March 5, 2009
The general “rule” for photographers when lighting a headshot is to light it evenly, diffuse it nicely, and keep shadows to a minimum. The idea is to take a portrait of someone that shows every inch of their face- because that’s what a headshot is– a photograph of a person that is a clear representation of what they look like, to help casting directors, agents and anyone looking at the photo know who that person is.
So most of the headshots I take are very bright and lit rather simply and minimally. But that can get boring for me. I didn’t spend all that money on cameras, strobes, grids, and fancy electronics to take high school portraits, did I?
To keep me happy as a photographer, I like to try new things and get a little creative with the lighting. After all, “rules” should be in quotation marks, because if you know what they are and why they’re there, can’t you try breaking them now and then?
So here’s the challenge: make a headshot more interesting with a more dynamic lighting setup, but still be true to the headshot’s main purpose: to be a clear representation of a person. When you start changing lighting and angles in a photograph, a person’s face can appear a little different than it did in the photo before. Our faces are 3D and photos are 2D, so any change in angles and representation will make a person look slightly different… which we don’t want in a headshot– a photo of someone that doesn’t look like them.
I was taking headshots for Hannah yesterday, and after taking a majority of the photos in a more “standard” headshot lighting setup, I changed the lighting to make the headshots more “artistic.” Hannah asked which would be better for a casting agent.
My only answer is whichever photo you are more comfortable giving, and which one you feel looks more like you at your best. If the more “artistic” or interesting-looking headshot still conveys your look, your style, and your attitude, then print that sucker and hand it out. But if you’re more comfortable with a “standard” look, then go with that. Some may say that the “artistic-looking” headshots will give you a leg up on a casting director’s desk– if the photo pops, then the person pops too, right? Others might say it’s a gamble. But I think as long as a headshot is doing its job, then it’s already a winner.
February 2, 2009
I was looking through some old photos of mine the other night and then I had weird dreams. I dreamt I had to take photos under water but couldn’t keep my eyes open under the water and couldn’t find the shutter button for the camera so I had to open my eyes to see it… so I opened my eyes under water and my contacts floated away. When I finally found them, I tried to put them back in my eyes, but they were the size of teacups and too big to put back in.
A friend of mine told me once that if you eat different kinds of cheeses before going to sleep, you’ll have strange or intense dreams based on the kind of cheese. Maybe the photos you look at have that same effect. I looked through a file of folders a friend and I took at a hotel swimming pool while we were on a trip, and the contacts-the-size-of-teacups is the dream I ended up with.
Maybe tonight I’ll stare at a big chocolate cake and brochures from day spas before heading off to bed…
January 6, 2009
For New Years Eve I hopped across town to a handful of parties, and found myself at Galaxie for one- where my friend Harry organized some jazz and swing bands to play for a few hours. Even though I just planned to pop in for a cameo (if I can pretend I’m cool enough to call it a cameo), I really wanted to make it in time to see Yoko Noge‘s band play.
I’d been following Yoko Noge from afar for a little while- she’s a bit of a Chicago mini-legend for playing in the jazz and blues scene for so long. I was also hoping to finally meet her, since Harry knew her and could introduce us. Well I stepped in the door just as she finished belting out her last note. I didn’t even have my coat off when I heard over the microphone in the other room: “thank you, you’ve been great!” and then no more music.
I wandered through the rooms to get myself a drink and as I turned a corner I stopped short and so did Yoko- we nearly ran right into each other. I said “excuse me,” and she looked down at my feet and then back up at my torso, pointed, and said, “oh, wow! I love your dress! Sparkly!” Then walked off. Of course, Harry later introduced us formally, but I really like how that was my first in-person encounter with Ms. Yoko Noge herself.
Yesterday, Harry asked me and my roommate to come with him to Andy’s Jazz Club, where Yoko and her band play every Monday night. And to also bring my camera to snap a few shots he might be able to use for a new website if he gets around to building it for her. I was glad to do it, and so glad to hear the band. They played some amazing Chicago-style bluesy jazz… but also threw in some traditional Japanese instruments. Some of their songs would start out with the stiff plucking of a Shamisen, or the soft flute-like shakuhachi, then somehow melt into a jazz tune. Seriously, an amazing experience. If she were to pitch the idea to a record producer, they’d call her a nutjob… but when you’re there listening to it, it works amazingly well.
December 31, 2008
I just wanted to share this headshot I took the other day for Dixieland musician Felicia Carparelli. Yes, that’s a bright and shiny gold accordion on her lap. Accordions just make me smile. When she called me for headshots I asked her what the photos are for, and she said she plays the piano and accordion and she’ll need some basic headshots to give to bars and clubs where she plays, so they can hang it in their window under “upcoming musicians.”
So I told her to bring the accordion to add as a prop to some of the shots, so she’ll have a photo of her that clearly represents that she is a musician and what instrument she plays. While taking the photos she adjusted her hold on the accordion and said it can get a little heavy. “I should have learned the harmonica,” she said.
I said, “just be happy I didn’t ask you to bring the piano and hold that on your lap.”