Saturday, January 13, 2007

Do you like having your photograph taken? I don't. I hate it. It's boring, tiring, and I never like the results. My eyes squint, my hair gets tired, I start to sweat. Bleah.

But I had to get a head shot.

I called a photographer I knew and trusted, but she was going to Minnesota for six weeks. So I called Tim Jewett.

Tim is a photojournalist who has worked for every major paper in Portland: The Oregonian, the Willamette Week, and the Tribune. He does commercial photography and product shots. His work rocks. I figured head shots were beneath him, I knew I couldn't afford him, but I thought he might be able to steer me in the right direction.

Lesson #1: Clothing consultants always tell you not to shrink from high-cost items because they look better and wear longer than cheap stuff. It's an investment. I learned the same thing goes for photography.

It turned out that I could afford his services, and in retrospect, he's underpriced, because he took so many terrific photos, it was hard for me to choose. In fact, I will be purchasing more from him.

More lessons I learned about sitting for a head shot:

Know how you're going to use the photos. Will they be on your Web site? In the newspaper? 8x10 glossies? Color or black and white? Also, what message do you want your audience to get from your photos? Are you exciting? Reliable? Daring? Tell your photographer. He can help you make decisions about what to wear and how to sit.

Take several outfits. This was Tim's advice, and I took it. Shirts, jackets, earrings, necklaces - it will give you a choice, and choices give you power and flexibility.

If you have dark hair, notice the background the photographer is using. Ask for a lighter background, or for a splash of light behind you to add a bit of contrast.

Bring examples of photos you like. These can be photos of yourself, or photos of others. (Think about those magazines lying around beauty salons. Examples give the photographer guidance.)

GET NONREFLECTIVE LENSES. Light is a photographer's best friend. Reflections can be his worst enemy. I shudder to think how many photos Tim had to trash because my glasses weren't made of nonreflective material.

Don't be afraid of the quiet smile. We're all familiar with the friendly, outgoing expression behind, "Say cheese!" But the quiet smile can express warmth, interest, mystery, and a thousand other emotions. Experiment with it.

Ask questions. If the photographer is using digital equipment, ask to see a few shots. No one likes to have their creativity curtailed, and no one wants their time wasted. If you like one pose, expression, or outfit more than another, say so. Counterintuitively, this actually gives you more choices, because you more shots containing the components you know you want. At the same time, don't be afraid to get a variety of shots. Sometimes, the pose that seemed silly or pedestrian during the shoot may stand out as a keeper later on.

Take a mirror and check your appearance every so often.

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