Why headshots?

After a marathon run of shoots – well, marathon for this part-time-shooter – I realised my clients were asking the same questions and I was telling the same story a lot.  So yeah – why IS a full time opera-singer and voice teacher taking so many pictures?

First and most important answer: it’s really, really FUN!! I’ve always loved taking pictures; this just took it to a different level.  In some ways it’s just like singing (I’m convinced it uses the same part of my brain!)  but in many  other ways it’s completely different; I LOVE being able to explore another kind of artistry, and I truly believe that being a musician helps me take better photos just as exploring a visual art makes me a better-rounded musician.

Why headshots?  That  pretty much grows out of my own first headshot experience ….

Right before I headed off to conservatory, a kind and generous family friend arranged for Big Name Hollywood Photographer to take some headshots for me (said family friend worked in the film industry, and it was his gift to me).  The studio was a lavish Cubist mansion in the Hollywood Hills with a 5-car circular driveway, pool,  gleaming hardwood floors and chrome fittings everywhere, and I was being squeezed in at 7am before a Vanity Fair magazine shoot of a Very Famous Actress. Stylists, production assistants and agents were everywhere; to say the least, it was intimidating.

While the photographer and his delightful makeup artist were perfectly pleasant and professional, my 23 year old self was COMPLETELY overwhelmed by the entire experience.   I had no idea what to do and the (excellent and well-respected) photographer was used to established Hollywood stars rather than a clueless, nervous opera student with no camera experience, so didn’t give me much direction at all. The resulting photograph was technically beautiful and highly flattering (and I admit I used it for a while), but I didn’t feel like it was anything at all to do with ME – I didn’t recognize myself in look or expression. In other words, a great Hollywood photo… but a pretty unsuccessful headshot.

I’ve thought about that experience many times in the mumblecough years since then but never seriously considered it as something I would do myself.  Frankly,  I never had time to do more than give a passing thought to developing my own photo skills so it never got past the “thinking” stage.  But time was something I suddenly had waayyy too much of on my hands in 2009 when my personal operatic world imploded as the economy collapsed:  like so many other Operaland friends and colleagues, I lost nearly an entire season due to company cancellations that year.  I knew I had to do something to keep myself busy and artistically fulfilled and decided that since I had an open calendar (!) for the first time in many, many years, I would use the time to develop my photographic skills. I took some classes at the college where I teach. I volunteered to shoot for my good friends at Baltimore Concert Opera,  I gobbled up everything online that I could to build technical skills, I tortured my long-suffering family to act as subjects…

And, as so often happens, one thing led to another and here I am… shooting a lot of headshots.    I do it because I really enjoy it, and I try and give clients the kinds of experiences I wish I’d had on the “other” side of the camera; I never want anybody to leave a session feeling like I did that first time!   For so many performers headshots is a necessary chore rather than something to enjoy, and I don’t think it has to feel like that; I prefer to think of it as a couple of hours of laughter and creative energy that just happens to also result in some great pictures!  I truly hope my clients have as much fun with a session as I do. 🙂

PS  Next post: lots  of pictures…………. redheads galore!


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