WHY YOU NEED A GOOD ONLINE IMAGE/HEADSHOT/PORTRAIT

I recently got an invite to LINKEDIN and cringed in horror when I saw my friend's portrait headshot photo. I called him right away and suggested a session together. Here is why..

In today's world, most of our personal and professional  relationships involving technology and our environment are visual. In the old days, things were more balanced with our other senses. We would be more tuned in to our hearing to survive in our environment, our sense of smell informed us about the weather, the food we were eating, and portraits were a thing of the rich, ... Today, it's a very different story.

We log in into Yelp to read about a restaurant, see images of food, read reviews and the menu... we use our cellphones to browse through images and text with our eyes, we wear headphones with music to keep the outside environment out and allow us to enjoy a little private space... 

The power of images is really strong, we can't deny it. What comes up when a person looks up your name on the internet and searches your image? The first image will be one of the most important first impressions that will determine a lot of your future connections. Since our world of business and relationships revolves around first impressions, what first impression are you giving with your headshot.If you feel this image represents you, your business and who you are:, congratulations. You are ahead of the game.

If your headshot does not meet the above,, consider updating your photos. As the old say goes: "An image is worth more than a thousand words."

And rest assured that once I get my friend in the studio I will post his images on my website.

Jose-4418.jpg

Above is an example of an image for a law firm professional profile/headshot.

Art, Art, Art

Although I am not done with this project to submit to Soho Gallery on May 12th, I have been experimenting with several things on these images.

The first thing that I started thinking about was STORYTELLING... I had my Underground Ghosts Theme already, but the images seemed a little disjointed. So, I started putting those images together and telling a story through a sequence. Clearly my film influences were starting to act upon me without me trying.

Here is an image that I call 'Locked', What story do you see?

I then did a composition of an image that I had worked on previoiusly... and made it really Angel Wings by mirroring. I chose not to tweak each wing individually, but to allow for the symmetry to tell a story of perfection. Maybe they are the perfect Angel Wings that fell off from the Fallen Angel when it went Underground.

 

This other image is Solitude, and for me it reflects how lonely we can be in NYC, and how technology is further isolating us from our surroundings!

 

I feel like this work is pushing me to think in different ways. Of course outside of the headshot world, but also in terms of presentation of the work. A more surreal, painterly look for images captured in NYC. Does all this experimentation mean it is art? That is something that I can't answer for you, but for me, it is giving me a different perspective of the world around me, and that to me is interesting.

FYI: All the zoom effects were done in camera, not in Post. Color correction and lens effects were done in Photoshop with AlienSkin Exposure 7


Cross Processing People!

Saw a tutorial by Joey L and started experimenting with some cross processing techniques. The image felt special because the US flag had a fluid quality that blended into the windows. Although there was something there, the image was not popping, so I decided to try Joey's technique on this image.

Three Photoshop layers changed this image radically. 

I added a curves layer to increase contrast. 

   

 

 

I then added another layer to play with the different color levels in the image, to achieve a look that looked interesting to me. 

And here comes the cream, to finalize it, I added a Channel Mixer layer, and played with the sliders. Hint: It is important that the values of the sliders you change always add up to 100%.

And here is the cherry on the cake! Play with the opacity slider and follow your instinct. You will see the cross processed look take place in front of you.

What I love about this approach, is that images have a degree of color and luma information that you can tweak at different stages of the process. Give it a try an let me know what you think.

Here are the before and after images.

Before 

Before 

After

After



The Five Non-Negotiable elements a Client must ask from a Headshot Photographer

Hi folks.

It's been a while since I posted, but I have some new exciting blog posts coming up. This one in particular is directed to actors looking for a headshot photographer and that deem a re-shoot. Here are the five non-negotiable elements:

1. SHOT MUST BE IN FOCUS

Day after day I get clients showing me their current headshots, or some shots that they had taken that had been sent to them that were not in focus. By being in focus I mean, the eyes must be in focus. That is the key part of our face agents, managers and casting directors relate to. Moreover, the eye closest to camera should be in focus if only one of the two is going to be in focus. Never have the one closest to camera out of focus and the one furthest away in focus. 

Eyes are in Focus, Face is well lit, Shot is well exposed, Whole face dominant, shot in .raw

Eyes are in Focus, Face is well lit, Shot is well exposed, Whole face dominant, shot in .raw

 

2. SHOT MUST BE WELL LIT

By this I mean, you don't want any distracting shadows under your eyes, over your eyes, under your chin, under your nose... Some shadows are necessary to create depth in the shot, but too much is distracting. 

3. SHOT MUST BE WELL EXPOSED

Make sure that the shot that you get isn't too dark or too light. If it is, the photo may be ruined. Some of this can be fixed in post-production, but too much will definitively ruin your picture.

4. IT MUST BE WELL COMPOSED

This one is pretty self explanatory. It is called a headshot for one and only one reason. It is a shot of your head. No half body, with lots of space around it. You really want your shot to focus on your face and a bit of the shoulders. Within this composition, you will see stylistic choices. Some photographers prefer to shoot landscape, me for example, whilst others prefer to shoot portrait. How much of the head is left in the photo is also a stylistic question. Look at photographers that you like and look at the way they frame their heads. That will give you an idea of the look they go for.

5. IT MUST BE SHOT IN .RAW PICTURE FORMAT

Don't let them shoot jpeg. Demand that they shoot raw. If you don't, you may end up with a picture that needs retouching but is totally un-retouchable because Photoshop will ruin the image when adjusting things like color temperature, exposure, and skin retouching. 

 

If a photographer can provide these, then you are ready to go. Shop around and pick the one that you like best. If you go with them and the session does not accomplish the above 5 points, do not hesitate and demand a reshoot.

Best of luck and always remember to enjoy your session!

 

Jumping at the opportunity

DKADENCIA 3'30"

 

Last week, a dancer named Vanessa Calderón invited me to go and take some photos of a dress rehearsal show in NYC. As you all know, I am primarily a headshot photographer, but I have a true passion for film, and recently the Portofolio Development Workshop at B&H has sparkled my creative juices. 

I decided to go and take some pictures. Luckily for me, dress rehearsals can take longer than intended, and usually require the piece to be done over and over again. I was able to capture her work from many different angles, and having the lights set up for me meant I could just focus on the action. It was a great to let myself flow with the dancer.

Here are some results... and interesting enough I can see my previous work in "Underground Ghosts" spilling over into my other work. Shooting with a 100mm macro L IS USM Canon lens and a 5Dmkiii, I had plenty of juice in the camera to shoot and freeze the action. However Vanessa's dance is about a woman who is decaying at the mercy of a man, and is trying to regain his attention. He ignores her, and hence turns her into a form of a ghost. And thus I kept my shutter speed at 1/100 - 1/160, meaning that there was a degree of motion blur when the dancer was moving violently. An effect that turns her into a ghostly image, with strong traces of reality.

Influenced by some of the work of my colleagues at the Portofolio Development Series, I decided to present the images in a horizontal multiple image composition, a little cross processing and here it is!

Happy Holiday to all of you!


Far and Beyond

In pursuing the B&H challenge I started thinking about ways to get different perspectives of these 'Underground Ghosts' that travel under NYC guts everyday... I wanted to achieve a sense that they are close and far away from you... so I started playing with my Canon 24-105 lens. One shot would be wide angle and the other in tele mode. In other words one shot at 24mm and the other at 105mm. The trick was to take 2 Multiple exposures and let the camera superimpose them to see what results I would get... This was the first shot I took focusing on something that I often see. Details and textures...

In Camera Multiple Exposure at 24mm and 105mm

In Camera Multiple Exposure at 24mm and 105mm

When I saw this I was immediately drawn to the multiple lines that where driving my attention... all pointing towards a horizon that gets darker, and with a dreamy quality to it.

I kept on experimenting with the idea... This time on the vertical plane instead of on the depth plane. Just having a go... this came out after I was able to eyeball the centerline somewhere on the center of the frame. Not easy to do on a moving train and trying to go unnoticed.

In camera multiple Vertical exposures at 24mm

In camera multiple Vertical exposures at 24mm

I was struck again by the lines and perspective... it was a form of new architecture being created. Maybe 5 Dimensional in the "Interstellar" way, ;)

Here is another one with a human being instead of an object being shot at 24mm and at 105mm. It's like I went into him, but he is still out there in this strange structure that is a recognizable as a Subway. 

Right now I want to try 2 things. The first one is to take two shots and them combine them in photoshop to see what it gives me. And the second one is that I will try to mask different sections with the interesting parts. Right now I feel like some parts are too distracting. I can't control the lighting in this environment, and so they draw our attention. For example, in this last image, the gentleman sitting on the right is too present for my taste. 

Have a great holiday, and see you all soon!

B&H and New Challenges

Hello Folks,

I know I have a promised couple of posts... They are coming soon. Prepping them up isn't easy... but really pumped about bringing "The difference between Retouching and retouching - Get your money's worth" and "Why you want an actor to take your headshot" to the blog soon.

In the meantime a lot has happened. I joined a group of talented artists at the Event Space in B&H NYC to push our artistic boundaries. Our first meeting was enlightening, and required that we present our most interesting work and receive some criticism. Although a refreshing experience, such moments are always a little painful... but to the nitty-gritty. We have to develop our artistic portofolio as we get feedback from the folks at B&H and Soho Gallery in NYC. 

We all talked about where we wanted to go with our work, and how our photography was currently standing to that. New ideas and direction were suggested by the supervising group, and three things stuck with me from that first meeting.

1. Stay close to your home base, those places you know best to start exploring a new vision.

2. Perhaps it isn't a new form of portraits that you are artistically searching for.

3. You know how to capture great images, now let yourself use your camera in unexpected ways.

So I thought... ok. This is great... I'll just fool around a little. (For actors this may be something that rings a bell ;))

I started taking pictures whilst riding in the Subway, which is a common place for me during my constant commuting into the city to audition. Good thing about being an actor, is that you are not necessarily auditioning in "Rush Hour", which means that you are freer and there is more space to work freely in the trains. 

I was getting some interesting images, slowing down my shutter speed, and playing with B&W. At one point, I was struck by something. I was shooting inside the train, outside, at other trains... when suddenly I remembered that I had been thinking about developing a project called "Underground Ghosts" which would consist of barely-identifiable images of people or things in the Subway. I thought of Ghosts because there is something ghostly and hellish about going underground and moving through tunnels at a high speed in screeming trains. Also, a lot of the people in the Subway are a little ghost looking, and there are of course a lot of interesting characters that live there and you can only find in there.

As I continue to play with this idea, I caught this image travelling in opposing trains through the tunnel. This is starting to get close to my concept. "Is it a ghost? Is it looking at me? Where am I?

More to come, as I continue to develop the portofolio.



Traveling Photography - Slowing Down

It is amazing how many of us carry our camera everywhere, and then just snap away at the first chance we have. I just came back from a trip to Europe, and I am guilty of this myself. During the trip I was looking at some of the images I was taking, and I pretty soon realized: "I am going too fast!" Careful composition, lighting and subject selection takes a little time. God Bless technology. I can look at my images on the day I shoot and learn from my mistakes. The next day I can be ready to implement the new knowledge. It enables you to get continuous feedback which is something that I find very useful in acting too. From my experience in Grad School, I found that I was also able to slow down, and get continuous input on my craft.

So the next time I go travelling, I'll try to remember three things that really helped me in this trip.

1. Go first thing in the morning or late in the evening (which happens to be Magic Hour) when people are beginning their day or winding down. The most interesting things happen here, and usually you are relieved from family and friend pressures during those hours.

2. Take a few shots, look, shoot a few more, look again... settle in a position once you have had a little time playing around with the composition and moment.

3. Breathe! Remember that 'inspiration is the act of allowing breath in'. 


CANON 5D MKiii AND Magic Lantern

The Magic Lantern Team has done something amazing. They have unlocked 1920 HD raw recording on the Canon DSLR's, and have provided every owner of a Canon camera with the opportunity to shoot 14 bit video images. This is huge! For those of us who embraced the DSLR movement shooting in H.264, we had never foreseen this as a possibility. And now that we have used the module, there is no looking back. Most people don't talk about the benefits of raw in ways that we understand it vs H.264. There are 3 key things that impact on video work right away.

1. Better Resolution - because 14bit color tracks subtle differences in colors, this transalates into better sharpness.

2. Better Skin Tones - By far the most important of them all. The skin has a slow gradation from light to dark and makes the subject's skin look natural. This is the way original 35mm film behaves.

3. Better Grading Capabilities - With more information in color, we can tweet everything from color temperature, to exposure, to tints... to achieve the look we want. This gives you flexibility beyond what more expensive cameras like the Canon 300 give you.

Couple all of this with Canon's excellent sensors and low light capabilities and you have a beast of a camera.

Now run, and grab some high speed x1000 CF cards and start shooting unprecedented video.

 

Image Screenshot: Hunter Hampton

DIRECTING Film - YOUR CREW AND YOUR SHIP

It takes more than a camera, a good script and a decent location to pull it off. This realization came to me early in my shooting experience. I had given myself the task of completing a 10-12 minute short film. I had only shot very small pieces up until then with a very small team: A DP, an actor and a Director, plus one all around assistant. It was 2009 and I had rented a RED ONE and was totally pumped thinking about how great the story would look. We had done 20 re-writes, and our actors were great. 

I was acting as a producer as well as a director in this project. Two hats that are very hard to wear at the same time. More on this later. I had also recruited a great DP, who brought in a great Gaffer and Grip. I had an AD that I had met not too long before the shoot, a makeup artist... a full team of... drum roll... 15 people. It seemed huge. I was suddenly the CEO of a 15 person company. 

I had luckily secured a great location in a hotel that fit the look we needed, and we had a full suite and adjacent room to allow the actors some space to relax, and our kraft table to be set up. 

Even though I had pre-planned and worked all of this together, my AD quit on me after the first day of shooting. My whole brain seemed to explode that instant. It was 1am in the morning after wrapping our first day of four of shooting, and already one of my 2 key people in the set had quit. Not only that, she had decided to take 3 assistants with her, diminishing my team to 11 people from the initial 15. Next, I was completely scared my DP would quit on me... but he stayed. He liked the project, and for him and in 2009, not a lot of DP's had the opportunity to work on the RED ONE for four straight days.

THE LESSON: I came to the realization during this project was that my micro-approach to film making was very useful in some circumstances, but was ineffective when working with a larger team. Producing and Directing at the same time became something that I decided to avoid for future projects. As a director, I realized that it is more important to direct your team and sail the ship in a clear direction with everyone on board. That is a bigger part of directing when working with larger teams. Make sure the whole crew knows in what direction you are sailing in. Sounds like a cliché, but I swear, I lived it on my own flesh!

2029 Short Film - Paola Bontempi



THE PLAGUE WEB SERIES

Hi Folks,

It was March 2012, and I wanted to create a new piece that would tackle a much harder planning and production schedule. It was to be a very ambitious web series that would run for ten five minute episodes. It was thrilling to think that we would produce a series that would be at around 60 minutes of total footage... now that is closer to a feature..., but harder in some ways. What became crucial was that each episode would start and end, and the audience would have to be looking at getting more.

The project's theme was The Occupy Wall Street movement in NYC, which sent shockwaves around the World, and created a Unison movement that trickled through other nations. In this story, three independent journalists that are responsible for reporting on the movement's day to day activities are tested when they receive a threat to stop their operations. 

There were several challenges added to it.

1. No one was paid. It was a passion project.

2. Everything would be shot with practical lights and 2 kino-flo 4 feet 4 bank.

3. The camera used would be a prosumer DSLR - Canon 60D

4. The team would be kept small so that it could be mobile.

Pricipal Production started in April 2012, and wrapped in May 2012 with a total of 7 days of shooting from 8am till 4pm.

It was a beastly challenge, but a hugely successful one. Everyone was extremely please with the results, and our following increased online. The show was sold online on the wonderful Vimeo On Demand platform, and although did not recover the costs of feeding everyone over those days, it did put a smile on our face.

What this project taught me was very simple:

You can shoot some awesome things with the Canon 60D (back then this crop-sensor camera had a tilt screen and with Magic Lantern and shooting with the Technicolor profile, we were able to achieve a good DR).

You must pay your cast and crew. This is a must. Even if it is a small amount, it makes all the difference. You can demand punctuality, attention to detail and make sure that they will show up ;)

Here is the trailer to the series: