July 30, 2018
Everyone at Organic Headshots has been at this for years: our photographers have photographed thousands of people, and our makeup artists have had just as many folks in their makeup chairs. And if there’s one thing nearly all our clients have in common, it’s that they’re nervous. Very few people walk into a photo studio excited to have their photo taken, and most of our clients see their visit as a necessary evil to get a photo for the bio page of their website, their LinkedIn profile photo, sales and marketing materials for their business, or, “because my boss made me come here to take a photo for the company website BUT I HATE HAVING MY PHOTO TAKEN SO LET’S MAKE THIS QUICK PLEASE.”
We’ve had countless informal discussions at the studio about how to put our clients at ease during such an anxiety-producing situation as having your photo taken, and we’ve developed systems and solutions for calming people down during photo sessions. We create a quiet, calming environment in the photo studio with snacks, drinks, and even an aromatherapy diffuser to freshen the air. We adjust the temperature if someone is too cool or too warm. We talk at length about what the photos are for and explain what we’re doing and how we’re going to get great photos for each person’s purpose. We show clients their photos as we’re taking them to allow for adjustments and feedback. We tell jokes. We laugh at the absurdity of striving for that perfect pose for that perfect photo like we’re all Kardashians on the red carpet. We listen to our clients’ stories of jobs lost, jobs found, career changes, life changes, new relationships, new babies, new puppies, and how well we can or can’t follow the storylines of Game of Thrones. Oh, and usually there’s an unofficial therapy dog lounging in a sunbeam or rolled over for bellyrubs, which has offered many a welcome distraction from the giant lens on the camera.
But last week we decided to take it a step further and formalize our training. We met with our friend David Klow, founder of Skylight Counseling Center and author of the new book, You Are Not Crazy: Letters From Your Therapist, in his office to talk about how we can help our clients enjoy the process of having their taken more; or at least stress less about it. David is a licensed therapist, Clinical Lecturer at the Department of Psychology at Northwestern University, an Adjunct Faculty member at Adler University, and runs professional training and workshops when he’s not managing his growing clinical staff at the counseling center.
David led us through an amazingly insightful discussion as we workshopped what our clients go through when having their photo taken, and we worked together to create new strategies and procedures to build our strengths in relieving photo-induced anxiety. Most importantly, we learned that we are the primary instrument taking someone’s photo, not the camera and the lighting and the posing. Those are merely tools we employ. The real photo is produced through the rapport we create with our subjects, the trust they have in us, and the authority we convey as professionals in our craft.
We are in the job of making people look good. Of capturing their personality in an image they need to further their careers, promote their work, demonstrate their capabilities, and project their individuality. We take that job very seriously.
So we invite you to test our strength. If you HATE having your photo taken and get nervous in front of a camera, PLEASE come to our studio. We love nervous people. Believe it or not, WE hate having our photos taken too– every single one of us working at Organic Headshots is behind the lens because we loathe being in front of it. So we get it. We understand your pain, and we want to help you feel better about getting a headshot. Have us come to your office to photograph your staff, or book an appointment for a session in our studio where you can munch on some snacks, listen to some soothing music, and rub a dog’s belly while we take your photo.
July 29, 2013
Last week PepsiCo was in town for a series of annual sales meetings and marketing sessions with employees representing many of their different brands from across the country. What does this have to do with me? I took their photos. As part of the event a headshot station was offered, where people could have their headshot quickly taken and sent to them later. After 12 hours of nearly non-stop shutter-clicking, I had taken 207 people’s photos and pushed that shutter button 2,568 times.
When I was done I took one hell of a nap. But the result is spectacular: 207 matching headshots done at break-neck speed, and a new personal record for number of headshots taken in one day!
I get a lot of requests for matching staff photos and I usually head to a client’s office and take their headshots over the course of a few days, depending on the size of the firm. But occasionally a company has all of their members from different national offices in one place and needs their headshots taken all at once and as quickly as possible.
I’ve created a workflow that’s scalable for every situation which varies from 20-minutes per person and viewing their photos to choose one during the session itself (which clients love, since they don’t have to chase down dozens of people to choose their photos later), all the way to about 1.5 minutes per person, while still keeping track of who’s who and organizing their photos later into galleries or individually marked folders.
I had a great time at the PepsiCo event and met at least 207 amazing people. Sometimes I just absolutely LOVE my job. And I may or may not be calling Guinness to see if I happened to set an actual record…
November 12, 2012
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.”
October 19, 2012
A few months ago I took some photos at a local Whole Foods bakery for a new ad campaign they’re running about their stores’ bakeries as local bakeries and the people who work there as the great, local bakers they are. They asked some actual staff members of their bakeries to come in for the shoot and pose as themselves to be photographed doing exactly what they do daily: baking bread, decorating cakes, preparing tarts, and so on.
I partner with fellow independent photographer Johnny Knight for a lot of projects- mostly weddings- and we we worked together on this Whole Foods campaign, taking photos side by side so some of our photos had our subjects looking right into the camera, and for others photos they would be looking off to the side. The effect was very natural and the photos turned out great!
So I’m finally getting around to posting some of my favorite shots from the day- one that was chosen for the campaign, one of the outtakes from that shot where some bread dough seems to be levitating… and some other great shots.
June 4, 2012
If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard, “I’m not very photogenic, so good luck taking my picture,” I would have a heck of a lot of nickels. As a photographer, I recognize the simple fact that some people are just more photogenic than others. Yes, that’s right. Someone whose business is in getting paid to take good photos of peoples’ faces just admitted that some peoples’ faces look better in photos than others. I have just admitted what we all know but don’t dare say out loud.
I’m not saying that some people are uglier than others- I believe we are all individuals with our own personal looks, styles, and ways of expressing ourselves, and in my own neo-modern-hippie way, I believe we are all beautiful. And finding a way to translate your personal look into a great headshot people will appreciate before they actually meet you in person is the real challenge when having your portrait taken.
I believe in 2 steps to making yourself more photogenic when a camera points in your direction, and the first, most important step I learned from photographing my dog. That step is to be yourself and relax. My dog doesn’t give a crap what his photo looks like or even what a camera is, so he doesn’t change his face or expression one iota when a giant lens is looming over his snout. When you have your photo taken, don’t try to aim your face at “that one angle that made my nose look great in that one photo of myself I saw 10 years ago.” We’ve all been there, and it results in 10 years of photos of us looking awkward tilting our head in weird angles.
When you’re having your photo taken, own it- just smile, be yourself, and believe you are the beautiful, confident, capable person you know you are, and you will look beautiful, confident, and capable in your photo. When other people look at photos of you they’re not looking at your hair, your nose, your eyebrows, or any individual feature. They’re looking at the overall photo as a representation of you and are only determining if you seem friendly, approachable, capable, professional, etc. Focus more on how friendly you want to look in the photo and you won’t notice anything else!
The second step in being more photogenic in my opinion is retouching. Before any purists get upset, I’m not talking about crazy, body-image altering glamor photos that completely change an ordinary person into Cindy Crawford. Because you still want to look like you so someone can look at your photo then pick you at a networking event. I’m talking about maximizing the effect of the friendly, approachable photo as a whole by minimizing the effect of certain things that distract from the friendly, approachable reading you want people to get out of looking at your photo.
Taking a 3 dimensional face, which people read as 3 dimensional in person, and making it into a 2 dimensional picture, which an eye reads as 2 dimensional when it’s seen, can distort our features and enhance things we don’t usually see in person. Our eyes filter through shadows under the nose and skin imperfections in person because we see it all the time and read right through it to get to the business of communicating with the person themselves. But we don’t have this in-person benefit in a photo, which is a flat, artistic representation of a person.
And if anyone is aware of this it’s me- one of my eyes always looks bigger than the other in photos but not in person. Am I supposed to say, “that’s me, but I don’t actually look like Quasimodo in person, I swear,” when I show my picture to someone who hasn’t seen me in person yet? Nope. And I gave up trying to squint my big eye to match my small one or angle my head in juuuuuust that right direction so they look the same size. I’ve already got 10 years of photos of my head at weird angles.
I’m taking a tip from my dog from now on and suggest you do too: What camera? I’m just going to sit here happy and confident and smiling and if there happens to be a record of that confidence in the form of a photo, so be it. And if that photo happens to make those dark circles under my eyes look darker than usual, then send that thing to the retouching department!