Hobart Dawn

I recently spent a weekend in Hobart. I didn’t take many photographs because, well, it wasn’t that kind of trip.

I did get up early one morning and drove to the summit of Mount Wellington, where it was 2.7 degrees, with crazy winds making it feel like -8.2 degrees. The drive back down was much more pleasant, so I stopped when I saw this golden dawn light falling on the foothills and Lenah Valley.

Anatomy of a Headshot Session

As people increasingly promote themselves through social and professional networks, headshots and portraits are no longer just for models and actors. They’re becoming an important way for many people – business owners, job seekers, executives, consultants – to market themselves. In this post, I’ll outline what to expect from a headshot or portrait shoot, and how to prepare.

The Photographer

Most people don’t like having their photo taken. Add to this that, by their nature, headshot sessions are very “in your face”, and you can see the importance of choosing a photographer who you will be comfortable with. First, take a look through their website to get an idea of their style. Any photographer worth their salt will be comfortable shooting a range of styles, but their website will give you a good first impression.

Next, talk to the photographer. How does the conversation go? Did you like them? Did they ask about what you’re hoping to get from the shoot? Did they talk you through how their sessions work? Did they make you feel comfortable? If not, they’re probably not right for you.

Headshot Styles

The most common, traditional style is the vertical portrait. Generally close-cropped head and shoulders, in front of a plain background, like the examples below.

Another option for ‘studio-style’ headshots is to have them composed in a horizontal/landscape orientation like those below. Personally, I find this style a little more engaging and relaxed. In a corporate setting, this style also allows for the inclusion of company signage or branding in the background. Typically, during a session I will shoot a combination of vertical and horizontal compositions and provide clients with both options.

‘Environmental’ portraits or headshots are typically taken outside or in some other non-studio location such as your workplace. This style can be a little more relaxed, and is much better for telling the story of who you are and what you do.

Before the Shoot

Once you’ve chosen a photographer and made a booking for a session, it’s time to start getting prepared. Things to do before the shoot include:

Clothes

  • Select an outfit or a few combinations of clothes that represent you, and make you comfortable
  • For men especially, quite a few combinations are possible with only limited changes – tie, no tie, jacket, no jacket, jacket and tie, jacket and no tie. It all depends on the image you’re wanting to present, and during the shoot, we will cover most, if not all of these combinations.
  • Solid colours are best to reduce distraction, but if wearing bright patterns is part of who you are, then that’s what’s important. We’ll make it work. Just try and avoid intricate, busy patterns which may not photograph well.
  • For the bottom half, you might be tempted just to wear a pair of boardshorts – you know, like the newsreaders do behind the desk. Most times, this will be OK, but sometimes your shirt won’t sit properly with this combination. Try it out before the shoot. Shoes though? Wear whatever’s comfortable.

Hair

It’s Brisbane. It’s humid, particularly in summer. Your hair’s going to get a little frizzy. Bring along a brush or comb, and maybe some product, to take care of those fuzzy flyaways.

Face

Makeup can help to hide any blemishes or cut down on shiny skin, but there’s no need to go overboard. If you usually wear makeup, just put on what you normally would for a day at work. Bring some makeup with you to make any touchups during the shoot, along with some lip gloss or balm to keep your lips looking soft.

Try and avoid any significant beauty procedures such as facial peels or exfoliating in the leadup to your shoot. A bad reaction could leave your skin looking irritated.

For men, there’s no need to shave before the shoot if you’re someone who usually has a day or two’s growth. Remember – you’re looking for shots that represent you. If you bring your shaving gear, we can get some clean shaven shots in the second half of the session. That’s much easier than trying to grow some stubble in an hour.

The Shoot

  • Remember what I said way up there about needing to feel comfortable? Ask the photographer to put some music on, if it helps you relax.
  • The photographer will probably ask you to strike some weird feeling poses. They might feel strange, but they’ll make for better photos, and will usually look more natural than they feel.
  • Your photographer should be able to give you some tips on how, and even if, to smile. Try not to force it, keep a gap between your top and bottom teeth, and your smile will look much more natural.
  • Likewise, it’s good to squint your eyes ever so slightly. The deer-in-the-headlights look is no good for anyone.
  • Take a breather every now and then. During a one-hour shoot, I’ll probably have my camera up to my face for less then half that time. We’ll take a break to review what we’ve got so far and make any changes, we’ll stop for a chat, we’ll stop for a drink.

After The Shoot

Once we’re done, I’ll start to select and edit the best images from the shoot. Editing will generally include:

  • Selecting the best composed, posed and exposed images from the shoot.
  • Removing any blemishes or imperfections. This is mostly just to get rid of shiny spots from the lights, redness in the skin or temporary blemishes such as the odd pimple. I’m not going to go crazy and give you that unrealistic plastic skin look. Likewise, if you have any distinguishing marks, I won’t remove these unless you specifically ask.
  • If necessary, slightly enhancing your eyes by adding a little brightness and sharpness. It’ll be subtle enough that you probably won’t even notice, but it helps to make the photo more engaging.
  • I’ll then deliver the images to you, in the agreed format, in colour and/or black and white. Usually this will be via a link to a gallery on dropbox or elsewhere, but of course, prints and USB sticks are also an option.

And, we’re done! If it’s time you updated your corporate portraits, social media profile photos or performer’s headshot, get in touch, and we’ll talk about how I can help.

Event Photography – Telling The Story

“Some people sat in a room, and some other people stood up and talked at them.” Not a very interesting story is it? Events – whether corporate events, workshops, launches or parties – are much more interesting than that, and my aim when covering them is to tell the story of the connections and interactions that occur amongst the speakers, participants and guests.

Speakers

Event managers, it’s 2016. Time to get your speakers out from behind lecterns and podiums and interacting with their audience. My approach to photographing event speakers and presenters is to capture moments when their expressing themselves, not when they’re reading from their notes at a lectern. Some aspects I consider while photographing presenters include:

  • Lighting – It’s an unfortunate reality that many events are held in hotel conference and ballrooms, with less than ideal lighting. If the room isn’t well lit, is there a source of light such as a window that I can try and capture the speaker next to? If there are a lot of windows, the speaker’s probably back-lit, meaning I’ll need to expose the image correctly. Can I use flash? If not, I’ll need to overexpose to make sure the speaker isn’t in silhouette. If so, is the ceiling low enough to bounce the light off and avoid flashing the speaker in the face? Nobody likes being flashed in the face. Especially not in public.
  • Microphones – Back in my music photography days, it was often difficult to avoid “microphone face” – where the low shooting position and microphone stands could result in a singer’s face being obscured by the mic. At more sedate events, I can move around the room, ensuring a good angle that reduces the obstruction. Even better if the speaker has a radio-mic, or a handheld mic which they’ll move away from their face from time to time.
  • Facial Expressions – Capturing a speaker mid-sentence can make for engaging photos showing their passion for the subject. Unfortunately, it can also result in embarrassing and awkward facial expressions. Even Beyoncé‘s not immune from this one.

Audience

When you’re telling the story of your event, you want to show that your audience was engaged and interested. Photos from the back of the room, showing the back of people’s heads aren;t really going to tell that story. When I’m photographing an event, I walk around the room, looking for moments where audience members are clearly focussed on the front of the room, pondering what’s being said, and taking notes.

Interactions

“Social Photos”. You know the ones I mean – two people who barely know each other, standing awkwardly next to each other, forcing a smile at a photographer who interrupted their conversation. I don’t want to interrupt people’s conversations for social photos. I’d rather capture the conversations, the interactions, the smiles of recognition cross the room. These images are the story of your event.

Branding

Events are presented, supported and sponsored by brands. They don’t do that out of the goodness of their heart. They do it for exposure, brand recognition and good will. So, when I’m shooting an event, I try to get as many photographs as possible which include some element of the event’s branding. A banner in the corner of the room? Hmm, maybe. Someone using, wearing or interacting with your sponsor’s product or your company or sponsor’s logo? Ideal.

As 2016 gets underway, and you’re planning your event calendar for the year, think about the type of event coverage you’d prefer. If you want photographs that tell the story of your event, the people, the interactions and the connections, get in touch.

Stress

Since learning I would be losing my day job, stress has been an infrequent visitor in my life. Sure, there’s the ever-present uncertainty about the future, but nothing of the “things could go really wrong really soon” type stress that occasionally comes with corporate life.

Kylie and I drove from Queenstown to Glenorchy one morning, and out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a ruined pier jutting out into Lake Wakatipu. I made a mental note to stop and photograph it on the way back, but by then the rain had come so I just continued on back to Queenstown.

So, later in the afternoon, when the weather had cleared, I decided to head back out and try again. While it may look like a pretty serene photo, it was responsible for one of the most stressful afternoons in my recent life.

When I jumped in the car, noticed that the fuel gauge was a little low, but figured it would be enough to get me there and back.

Turns out the location was a little further along the road than I remembered. And just as I finished up and got back in the car, the fuel light came on. So here I was, on a winding, narrow road with no real shoulder, with no phone, and at least 30km between me and the nearest service station.

I had no idea of the fuel range in the unfamiliar 2006 Toyota Corolla rental car, so I’ve never driven so conservatively in my life – smooth around the corners, coasting down the hills, gentle acceleration up the hills. At the 10km out of town mark, my thoughts turned to “well, it’s not too far to walk now, but Kylie will start wondering where I am.”

I made it to Queenstown, but of course, the nearest fuel is a few kilometres on the other site of the town centre. So, I gingerly drove through town keeping an eye on potential places to pull over. I made it in the end, pulling into the service station just as Queen’s “You’re My Best Friend” came on the radio. I think I was down to the final 2 litres.

Totally worth it.