My crappy high school portrait

July 27, 2012 Published by . Leave your thoughts

After photographing someone with curly hair the other week I had a sudden flashback to my senior portraits in high school.  I have a distinct memory of stepping into the room my school had set a portrait photographer up in and seeing him light up in excitement when I entered, saying, “oh, this is great!  Someone with curly hair!  I’m going to back-light it!”  I didn’t know much about portrait photography back then but something in my gut said, “this sounds like a bad idea.”

If it’s not lit correctly, curly hair can turn into a big mass of undefined nothingness, especially if it’s dark, and any improperly placed lighting behind it can show nothing but frizz sticking up everywhere.  So in spite of my better judgement and the fact that I’ve hidden this photo from the world for over 10 years, I now share my crappy high school senior portrait.

Ignoring the seriously misguided posing, which tucks my chin into my neck to make a 98-pound 5’4″ 17-year old look like a chubby-cheeked squirrel and pushing my forehead toward the camera to make it look twice the size of the rest of my face… my curly hair looks like a giant Styrofoam hat with dust bunnies jumping around the top.

There’s no definition in the curls themselves so you can’t even tell the hair is curly, and the back light directly behind my head only lights the stray, frizzy hairs sticking up all over the place.  Is it any wonder I straighten my hair now?

Just like every damaging and embarrassing moment of our teenage years, I have learned a valuable lesson from this photo.  Photograph curly hair properly.  Here’s a photo of my most recent headshot victim, Sarah, with her wonderfully curly hair.  I lit her with soft lighting to flatter her face, but then added a non-diffused back light that was more to the side of her (instead of directly behind) to show definition in her curls without lighting up any stray hairs that would register as frizz.  I got the light to shine through some of her hair to show the multiple layers of curls, but made sure it stayed off her face to not create any hot spots or random streaks of light on her cheeks.

And voila!  The result is at the very least a photograph that won’t come back to haunt her as crappy 10 years later.  And now, back to my flat iron…


Mafia photos

July 5, 2012 Published by . Leave your thoughts

Some people might already know this about me, but if you don’t, maybe you should sit down.  Are you ready?  Here it comes… I like to craft.  When I’m not squishing a camera into my face taking pictures of wonderful people, I’m making things with fabric, thread, glue, wood, whatever.  And all that crafting has actually led to a little side project of mine: Snarky Sleeves.  I started making reusable coffee cup sleeves with snarky phrases on them and people liked them and started buying them.

A while back I found a kind of support group for busy, overachieving people like me who make stuff and sell it as a “hobby:” the Chicago Craft Mafia.  We’re a group of like-minded small business owners with businesses that revolve around craft, art, and handmade goods.  We put together resources for other small craft business owners, networking events, and the DIY Trunk Show, which had about 8,000 shoppers and 150 vendors last year.  We’re busy people!

Busy people who decided we wanted matching headshots and an awesome group photo.  My specialty.  I designed these headshots to feature all the members in our group colors of red, white, and black and paired our red, white, and black clothing with a black backdrop and some heavy backlighting to separate us from the backdrop… and of course, flattering soft lighting because we want to look our best.  We each held our “crafty weapon of choice” and donned a slightly conniving facial expression.  We are the Mafia, after all.

Then came the real challenge… One of the members caught a nasty flu bug and suddenly couldn’t make it to the headshot day.  Not a problem for the individual headshots because I can easily re-create the studio set-up and take a photo of her later to match the rest.  But it was a BIG problem for getting a group photo of all of us.  Here’s what I did… follow me on this…

I took a photo outdoors just before sunset with 2 strobe lights and the camera on a tripod, setting it on a timer and jumping into the photo at the last second.  I left a little room between some people to add our missing member later.  She came back at a later date and we took the photo at the same time of day with the lights and the tripod in about the same place (as best as I could remember) and the lens at the same focal length and shutter/aperture settings.  Then I did my best to cut her out of the photo and stitch her image into the group photo, then simulate some shadows as if she had been there all along.

It was a lot of work, but looks pretty awesome!