Shooting A Don by Christian Webb

If you're a Brooklynite or someone who at least keeps up with the Caribbean dancehall and Reggae music scene, you no doubt know the name DJ Ron Don.  For the last 25 years, Ron Don has been a staple in the music scene dj'in numerous parties across the globe and putting out probably THOUSANDS of "mix tape" cds and party mixes.  So, having the opportunity to photograph him for some recent promotional materials meant having to capture Ron Don as the only way I could imagine - Capture him as...a Don! 

The location was a lounge in Canarsie called Trendz.  I had zero opportunity for pre location scouting and the only available images to give me a sense of the place were from their Facebook page which didn't give me too much.  So, we hit Brooklyn on a cold NY Sunday and just figured we'd wing it as best we could.  Had 2 hours in the place and had to work quick. 

1 Profoto head via octa for key and a Profoto Ringflash for some fill.  

The lounge wasn't too big of a space to work in but there was enough room for me to try and get the shot I needed.  The walls were all white, stucco and had a few round mirrors hanging.   For furniture, there was a bunch of faux leather red chairs and two seater love seats.  The tables were painted black wooden boxes with some dark tile of some sort for tops.    

That plain wall and all back there just didn't work. 

What was I going to do with those empty walls?  There were of course a bunch of large speakers sitting around.  My first thought was to create a wall of speakers right behind one of the 2 seater chairs and sort of surround Ron with the speakers.  Figured that would be great but as the speaker count wasn't what I thought, we couldn't get get it to look uniform enough for it to work.  So, I scrapped that idea and instead, figured....."hmmm...perhaps I can make a wall of tile using the tops of those box tables!?"  Okay, let's try that.  Dave and the other dude from Trendz who was helping us out gathered every table there and arranged them as I wanted behind Ron. Wasn't as easy as we thought but we ended up with something that may in fact not be too bad. 

Needed more tables to fill in those blank spots to the left and right there. 

D. Mack on the metering. (still haven't figured out why he holds a meter that way!) 

Got down to business and started shooting.  Few adjustments here and there wth Ron and we were jamming.   

And the image we decided to go with.  

But really though, gotta be all about them socks!! 

The Digital Don

And here's the natural light portrait shot I got before leaving. 

Was a good day overall. Ended up getting pretty much exactly what I wanted to get.  We did do some work on white seamless but I decided to scrap that stuff for now as the main shot nails it.  Got out of there and hit my old neighborhood of Ft. Greene for some seriously needed food!  Many thanks and shout outs to my assistant David Mack for the hard work and the bts shots.  Had him moving mad furniture around in addition to the photo stuff.  

Christian Webb - DJ Ron Don

Mastering The Headshot - Teaching a Workshop by Christian Webb

   Setting up for the day.

   Setting up for the day.

When Chris Smith of Global Photo Adventures sent me an email asking if I'd like to host a workshop on Mastering The Headshot,  I thought "Me? You sure you've got the right guy?"  While I'm pretty confident in my work, I never thought to put on a workshop of my own and never suspected anyone would actually invite me to do so.  It seems that everyone with a camera these days is hosting a workshop.  I really didn't want to be in that crowd as again, I figured "who am I?" and just figured I was happy doing what I was doing.   Chris assured me that I was the right guy.  He had been following my work and belongs to some of the same photography groups I belong to and apparently,  noticed people following and liking my work as well.  So,  all of that out of the way and with Chris taking the helm as far as setting it all up,  I whole heartedly agreed and when the time came,  I found myself in Atlanta all set to teach people what I do when it comes to headshots. 

After arriving in ATL and dropping off most of my gear at the hotel,  Chris and I headed over to the location where the workshop would take place,  Photoplex Studios.  There we me the studio owner Mike Noa who gave us a tour and spent some time discussing the studio and some of his experiences in business as well as photography related matters in Atlanta.  Photoplex is an amazing and pretty large space with multiple studios for shooting and every amenity imaginable.  While we loved the studio,  much of what I would be teaching would be location shooting.  So, Chris and I headed outside and scouted a few locations that would serve as great backgrounds. (this in itself was one of the main lessons to be taught in the days to come.)  

DAY 1:


Finally got to meet the folks who actually signed up and committed to spending 3 days with me.   All incredibly cool, gifted and really passionate people which made my job that much easier.  We started with basic introductions and I bored them with my brief bio and a random Power Point slideshow I had put together. ( just figured, hey, I need something like that for a workshop yeah?).  Before long we got down to business and we all headed outside where everyone worked on finding their backgrounds and setting up gear.  We were fortunate to have an actress, Nicolette Goetz,  sent over from local talent agency, Aligned Stars. After some instruction on gear set up and getting things dialed in with set ups,  I spent time coaching a bit more on technical adjustments and then, most important....working with the talent and coaching.  Within a short amount of time and after discussing some random tricks here and there,  everyone seemed to be well on their way and it ended up being a great first day.

DAY 2:

   A student working my camera for a few shots. (Gotta choke up on that lens!) 

   A student working my camera for a few shots. (Gotta choke up on that lens!) 

We spent some time discussing some business aspects of headshot photography and were even joined by Aligned Stars agents Patrick and Andrea who discussed headshots from an agency perspective.  Again, we were fortunate to have two of their actors join us as models for the day - Brandon Tewalt and Cashmere Bonton.  Both were great to work with and had natural presence in front of the camera.  After shooting both in studio and outdoors,  we spent some time going over some of the headshots the students shot.  After some critique and a feedback session,  I did a live edit for everyone to go over the retouching work I do for headshots.   The rest of the day was spent shooting and by this time,  everyone was truly on their game. 

  John working with Brandon in studio. 

  John working with Brandon in studio. 

                                            Brent working with Brandon on location. 

                                            Brent working with Brandon on location. 

  Studio set up. 

  Studio set up. 

DAY 3:

   Pointing out something there on the tethered capture. 

   Pointing out something there on the tethered capture. 

   Cashmere working the smiles and expressions. 

   Cashmere working the smiles and expressions. 

Our final day together started out going over the students "homework" assignment which was having them retouch/ edit their own shots.   After, I spent some time discussing some more business related aspects and marketing approaches.   Finally, we finished out the workshop with everyone shooting and having fun.  Again, we were provided with some great actors from Aligned Stars - Marcus and Erin. 



All in all, after my initial bit of anxiety on how this workshop would play out,  I left feeling incredibly good about the three days and extremely satisfied to know that I was able to help in bringing my students, fellow photographers and new friends to a new point with their work and helped to up their game.  It was an honor and a privilege for me to be there in the first place and I'm truly grateful for the trust given to me to pull this off.  

   With Nicolette. 

   With Nicolette. 

Thanks again to Chris Smith of Global Photo Adventures for making all of this happen.  Many thanks to Mike Noa, Photoplex Studios,  Aligned Stars Talent and their actors as well as special shout out and thanks to  the incredible make up artist we had on hand for the three days Samantha Gunn.  A true talent and simply badazz cool!  

And of course,  a really special shout out and "THANK YOU" to the photographers who gave me the opportunity to work with them:

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:



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



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.