Sunday, March 27, 2016

Just how important is a headshot, anyway?

A "headshot" has become a popular topic in recent years. Much of it's popularity can be attributed to Facebook, and LinkedIn. So popular, asking "do I really need a headshot?" is a valid question. First, let's talk about what a headshot really is.

A classic headshot is normally used by actors, musicians, and models, and included with their resume and credits. They are composed as a very tightly closeup of just the subject's face. The subject is very well lit, against a plain background, and is looking directly into the camera. Retouching is kept to a minimum to give prospective employers a natural view of the artist.

Lately, executive portraits have been referred to as headshots, but there is technically a difference. Executive portraits are typically cropped to show much more of the upper torso, frequently down to waist level, and in some cases, full length. The background tends to be traditional studio backdrop, or the executive's work environment.

So, what's the big deal? In case you haven't noticed, headshots (or images matching the cropping format of a classic headshot) have popped up all over social media as "profile images". Every social media site and app provides the option to upload a profile image that displays every time you post a message. For the most part, they range from casual, to whimsical, to humorous. At least they did until LinkedIn allowed posting of profile images. At that point, the game very quietly turned serious for anyone in business or corporate career minded.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Are we losing our pictorial heritage...?

I recently posted the image below on my Facebook page. It’s one of the more elaborately displayed collections of family portraits I’ve seen in some time. I was visiting a musician friend of mine in Denver. It might have gone unnoticed had he not made mention that it was time to “put some light on his people”.

Every evening, he turns on the display lights in a glass enclosed china cabinet. I remember growing up in a time where every family had a prominently displayed china cabinet in their dining room. This was where the family’s prized possessions, and sometimes documents were stored. Eric’s heirloom China cabinet has been repurposed and now contains the collection of family portraits pictured. What is most noteworthy is the age of the portraits. In this cabinet and the walls beside it are six generations of family members.

While some are copies of photographs in other family member’s collections, quite a few are the originals, including one of his great great grandmother. As to be expected, Eric could easily point out who each person was, and the relationships to the other images on display. Then came the stories. Some experienced first hand. Others, you could tell, have been passed down for more than a couple generations.

This open display of heritage is a reminder of what seems to be less and less common these days. Most of my generation had something like this in our homes growing up. At some point almost all of us detested what was frequently referred to as the “mugshot wall”, only to grow up and create our own once we established ourselves in our own homes. It started me to wonder, what happened to these family collections of photographs that span generations. Certainly they did not go the way of the mobile phone. Somebody in the family must be acting as custodian of those images.

What about your family’s images. Who is the keeper of your family’s pictorial heritage?

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

A Photographer's Most Difficult Client

Who would you expect to be in that category? Graphic designers, artistic directors, wedding coordinators (rare), event planners (also rare), the mom of a high-maintenance senior, the high-maintenance senior, the micro-managing bride, the micro-managing bride’s mom; the list goes on. All these have the potential to be difficult for a photographer to deal with. However, they don’t have to be.

The tool most often used by photographers to identify potential difficult clients is careful screening. If the potential client shows signs they may be problematic, especially during the interview/consultation phase, the photographer will frequently decline to take on the client. Yes, we do say no sometimes. The reality is, we actually have very few “difficult” clients. What we do have, on the other hand, are challenging clients. All the types listed above certainly qualify as challenging. None are more challenging for any professional than one with whom you share the same profession.

To be hired by a fellow professional will truly put your skills to the test. The do exactly what you do, and beyond that, they also (very likely) know everything about what you are going to, and/or should be going to do. Suddenly all your tricks and shortcuts are no longer hidden trade secrets. You have to do, at minimum, as good a job as they would do; or so you think.

The pressure is also on the professional doing the hiring. Their challenge is to step back and be a client, not their normal mindset. They have to refrain from all the behaviors they see every day with clients that drive them nuts. The have to give the clear instructions they often wish clients would give them for a job. Above all, they have to hold themselves back and not jump in to take over, or save the professional they just hired. Having experienced this scenario first hand recently, I have some interesting observations.

My oldest son became engaged recently. He lives in Louisiana; I live in California. The wedding plans are to have the ceremony and reception in Las Vegas, which lessens the travel impact on both families. We’re still working the details on getting the wedding photography covered. Conveniently, we were both going to Las Vegas at the same time. I brought up the subject of Engagement Photos as something we should try to get done while we were all in the same place at the same time. It was then I realized photographing my son in a romantic photo session just might be a bit awkward for both of us, not to mention his fiancĂ©e, who I had never met.

I raised the suggestion in the first place because I was attending the Wedding and Portrait Photographers International conference, and knew a great crew of emerging professional photographers would be on hand. About a dozen of us have become quite closely connected, meeting at the conference every year, networking, and sharing experiences. The others all manage to get in at least one group shoot every year. I usually find out too late to plan for it, or have a schedule conflict. This year, I created the shoot by asking them to participate in my son’s engagement session shoot.

With the time and date set, we all met up at the chosen location for an Engagement session of significance; for me, anyway. Come back next time for more on the shoot and some of the images.