Lines mean a lot to me. Lines and curves. They help create compelling narratives in which the person I’m photographing is the protagonist. They suggest movement which is not always physical movement but emotional/spiritual. It is pure synchronicity. Nothing is ever planned. We find an interesting location and the backgrounds suggest themselves.
These kinds of portraits reveal more than just reflections. This is about more than what you look like. This is not a typical business headshot. And though I do those, I enjoy these the most because it’s through them I discover the person I’m photographing the best. And it’s through them I discover myself.
If I could bring an entire team out to one of these types of locations (and I know many) I believe I could create one hell of an About Us page. The world around us characterizes us. It provides a context for who we are as people. Clients don’t often think about the background. Often they ask for something neutral or white. But we are not neutra...
Housed in these packages our souls haunt the earth accumulating wisdom and experience like snowballs until they move on to who-knows-where? Other packages? Other planes of existence? It’s all too mysterious to absorb but I like to think about it. And when I take a photo, do a portrait, I am all too aware that pictures are not just pictures. Faces are more than faces. We are so much more than what we see.
Why does this matter? How is this relevant to the About Us page? Well, we are not automatons. We are not ants. We choose where we work, many of us. and that choice is reflected in our values, and our hearts. When I go to an About Us page I want to feel something. I want to feel passion and concern and all the human values that add up to what a company can be.
That’s why I don’t just take pictures. That’s why I invest time in each person to help bring out their best selves. My photos have depth, and emotion, they contain three dimensional human beings. I’m not interested in flat, uniform...
I want every person to just pop out of their photograph. I want you to feel as if you’re standing in front of them. I want to erase the barrier between what is seen and what is felt so that when you look at a photo you are filled with emotion. I want you to feel a person, not just see them.
To that end I ask you to look at me. To really look. You know when you’re a child and you’re arguing with your parents and they say “Look at me!” ? It’s that level of focus I ask though not in a condescending way.
When I was living in New York, and spending a lot of time in Manhattan, I learned how to break down barriers quickly so that a person would become an instant friend. They say you’re not supposed to look people in the eye on the streets, in order to avoid conflict, and that’s mostly true, but it also works in reverse. You can make friends by looking a person in the eye. So it becomes a case of discerning who is who.
When I do portraits, everybody is a friend. I arrive at each situation with so...
You are a story. And a portrait is a wordless version of that story with no beginning, no middle, and no end, There is no arc to the now. If you look at your portrait, and assign to it moments from the past and future yet to come, you will be distorting it, and may not like what you see. It’s human nature to create some sort of Gestalt composed of memories and expectations but that is wholly unnecessary and potentially counterproductive. Your portrait is a slice of the now. And by the time you even see it, it is in the past.
Part of my job is to take the picture. But another part is to help you to interpret it. When I see your photograph I see beauty, no matter what you see. I have no filters, I create no story where none exists. Unfortunately I can’t be there for every person when they see their photo for the first time, but that’s the kind of photography I want to be doing. I hesitate to call it therapeutic. Let’s call it guided. The whole experience, from the moment we meet through...
People assume I’m some sort of poet or artist but what I really love to do are team photos - portraits of people who work together. I’ll do your About Us page, your speaker bios, your LinkedIN photos, your C-Level execs.
About Us is more than words. It better be. You’ve heard the axiom show, don’t tell. You can say whatever you want about your people but if it doesn’t show up in their photos it will ring hollow and people won’t care.
About Us conveys the spirit and energy behind a brand. It’s supposed to make people feel like they know you. You want perspective employees to visualize themselves there. And potential clients to want to know you. About Us is your own zeitgeist. It has to feel good.
I can help you feel good. I can help you exude joy. I can help you to capture that energy that lets people know you’re the real deal.
For the NPM shoot (of which the above photo is a representative slice) I was working with a generic conference room. But it had good natural light, good northern exp...
We can’t possibly know what’s going on inside a person. But there’s a whole universe in there, an entire lifetime of experiences and feelings. Looking at a face is like looking at a distant galaxy through a radio telescope. Something is there. But what?
To some degree we are mysteries to one another but we are more alike than we often believe. We may be galaxies orbiting in our own universes but we share so much. We are here together, on this planet, breathing the same air. We have arms and legs and hearts. We have mothers and sisters and sons. We eat food, drink water and sleep. We love and despair.
My portraits celebrate that. They are an attempt to recognize one another as individuals, but also collectively as people. I mean, this is not something I think about while taking photographs. I don’t think about the meta purpose. I focus on the person. But I see each as a planet recognizing that we’re all spinning around the same star.
I know that I’m just looking at the surface, below which...
Each person is unique, but each person is connected to every other and has more similarities than differences. Without over-stating it (actually without stating it at all) that is what I try and communicate. Without realizing it, I want you to see yourself in every face.
It’s strange how what we notice first about someone are the differences. In an instant we perceive how we are not alike. Those differences are, in that fleeting moment, purely physical. Skin color. Body type. Ethnicity. Age. That is what our eyes are trained to do, that’s what they evolved to do. It seems to me that we could solve many problems if we saw less with our eyes and more with our hearts,
It’s easier to do that when we’re honest in how we come across in something as facile as a photograph. We live now in a world where photographs are ubiquitous. They’re often what we first see of each other now. So they’re important. They say you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression but I don’t think that’s true...
I can’t take everyone out to the Marin Headlands for portraits. I wish I could. The light is sublime. And the backgrounds are so interesting. Maybe one day I’ll do a series of team portraits there. It’s not easy to get to, but the results speak for themselves.
I choose to photograph in natural light because of the subtlety and nuance. I like the serendipity factor. You never know what you’re going to get. And there’s a freedom to this. Under the right conditions I can recreate a similar effect indoors, but still there’s something to roaming - randomly moving from place to place.
My favorite locations all have this in common - you can wander and always find great light and backgrounds. Perhaps someday I’ll do a portrait series in San Francisco’s Chinatown. That wo
uld be perfect for a local company.
If you’re looking for the standard headshot against a flat color, I’m really not your man. I can do that of course, but my strength is in synchronicity in natural light and locations. I’m lookin...
I know that we are so much more than we see. We are not our photographs, not our reflections. Yet, in those things there is an aura of truth. The eyes see, but the heart processes. The more we look the more we feel.
Fleeting glances reveal but surfaces. To go deep you must absorb, and that means looking with organs other than eyes.
Intent is crucial. You have to want to see. If a photographer takes this approach, the resulting images will more likely reverberate with an energy beyond the visual. Why does it matter? Because such portraits leave an impression. Because the human behind the image will register.
You want to capture attention, and hold it long enough for a person to feel something. It’s not about vanity. It’s about conveying the essential you. Passion, commitment, care. That’s what you want to show. You don’t get that from a selfie. You don’t get that from an assembly line photographer.
When you choose a photographer engage a person who engages you. Choose wisely. The wrong doc...
I shot all these DBI portraits with a 50mm 1.2. For most of you that means nothing. But do you notice how there’s almost a 3D quality to the photo? Think of the image as a loaf of bread. Only one slice is in focus - the face. The larger your aperture (the shutter, the opening that light enters) the thinner the slice of bread that’s in focus.
In this case his eyes are that slice, which we call the focal plane. The back of the chair, his neck and parts of his collar are all nicely blurred. That blur, which is sometimes called bokeh, is what gives the photo a 3D quality. In the case of a portrait, the face pops out.
Since a person’s eyes are the focal point of your attention in life, as well as in a photograph, this ‘technique’ helps to draw the viewer into the person’s face. When you combine that with good light, interesting texture, and negative space, you are likely to get portraits that are, well, interesting.
I love this effect. It gives me a visceral feeling of presence. For me at leas...
I’ve said this before but your face is an invitation and your portrait (on social media, websites, bios etc.) is either going to beckon connection and interaction or it’s not. If we’re bothering to be here on these platforms at all then it’s interaction we’re after.
I always tell people, “Think of me as your client, your customer. Look at me the way you’d look at them.” The energy should flow from you to me. That way you have the ‘power’ in the dynamic.
That power dynamic is, I think, what intimidates some people about being photographed. A photographer is not an authority figure, though he/she is often looked at as one. What we do do is get close to you then show you what you look like now, in the moment, and that’s kind of powerful.
Not all of us are up for that. We age, we gain weight, our skin changes. Time does what it does. It’s easy to squint in the bathroom mirror but not at a photograph you just paid for. So before you get that portrait done, spend some time looking at yourself,...
It was my first portrait booking outside of San Francisco. Never before had I been flown in for photos but New York City is my hometown and I was lucky enough to know the brother of the firm. I didn’t know the people, had never been to their offices. But they sent me some photos of their space and I could see right away they had good light.
I was nervous. I always am before a shoot, but this time there was a lot at stake. I had not done this many portraits in such a short amount of time, and I had no idea what the set-up would be like. But Dave, the CEO, has a great aesthetic and as soon as I walked in I saw these chairs. Mid-Century modern. Not quite quite wing-backs but broad across the tops and in wonderful colors. That’s when I remembered David Hockney.
I’m a fan of David Hockney. Especially his painted portraits of people (mostly men) seated in these beautiful chairs. I had long been inspired by him to simply sit people in an interesting chair, in good light, and engage them with th...
Every day I look through photos I have taken and write about one. This forces me to think about photography. This helps me to remember why I do what I do.
Writing is disciplined thinking. It’s thinking that’s thought through.
Photography is disciplined perception. It’s seeing well-managed.
When I look at a person during the course of a normal day I see but fleeting glimpses of them. I don’t stare and I don’t analyze. I see them, but I don’t really see them.
When I do a portrait, or what some people might call a headshot, I see much deeper. But I don’t just see, I feel. The camera provides an excuse for spending enough time with someone to achieve some level of intimacy. I get to say “Look at me.”, and the person looks.
Even when I’m doing dozens of portraits under time constraints (like the one of Sam above at Twitter) I strive for a moment like this when something human, something timeless, emerges. This is not a person you can sum up in a Tweet. Few of us are. Our resumes and our profiles...
Do I want to meet this person? Is their photograph asking me to sit down and talk? I’ve said before that a good portrait beckons interaction. If, after seeing your photo, I want to meet you then that is a success.
An effective portrait is the beginning of a conversation. It’s an unspoken invitation. I can read it in your face and in your body language. I can see it in your eyes. I want to feel welcome to participate in your life. That’s the intention you need to set and the message you must convey.
I say ‘need’ and ‘must’ but I only mean that in a way to suggest that you consider the results you want. To think about what you hope to communicate. An effective portrait starts there. Who is your audience? What do you want them to feel? I am approachable. I am intelligent. I listen. I suggest that it’s as simple as that.
People are sometimes concerned about the background. But it doesn’t really matter. Unless it detracts from your face. You see, we’re really looking at your eyes. That’s the most important part of the photo. So I could do your portrait before a white wall (like the one above). What counts is your presence. Are you present in the moment?
Location can add to the photo. It can help tell a story. It can provide texture, and color and create interesting pockets of negative space that produces an overall effect that is almost painterly. And for some portraits that’s what you want. For others it’s not necessary. It really comes down to what you wish to convey.
Your face is enough. That gleam in your eye. So much is communicated in a simple glance. A strong, memorable portrait is the result of two people setting an intention to create a strong, memorable portrait. It’s just you looking at me. I am the doppleganger for the world. The photographer stands in for the consumer of the image, so he or s...