Heads Up for Personality Portraits

Stefanie Comp copy

It has to be more than a snap shot to get the attention of any casting director.

Head shots are all about connecting with the client in a way that brings out that person’s character and uniqueness.  The above comp was photographed this week in the studio and is a pretty good example of what I’m talking about.  Peter Hurley says it best when he says “Shebang” after seeing that special moment come across his viewfinder.  Jay Maisel calls this Gesture.  The ability to bring out personality comes with loads of practice and lots of trial and error.  Some people like Hurley use funny directions.  Others have their own way of connecting with the real person in front of the camera.

Here are a few tips.   1.  Make the subject feel comfortable.  There is nothing more horrible than having a strange person yell smile at you and expect you to react in a meaningful way.  Bring out real expressions with real  life dialog and direction.  I start off by suggesting the subject make a funny face.  The real expression comes after the person reacts to his or her antics.  2.  Make the subject believe they look amazing in their photos.  Many people have a lousy self image and it is the photographers job to show how great they look.  I try to shoot tethered to a lab top so the subject can get a sensed of what their photo will look like.  3.  Keep changing the pose so that the subject doesn’t get bored.  Nothing worse that firing off a dozen frames and having nothing different to show for it. 4.  Be friendly and honest.  Nothing ruins a personality session like a phony photographer. Be real.  5.  Have fun.  This will be good for you and for your client and will result in some pretty great photography.  6 Above all have your equipment and lighting set and ready to go.  Batteries charged, light readings made and camera set and ready to shoot.  A sure way to ruin a photo session is to have a light malfunction or camera not work properly.

Contact me about my small group and individual photography sessions.  I’d love to share some of the information I’ve gleaned from a 40+ year career in photography


OnOne has released its latest software upgrade to PhotoSuite 6 making it 6.1.  I usually don’t upgrade for a while seeing that most upgrades bring with them a barrel full of problems.  However, this time they have it right the first time.  Major improvements have been made to the masking panel.  Below is a composite I made this afternoon.  subject shot on studio background, placed inside old factory.  I made the factory background a tad on the blue side to contrast with the subject.  Oh, and as a tribute to Joel Grimes, I did a little tonal contrast adjustment to the whole image.  If you haven’t been keeping up with Grimes’ work you should google him and see what he is up to.

Do it better all the time!

The topic often comes up discussing why professional photographers are losing business to week-end warrior freelancers and soccer moms with a camera.  We pros are all frustrated that these new photographers are taking our work and ruining the business of photography.  I say stop complaining and do something about the level of your work. New technology makes it pretty easy for the untrained to produce some very acceptable photography.  The price of admission into this business has dropped to an all time low.  No longer does one need decades of lab experience or technical training to produce a properly exposed, focused color photograph.   If the pro photographer’s work looks just like that of the amateur than how can you blame a client for choosing not to book with a professional.  Especially when the price difference can be considerable.  As professionals, we must offer the client much more.  More creativity, better service, the highest standards of excellence and reliability and we must do this consistently.  If you as a professional are producing work that looks like the work done by entry level want-a-be photographers than quit complaining.  You have no argument.  Give your clients something special all the time.  Prove your worth…..MTC/BL

Professor Desmond Lun was photographed at Rutgers University recently for use with a story about his DNA detection and identification research.  The assignment was made possible because the client needed a photograph that could not be produced by point and shoot technology.