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Shooting Actor Headshots - Some questions by Christian Webb

Christian Webb Photo, Headshots, Actor Headshots, NYC I've been receiving a lot of wonderful feedback as of late from various enthusiasts and professionals within the photography communities I'm a part of.   First,  I'll say it's an awesome feeling to receive the amount of positive energy and love from so many people I don't even know!  Even more awesome is that many are professionals that I admire greatly!  With all of that said,  I've also received a lot of inquires relating to my work and how some of the photos are shot.  Questions ranging from my set up,  how I work during a shoot and what my post processing involves.  So,  I've decided to take a few of those question and answer them here on my blog.  Now, my blog receives very little traffic! lol.  I've yet to figure out how to make this work and I spend little time focused on it.  However, it's easier to  write such long winded posts here and then, share via my other social media outlets.  (all of which I'm no where near mastering either!)

Okay, so today's question(s) comes from a photographer in London named Nina.  It's regarding the shot posted above.  Here's her original question(s) as it appeared on my FB:

Nina-Question

 

1.) How much instruction to the clients when it comes to posing, expression and such?  

A LOT!  I  can't stress that enough!   Many people, including actors are not comfortable sitting down for a headshot.  As a result, they tend to stiffen up and also, have little idea of what to do    with themselves.  Most haven't studied posing and photography either and are not                       conscious of the fact that slight movements of their head, their body angle can change an           entire shot.  After make-up / hair is done and they first get in front of the camera,  I spend a         good five minutes or so just discussing the nuance of movement and different angles.  I talk       about what I'll be telling them throughout the shoot and help them to understand why I'm           coaching them as I am.  One quick example -  I tell the client to sit as they'd like, natural but         as they normally would to have their photo taken.  Just about EVERYONE sits upright and             lift their heads, chins and lean back and away from the camera.  I take a quick shot.  Then, I         instruct them to drop their head, drop their chin some and lean in slightly toward me.   I take that shot and show then show them both pics.  They're AMAZED at the difference and it helps for the rest of the shoot.  With regard to expression,  it's probably THE single most important thing during the shoot.   It takes A LOT of work, A LOT of coaching and A LOT of communication to get what you need, what they need.  Sometimes,  you get people who just....get it....and they're great with bringing a range of emotions and different looks.  They're fun, dynamic with their looks and extremely versatile and know how to work the camera.  Sometimes though, a lot of times, you get people who have one maybe two looks in their arsenal and THAT'S IT! You have to spend time getting them to open up and to feel comfortable enough to go through ranges of emotions.  For the most part,  it's all fun!  It's just knowing how to talk, have fun and relate to the clients.  Often times, you have to go above and beyond to get them going but hey, that's all part of the magic!  

Christian Webb Photo, BTS

2. )  Camera alignment:

I try to stay pretty level with the client.  There are times when I do get slight angles from above based on how much I have the client leaning in toward me.  I usually make adjustments in my stance and such to accommodate the movements though.  I spend a good amount of time dancing around and shuffling my feet/stance!  I don't like extreme angles from above and definitely not from below!

Christian Webb Photo actors headshots NYC

3.)  The variance in blur between background & subject - is it achieved or modified in post:

I shoot at an aperture of 3.2 with a 70-200mm lens zoomed all the way out to 200mm so everything blurs.  This plus the fact that my clients are not sitting against any particular backgrounds outside is how the look is achieved.  I do absolutely nothing in the post processing regarding the backgrounds.  If anything,  I will occasionally need to clone stamp, crop out or blur random blurred items or distracting elements but other than that,  the shots are as is when they come from the camera.

Christian Webb Photo, actors headshots NYC

So, hope I've shed some light on things and answered the questions thoroughly.  "Thank You" to Nina for the question and hopefully others will find this post informative.

~ Christian

 

 

Kids Photography! The hardest subjects to photograph? by Christian Webb

"Want go 1 on 1 real quick?" Prior to focusing 100% of my business on headshots, I photographed a lot of children.  It just made sense as my two sons are in the business and I work with the children's divisions of a couple of agencies.   Children make awesome subjects and provide a lot of fun while shooting them.  However,  the challenges getting good shots can be tricky!

A photographer friend emailed me recently about some project he's involved in photographing children.   The photos he sent me were supposed to be "candid" photos of the kids.   The photos were fine but he was upset as they weren't technically good and didn't look as if a professional photographer shot them.   Well, they're "candids" yeah? So it doesn't matter right? Wrong!  Candid photography doesn't mean bad photography.  Especially if the person shooting is an actual "photographer."   There are tons of candid moments caught by photographers that are great shots.   If we're talking about the casual user, a parent, non-photographer snapping a few iPhone pics of their kids, then it's not that serious.  But, if like my friend, you're a photographer and have an actual assignment (paid or not) that requires you capturing some great images of children,  then read on.  Here are some tips for shooting the always active, always adorable little people of the world we call,  kids!

"Just as happy as can be!"

To start out with,  if you've taken the time to be a photographer and sell yourself as such,  you most certainly should KNOW your camera!  Know it's settings and know how to use them in various situations.  Whether you're shooting kids, animals, a landscape or whatever,  you should be well versed in the basics and have a good grasp on your camera's capabilities.   If you're a casual shooter who may want to step up your shots some and have invested in a dslr,  the following should be a good starting point for you.   With that said, let's move into some basics that specifically relate to shooting kids.

 

Leaf us be!

1)  SPEED-  Speed is everything when shooting fast moving kids!  If you're shooting with a dslr, you'll want to put your camera into  SHUTTER PRIORITY mode. (check your brand of camera for selecting this mode.)  What this essentially does is allow you to set a shutter speed you need and the camera will set the correct aperture for a correct exposure.   If you've got kids running around, playing, doing sports, you'll want a pretty high shutter speed to capture them in motion and get clean, crisp shots. Experiment a bit until you get a speed that suits what you're doing.

Brother & Sister love

2.)  LIGHTING -  That should pretty much go without saying for any photographer as lighting, is everything!  With your camera in Shutter Priority,  your exposure will take care of itself. However, you still need to be mindful of the ambient lighting.  If you're outdoors on a nice sunny day,  you'll be fine.  Even on an overcast day (great days to shoot!) you'll pretty much have no issues. Look for evenly shaded areas and avoid "speckled shade"....like shade coming unevenly through the leaves on trees.  You'll end up with spots of highlights and uneven lighting on your subjects.   However, if you're shooting indoors in low light, things can get tricky.   Depending on how fast your lens is and how well your camera's ISO performance is, you'll need to really pay attention and make some tweaks.  Assuming you're using no flash and just keeping things, casual and....candid......You'll want to look for the light!  Windows, skylights, doorways, overhead lighting etc.  When you do find natural light, like sun coming through a window, be sure to stay mindful of HOW that light is coming in and how it's spreading.  You don't want to get a kid running in front of a window but a huge highlight of sun washes him out and blows highlights.  Look for sources of diffusion as well.  A window with harsh sun beaming through it may be great but if there are some sheer curtains hanging, try closing them to get a nice, soft, even light.

Overcast at the beach!

3.) WHITE BALANCE -  The color temperature of a photo can make or break it.  Different lighting has different temperatures.  Make sure you're mindful of your camera's white balance setting.  Most dslr's have preset white balance settings that you can choose depending on your environment.  Daylight or Cloudy/Shade setting for outdoors and  Incandescent or Fluorescent for indoor lighting. You can also just leave the setting on AUTO WB.  It's a good idea though to get used to knowing the different types of lighting, their respective temperatures and how they'll effect your images.

Strike a pose!

4.) FOCUS - There's probably waaaaay too much to get into here regarding focusing.  It can get pretty complex.  Safe to say that you'll most likely want to be in auto focus mode AF.  Depending on your camera, there are several AF modes and configurations to consider.  Nikon has three auto focus modes:  AF-A (auto), AF-C (continuous)  and AF-S (single).  AF-S is for a subject that is stationary while AF-C is for moving subjects.  For children running here and there and constantly moving,  you'll want to shoot in AF-C, Continuous Mode.  In this mode, the camera will recognize that you're shooting a moving subject and it will hold focus on that subject as it moves.  (while your shutter button is half pressed.) (check your camera manufacturer for details on it's auto focus mode settings and how they work.)  Nikon's AF-A mode will automatically switch between AF-S and AF-C depending on what the subject is doing.  How you select these modes and how they're activated can be a matter of preference.  You should most certainly study your camera, become familiar with the modes and get used to how they work.

At the end of the day,  in both cases above, these are supposed to be "candid" shots yes? Not photoshoots.  That said, I'm not implying that you "set up" your environments and shots.  It's about just being mindful and prepared in your environments and knowing your subjects. In this case,  energy filled, never at rest kids.  Preparation, even in spontaneity is everything. Sounds odd yeah?  But as a photographer,  preparation is everything.  Having the correct camera settings ready to go and understanding how to use them will ultimately help you to capture those spontaneous, precious and candid moments that would otherwise be missed or captured poorly.  Without question though and above all,  let kids be kids and have fun capturing the joy!

 

Mark of a professional by Christian Webb

Christian Webb Photo NYC, Headshots
Christian Webb Photo NYC, Headshots

Andrew has been in the business for 30 years.  It was no surprise then that when he got in front of my camera for his new headshots,  he was dead on with his posing and quite comfortable.  A few pre shoot directions and some coaching regarding my emphasis on head / chin positioning was all that was needed and he got it right away!  When he showed up,  he looked as if he just finished running a marathon.   He was scruffy, hair a mess and even had nicked himself shaving and was bleeding a bit here and there.   Now, all of that sounds like a mess yeah? However,  Andrew's look, his casting range tends to be the rough, older, everyday type of guy.  He brought along a few t-shirts, a jacket and it all worked.  I think if I had shot him with a fresh haircut and shave, it would have been great but with less character.   This is what it's all about - Knowing your client.  Knowing their type and how to best represent that in their photos.  Had a great time and because of Andrew's comfort level and experience in front of the camera,  it was a breeze of a shoot.

Actor's HEADSHOTS - DEFINED by Christian Webb

 Christian Webb Photo NYC, headshots

Christian Webb Photo NYC, headshots

I came across one of those comical memes the other day on Instagram that read: "Headshots, I see headshots everywhere!"   With so many people needing/wanting headshots for a variety of reasons and so many photographers shooting them,  I thought I'd do a quick post about "what a headshot is exactly."   I'm going to focus mostly on headshots for actors as I figure that when most people think of a headshot they think of actors.  If you're an actor, your headshot is one of the most critical tools to your career. Before getting a new one, it's important to have an idea of what a headshot is exactly.  Your headshot should be an accurate representation of you that allows others to see you and consider you for a particular role.   The key is not to try and play a role in your headshot  but to simply play YOU.  If you're the shy quiet type, girl or guy next door, your headshot should reflect that.  On the other hand, if you're the vixen or hunk next door, then your shot should reflect that.  Just don't get headshots that make you look like the exact opposite of who you really are simply because you want to go out for other types of roles.

Now,  let's talk about how headshots have changed over the last 10 years or so.  Prior to the explosion of digital photography,  headshots were shot on film and were pretty standard:  portrait orientation and in black & white.   In recent times most headshots are the exact opposite: landscape orientation and in color.  The reasons for the change from b&w to color is pretty much because of the lower cost of digital over film.  As for the orientation,   just as our home televisions went from a "square" to the more theatrical rectangle (widescreen),  the headshots these days just seem to look more...well....theatrical when presented in landscape orientation and overall, that's a better look for actors.  It allows for casting directors and whomever to see the actor as they would on screen.   This of course, is not hard science.   Do people still do b&w, portrait orientation headshots?  Probably not so much b&w and the orientation is just a matter of choice but in my opinion,  landscape is the new preferred standard and quite popular.

 My old headshot in black & white portrait orientation.

My old headshot in black & white portrait orientation.

Here's my "old school" acting headshot from awhile back. B&W / Portrait orientation.

Okay, so with that out of the way,  I'd like to get into more specifics about the actual "shot."   I have seen photos labeled as "headshots" and they're full length body photos or three-quarter shots.  The full length "modeling" shot is in my opinion DEFINITELY NOT appropriate for a headshot.  The three-quarter shot, that's more a matter of taste.  However, I will say it's not the standard these days and it's not the best shot for an actor.  A headshot should be exactly what it says - A shot of the actor's head!  Okay, well, not just their head.  The best shots work from about chest level up.   I personally like to produce headshots that are pretty tightly cropped and in close.  I think it's best to put the actors eyes, smile, personality right in your face!   When casting directors and such are pursuing hundreds of photos, they want to come across your shot and be immediately drawn in.   A three-quarter shot does not offer the same connection.  On the other hand,  for corporate shots or a real estate headshot,  the three-quarter will usually be fine and is pretty typical.    Again, as with the previous information,  this is all a matter of opinion and quite subjective.   There are a few other considerations regarding a proper headshot like wardrobe choices and whether indoor studio shots or outdoor location shots are best.  Either work and truly, it's just a matter of taste.

 DMack Corp

DMack Corp

                                         Above is a 3/4 shot I did some time ago.  This doesn't really work for a headshot.  More a corp/real estate shot or even LinkedIn profile shot.

Something else to address when it comes to headshots, is the type of headshot an actor requires.   There are two basic shots - Theatrical and commercial.   The theatrical is more, leading man/leading lady shot that tends to be dramatic and usually serious.   A commercial shot is more....fun and will usually showcase the actor with a big, bright, welcoming smile that says "hey, I can sell toothpaste and Toyotas!   It's not that a theatrical shot can' t feature a smile, it's just the type of smile and the type of energy the shot conveys will be slightly different.   I'm writing all of this from the perspective of a photographer that shoots headshots.   Which leads me to the next point.  With so many photographers out there and so many claiming to do headshots,  it's critically important to make sure you're actually hiring a HEADSHOT photographer to shoot yours.   A photographer that only shoots hotels and real estate interiors may very well know how to take a picture of someone but it's not their expertise.  A person who shoots fashion models of course can shoot people (sometimes, lol.) , but again, the specifics of a headshot, the nuance and understanding the process is something that takes time, practice and a dedication to that one specific genre.    Just learning to coach actors to get the best out of them for their shots is completely different than directing the  facial expressions and poses of a  model.   Understanding the positioning, angles and subtle changes in head tilt and position are what a seasoned headshot photographer will offer.   Not to mention the proper lighting and quality of the overall image.  You want a photographer that's seasoned at getting the very best out of you as an actor to convey who you really are and what roles you're best for.

 Christian Webb Photo headshots NY, cinematic headshots

Christian Webb Photo headshots NY, cinematic headshots

Headshot from recent session with a New York actress Kayla.   Color, landscape and pretty close crop.

So in closing, if you're pursuing headshot photography, really take the time to understand what exactly a headshot is and for what purpose(s) such headshot(s) may be used for.  Understand the differences and provide your clients the understanding even when they don't fully comprehend the differences themselves.  Don't be surprised if a client doesn't have any idea what type of headshot they need or what makes a great one.   That's what they come to you for!    It's a huge responsibility shooting actors headshots.   Their pictures are either going to get them in the door or....not.   Sometimes, it's truly just a matter of having the RIGHT shot that says enough about the person.   If you're an actor in need of headshots,  take your time, understand what makes a great headshot and research photographers before putting your money down.  If you find a photographer that's a "Jack or Jane of all trades"  you may want to think twice and find someone who truly knows their craft and has the experience.  If you're taking yourself and career as an actor seriously at all,  find a HEADSHOT photographer,  NOT a photographer that also does....headshots.

Connecting by Christian Webb

Christian Webb Photo Never been to Rockaway Beach before.  Ended up there with my son for a photo shoot he was doing.  (some shots of that in a coming post)   After the shoot was wrapped,  I grabbed my camera and got a few shots of him myself.  As we were leaving the beach,  we spotted this man on a bike, watching us.  I asked to take his picture and he was  quite happy to oblige.  Nice guy.  Cool bike.  I am finding more and more that I absolutely love connecting with strangers via my camera.   There's really nothing like it.  Especially the interesting ones.  Not just their look, but their stories sometimes and the conversations that get struck up.    After snapping the portrait shot, we said our goodbyes and he rode off down the boardwalk.  Once again,  had to get that shot.   Glad I did.  As I looked at the shot in post, I thought....Here he is, headed toward that clock in the distance,  the future, his future.  How much time does he have?   Guess it depends on how fast or slow he pedals along.   Same for us all yeah?

Christian Webb Photo

NYC NIGHTS - Street portraits by Christian Webb

Took lil' bro' out last night to work on his photography. Teaching him about the constantly changing lighting conditions at night...and finding/using available light when shooting street portraits. Here are a few I managed to snag myself, including one of my apprentice! lol!  He got a bunch of great shots as well and had a BLAST meeting and hanging with people downtown. (stay tuned for his blog to see some of his work! ) #NYC #NIKONNIGHTS Christian Webb Photo-Ariana!Christian Webb Photo-BlondeChristian Webb Photo-BeardDudeChristian Webb Photo-Miriam&MaxChristian Webb Photo-Apprentice

 

Sunflowers & The Man by Christian Webb

Christian-Webb-Photo-Flowers-&-DirtOn my walk in Washington Heights this past weekend,  I came across a small bodega with a rather large assortment and display of flowers up front.  The sunflowers trumped all others and were truly a beautiful sign of Spring and great days to come. The man attending to the flowers was deep in his work when I took the time to ask his permission for a photo.  "Si" he said and continued with his work as if I wasn't there.  But then, out of nowhere,  knowing I was there,  camera pointed,  he suddenly put a flower up to his face, playfully hiding behind it and giving me a grin.   I laughed of course and thanked him for letting me bother him.  Wasn't until I uploaded the image later that evening that I appreciated his sense of humor.   Below is another crop.  (Nikon d800, 50mm) Christian-Webb-Photo-Dirty-Flowers

 

A hint of Miami by Christian Webb

Christian-Webb-Photo-50-Up-color

I must have passed this building a million times.  Each time I'm uptown in Washington Heights for a haircut, I drive by and see it.  Yesterday,  I had some time on my hands while waiting for my barber.   So, camera in hand, I walked the streets a bit.  I ended up strolling St. Nicholas Ave and found myself on 179th St. standing right in front of this monster of a housing project.  I believe it's called St. Nicholas Tower.  I've also heard Gateway Towers.  Whatever the name,  it's a hard building not to take notice of.  It stands alone there on the block and looms over all.  Thing is, as many times as I've passed it,  I've never really stopped to actually LOOK at it.  Taking the time yesterday, standing there beneath it,  it struck me that this building seems fit to be in Miami.  As I pointed my camera up and looked at the pastel colors painted on the balconies I saw a chic coolness never imagined all the other times.  The irony of course is that it's clearly far removed from the glitzy, overpriced, super pretentious glam of Miami.   It's a low income housing project on the gritty streets of NY.    I'd like to think that perhaps those colored balconies help those in the neighborhood and the residents who live there think of the beauty of life and provide some smiles and joy at times despite their circumstances.   If of course,  they just take the time to stop and look.

This is the b&w version which I definitely like because of the pattern and contrast.  But of course,  the colors are what makes the building.    (Nikon d800- 50mm lens)

Christian-Webb-Photo-50-Up

Photography Q&A - Zack Arias by Christian Webb

The Photo Webb, Chrisitan Webb Photo Question:  Who is Zack Arias?  Answer:  I won't go into too much on Zack Arias.  You either know, or you don't.  That said, whether you do know or don't, if you're fortuante enough to stumble upon his book, you'll never forget ZA and how instrumental he may be to you as a photographer. ("And if you don't know, now you know...!" Couldn't resist that. My bad!)   Whether you're an amateur, a budding enthusiast, a newbie just starting out or a full fledged working professional photographer, this one book serves as a bible of all things photography.  I say that not to put Zack in the stratsophere of photography gods and suggest that he's so above us all, but rather to say the exact opposite.  Yes, he is a photography god to many, but most important,  he's as real as it gets and this book reflects his down to earth, mad cool personality.  It's Zack being Zack and being so far removed from that upper echelon realm of snobery that makes the book so damn good.   Q&A serves as a fundamental guide to all things never really discussed on most blogs, classes or other photography books.  This is a straight, no nonsense, raw colleciton of information that covers so much of the in between questions related to photography that many books can't seem to explain clearly or either ignore outright.   While it strives to get to the more nitty gritty and reality of what's necessary to make it as a photographer , there's also some technical info sprinkled  throughout along with  some gear porn to satisfy those seeking to know the tools such a master like Zack is currently using.  What Zack knows, and what he will undoubtedly make you know, is that the gear isn't it.  The technical stuff isn't it.   There are images throughout and detailed personal stories related to his career and life.  He'll talk with you, not to you and by the end, you'll wish the conversation hadn't stopped.    Truly A no nonsense, straight talk, inspirational and educational approach to photography.  No bs! No long drawn, condescending, preachy lectures.  Just real questions from many who want to know and real answers from a pretty cool, highly respected dude that does know.

Available on Amazon

Holiday portrait shoot! by Christian Webb

Christian Webb Photography 2013 I've never had the pleasure of shooting any type of holiday photos for anyone.   All I thought about was feeling like one of those Sears or mall photo store operations.   That said,  I had a great time shooting the Delacruz holiday portraits.   I couldn't pick a finer family to photograph.   Jose & Elizabeth along with kids Victoria and Mateo have to be some of the loveliest people I know and are dear friends.    For a minute there,  we were thinking it may not happen due to the weather.  We were originally scheduled to shoot Friday night but my schedule that day was hectic.   A snow storm was on the way for Saturday and Elizabeth thought perhaps, we'd have to cancel Saturday as well.  No way!  Bit of snow wouldn't stop me from handling my business.  So, after a long day of my own,  I packed my "Stormer" up  with some gear and trekked out into the snow.   They only live about fifteen minutes away so the trip wasn't too bad.  Upon arrival I was treated to some delicious food and wine. (a truly acceptable fee for this photographer!)   Jose decided he would handle wardrobe and styling and his commitment to said job was both outstanding and hysterical to say the least!   Some great music by "DJ Elie' and we were ready to go.   Kept it all pretty simple and just captured traditional portraits of the kids,  husband and wife and of course,  the beloved family dog Benji who actually sat in for me for a minute at the start while I tested the lighting.  (see solo shot of Benji below!)   Well,  eventually the fun had to end.  The kids got tired and the wine ran out!  Got the shots the family wanted and all went well.

The Delacruz family holiday portrait

Holiday portraits-Christian Webb Photography

 

Holiday portraits, Christian Webb Photo

 

Holiday portrait photography - Christian Webb Photography

And the star,  Benji!

What makes a photographer? by Christian Webb

  Picpeeps

Everyone has a camera these days yeah?  Whether it's a high end, low end, mid range DSLR, a digital compact camera or a camera on a mobile device.  Everyone and anyone can pretty much shoot photos, upload and tell their stories,  whatever they may be.   So, are all of these people actually..."photographers?"  Well, yeah, sort of.  And not exactly.  What exactly is a photographer?  Well, here's what came to my head when thinking on this:

"Everyone thinks they're a photographer,  until they actually try and become a photographer."

Yeah, that's how it came to me and I think it makes sense.  Let me explain.   Taking photographs, of any sort is a mechanical process. "Click!" "Snap!"  Boom.  An image is captured.  (yes, I'm over simplifying the process here but I'm just keeping it basic.)   Add the artistic element to whatever subject chosen and it becomes...well,  art.  Subjective of corse but,  who's to say what is and isn't art.  Each photograph is that one person's capture of life.    So many mistake the ability to take a picture with actually being a photographer.   Add to that,  the fact that just about everyone has a camera,  and you have tons of people calling themselves photographers.    I drive a car.  I drive fast sometimes but I'd never say "I'm a race car driver" would I?  I like to cook and I cook very well (just ask my wife!)  but I don't say "I'm a chef."   Perhaps it's all just nit picking and a matter of semantics but there is a reason why I bring this up.  A lot of aspiring photographers make the mistake of thinking that having the camera, maybe a light or two (if that) and having some sort of desire and vision to be a photographer is essentially all that's needed to actually be a photographer.   Maybe they have an idea and maybe they have some artistic sense of what they want to do.  More than likely,  they even have some rudimentary sense of photography and actually CAN shoot in manual mode and understand many of the basics when it comes to shooting.  BUT, still,  a photographer this does not make.   (did that sound Yoda like?)   To truly head down that path of becoming an actual photographer first requires that desire to study/learn everything one can about the craft and dedicate to a constant learning process.   Even beyond this, and most important,  is experience.  A person can shoot a hundred selfies or shoot a few friends here and there and still, their experience can be lacking.   A person can read, study online and take courses and still not be a photographer.    Most of my learning and my best moments have been my worst moments.  Being on a set,  on location,  in studio...wherever and having those "uh oh" moments.   Forgot my pocket wizards.  Forgot my memory cards.   Left a power cord.   Forgot my spare batteries.  Left a particular light modifier home.  Something breaks.  A random camera setting is throwing me off.  My time is cut short by the client.  The weather acts up.  There are tons of potential issues and problems and how someone deals with those problems and manages the issues is what makes them a photographer.  At least, in the professional sense.   Some may call it all paying dues.  Putting in the work.  All of those experiences and those mistakes will serve to make you a better photographer.   Knowing how to deal with those mistakes and what to do in any given situation is what separates a photographer from a person who likes to take pictures.   Is there a bit of snobbery here?  Maybe.  I think many photographers are sometimes annoyed with the idea that there are people out there who get themselves a camera,  make a business card,  put up a half ass website and then run around calling themselves "photographers."  They sort of undermine the actual craft and the real work that goes into what real photographers do.   It's not easy.  Not if you're doing it right.     I think my point with this post is more about reaching out to those people who actually WANT TO BE photographers and taken serious.   I want to share what I know and have learned.   I can't emphasize enough,  it's not the camera.  It's not a business card.  It's not having a website.  It's not photographing people every now and then.   It's constantly working on a project.  Constantly shooting.  Constantly learning/studying and more important,  putting things into practice.  It's MAKING MISTAKES and learning from them.  It's about investing in and mastering your equipment.  It's mastering your craft by any means necessary and staying committed.   All of these things combined with vision, time, patience and passion will serve to make you a photographer.  Or, at least someone worthy of being considered a serious photographer.

Miss Dominican Republic - Yaritza Reyes by Christian Webb

Miss Universe contestant Yaritza Reyes-Christian Webb Photo

About a month ago,  I had the good fortune to photograph Miss America Nina Davuluri.  A few weeks later,  I found myself in the company of the lovely Yaritza Reyes,  the current Miss Dominican Republic.   Hey,  I may be onto something here with beauty queens!   Anyway,  Yaritza was in the states for the first time to get her visa for travel to Moscow where she'll be competing in the Miss Universe pageant.  After her day of interviews and such ended,  we got to spend some time with Yartiza.   We ate dinner and had a lovely time with her in our home.  Later, we spent some time in our great city of New York where she had some fittings to attend for a fashion show the next day.   Seeing this beautiful young lady, all of only 19 years old, her first time in New York was fascinating.   She was mesmerized by the city and you could see the whole world in her smile as she marveled at everything around her.  It was late by the time we returned from the city.   We popped a bottle of Champagne to wish Yaritza well on her journey and to congratulate her on her success so far.  Even though it was past midnight,  she was gracious enough to me get a few photos of her.   We truly wish her all the best!  This year,  will be the first time I actually tune into the Miss Universe pageant and watch with all eyes on and rooting for Yaritza to win!   When she does win,  of course I'm hoping to add MISS UNIVERSE to my portfolio!

Miss Universe contestant Yaritza Reyes-Christian Webb Photo

Miss America - Nina Davuluri by Christian Webb

<img src="Miss America Nina Davuluri.jpg" alt="Nina Davuluri" />

When I got the call asking me if I wanted to shoot the new Miss America Nina Davuluri,  I thought "Let me guess, a media frenzied event with a bunch of other photographers somewhere right?"  Turns out,  it was an exclusive interview for entertainment web-site THZ (The Hot Zone).  Exclusive.   Which just meant host Jason Robinson and myself as photographer.  I said yes of course and soon found myself nervous.   She's not just Miss America,  she's the first of Indian descent.  A fact that caused a lot of uproar for some.  Those ignorant few still out there with their racist, ancient, semi retarded perspectives on what being an "American" means.   Nina represents ALL that's American so, for me, shooting her was much more than just shooting any Miss America.  She's a part of history.  A ground breaker and quite significant to Americans and to her Indian heritage.    We shot at a  restaurant/lounge in the city called Pranna.  A spacious,  absolutely gorgeous place.  I had about a 15 minute time slot with her and wasn't too sure about what if any restrictions were in place regarding the shots I could take.  In my mind, if I had my way,  I very much wanted to set something up with her sitting down,  scoffing down a HUGE cheeseburger with a basket of fries and a Coke on the table!  Oh and of course,  a HUGE slice of apple pie on the table.  All things "American!"  Maybe even get her to wear a fitted Yankees cap!  Well, that fantasy came to an end.   Wasn't going to happen. So,  I did a pretty basic set up  using 2 lights.  I had maybe 5 minutes to shoot  her before she was off to her next stop.  We shot in the lounge upstairs which overlooked the restaurant from above.  A huge chandelier of all glass and illuminated round bulbs hung in the middle of the space and I wanted to have the lights in the back.  I think it came out pretty nice.   Below is a shot of my  assistant for the day prior to having the 2 lights on.  Just metering for that background and adjusting shutter speed.

AmbientNina is absolutely beautiful and incredibly nice.  Was truly a pleasure working with her albeit for such a short amount of time.   We did discuss perhaps doing the "All American" shoot sometime in the future.  So,  who knows!    Fingers crossed!

Below is a shot of Pranna owners,  Payal and Dajiv Sharma.   Many thanks to them for letting us use the space.   Pranna is located at 79 Madison Ave. at 28th St. New York.

<img src="Miss America Nina Davuluri.jpg" alt="Nina Davuluri" />

<img src="Miss America Nina Davuluri.jpg" alt="Nina Davuluri" />

Shooting the messenger by Christian Webb

Street photography-Christian Webb

Sitting in SoHo, smokin' a stogie and this man appears in front of me.  He begins to....read me...sort of...in some psychic way.  Was interesting at first.  I played along.  Being a NY'er of course....I figured, this is a hustle of some kind and at some point, he'd want something.  I let him continue.  He read my palm and said all sorts of magical things and then said a prayer.  He told me of great success to come and that I needed to do certain things.  I marveled at some of what he said.  He seemed to know certain things and sensed much about me.  Then,  he scribbles something on a pieces of small paper, crumbles it up and puts it in my palm telling me to close my hand.  He then asks me to name an animal.  I say, a lion.  He then says pick a number between 1-47.  I pick 12.  Another prayer and some more spiritual talk and he then tells me to open the paper to see if the fortune he sees for me and the energy is indeed true.  I open the paper and it reads: Lion,  12 and has a symbol or two scribbled.  I couldn't believe it.  Now,  I'm thinking to myself "this guy is obviously a street magician of some kind. How the hell did he do that!?"  But, really, his energy and his overall wishes for me and the peace he seemed to project,  made it all good.  He did of course then ask me for money.  He was thinking $60, $80.   I had six bucks in singles on me.  I just assumed he wouldn't take a credit card.  After handing the money,  he wanted to give me a spiritual stone of some kind which he indicated was "the lion's eye!"   Thing is though,  he asked me to give him something for it.  A trade of some type. I honestly had nothing to give him.  All I had was my camera bag and my camera.   So,  I said "let me take your picture.  I will send it to you and also send you  some other type trinket."   He agreed to let me take his picture quick.   I didn't get the lion's eye stone but it was all good.   Honestly,  that made my day.

Street photography NY - Christian Webb

Photography Gear - How much do you need? by Christian Webb

Airport-Security-V-20-Rolling-Camera-Bag-6-Christian Webb Photo

There have been tons of debate regarding real photographers vs “fauxtographers.”  The iphone and assorted other camera phone using people usually getting lumped into the latter category.   I’m not going to get into that debate.  All I’ll say is this:  I think an image is an image, regardless of how it’s made.  You either like it or you don’t.  An image either provokes an emotion and has an effect on you or, it doesn’t. i dont' necessarily think that what type of camera or what brand or how expensive it is matters.    Period.  With that out of the way,  I want to get into a gear discussion here.  A quick blog regarding what it is you’re using and how much importance is placed on that gear.

John Lennon said “Give me a tuba and get ya’ something out of it!” ( Not sure about the accuracy of that quote, but Jack Nicholson in the Departed quoted it and I figure hey,  it’ll work here too.)  Point being that you don’t need a $3,000 camera body with a $3,000 piece of glass attached to it to make great images.   A simple point and shoot will do the trick if you’ve got the desire to take pictures of any kind.    That said though,  if your goal is to be a photographer, a serious photographer and you take the craft series,  there comes a point where you need to invest in that craft and purchase the right gear.   What is “the right” gear?   It’s really relative yeah?  What’s right for one may not be right for someone else.   In essence,  you want the gear that’s going to serve YOUR purposes as a photographer and your needs.   Example:  If you’re setting out to do wedding photography, you may want a macro lens to get really close shots of the rings.    You might also need a super-fast lens to use in low light situations such as  inside the church where most often,  flash is not allowed.   Add to that,  if you plan to do a lot of low light photography in general,  you may want to invest in a camera body that’s capable of producing usable images at high isos. (Nikon d800, Canon 5dMkIII etc.)

Regarding lighting,  maybe you want to shoot mostly in studio.  Some strobes and a variety of light modifiers would be part of your set up.  You could start with just one lighting set up but, over time,  perhaps you’ll want to expand your creativity and allow for more options by having a 2, 3, 4 light setup and a good amount of modifiers.  Speaking of which,  how do you plan to trigger those strobes?  Going to need a set of Pocket Wizards or other system for triggering flash.  What about location stuff?  Going to need a decent speedlight to start using flash off camera and a bit more creatively.    Do you want to shoot landscape?  A good wide lens might help.  Some ND filters maybe.  How about a really solid tripod?

I can go on and on here but I think you get the gist.    It’s not about thinking that having some piece of gear or expensive equipment is going to make you a better photographer.  It’s about recognizing the limitations of not having the right gear for what YOU want to do.  Overall,   I think if any photographer wants to take themselves serious, be it for pleasure or profit,  they’ve got to invest in themselves and their gear over time.   Funny thing is,  most photographers with passion find themselves spending all their dough on gear anyway.  It’s like crack!  Taking yourself serious and wanting to get better at what you do sort of naturally leads you to wanting more gear anyway.  There's nothing wrong with that and it's part of the process.   If you're not investing in yourself, your equipment and business,  then you're truly not looking to be serious.

So long as you’re buying gear for the right reasons, it’s all good.  Just never feel the need to buy the latest, greatest new gadget, light, lens or camera simply because you think you have to have it to improve your photography.   Understand your work, your goals and evaluate what you have and what you need, then, invest accordingly and make your gear count!

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On Location - Chasing the sun by Christian Webb

Janine LeishearHad a blast shooting at one of my favorite outdoor locations in the city.   We were down on the cobblestone streets of the meat packing district -Gansevoort St.  Great time, great people and an awesome crew.   Call time for the shoot was 11am for the first model and then the rest were arriving at 3pm!  Yikes!  I was trying to get everyone on location by 7am!  Got ruled out.   So of course, I had that brutal bright sun high in the sky to deal with.   Fortunately,  most of the day was spent in the shaded section of the street.  We were finishing up a few shots of Janine and I realized it was getting late and the sun was now at that lovely point in the sky,  setting in the west, casting a beautiful glow as it made it's way out.  Looking west down Gansevoort St,  the light was shooting right up the block and looked awesome.   I wanted to get Janine over there asap and do some shots.   My photo assistant Dave Mack began to break down gear and Janine went to change outfits.   We headed down street which quickly narrowed and was flanked by construction of all kinds on either side.  Watching the light, I yelled out for Janine to quickly get in the middle of street.  I did a quick test shot exposing for the ambient light and then had Dave get ready with a Nikon SB-800 to light Janine from front.  The first test shot (above) had me amped!  It was EXACTLY what I wanted- That gorgeous, golden rim light with her blonde hair.  As we're just about ready to get into it an fire off with the flash,  a car comes down the street and we all move out of the way.  We get ready to shoot again and another car comes.  Then another.  Within seconds it seems,  I lose the sun!  Huge clouds completely take away my light.   Bummer.   We waited a bit, thinking the sun would return but no such luck.  Lost it.  If only we had moved west sooner.  All good!  I loved this shot immediately,  even without Janine being lit from the front.   Below, is a shot when we lost the sun/rim light and just have the flash.  Not bad, but really wish we didn't lose that sun!    We've got a another shoot with Janine soon on the beach.   Will have plenty of use of that setting sun and golden hour of light. Janine Leishear-Christian Webb

Model: Janine Leishear

Fashion Week - AI of NYC by Christian Webb

 

Fashion Week 2013-Christian Webb PhotoWhen I blogged about runway/Fashion Week photography yesterday,  I only did so because of a conversation I had with someone asking me if I was going to shooting any shows.   I didn't have plans to.    The subject being on my mind though,  I figured I'd write a post about it.  I had NO intention of actually shooting that very evening.   A friend was scheduled to do some interviews with a few emerging designers.  I dropped her off at Lincoln Center and headed off to go get haircut.   Traffic was pretty crappy so,  I decided to head back to Lincoln Center and wait for her to be finished.    After parking the car,  I thought I'd just hang out doing....whatever.   Instead,  I soon found myself, camera in hand, credentials hanging from my neck being escorted backstage and mingling in the mix of madness that is...Fashion Week.   Was pretty cool for the most part.   I ended up with a decent, reserved spot in the press bleachers.   When I first got there,  there maybe 4-5 other photographers setting up.  That changed within about 20 minutes and suddenly it was like being in a packed nightclub.   Cool people.   Great bunch of shooters.   Great show.   All in all,  great time.    Gear wise I shot my d800 with 70-200 2.8 vrII and that was it.  Didn't have my monopod or 24-70 but everything was fine.    We've got a bunch of other shows to attend over the next few days.  I always have my camera, but I doubt I'll be shooting another.  But hey....you never know.     All the best to you!

Fashion Week-2013-Christian Webb Photo

Location:   Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Lincoln Center

Designers: Diana Isabel Sanchez Sacotto   Haley Hysong  Ian Jai Par     Isaiah Issac    Josimar Torres   Michael Doyle  Qutishia Lee     Luz Ortiz

Fashion Week-Photography by Christian Webb

New York (6) So, New York Fashion Week is upon the city.  The streets are filled with models!  Paradise!  Or, a MESS!  A whole lot of fashion events/parties and miscellaneous soirees will keep the city buzzin' for the week.   While I'm not huge fan of all things fashion, I guess I can appreciate the energy that comes along with it all.  As a photographer,  I suppose there's are tons of opportunities to shoot a lot of random, interesting and beautiful people.   I have been invited to a few shows/events.   I haven't decided if I'll strictly be a spectator or if I'll do the press thing and lug my camera with me.  I have a shoot on Saturday and will more than likely be preoccupied with that for next few days.

I had the opportunity to shoot a few shows about 2 years ago.   Was my first time and I can say,  quite the learning experience.    First thing I learned is that IT"S A MADD HOUSE!  Runway shows are loaded with photographers all jockeying for position and it gets BRUTAL!  Not to mention the random other people waving their smartphones and tablets to take shots as well.   So,  I figured I'd share some of my quick tips for anyone else planning to enter the madness with their cameras.    1.) Whatever show(s) you're invited to or plan to sneak into,  get there EARLY and stake out your spot.  Preferably,  at the end of the runway to capture the models as they come down and toward you.  2.) Bring a monopod so as to steady your camera and rest a bit when not shooting.  3.) DO NOT use FLASH!  Most of the photographers at the bigger, more prestigious shows know this.  It's the smaller shows or less organized shows that may present a problem.   Guys wanting to whip out their gear and attach speedlights with dozens of different diffusers and such.  Problem is,  all of those flashes going off around one another RUINS shots.  So, skip the flash.  This means you'll need to shoot at pretty high ISO  like 1200 +.  If you're shooting with the higher end dslrs (Nikon d800, Canon 5dMKIII etc. ) this really is not an issue.  Clean images can still be had at ridiculously high ranges.  4.) Lenses- I'd go with a 70-200 allowing you to zoom far down the runway and a 24-70 for some wider, close up shots.  Having two cameras would obviously be great.   As for settings, beside the high ISO,  a fast shutter speed to capture the models in motion would be best.   As for f stops,  aperture settings wide as 2.8 up to 5.6 should be  be fine . Or, go with shutter priority and let the camera set the aperture.    5.)  Batteries and memory cards!  I guess this is relative to how much time you plan on spending at a show and how much you want to shoot. But either way,  one can never have too many spare batteries and memory cards.  Finally,  and probably most important,  I'd say have fun and just be mindful and respectful of your fellow photographers and videographers.  Watch where you're standing, be mindful of the people around you and try not to get in the way of their shots.    If you have any other advice for myself or others who may be planning to enter the wild, feel free to leave comments below.  All the BEST to you all!  -- CW

Photo:

S.E.O and Your Photography Business by Christian Webb

seo Sometimes,  people get excited by the idea of putting up a web site.  They get a name, start to get things together and eventually (hopefully), get their site up and think that's it.   Done right?  "I'm now official and in business."   Well,  there's more to it than that.  I want to take the time to talk about some of the business side of things and what I've been learning.  Specifically, when it comes to my website, this blog, social media and SEO (Search Engine Optimization).  When I first decided to get a website,  I took the time to do some research, figure out what type of site I wanted/needed.  After getting advice from an already established photographer friend,  I went with Livebooks.  Using Livebooks I was able to build, design and tweak my page before publishing it and having it "go live." Once the site was up and live,  I managed it accordingly,  adding new content when I had it and tweaking as I went along.  Eventually,  I realized I should probably have a separate Facebook page specifically for my photography business.  So, I went through the steps and got the FB page.  At some point, I knew I wanted a blog.  I had previous blog experience so this wasn't too much of a new venture however,  I was using WordPress for the first time and doing most of the work myself.  Oh, and did I mention Twitter?  Well, I figured I should probably have a separate Twitter account as well.  Now I had 4 sites to deal with. (there's always  flickr, Tumblr and Pinterest to add as well! But not now! )   My website pretty much was my main concern as I pay $39 month for it.  (Pretty reasonable and great hosting by the way).   I figured, well,  as long as the site is up and people can come to it, that's all that counts.  In the meantime,  I completely neglected the FB, Twitter and the blog.  Until recently that is.   I wanted to stay on top of things and get things going.  But first,  I started looking at things from a more analytical perspective, wondering;  How much traffic am I getting if any? How do I get subscribers? How do I get followers? Is anyone seeing any of this?  The hard reality was,  NO!  Immediately I was determined to figure out how to change that.  Besides actually adding new content and posting more regularly,  I knew it was really about SEO but didn't know the details of how to handle it.  I kind of figured it was all handled somehow by Livebooks or the my Worpress hosting company.  Not the case.  I  Googled everything I could about SEO and set my mind to learning what I needed to learn in order to get my sites fine tuned and working to my advantage.  The amount of information is overwhelming and all the tweaking that has to be done to maximize your site(s) can drive you crazy!  Google Analytics,  AdSense, meta tags, title tags, adding the right tags to the photos you upload, backlinking and Google WebMaster Tools.  CRAZY!!   Fortunately,  I had some help from a great customer support resource at Livebooks.  He walked me through some critical steps I needed to perform in order to get my main site optimized.  In turn, I used that info to go ahead and optimize my blog site.  A major help to me is the All In One SEO pack plugin which really helps to manage many of the SEO tweaks needed.    It's all coming together and hopefully soon, I'll notice the changes.  So all that out of the way,  I still had to make  sure that all sites were connected and optimized for mobile devices (iphone/Android phones and tablets).  Yet ANOTHER task to be taken on!  Well,  again, I did some research, got some help and got it all figured out.  Well,  most of it.  In closing,  just wanted to share all of this because I know a lot of others looking to put up sites either personal or business who may need to look into getting the most of their efforts by paying attention to SEO.    Even more so if it's all about business.    Getting your domain name, hosting and getting a site up and actually "live" is JUST the tip of the iceberg!  Getting it verified, noticed and keeping traffic flowing is the rest.  Hopefully I've helped out anyone who may have been neglecting SEO as well.   And, if anyone has even further tips and tricks they'd like to share with me,  feel free to comment below.

 

Photography rewards by Christian Webb

Couples photography-Christian Webb PhotoOne of the pleasures of NY is the ability to just bump into and get to know random people. This couple strolled by me and a friend as I was taking a few photos. The woman asked if we wanted her to shoot a pic for us.  My firend jumped at the offer as I'm rarely actually IN photos with everyone. So, handing her my camera (after a quick tutorial on back button focusing) she snapped away and got a few shots of me and friend. I quickly wanted to return the favor as they were such a lovely and attractive couple. We exchanged info and I'll be sending them this shot. All the joy spending the day with my cool people was made even better just by connecting....with complete strangers and giving one another a little something.   And guess what?  Shortly after,  it happened AGAIN!  Another lovely couple approached us and offered to shoot a quick shot for us.  They were maddd cool next thing I knew,  the guy was snapping away and then it was their turn.  Above is the first couple and below is the second.   Truly a rewarding afternoon.

Couples photography - Christian Webb Photo- NY