8 naked guys in a bathroom is funny, right?

December 21, 2009 Published by . Leave your thoughts

This weekend I took some quick group shots for a local group of comedians called Comedians You Should Know. They have a block of shows scheduled at the Lakeshore Theatre, a Chicago haven for stand-up comedy with other upcoming shows including Sandra Bernhard, Brian Posehn, Jim Jeffries and more.

If I remember right, the last show I saw at the Lakeshore Theatre was a burlesque show. However, it was not that random factoid floating in my head during the photo shoot that inspired the photo of the Comedians You Should Know half-naked in the bathroom. The pervert with that idea was Michael Sanchez, a member of the group and featured in the photo with the red towel on his head giving another member a shoulder massage. (And he’s not actually a pervert- sorry, Michael.)

He said, “I don’t know, I really like the idea of a photo of us all half-naked and like getting ready for a show in a bathroom- 8 half-naked guys with chest hair in one small bathroom is funny, right?” I think it is. I was laughing, Michael.

The second shot of the members’ heads stacked onto a table was my brainchild. Mostly because we didn’t have much space for a group shot and I wanted to keep it small and easy to take… I think it turned out well and was worth the scrunched shoulders and aching backs after scrunching in that tightly for a few minutes.

If this group didn’t know each other well before this photo shoot, they sure are well-acquainted with each other now.

Can you actually smile with your eyes?

October 27, 2009 Published by . Leave your thoughts

I was taking someone’s headshots a while back and while I was resetting a light she asked me, “is it true that you can smile with your eyes, or is that just baloney?”

I thought about it for a few seconds and came to the quick conclusion that yes, “smiling with your eyes” does indeed exist. I can remember many headshot sessions that would start a little bland and dry, with a familiar phenomenon that I’ll refer to as the “cheese syndrome.” I will be talking with a headshot client about something unrelated, like sports or something, and we’ll be conversing and smiling geniunely at each other and laughing. Then as soon as I bring my camera up to my face to take a photo, and my subject is looking down the barrel of the lens, they have the instantaneous “cheese!” reaction and bring out the fakest smile since Joan Rivers.

I don’t blame them, I blame cameras. We have all had our photo taken hundreds or thousands of times in front of national monuments and at school portrait sessions in the gymnasium, that as soon as we see a camera we have a Pavlov’s dog reation to “say cheese!” and mindlessly flash our pearly whites.

During my headshot sessions, I try to medicate this “cheese syndrome” with an old-fashioned home remedy: conversation and jokes. If I can get a client confortable enough to be around me as individuals, they can momentarily forget the camera is there and smile for me- a person- insted of for the camera. I have noticed a real difference in a person’s smiles while looking through the photos following a session and can tell when the person was just smiling for the camera, and when I told a joke or said something dumb and they were smiling at me.

And I just stumbled on a WikiHow and a Wikipedia entry on smiling with the eyes, which made me smile with my mouth. Apparently, there is a scientific difference between a smile and a “genuine” smile, which is referred to as a “Duchenne smile,” after its discoverer, Guillaume Duchenne.

As Wikipedia explains:
A Duchenne smile involves contraction of both the zygomatic major muscle (which raises the corners of the mouth) and the orbicularis oculi muscle (which raises the cheeks and forms crow’s feet around the eyes). A non-Duchenne smile involves only the zygomatic major muscle. Many researchers believe that Duchenne smiles indicate genuine spontaneous emotions since most people cannot voluntarily contract the outer portion of the orbicularis oculi muscle.

I love this description because it reminds me of one of the main reasons why I like to call my headshots “organic headshots.” I think of an organic headshot as a headshot that someone means. It’s a headshot that shows a person as they really are and can convey a sense of who they are and their personality and friendliness through the photo.

Okay, so now that we know we need to smile with our eyes to get a genuine smile and make a photo look better, how do we do it? Here’s a Wikihow with some good tips.


Fashion in the fall

October 22, 2009 Published by . 1 Comment

Last night an old friend and I met up for photo shoot in an alley, using some cool clothing from local Chicago designers.

We had a lot of fun, and were interrupted only once by a passing car. Not only is Tonee an excellent model, but he can grab a light on a stand and carry it to safety lickety split too!

Actually, we were interrupted a couple other times when we would hear some scurrying in bushes or behind trash cans. There were a lot of rats in the alley and if you don’t move or make much noise for a while, they come out to explore.

I think some of them got used to us after about an hour, as they started to poke their heads out to say “hello” here and there.

But they were camera shy, so thankfully Tonee is the only one in the shots.

It was nice to get outside shooting on one of the last warm evenings of the season, before it gets too consistently nippy at night to wander around with cameras blazing. We laid out the outfits for the evening with lots of jackets and coats, and didn’t really need them.

A very special thanks to Tonee Dang for being an excellent model for the evening, and for the designers for providing the shirts: Fussya Co. by Chris Ho, and Black Market Caviar by Marco Lopez.

PHOTOjournalism, duh.

September 24, 2009 Published by . Leave your thoughts

Yesterday my second article in C-U Confidential was published as part of a hopefully long-running column on the independent film scene in Chicago. The article is here.

C-U Confidential is an online publication with a print counterpart, run and edited by Jason Pankoke- a totally swell guy who really loves movies and loves bringing people together with them. He started the magazine to track the activities of independent film in the Midwest. It’s a very tiring project: there is quite a lot of indie movie action around these parts.

My second article is a profile of a new documentary by Logan Futej and Jared Hoffa. A film about their biker gang grandparents. Don’t worry, they’re safe people and I was not harmed during the interview. This photo is the photo I took of the duo just before they held a test screening at Columbia College Chicago to get some feedback for the film. And a stuffed panda bear. His name is Panda Bear.

I plan to include my own photos of everyone I interview for the column. Duh, right? I’m a photographer. I love photography and I love independent filmmakers, so this column is a chicken-egg puzzle for me. Did I agree to write for it so I can learn more about independent film in Chicago? Or so I could just take photos? For my first interview, I took the photo after I asked the questions… but for this one I took the photo before the interview. Hmmm… egg? Bawk?

"The Swooning Shadow" and other tales

September 18, 2009 Published by . Leave your thoughts

If I could change my middle name, I think I’d change it to “rim light,” because I like rim lighting so much. (Or I’d probably change it to “superhuman destroyer of evil,” but that’s a post for another day.)

Maybe it’s because of my background in cinematography and filmmaking that gives me an affinity for rim lighting, aka edge lighting- films use it a lot to add dynamics to a scene. A light placed behind the subject to light the edge of his or her hair, shoulders, etc., really makes the subject stand out from their background and gives them a solid look. It splashes light all over their edgy parts, but also creates new shadows and gives their features depth. Hand me a shovel, because I dig it.

I took this photo last night as a comp photo project. I snapped the subject’s photo with a simple lighting setup, then another of myself for the shadow, and replaced his shadow with mine in Photoshop. (Sounds simple enough, but my mouse-using wrist is still sore and my eyes are watering from staring at the screen for so long…) Special thanks to Dave Hamner for modeling for the photo, and for being so awesome!