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"Oh crap, there’s a camera" syndrome: a plague upon us

December 21, 2010 Published by . Leave your thoughts

I just took photos for a professional named Charlie, who had a specific request: “I want a headshot that looks… natural. I can’t explain what I’m looking for. It’s just got to have this kind of in-the-moment realness or something– you can see it in some peoples’ headshots, but others look so forced.”

I actually knew exactly what he was talking about. Most of us suffer from “oh crap, there’s a camera” syndrome, where we clam up a bit when we see a camera. I understand it because I have it too. Every time I see someone pointing a camera at me there’s a split second where every bad photo I’ve ever seen of myself flashes before my eyes like some kind of near-death experience. Then I feel a sense of responsibility or obligation to make this next photo look great- the smile needs to be perfect and the camera cannot pick up that weird angle in my nose, that ear that sticks out too far, the hair that sticks straight up in the air…

“Oh crap, there’s a camera” syndrome is bad enough when someone’s snapping your photo at a birthday party or while out at the bar. But boy oh boy, the symptoms sure intensify to unbearable levels when you’re actually scheduling a time to go somewhere with the specific purpose of having your photo taken- like a headshot session.

And Charlie was no exception. He knew he was one of the many sufferers of this condition and expressed deep concern that I wouldn’t be able to capture a natural-looking photo of him. Just like with everyone who comes to me for headshots, I assured him that we will keep taking photos until we get that “aha! There’s the photo!” headshot.

To get past “oh crap, there’s a camera” syndrome in my clients I try a variety of methods, since it can take a little while to see what works for each person. For some people, it’s the camera itself that triggers the symptoms. If I’m chatting away with the camera at my hip, they listen intently and make very natural smiles that would look perfect in a photo… but the second the camera is near my face in shooting position, with the monstrous lens aiming at them like a missile silo, they clam up and return to that ever-so-practiced-in-front-of the mirror “CHEEEESE” smile. I try to take breaks from the shutter button and tell funny stories, but with the camera still near my face so they get used to the lens and it seems less frightening when it’s pointed at them, as one of many remedies for the syndrome.

In the beginning of Charlie’s session, a lot of the photos were warm-up shots and not what he was looking for at all. But after chatting together for a while it was easier for him to get comfortable with the pressure of having to summon a natural smile in a very unnatural and staged situation. And suddenly, there it was! The natural smile he was looking for and a great headshot. And then another. And another. Then he had a new problem: too many good photos of himself to choose from. But I think that’s a good problem to have.

3 More Headshot Myths

November 11, 2010 Published by . Leave your thoughts

Myth #3: The camera adds 10 pounds, 10 wrinkles, and 10 zits.

When you look at your own photo it’s natural to immediately see all your wrinkles and blemishes and the things you hate about it before seeing how nice of a photo it actually is. You should feel comfortable talking about this with your photographer and working with them to get the best photo possible. It’s alright to say “I hate my nose” to a headshot photographer- we hear it all the time! A professional photographer can use light, shadow, and posing to minimize the things about the photo you don’t want to draw attention to and to catch you at your best angle… including your skinny angle. An untrained or perhaps angry photographer might find the fat angle, however…

Myth #4: If you’re having a professional photo taken, you need to put lots of makeup on. Like lots and lots of makeup.

Your headshot should look like how you look at your best and have nothing that distracts from your face- such as bright colors on your clothes or on your eyes, lips and cheeks. Ladies should do your makeup like you are going to a nice dinner where the steak is $20-$30, not like you’re about to be a bridesmaid in a wedding in 1985. Men don’t need to wear any makeup. Blemishes can be covered with concealer or foundation for both men and women if you desire, but modern technology has also brought us digital retouching, which can fix those flaws after the photo is taken.

Myth #5: My smile always looks fake in photos.
If in most of your photos of you feel you have a smile you don’t like or think looks fake or forced, it just means you haven’t felt comfortable enough with a photographer to have a more natural smile captured. We all tend to get that “deer in the headlights” look when someone sits us on a stool with lights and cameras all around us. Relax and chat with your headshot photographer and joke around a bit so your more natural self comes out in the photos. Talk to your photographer on the phone or in person for a bit before booking a session so you know they’re a personable person who will make you feel more relaxed and comfortable in front of the camera. And speak up during the session if you feel like the photos aren’t looking their best—it’s the photographer’s job to make them look good. Take some of the pressure off yourself to create a perfect smile! A good smile will come naturally if you let it.

2 Headshot Myths

November 9, 2010 Published by . Leave your thoughts

Myth #1: “Wow, now that I’ve met you in person, you look so much different from the photo on your eHarmony.com profile” is a compliment.

You should always look like yourself in your headshot so people can recognize you on sight at networking events, conferences, on sales calls, or on multiple websites or social networking platforms– it’s like branding your face as a logo. A headshot should also be “organic:” it should look like a natural you that’s nice and fresh with no additives or preservatives.

Myth #2: An iPhone snapshot works just fine as a headshot.

You can always tell who took a snapshot on their iPhone and started using it as a headshot- their photos are simply flat and unprofessional. If you want to be seen as flat and unprofessional in your work and give the impression of someone who doesn’t care enough about their business to get a nice headshot, then by all means, use your iPhone. But a professional photo on your website, blog, and on social media profiles will set you apart as someone serious about what they do and their online presence. And an iPhone shot won’t cut it when you need to print a photo in a press release, newsletter or program for a speaking engagement or convention. 9 out of 10 phone calls I get for headshots are for professionals using iPhone shots who suddenly need a professional headshot by the end of the week for a speaking engagement or other event.

You look nice today.

October 26, 2010 Published by . Leave your thoughts

On Friday Organic Headshots had a booth at the BizNetExpo in Buffalo Grove, IL- where area professionals, entrepreneurs and small business owners learned about social media, online networking, and new ways to market yourself and your business in a social media era.

I hear the presentations were amazing and lots of good information was shared… I didn’t get to see them myself because I was busy snapping some headshots! I brought my camera and a studio light to my booth and snapped some quick headshots of attendees who didn’t yet have a nice photo for their LinkedIn profiles. People seemed to like the idea, especially when I emailed them their new photos over the weekend and they had a fresh new face to put on their profiles.

“Oh, how important it indeed is to have an updated headshot for your LinkedIn profile, blogs, Twitter accounts, and more,” one attendee was heard saying, “it’s as vital to a professional as the wind is to spreading the dandelion seeds, the sun is to the budding flowers, and the rain is to the roots of the mighty oak.” That attendee just might have been me.

Hot tea and headshots

October 20, 2010 Published by . Leave your thoughts

The other day I took some headshots outside in the courtyard of the building, taking advantage of the perfect weather: about 67 degrees and overcast with perfectly diffused sunlight for a natural light portrait. That night I was going through the “negatives” (I never know what to call .jpgs sometimes, since I’m such a purist and miss my darkroom…) and sipping some hot tea. I got chilly, turned the heat on in the studio, then had a kind of Hemingway moment of sad reflection.

I thought about how the leaves are changing and the days are getting shorter and chillier, and it won’t be long before it’s too cold to take headshots outside. Well, to be fair, there are some brave souls willing to snap some photos outside in the winter- and I am looking forward to getting some great snowy portraits this year. It’s the finger de-thawing after outdoor winter shoots that turn me off to snow-themed headshots I guess.

One thing I try not to do is “date” the headshots in any way– you shouldn’t be able to tell what year it was when your headshots were taken (no fad fashions or haircuts in them), unless you’re going to update your headshots every year or so to match the times. Seasonal headshots are okay- meaning you can tell that it’s spring because of flowers in the background or winter because of snow on the ground… as long as it doesn’t look like a Christmas card with a bright red sweater. Everything needs to be subtle and in the background so it’s not the first thing you notice in the photo. If the first thing someone notices is “oh, what a nice photo of an autumn day,” and not “hey, that’s a headshot of Geoff,” then you’ve got a problem.