Thousands of photos of porcelain

December 13, 2012 Published by . Leave your thoughts

For a little over two years now I’ve been photographing all of the products for the Precious Moments line of porcelain figurines, snow globes, ornaments, plush dolls, music boxes, picture frames, and all sorts of other items they offer.  I love going to their office to see the new products they’re going to be unveiling in about a year- the process from concept to shelves is a lengthy one- and chatting with the wonderful people who work there.

It’s like just about any other office with its fax machines, memos, board rooms, cubicles and offices… except there are porcelain figurines absolutely everywhere, and sketches of new ideas and concepts taped to every wall.  I walked by a room once with 2 people hunkered over chunks of clay with sketches in front of them: they were sculpting first drafts of new items right there.  Awesome place to work.

Sometimes they stop by my studio to shoot a few quick items and the last time they stopped by they brought me a Santa Claus mug.  I couldn’t stop laughing.  Okay, let me explain… I’ve photographed quite literally thousands of items for them, but about a year or so ago when they laid out the items for the day there was a group of Christmas themed mugs that blew my mind.  When they’re upside-down they look like Santa, penguin, and snowman figurines with their hands up in the air.  I thought to myself, “why on earth do they have their hands up in the air?  Someone should tell Precious Moments that the ‘raise the roof’ thing is over…”  But then I flipped one of them over and realized it was a coffee mug and designed to be that ridiculously adorable.

When Amy, my main contact with the company, came back into the room to go over what is being shot for the day I jammed it in her face and said, “have you seen this?!  This is amazing!”  Of course she’s seen it.  She’s one of the people who designed it.  She laughed at how enthusiastic I got over one of their products for a few weeks after that…

So if you’re looking for any-last minute gift items this year… check out the Santa mug, penguin mug, and snowman mug.  Of all of their Christmas products, these mugs absolutely rocked my world.

A headshot on your business card?

November 19, 2012 Published by . Leave your thoughts

A few months ago I wrote a quick post about putting your headshot on your resume.  Today, it’s about putting your headshot on your business card.  I’ve had my headshot on my business card for a of couple years now and have come to a simple conclusion about it:  it’s awesome.  Of course I’m going to say that- it naturally makes sense for a headshot photographer (who happens to sell headshots to other people) to put her headshot on her business card since it’s a quick little portfolio piece that can show someone my photo style and professionalism without having to whip out a huge portfolio book or try to pull up my website on a little smart phone screen.  Especially in an age where everyone with a camera calls themselves a photographer, I can show my business card with that title but then flip it over to show a professional self-portrait that says, “no, really- see?  I’m actually a card-carrying professional photographer who makes her living with the camera.”

But what about lawyers?  Consultants?  Students?  Designers?  Financial planners?  Why on earth would they want to have their headshot on their business card?  For the same reason why a LinkedIn profile has an image of you and why everyone recommends that image be a professional, approachable portrait.  Because it’s great to put a face to the name.

In a nutshell, putting your headshot on your business card does many things:

  1. It reminds someone who they talked to when they find your business card in their wallet later and think, “where did I meet this dude and what did we talk about?”
  2. It’s great if you go to networking events, where people can go through a stack of 50 business cards of 50 different people they talked to and remember who you were because a photo of you is right there in front of them.
  3. If someone gives someone else your business card and they’re seeing your business card before seeing you, it’s a great way for them to feel like they’ve met you before when they actually do see your face in person for the first time.
  4. It controls the image of yourself that you put in front of people, which is especially valuable in an internet age when we tend to Google search new people we meet… and possibly uncover photos of them drunk at frat parties…

And my final reason why a headshot on a business card rocks is the simple reason that people I hand my card to say, “woah, that rocks!”  There’s something cool and unique and personable about being able to see a photo of the person on their business card.  It just gives a vibe of friendliness and approachability that simple letters and numbers do not.

Oh, and one more awesome reason… it’s cheap.  It doesn’t cost any more than printing a business card without a photo.

Lens lengths and face shapes

November 12, 2012 Published by . Leave your thoughts

Last week I wrote a quick post about working with photographers who are willing and able to adjust their equipment and techniques in order to successfully get the most flattering image of you possible.  I was thinking about that this weekend when I was photographing an old friend of mine who stopped by for some new headshots, since he is about to start his own business.  I asked him to humor me for a moment as I took his photo with 3 different lens lengths to see how each lens would change the shape of his face.

As you can see, the effect is subtle, but definitely visible.  The 74mm lens seems to shrink his head and make it look narrower and pointier than it is.  He has an oval-shaped face and this lens tightens the oval and rounds his jawline too much, until it almost disappears.  The 200mm lens flattens his features and squares his jaw, but it also makes his forehead look smaller than it is and squares his jaw too much- it makes his face look square-shaped, when it doesn’t look like that in person.  It also makes his ears seem like they stick out just a little more than they do in real life.

We looked at these photos together and decided the best lens length for him was the 105mm.  It squared his jaw more than the 74mm, but not too much like the 200mm.  And it also just looked most like what other people see when they look at him, and what he recognizes as the face he sees in the mirror every day.

And that’s the most important factor: does the photo look like you?  It sounds so simple, but it’s the reason I call my business “Organic Headshots.”  Headshots should be natural, or “organic” in a way- they should convey on paper (or on a digital screen) a flat image of the real you, so when people see the photo they think, “Hey, I know that guy.  He’s awesome.  Man, he looks so friendly and approachable.  What a swell guy.”

If your photos look bad, fire your photographer

November 6, 2012 Published by . 1 Comment

Here’s an example of a nice photo… but can it get better?

I got a phone call yesterday from someone who wanted to schedule a session with me because she just had a session last week with another headshot photographer and she absolutely hates how the photos turned out.  She said the photos don’t really look like her- that her face looks rounder and puffier in the photos than she does in person.  She emailed me the photos and I could tell what the problem was right away… I asked if the photographer was standing really far away from her when he took the photos and she said, “yes!  How did you know?”

I knew because these photos were suffering from what I call “long lens syndrome.”  When you use a long zoom lens to photograph someone, it tends to flatten their features- which can be beneficial for some face shapes, like people with narrower-shaped heads, less hair (it flattens the sides and brings them forward to show more of the hair), and larger noses.  But a flattening effect is lousy for people with round-shaped faces, large ears, or features that are far apart, since it flattens the face out and enhances the effect.  But some photographers keep using longer lenses for all their subjects because it can increase depth of field in the photo- blurring out the background to an extreme, but artsy-looking level.  And of course, with a long zoom lens, the photographer has to be further away from the subject, or “he was like 15 feet away from me!” according to this unfortunate victim.

Here’s an even better angle that flatters her features even more after a little bit of head tilting and just slightly changing the length of the lens.

When you choose a headshot photographer make sure they have a diverse portfolio and not just the same shot with the same background over and over again.  A more diverse portfolio usually indicates that their style and method is flexible and that they can adjust what they’re doing to best benefit their client.  You want a photo of yourself that looks like you at your best, most flattering angle.  Make sure your photographer is photographing you from multiple angles during the session.  I like to take a few basic shots, then inspect them, and change the lighting or the posing to find the most flattering angle for each individual.  Sometimes it’s getting right in their face with a short, 50mm lens and a key light right above them.  Other times it’s photographing them from halfway across the room, a 135mm lens, and the key light off to the side.

Headshot photography shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all Hanes Beefy T-Shirt.  Because just like some of us look like crap in a Beefy T 4 sizes too big for us, some of us look like crap with the wrong lens and the wrong lighting for our face shape.  Remember, you deserve to have your photographer work hard to try different poses, lighting, and angles to get the most flattering images of you.  Crack that whip!