Professional Headshots Capture a Multi-Faceted Musician
Christopher Michael is a musician who lives in Philadelphia but has family roots here in Indiana. His father, Benjamin Dean, introduced us when Christopher needed professional headshots that would reflect the multiple sides of his music career.
As a Christian heavy metal musician, Christopher needed images that would show the more gritty side of his music, as well as his role in the business of entertainment. He suggested a large, old church that he usedto attend and therefore had a connection to. The building is made out of stone with wooden doors, which lent itself to the heavy metal vibe we were going for. Since we used the outside of the church, nature was the light source, and I set up shots based on the natural shadows from the sun and the building. I also used one soft box of my own to make sure I had light coming from exactly where I needed it.
Christopher brought different outfits to suit the different looks. For the performance side, he wore a fun purple shirt and light up shoes that we made sure got into the shots. For the business side, he wore a white button down shirt with blue jeans.
Even though Christopher is a musician and used to being in front of a camera and a crowd, I still felt that in order to get authentic images I needed to get him relaxed.
Some of these images were outside my wheelhouse in terms of professional headshots, where I am usually focused on a more conservative vibe. I gave his role as a musician a lot of thought before the shoot. I tried various angles, such as shooting down low with a wide-angle lens to make him look larger than life with the big church behind him. I wanted to go a bit bombastic with the style to reflect his heavy metal music. Then I did some editing in Photoshop, playing with exposure and shadows to give the images a dramatic look.
Christopher shared his thoughts about the photoshoot with me:
“Paul is a friend of my father’s and he introduced us. I did not really have any set expectations going into the shoot, but it ended up turning out much better than I could have imagined. The quality of the images and the experience of taking the pictures were really nice. The shoot was very simple and relaxed and I enjoyed working with Paul. I plan to use the images on my LinkedIn profile, as well as on the website I plan to launch soon once I finalize my EP.”
Because I focus my professional headshot work on capturing the personalities of my clients, each experience and set of images is different. If you are looking to update your portraits to show your authentic self, contact me here.
Empathy & Resilience: The Essence of My Work As a Professional Photographer
Photography has been a part of my world for most of my life. It all started in high school. My dad was a hunter and in the off-season he took up photography so he could still be out in nature. He bought himself a camera and helped me buy one too. I fell in love with it, but I did not think of a professional photographer as something I could do for a living. I was more inclined to standard livelihoods. I got my degree in psychology, taught myself computers and went into the tech field.
I worked at ExactTarget for six years and before that as an independent contractor for computer-related companies. I enjoyed moving from project to project and could feel my entrepreneurial spirit guiding my choices. However, owning my own business was not what drove me to start my own photography studio. My decision was based more on a lifestyle choice. I love photography, and the pace of a freelancer appeals to me. While many entrepreneurs enjoy the day-to-day management of running a business, that part of working for yourself isn’t what excited me. What I wanted was to spend my days enjoying my career and working with people I like! Photography was the perfect path to pursue.
My work means that I have busy periods where my weeks are full with photographing clients. Then I will have downtime where I edit the photos and take time to recharge. I believe that time to unwind and regroup leads to resilience, a term in psychology defined as the ability to handle challenges that come into our lives. When the annoyances of every day really get under our skin, where every moment is filled to the brim, we are less able to build the energy needed to have resilience. It’s not easy to manage our world with clarity and calmness. I find that because my work allows me to regularly regenerate my energy and creative juices, I am much better able to do good work and live a happier life.
Working with people is why I enjoy specializing in professional headshots. However, to be successful at my work I have to come into each project with an authentically positive attitude. Most people are not comfortable in front of a camera, so I must put them at ease to allow their personality to shine through. By being truly happy and at peace, ready to get to know them and address any concerns they have, I am much better able to mirror back the energy my clients need to have to achieve a good headshot. Empathy is a large part of setting people at ease. By not overbooking myself and taking time to relax, I am better able to practice empathy and therefore do good work.
So, when you set a professional headshot appointment with me, be prepared to be met by a relaxed, interested person who will help you enjoy the experience. Genuine smiles come out of people who are genuinely enjoying themselves – it is this energy that I am always trying to achieve when I work with my clients.
Large Group Professional Headshot Sessions
When the expertise of their team is the main message in a company’s marketing, it is important to have imagery that supports that idea. Walker Information is an Indianapolis-based company focused on helping businesses provide superior customer experiences. They were looking to take professional headshots of their employees for their website.
Walker wanted a wide variety of environments within their shots while keeping the same feel for each image. My challenge was to take the photographs in many areas of their building with different backgrounds while ensuring continuity within the final portraits. Their company culture is friendly, confident and slightly casual and they wanted these ideals portrayed in their shots as well.
This project was one of the few instances where I had to rely on Photoshop to achieve my clients’ goals. To accommodate the schedules of different employees, I was onsite on two different days; one sunny and one day snowy. One of our backdrops was a window, where you could see the weather! I had to use Photoshop to clean out the snow and warm up the background in some of the images.
Shooting professional headshots in many locations offers additional challenges as well. There was different lighting in each room we used – fluorescent in the conference room, incandescent in the break room, and natural light near the windows. Each of those light sources casts a different color, which I need to match my lights too. I use gels on my lights to achieve this look, then I use Photoshop to make tweaks as needed. Knowing ahead of time that my client wanted the flexibility of multiple locations yet maintaining the same feel allowed me to plan for the lighting challenges.
I feel that flexibility is a necessary trait for a photographer to successfully take individual headshots within a large group of people. Although we try to set a specific schedule of where we would be and who would be photographed, meetings run long, phone calls pop up and the best-laid plans go by the wayside. Having a main coordinator within the company is key here, and fortunately, Walker gave me Brenda Mackey. She ensured everyone was photographed where they wanted to be, regardless of the changing schedule. Unlike situations where I take photos with one backdrop so I can just hang out until needed, we had to move quickly and adjust on the spot. Although this job required more coordination on my client’s part, they ended up with headshots that worked for their brand and made their employees happy.
Brenda was kind enough to share a bit about her experience with us:
“We are a consulting company, so the expertise of our employees is the key to the success of our business. Some of the headshots on our website were quite outdated and did not accurately show the personality of our staff. It was important to us to show how each person at Walker Information is different. Paul was totally on board with this idea and visited our space before the shoot to scout out locations in our new building. My colleague and I went around with him to figure out what would work. We then made up a schedule of 6 different locations and time slots. All was going smoothly until Indy go the worst weather day of the entire year! Half of the people who had signed up for portraits were not able to come to the office. Paul took pictures of those who were there, but we had to schedule a makeup day. A few people who were not happy with the first round of pictures and Paul took getting them what they wanted seriously. Those people came to the makeup day and Paul dug deep into why they were not happy. He took care to address their specific issue and make sure we got a good shot the second time. Overall, people were very happy. Quite a few of our employees had never had their picture taken professionally before. Many people immediately put their shots up on LinkedIn and our website now reflects what our company wanted to communicate about our staff. I really enjoyed working with Paul and already referred him to others.”
Thanks, Brenda! If you have a large group in need of individual professional headshots, contact me here.
Investing in Storytelling Through Brand Photography
I have clients who keep me as a “photographer on call” to capture messaging central to their brand. Nextech, an Indianapolis not-for-profit focused on bringing tech to students, is a perfect example. They are committed to telling the story of the impact they have on their participants through brand photography.
Located in Downtown Indianapolis, Nextech immerses high school juniors and seniors in tech-related classes, trains teachers how to teach coding, and works with elementary students to inspire them to follow the STEM track. The organization got its roots as a program within the Exact Target Foundation, and eventually spun off on its own. I’ve known the leadership team for years, so it has been fun to watch their evolution.
Nextech is committed to using their own high-quality imagery to tell their brand story. Their goals is to show how they help students and teachers feel confident in using and teaching tech. Professionalism is important to their messaging, so rather than using pictures snapped on a cell phone or stock photography, they bring me in to their events to snap candid and formal shots of them at work.
“Collaboration is fun” is how I would describe the main theme of the images I take for Nextech. They bring me into the classroom, workshop or other events and ask me to be a fly on the wall. I wait for moments where students, mentors and leaders look like they are having a quality conversation or an enjoyable moment and grab the shot without them even knowing. My camera is ready for the right gesture, smile, or laugh that will capture the essence of the activity. I also take headshots of the team, as well as participants whose quotes about their experiences will be used on the Nextech website.
Professional photographers bring their experience and knowledge to their work. Beyond knowing how to capture the right mood through candids, lighting and editing are central to the success of the shoot. When I arrive at the event facility, I always hope for a window for some natural light, but I always travel with my light kit just in case. I also try to match the light on my camera to the color of the room’s light to reduce the common blue or yellow cast that emits from natural or artificial sources. Also, it can be necessary to do some work in the editing room, compensating for dark rooms or color.
Sarah Pelko, Nextech’s Marketing Associate, was kind enough to share some thoughts about working with me:
“My first experience with Paul was when he was doing headshots for our Catapults– groups of high school students who come in for the summer to learn coding and get introduced to the Indianapolis tech industry. A lot of these kids have never been in front of a camera before let alone a professional photographer. Some had no idea what a headshot was. They were enamored with Paul. He came in got these kids from all walks of life to get comfortable with the camera. He was very good at speaking to the audience he was working with. Since then I have worked with him on other projects where he is capturing candid shots for us. He is very good at being inconspicuous so people relax. He is then able to capture exactly what we intended. Finally, he gives us the proofs of only the best of the best to sift through, using our time wisely. We have a lot of events photographed, so we really appreciate this tactic.
Nextech works with teachers, student, pubic schools, private schools, tech industry professionals – a wide variety of people. Paul is able to cater to the individual needs of every group and make them feel comfortable which is a great skill. Most people do not want to have their photo taken. Paul is talented at getting people comfortable with the process. We are very excited and happy to have Paul on our team.”
Thanks, Sarah! If your organization is interested in telling its story through brand photography, you can contact me here.
Client Highlight: Refresh Your Brand with Professional Headshots
Chrissi Peters is a local real estate agent who was revving up to refresh her website. Due to the nature of her business, new professional headshots were essential to reflecting her updated brand. We met a co-working space in Carmel to take the shots since it offered a wide variety of backgrounds and lighting for us to try out. The space was not only fun to work, in, but also allowed us to quickly create many different looks without having to travel or bring a lot of props.
The goal of the professional headshots session was to capture Chrissi’s friendly, open, and confident personality. With some clients, the camera immediately makes them nervous, so I have to work to get them relaxed and showing their real selves. Such was not the case with Chrissi! Her offered up her natural smile on her own, which went a long way to achieving the look she wanted for the images.
Chrissi prepared for the photoshoot by going to a hairstylist that morning and working with a friend to do her makeup. She looked her best self for the headshots. She also brought a whole stack of clothes, which we looked through and picked outfits she liked, was most comfortable in and provided a nice variety of styles and looks. I find that having pictures that include different color tones can expand their use. For example, her grey outfit offered a more casual look, while her red top felt more professional. Now she has professional portraits appropriate for many uses.
We also varied her stances, placing here in a lot of different poses to achieve different looks. We took some of her standing in front of staircase, sitting on a stool and relaxing in a big chair. These photos will fit different purposes, allowing her to show the full scope of her brand.
For this shot, we used an existing light panel, which as you can see gave us some great to light to capture Chrissi with. I always travel with my own light sources, but having some onsite that can offer more options is always a nice bonus.
Crissi shared her thoughts about her experience with me:
“From the beginning, Paul was awesome to work with. I had seen his photos on his website and knew I wanted to work with him, but I was happy when he was quick to get back to me and reasonably priced. He came to the photo location with me and did a great job of finding creative spaces and suggesting unique shots.
Currently, I am using his pictures on my business social media platforms and website. I think they tell a lot about who I am and what it is like to work with me. My friend and her family served as models during the photoshoot to visually show how I work with clients. They tell the story of how family-oriented I am, that I sit down with my clients and determine their needs. They also show that I am their partner through the process of buying or selling a home.”
If you are planning to refresh your marketing tools, it makes sense to refresh your portraits as well. Click here to learn more about what a professional headshot session entails. You can also reach out to me here.