Sunday, January 19, 2014

Head Shots: The Essence of Them (Parte Seconda)

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Before I get into my part two about head shots, I want to mention that I've gone international with my cyber chatter. My photographer friend, Dan Hostettler of Studio Prague, asked me if I'd be interested in penning keyboarding an occasional article for his popular glamour/boudoir/nude blog. I was. Interested, that is. And that's just what I did.

Fortunately, I didn't have to write it in Czech. That would have been a big problem. I don't think I know a single word of Czech. Czech is what they speak in the Czech Republic, right?  Well, whatever they speak there, I wrote my first contribution to Dan's blog in English. I titled it "Model Lines." No, it's not about models who snort white stuff up their noses. It's about the lines -- as in dialogue, words, phrases and such -- that I sometimes use when I'm directing models and when and why I might use some of them. If you're interested in reading it, you can do so by CLICKING HERE.


Back to head shots:

I left off my previous update on head shots talking about the importance of capturing a subject's "essence" when shooting their head shots.  Essence refers to the basic nature of a thing -- in this case, the thing being a person -- and the qualities that make a person who they are. Obviously, all the things that make up a person can't be captured in a single photograph.  So, photographers, when shooting head shots, should be on the lookout for those things or qualities that best represents their subjects. In other words, a photo that contains, in strong, condensed, boiled-down form, the special qualities of the thing (person) from which it is taken. (Snapped)

I try to divide those qualities, the subject's "essence" I'm hoping to capture, into two categories:  1) Physical Appearance and 2) Personality/Character Traits. I then try to capture photographs that simultaneously best reflect a person's physical appearance and their general personality and/or character traits.  By character, I'm referring to a person as a character, not their moral character. (Unless their visual character traits and apparent moral character traits seem to be one and the same, in which case I'll try to capture both.)

Physical Appearance: The first rule (and probably the most important rule) for head shots is they should look like the person who was photographed. D'uh, right?  Well, while this might sound like a no-brainer rule, I've seen far too many head shots that didn't resemble their subjects so well. Head shots that, if I were to try to pick that person out, one I was unacquainted with and who was seated in a room full of other people, and it isn't a quick and easy thing to do, you can count that photo as a failed head shots... no matter how terrific a photo it might be.

Head shots should look like the people in the head shots. They should look like really good versions of those people but they must remain recognizable to a stranger.  A casting director, as an example, must be able to quickly and easily recognize an actor from a bunch of other actors at a "cattle call" by simply looking at their head shot while hurriedly scanning the room.  Shooting and processing head shots is not the time for photographers to show off their overly-artistic and creative skills. Please note I said "overly."

Personality/Character Traits: Once you've determined the best personality or character traits to incorporate into a subject's head shot, there are many things which can reveal that personality and/or character traits.  Here's two of the most obvious of them:  expression and wardrobe.

Both expression and wardrobe say a lot about the person in the head shot. Expression is chiefly responsible for the emotional context of the image.  If an actor, for instance, mostly sells him or herself as a comedic actor, you probably won't want to go with serious, intense, brooding expressions for that person. Wardrobe should match the upbeat expressions you'll likely capture for those sorts of actors. For them, colorful, lighter-colored wardrobe will probably play better than dark, muted clothing.  BTW, be careful the wardrobe doesn't "upstage" the subject. The people who cast actors are looking for "types."  And those types are generally represented by their faces, i.e., what they look like in general terms, as well as their expressions in the head shots and not by what they're wearing. Course, if you're shooting a head shot for a circus clown, and they wanted to use the head shot to score more clown gigs, you might want to have them dress as a circus clown. Just saying.

You know what? I just realized I could easily go on and on about all this head shot stuff. I could probably turn these blog updates on head shots into a freakin' book!  Oh. Wait. I already did that.  And it's RIGHT HERE.

The pretty woman with the platinum blond hair at the top is Heather. I mention her hair because platinum hair can be a challenge when lighting those who have it. There you are trying to get a good, overall  exposure and that platinum hair really, really wants to blow out. But then, often enough, challenges like that are what makes shooting head shots so much fun.

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