People are beautiful, and the more headshots I do the more that fact is reinforced. Despite what we see out the window the world is filled with goodness and light. Most of the time I meet complete strangers, but when I leave them they are strangers no more. And I am overcome with hope and joy. That’s because even during a short photo session I come to understand that we are all connected, and so much alike.
Take this CEO of a natural products’ company for instance. He’s so passionate about his brand. He sold me in thirty seconds. And that’s because he’s real. There’s no sales pitch needed when you speak the truth. When it comes from the heart you just feel it. Authenticity is my wheelhouse. If you show up fake you come off fake. But the inverse is also true.
What I have to say to you is that we live in a time when truth and realness matters. More than ever. I want to be part of that. I want to capture that. I want to be a vehicle of light and authenticity. That’s my mission on this ear...
It’s 2019 and we don’t use our portraits to adorn our parlor walls anymore. Portraits are not about vanity, or the preservation of the familial line. They serve a different purpose now. They are how we introduce ourselves to the world. This hyperconnected world. This is how we do business. This is how we court one another, both professionally and romantically. I see your face before I ever meet you. In general. And when I see that face an impression is formed.
What is it that you wish to convey? I ask almost everyone this question. What do you want people to take away from your photo? Confidence, approachability, competence, friendliness, strength, compassion, authenticity. Those are the answers I hear most often. And when I hear those words I say “Okay then. Embody that. Summon it.” Because I can’t bestow those qualities on you. I’m just a mirror. You’ve got to glow from the inside out.
Just be yourself. Take a deep breath and just be. It’s actually very easy. Look at me like we are the...
I don’t like to post images that look like ads. But I am still trying to figure this out, using social media to promote my work, to engage people, to find new clients. I often worry that I’m not doing enough, not reaching out enough. I don’t like self-promotion. But it’s difficult, being your own sales and marketing team. And it’s hard to be subtle and show restraint when your very life depends on the hustle.
I’d like to think that my work speaks for itself, and it does, to a degree. But it’s a whisper. It’s a low voice in a sea of shouts. Slow and steady wins the race, they say. Be patient, they say. It takes years to build a business. Is that what I’m doing? I didn’t think of it like that six years ago when I embarked upon this crazy dream. I just followed the breadcrumbs, and crumbs they were. But I hustled gigs, and people helped spread the word, and I’m still in the game. For now.
My goal has always been to create portraits that you’d stop and look at. I wanted you feel something. I...
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...
The thing about portrait photography is the page is never blank. I don’t have to *do* anything, I don’t have to *think* about anything. It’s like opening a book where every page is chapter one. The whole story is contained in every image. And interpretation is left to *you*.
I don’t have to go looking for something interesting to see because you are there. You, the person I am photographing. *You* are the landscape, the product, the event. All I have to do is compose a shot and focus. You have to emit your glow.
Your glow is controlled by an array of switches whose sequence begins with trust. There is self-confidence. There is love. Together we break down the walls and open you up. There is nuance to this. There is no formula. Sometimes it requires a prop.
Friendship happens. It has to. That’s the only ‘formula’. If you ask me to do you portrait you are asking me to be your friend. And I enthusiastically consent. By now I have made hundreds of friends. If I can somehow get away with doing...
Not everyone wants to be seen. I mean truly seen. Many of us prefer some degree of obfuscation. The people I photograph, mostly, want to be seen. They’re looking for something a bit more authentic, something not as plastic as a headshot.
I approach photography like I approach all relationships. I’m looking to know people. I want to get below the surface, past all the small talk and into the realms of the real. Life is just too short for anything else.
So if you’re going to look at me, look at me. I don’t care if this is your ‘business’ portrait, authenticity matters more than ever now. I think we’re learning that through this experience with Trump. It’s not that this president taught me anything, it’s that he’s validated something I’ve always believed. Sincerity matters. Truth matters. People matter.
Across the board, from business to pleasure, how we show up in the world is not determined by a hard line between different personas compartmentalized for different purposes. It’s all the sam...
I think that maybe the trick to doing a (good) portrait is to see oneself in another person. That may seem obvious. That may seem facile. But I’ve got to look at you like I’m looking in a mirror, I mean really looking.
When I really look in the mirror I see myself in all my facets and all my phases. I see the child version of me, the young adult, and the me I am today. I morph between those versions and see the evolution like an animated GIF.
When I look at a person I am photographing I sometimes see the child in them. And I imagine them on some playground, running, swinging, laughing in the joy of their youth. If that happens (and it doesn’t always) I know I’m going to get great photos.
When I say “great photos” I mean photos that will stop me in my tracks. Photos that will feel timeless, and deep. That’s what I’m hoping for.
So, surrender to the moment and regress. Become that kid again. Show no fear. We’re just a couple of children meeting for the first time on the playground.
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...
I could sit here and tell you all about the esoteric elements that contribute to a photograph. I can talk about light, and texture, and your energy, and the timing of all those things as if they were some magical alchemic process. I could pretend I know what I’m doing but really I don’t. It’s that you trust me to do it that enables it to be so. You place yourself in my hands and mostly I rise to the occasion, but not all the time. What I show you are the base hits and the homeruns and not the photos where people do not appear as their best, confident selves.
The other day I took some photos of someone who was not happy with the results (not the gentleman above). This person was older, and was shocked to see how they look. Age can sneak up on us. Time can be cruel to the body. Our fragility can become glaringly apparent, Suddenly we are ephemeral.
I don’t like to disappoint people. I want them to be happy when they see themselves in my portraits. Sometimes beautiful people react as if the...
Corporate portraits don’t have to be, well, so corporate. The spirit and personality of an organization, what it represents, its so-called ‘brand’, is embodied by the people who go to work there. So you want the people themselves to shine through. If every photo looks the same, if there’s not some element of individuality in the photo, then they come across as automatons and not individual human beings. My job is to stand back and help that individuality to come through by suggesting lightscapes and backdrops that best exemplify the personality of the brand while also highlighting the unique qualities of each person who makes it what it is. If you hire me to be your photographer what you get is someone who strives to capture your people as people while also suggesting an element of style that jibes with your brand story. Often that’s subtle. But subtlety is all it takes.
When I did the website photos for NPM in Oakland I sourced a custom background (19th century beam skins from an Ohio barn) and set it up in a conference room that had northern exposure to create this unique, rich texture. I brought the barn to the office. Thanks Emily Brown for this great opportunity to perfect this method! I've not done this since but I'm itching to do it again. Who's in? Corporate headshots do not have to be staid, bland, or lifeliess. Corporate headshots can be original and reflect the personality of the brand.