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General Photography

5 Practical Tips – Preparing for Location Headshots

By | Corporate Headshots, For Photographers, General Photography, Location Headshots, Uncategorized | No Comments

I love location headshot jobs because of how much I can accomplish in one day. Typically these clients really value time efficiency which means you often only have one afternoon or a just a few hours to load in, setup, shoot the entire office and load out.  Typically I run into a few similar challenges over and over- so here are some tips that I have come to rely on.

Packed uppacked

Essentially my entire studio brought on location. Packed and unpacked.

1.) Make a gear checklist

This seems obvious but it’s really so critical. Forgetting even a single critical item can be a show stopper on a shoot so I do everything I can to make sure that doesn’t happen! My list has 32 items on it. Not every job requires every item but having everything down in a checklist ensures that nothing is forgotten. I use a simple checklist app on my iphone- Checklist+.

2.)Pack your gear property

When I started doing corporate headshots on location in Washington DC I didn’t really have the proper gear to transport my studio. Most of my work was in my studio but I didn’t want to turn down location requests so I essentially packed my lights and softboxes into two suitcases and wrapped everything in blankets! Needless to say this solution is less than ideal and let’s be honest- not safe for your gear and doesn’t give a ‘professional’ vibe. I now use a pelican case for my strobes, a Lightware Rolling Stand Bag case that holds my foldable softboxes, light stands, and reflectors and Lowepro Pro Runner 450 AW DSLR Backpack bag for my camera, and lenses. With these cases I can bring all of my equipment up to the ofice myself in two trips. I’m currently looking for a nice folding cart to cut that down to one trip.

Bags on location

These three bags safely hold the majority of what needs to come with me on location.

3.)Bring Backup Gear

Bring backups of ANY critical component. When shooting on location you only have one chance to get it right and if anything fails you need to have a plan b. I always bring a backup camera bodie, additional strobe, multiple lenses, modifiers, additional CF cards, cables, batteries and power cords.

4.)Prepare for less than ideal contingencies

Limited space

I require an unobstructed space of at least 10×20 feet but sometimes the clients either don’t really measure the space, or the meeting room slated for headshots becomes occupied and we have to use a smaller room.  Have a wider lens in your bag for cases like this- you might not have the shooting distance you would ideally like.  The other lifesavers in this situation is the Paul Buff Shovel Reflector. I always bring it but generally only use it when space is tight. This reflector allows you to get a decent gradient or white backdrop with just a few feet of space.

Bad outlet location

Don’t count on abundant outlet locations. I always bring an extension cord and power strip so I can plug into a central location if needed. I also always bring masking tape to tape down any power cables that might be in the path of a client. You definitely don’t want any clients tripping or lights getting pulled to the ground!

5.)Parking and load in

This is important- a bad parking strategy will make you late for the job and cause much unneeded stress! This is especially true in urban areas. In Washington DC it’s common for office buildings to have underground parking. Inquire ahead of time and see what the parking situations is, often you can call the garage directly(google maps is your friend here). Do you need a pass? Is there a service elevator, or elevator that will take you to the floor you need to go to? Is there a loading dock area you need to use? My priority is convenient load in. I want a spot in the most convenient parking lot nearest to the elevator that will take me directly to the floor I’m going to.  As a general rule I don’t park on the street(asking for trouble!) and I don’t charge the client for my parking cost(it’s nickle and dimey and slows down the contracting process)- it’s worth it for me to pay to be as close as possible to ensure a fast load in.

Turn your selfie into a high end headshot?

By | For Photographers, General Photography | No Comments

Researchers at MIT and Adobe have come up with some pretty neat ‘style transfer’ software that seems to be able to take any cellphone selfie headshot and apply a signature style to it by providing it with a headshot in the style you would like. Simply feed the software an example image by Martin Schoeller or Platon and off it goes- creating a fairly decent copy of that style. While I’m sure there are some limitations that we might not be seeing in these controlled samples- it’s certainly an impressive concept. I could see something like this as a sort of next-gen Instagram, controlling lighting styles instead of just film looks.

People and Fortune Magazine Portrait Shoot

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Heroes of the 500 – Arnold Harvey

I was contacted in May by Waste Management requesting a portrait of one of their employees for an upcoming feature in both People and Fortune Magazines. Arnold Harvey, driver of 24 years for WM was recently nominated for the Fortune 500’s “Heroes of the 500” for his non profit ‘God’s Connection Transition‘ that supports over 5000 families a month with donations of clothing, food and services. Additionally, he recently started a ‘Let’s Ride’ program that donates used bicycles to low income youths.

Shoot Details

This entire shot was shot, edited and delivered within 4 hours- they were on  a very tight deadline! I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out.  This portrait was taken on site in Gaithersburg MD with a mix of studio strobes and natural light. Stay tuned for a behind the scenes look at this shoot.

Fortune Magazine

Fortune ended up using the first photo below as a cover photo for the entire feature! The second wider shot was used for Arnold’s individual profile.

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 9.00.50 AM

Front page of Fortune.com

WM Arnold Harvey-952-Edit

Fortune ‘Heroes of the 500’ cover image


WM Arnold Harvey-1015

Arnold Harvey profile shot for Fortune

People Magazine

People Magazine ended up going with an alternate portrait seen below.

WM Arnold Harvey-940-Edit

Image featured in People Magazine

It was a pleasure working with the team at Waste Management and Arnold Harvey was just a great person to photograph and get to know. Congrats to Arnold! Take a look at his charity foundation at God’s Transition Connection.

Backing Up Data- Part 2

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Backing up Data on Location

This post is more of a best practices of how to deal with data safety when shooting on location. CF or SD card corruption is rare- but when it happens it’s a very scary thing. It’s only happened to me once and luckily I was able to retrieve the data using recovery software. It’s not worth the stress! And it can be avoided- here’s my method.

Create 3 backups instantly

Might sound fancy but it’s really not. Shoot with a camera that has dual card slots. Shoot RAW to both- easy. While you are doing this tether capture everything to a laptop. Three backups with no extra effort! When shooting headshots tethering is already a best practice and helps improve the quality and flow of the session.

Dropbox is Your Friend

One of the first things I do when setting up on location is get onto the guest wifi network. It’s not really reasonable to upload everything from the session to dropbox but I usually am able to do a quick DNG export of all my final ‘keeper’ images to a folder in dropbox. This way if I anything happens to my gear on the way back to the office I’m covered.

Backing up data – Best Practices

By | For Photographers, General Photography, Uncategorized | No Comments

Backing up data is a huge priority for me. At any given moment I have 5 backups of every headshot I’ve ever taken. I’ve never actually had a serious loss of data but I don’t consider this approach overkill. With my backup system I’m trying accomplish a few goals:

  • Quick restore of my entire computer- On site backup
  • Cloud restore options
  • Additional offsite Backup

For onsite backup I use Time Machine. It’s simple and easy. I’ve restored from Time Machine when upgrading computers- no complaints. For cloud backup I use Crash Plan. It backs up everything to the cloud automatically and I can access my file system anywhere- even on my iphone. My additional offsite backup is a simple copy of all my photography work backed up every few months and stored in a safe location away from my office. If I ever lost my data my first choice would be to restore from the cloud but an actual hard disc could come in handy to get back up and running fairly quickly. Lastly I have all final retouched images stored on SmugMug. I use SmugMug for digital file delivery but I also take advantage of the unlimited storage to serve as yet one more backup.

Stayed tuned for another post dealing with safe data storage when shooting off site.

Cropping Images for LinkedIn and Other Social Media

By | Corporate Headshots, General Photography, Uncategorized | No Comments

Any time I deliver a retouched image to my clients I always include some crop variations so they can quickly and easily have access to a completely finalized formatted images that they can use without altering.  I offer a few main formats:

  • Creative- usually uncropped Landscape 2×3 aspect
  • Standard Bio Headshot- Portrait 2×3 aspect
  • Social Media- Square 1×1 aspect

Which Cropped Image is More Powerful?

Cropping images

Most people I think would agree that the image on the left is stronger. But often my clients will ask me- why did you chop my head off in my linkedin(or other social media) image? That answer has to do with the rule of thirds.

The Rule of Thirds

Rule of ThirdsIn photography a general rule of thumb is to divide an image in thirds and place important elements along those lines. In the case of headshots- the eyes are important. Not all aspect ratios lend themselves to the rule of thirds but square images certainly do. Bringing the eyes higher in the image creates a more pleasing composition. This also allows a much tighter crop which is important when viewing tiny avatars online- tighter cropped images will show more of your face and not get ‘lost’ when shown at small sizes. .

But don’t worry- if you love the top of your head I always can provide you with both options.