such hardships, like not being able to immediately text our best friend about the latest Game of Thrones, or share this crucial video of a T-Rex dancing to A Chorus Line.
Our smart phones, now-biologically evolved as a second umbilical cord, make things easier and our thumbs busier. That's civilization, people.
However, as great as fan theories and dinosaur pirouettes are, we should not use our phones for certain things. Like raising a small child, or walking.
Or getting your headshot taken for your LinkedIn page or professional website.
Smart phone cameras are great for plenty of photo opportunities. Family from the Midwest visiting New York City for an Ellis Island trip? Bring it. Randomly see Matt Damon being an awesome dad? Snap that.
But when it comes to getting a picture that is high resolution, well-lit, expertly framed, and flattering to your best facial and body angles, when it comes to showing employers, employees and clients that you're going to go that extra mile in every detail of your work, including how you present yourself to them (which shows them respect and desirable diligence), when it comes to nailing that approachable look which will make more people want to work with you-- it's time to get off your phone. It's time to book that professional head shot and make an investment in showing others that you care about your work, yourself, and them.
The City Headshots photographers and makeup artists look forward to bringing you a phone-free fabulous head shot.
Thoughts on iPhone etiquette? Ever hit a pole while texting? Wanna say hi? Comment below or tweet @mjbhomeent!
Happy (early) Fourth!
x Lee Ann