Tag Archive for: Portrait

How To Get A Good Portrait


Let’s say it is time for you to update your profile and you want to get a good headshot. There is a problem though: you don’t feel you are photogenic at all. Every picture ever taken of you is horrible!  Half the time you blink or that chipped tooth is showing, or worse!  Imagine that you set an appointment with a photographer and OMG it’s a zit as large a Kansas and its right in the middle of your forehead! Nooo!!!!


First thing you want to do is go hide in a dark closet where night vision goggles set on high still can’t find you. Anything but be in front of a camera! Ick!


Well, the first thing you actually want to do is relax and take a deep breath. “But this zit…” you say?  Photoshop I say! Blemishes and imperfections are simple to remove from an image and any photographer worth their weight is going to fix those little things. In fact many photographers will ask you how much retouching you would like. If they are good at their craft they will not only make you look natural and look good, they can make you look 14 again if you want them too. However, for a good profile image you want to look natural.


This “model” feels she is not photogenic. I disagree, but then again I may be biased, I married her.


Many people think that if they have their images retouched they are going to look like some porcelain doll with skin as smooth as a lake on a still day. A good photographer and/or their retoucher is going to correct things like the ‘North Star Zit From Hell’ and make you look your best but not unnatural. After all the ideas is to look like you. What if you actually have to meet these people who view your profile?  You need to be recognizable, hence you have to look natural, that means you have to actually have pores and texture to your skin.


Once you have found a photographer take a little time to get to know them. You will naturally be nervous and if you get to know the person behind the camera chances are you won’t see the camera as much.  Also, talk to the photographer while you are in the studio; have a conversation during the shoot itself. This will further your ability to relax and increase the likelihood of a pleasing, if not fantastic, portrait.


Another thing that people worry about is wardrobe. There are a few things that can make that easy too. Stick to contrasting colors. Colors that match your skin tone will wash you out and make you look ill. By wearing colors that compliment you and contrast with your skin you become the subject of the image not your shirt or blouse.


Also, whenever possible, try to wear solid colors. Patterns, especially small print and busy patterns don’t photograph well by themselves let alone on you. If you only have clothes with prints stick to larger patterns so that they don’t distract too much.


When it comes to hair (not an issue this bald photographer usually worries about) men should not have a haircut the day of the photo shoot. Try to have one the week or at least a few days prior. This will allow the hair to lay in a more natural way and again, leaving the emphasis on you. Women can have their hair done the same day but it’s not a requirement.  The biggest thing is to have it natural. Women often have different regimes when it comes to the care of their hair and picking a time when you think your hair looks best will not only help you look good, but it will help you relax too.  The idea is to limit the ‘whispies’ and have your hair lie in a natural way not matter what your gender.


I have heard that some people think that studio lighting is not complimentary and that only natural light is the best way to get your portrait done. Poppycock! Good light is the key to a good image. It doesn’t have to be outdoors or at a window. In fact the sun is a very harsh and sharp light that can create strong shadows across your face. If you are having your partner or friend take your image they may not be educated in controlling light and that can lead to even more frustration trying to get that great shot.

If you just don’t think you can use a professional photographer, at least think about the following when lighting your image.


•                    Don’t allow harsh shadows to fall across your face, whether it is the sun or a bright light.

•                    Balance light on all sides of your face. This can be done with just a white sheet of paper or piece of poster board. Place it opposite the source of the light and let it bounce (hence the term ‘bounce card’) light onto the shadowy side of the subject.

•                    If you have two bounce cards, try to bounce some light directly into your face. Direct, but soft light will fill lines and blemishes on the face making you look younger naturally!

•                    If using a flash put a tissue over the flash to soften and defuse the light.


Remember to relax. Although it seems like the hardest part, especially if you feel you are not photogenic, it is the best thing you can do to create a good, if not fantastic, portrait. Tell the photographer the corniest joke you know, laughing helps not only you relax but your photographer as well. The more relaxed you are the more natural your image will be.


All of these ‘tricks’ are things that a good portrait photographer not only knows but has studied and practiced. (The art of light is what photography is all about.) By learning these things we have trained ourselves how to help you look your best in your portrait. It’s what we do!


Did I tell you the one about when two dogs walk into a bar…

Hiring Well

I don’t know a single business person that hires the cheapest candidate available. Each candidate is hired based on their qualifications, knowledge and (perceived) abilities.  You review resumes and references and then you start the interview process. If the best fit is close to the salary range you have reserved for the position, you hire them; if not you negotiate to see if a compromise is possible. After all, you are going to be working with this person for a long time and you want them to fit into your business culture and atmosphere. It is the smart thing to do.


So why not use that same business sense to hire a vendor?  In many cases vendors are chosen strictly by the price of their bid. In many cases business owners/managers are so concerned about the immediate spend that they miss the value of the proposal and product offered. Does this mean that the cheapest is always the best deal?  In fact most of the time the “best deal” is not a good value at all.


In my last post, ‘The Value of Quality,’ I used the automobile business as a scenario to make my point. To carry that forward let’s look at another vehicle, the Yugo. Yeah I hear all of you groaning. The fact of the matter is that towards the end of the Yugo’s life in the US there was a deal where you buy one and get one free (BOGO).  It was a hell of a deal but was it of any value? Not really. Parts were almost impossible to find, the company was obviously not going to be around long and the cars didn’t have a good reputation at all. If you went for the BOGO your only hope was to use the second one to keep the first one running.


So why is it that many still go for the lowest price?  If I am going to fly to the moon I don’t want the cheapest rocket, I want the safest and most reliable. I want to come back too! There may be water on the moon but there isn’t much to eat.  Now if that rocket also is the least expensive, bully for me! But cost is not the major factor; quality of service and quality of product are.

When thinking about your photography needs, or any service for that matter, you need to consider the ROI and what is going to give you the best return on your investment. That is not calculated by just price either. Just a few of the contributing components are: lifespan of the resulting products, customer service, delivery schedule, quality of the service and product, etc. Let’s face it: if you don’t get your images on time and you miss a deadline what is the resulting cost of that mistake? If you are using the resulting images for advertising and they don’t convey your message properly what good are they? If your competitors have a similar product or service and their images shine a more professional light on them who is going to win the majority of clients?


Now if your images are more professional, better looking, of higher quality and have a longer usage period then you are getting a great deal!  You spread the cost out over a longer period, you gain more business during that period, you give your company a better presence in the market and you will probably get more clients.


Overall you have to decide what the best value is and you have to make compromises. When hiring that candidate you probably won’t negotiate a salary that is out of your total budget. However, if the candidate is going to increase cash flow, chances are they are worth a little more than you plan especially if you can more than recoup that investment in the long term.


So the next time you are going out to bid a vendor, especially a photographer, give them a call, interview them, check their references and see what the real value is and I will bet that you will work with the one that gives you the best return on your investment even if they aren’t the cheapest.



In the news lately you have heard that in many ways our economy has to transform itself, it needs to morph into something new. I have also heard that each of us has to transform ourselves too. It is said that the careers of our parents and grandparents, where you could look forward to finding a position with a company and spending your entire career there, are gone. With the world as it is today each person just starting out can expect to change employers 13 times in a 40 year career. Each time they may have to transform themselves into something new.


Transformation has become the norm rather than the exception. For each new client your company has to change and adapt to the needs of that situation. As the driving force to those adaptations you have to think in ways that are challenging and different. To make change the norm, not just a constant, you have to remain pliable and innovative. You have to see opportunity at every turn and with each challenge you have to welcome new ideas so that each becomes an opportunity rather than an obstacle.


Just last week I was photographing two locations for a construction company. Each had its own challenges. None of the preparation had me expecting the challenge of a memory card going bad ¾ of the way through the shoot.
Here I was with the creative director of this company shadowing me for the first time and when we are within sight of calling it a wrap, I have to tell her that everything we had done to that point was gone. After hanging my head for a moment I looked up and told her what happened and said that I would need to reshoot the first location over again as well as all of the shots we had gotten at this location.


Of course I told her that this was a technical problem and because of that it is 100% my issue and that the reshoots would be at no charge. She opted to call it a day as would have I in her position. I then proceeded to reshoot the location where we were.


As an architectural and estate photographer, I often find myself waiting for the light. Waiting for the sun to reach the right place in the sky to compliment the building in that perfect way to show everything the architect meant to be seen. In the case of the first location of the day, we had arrived at 7am to catch the morning sun so that we could use the evening to highlight the second location. Now I had to shoot midday and make it look, not just good but great. The only way to do this was to shoot interiors during the day and squeeze time in to do both exteriors in the latter hours of the day.


Before Transformation


So it was that I had to adapt the way I had planned the shoots. I was able to get back to the first location and reshoot the interior without incident. The sky was helpful as were the trees near the entrance. This gave me the chance to shoot fast and get the shots needed and still make it back to the second location. Here was the challenge.


The second location was behind schedule to begin with. At a local university there was a rush to get the building complete prior to the students coming back to school in 3 days. The construction company pulled out all the stops and had crews everywhere doing everything. I had to get shots of a building to make the construction company and the architect proud. I had to do it around electricians, plumbers and maintenance crews putting on the finishing touches.  I had no time to wait for the light. For that matter, I had no time to wait for the grass to grow. There wasn’t any yet due to the heavy equipment being there longer than anticipated.

I was able to clear away the work trucks and vans, set up lights inside the location and grab a few quick shots. I also took shots of the lawn across the street so I could virtually “move” it to the new building.  I think the image was transformed from a snapshot to a true image showing the architects vision and the construction company’s ability.

After transformation

Because the companies, the university and I were able to be flexible, adapt and think around problems the students have a beautiful new art center to grow their education. A place where they can transform their creative ideas into reality.


Until next time…

The World Is Getting Smaller

This past Sunday I went to see the Wailin’ Jennys (great harmonies btw) at the World Café Live here in Philadelphia. The show was fantastic to say the least. We got there early and had a great meal and then watched a fantastic show in a nice intimate theater.


After the show I went to have my CD signed by the ladies in the group. As I approached both Ruth and Heather said almost in stereo, “We know you right?” I replied that this was my first time seeing them live. They insisted that I looked very familiar. To make a long story short, after discussing it we found that they actually recognized me from my “FreeShots” (Free Business Portraits for the Unemployed) Charity. It seems they read the article that appeared in the LA Times last February.


Although I didn’t have much time to discuss it with the ladies from the band it does seem to be becoming a regular happening. More and more I am being recognized by people I have never met. In many cases it is coming from my work with “FreeShots,” but with others it is my work that is preceding me.


It is nice to be able to help others in need, there is no doubt. But to see that start to come back to me is… humbling. By trying to help people, I inadvertently have focus the attention back on myself. Don’t get me wrong I like attention as much as the next person. However, I want the focus to be on those that need work. The person that by no fault of their own is finding it difficult to get restarted in our difficult times.


Your neighbor, your brother, your best friend, someone close to you has been affected by these trying times. That means you have been affected too. Maybe the person you used to have lunch with isn’t at the office anymore. Maybe you are the one looking for another position. The fact is that this “crisis” has touched us all.


The images in this post are of people that were directly affected by the current situation. No one has escaped it. Not you or me, not those working or not working. The fact is that the whole world got smaller. Now even the person from the plains of Manitoba who reads a paper from Southern California can know a photographer from Philadelphia.

Putting Your Best Face Forward


So you have decided that you need to update your company’s portraits. Now what? What images are going to show your company in the way you want and what will the images say about you? Not an easy question.


The hardest step has already been taken; you have made the decision. I mentioned in my last post the questions to ask to find the right photographer. Now that you know who you want to capture your company’s face, what type of images?  There are the good old group shots where you have the entire company empty out into the parking lot and stand together, perhaps waving or holding up a banner with the company’s logo or tag line, but that style is a bit dated IMHO.

Learn more and Read more

Questions To Ask Before Hiring A Photographer

At some point everyone hires a photographer or knows someone who will. In many cases it is a portrait or wedding photographer. At other times you may need a photographer to shoot images for anything from real estate to advertising. So how do you know which one is right for your needs?


Most people start out by asking friends, family members or colleagues. You are looking for references and that is the first question you should ask. Does he/she have references? Every professional should have references, especially photographers. But let’s be honest, if you ask me for references I am not going to give you a clients name where we didn’t get along. I am going to give you 3 – 5 names that I think were my best combination of results and compatibility. I want to put my best impression out there after all.


When seeking references, don’t just go by what the photographer says. Before you even ask them for references, look at their website. Do they have a client list on the site? Wedding photographer usually don’t but most commercial photographers should. By looking up those clients and making only a few phone calls you will learn more about the photographer than contacting all the ‘best’ clients he/she uses as references. When you call the clients just ask for the person that handles the advertising. Make sure though that you mention that you are looking for a reference and not looking to sell them advertising! Otherwise you may end up in someone’s voicemail and never actually talk to anyone.


Another question to ask is one for yourself. Do you like their work?  Is the quality of work up to what you want and need? Is the look and feel of the images in the portfolio what you want for your images? I know that I love the work of Joe McNally, Chase Jarvis and Michael Grecco. I think their portraits are outstanding. But if I need images of the corporate tower my company just built or the complex I just designed they may not be the photographer that I need. Make sure the portfolio has the types of images you need. If you need portraits, look at portrait photographers, wedding photographers for weddings, or architectural photographers for structures.


That leads me to the next question. Where can you find the photographers that do the work you want them to do? Of course the first thing many people do is Google “Photographer”. If you just search on ‘photographer’ you will get over 84,000,000 hits. That is not narrowing down the field. Architectural photographer and wedding photographer get 531,000 and 5,070,000 hits respectively. Of course adding your city is going to narrow those results dramatically but you are still going to end up with hundreds, if not thousands of names. If you only look at the first page of each search, you will have only 10 to choose from, but are they the best?  Well they are the best at search engine placement, but are they the best photographers?


The best place to find a photographer is where they hang out. Serious photographers like to hang out with other photographers and many are listed in the associations for photographers. Some of the larger associations have a “Find A Photographer” search engine on their sites. Here is a list of just a few of these groups and their websites.


Association Web Address
Professional Photographers of America (PPA) www.ppa.com
American Society of Picture Professionals (ASPP) www.aspp.com
American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) www.asmp.org
Advertising Photographers of America  (APA) www.apanational.com
The Association of Photographers (AOP) UK www.the-aop.org
Australian Commercial and Media Photographers (ACMP) AU www.acmp.com.au


Does the photographer you have selected have the equipment needed to do the job correctly? Different types of photography require different tools. Professional equipment comes in all sizes shapes and colors. I can get great results when I use a point-and-shoot consumer camera but will that image transfer to the a billboard sized image as well as it will to the internet? Does the photographer have the ability and tools to control the light properly? Do they have access to a studio appropriate for the shoot?  Shooting toy cars requires much less space than shooting a real car.  Are they going to get the image right at the shoot or do they tell you, “I’ll fix it in Photoshop later.” Post production is a requirement for almost every image, don’t get me wrong; however, post production is the refinement of color and style, not the solution to all problems.


Professionalism is also a very important. Almost every photographer has gotten into the business of photography because of their love of the art. I don’t know any business people that became photographers because it was ‘a great business venture’.  The photographer may be well equipped, they may be able to capture the exact image you need; but that is all irrelevant if the image is delivered late or unprofessionally. You need a photographer who understands your needs and appreciates your business. They have to be willing to listen to you and your needs and translate them into the imagery you want.


Last, but definitely not least is how much should you pay for a good photographer?  Photographers can range in price from a few hundred dollars an hour to tens of thousands. Experience, talent, knowledge and vision all are parts of the cost. These are the intangibles. The tangible is the cost of the studio, the models, the actual products, etc. Add them together and you have your cost, not your expense. The expense is almost irrelevant if you do an advertising campaign that doubles or triples your bottom line. Yet if the same campaign costs you your loyal customers or has little or no return, the expense can be huge.  Put out the wrong image and it can cost you your entire business. For portrait and wedding photographers it comes down to the value of your memories. What is the value of an image if that is the last image ever captured of you and [fill in the blank]? That image is priceless.


The question then is not what you should pay but what can you afford? The images you receive back are investments plain and simple. Just like any other investment they should be planned for and budgeted for. A poor investment results in a poor return. A wise investment can change your world in a positive way. Can you put a price on that?


Until next time…