Headshots and Portraits

This past week has been busy with a head shot photo shoot for a young actor in San Diego, Jarret Addleman. He can be seen through the end of the month performing 'The Liar' at Scripps Ranch Theatre San Diego. A one hour photo shoot using my 55- 200mm f/5.4 Shooting time around 1:00 pm means a high sun and it's essential to find a shady spot to soften the light. For some of the images I use my flash through an umbrella to fill some more light you can see in the image below.

Jarret Addleman Actor Head Shot

As the week came to a close I found myself landing a surprise photo shoot for The Home Depot, Lake Elsinore Store 8988. The managers were looking for a professional portrait representing the store and their company in the best light. I shot them all in the Outside Garden Department. I think they were pleasantly surprised how unobtrusive and quickly I work and get great images without hindering their day. 

The Home Depot ASM Store 8988

'What is the difference between a head shot and a professional business portrait?' To me it's exhibition and purpose. The purpose of a head shot is simply to provide a casting director with an image of the subject from which to judge the appearance an actor has. In my opinion and experience in casting, it's best to be honest. The photo needs to be slightly expressive, not in acting prowess but in personality. 'Is this someone I can work with for a long period of time?' The superficial placing a face into an archetype is subjective and while it may be unfair to judge an actors range simply on their face, a good head shot should help a casting director create a vision of the actor in the role.

To accomplish this I like to reference The Kuleshov Effect: Kuleshov edited together a short film in which a shot of the expressionless face of Tsarist matinee idol Ivan Mosjoukine was alternated with various other shots (a plate of soup, a girl in a coffin, a woman on a divan). The film was shown to an audience who believed that the expression on Mosjoukine's face was different each time he appeared, depending on whether he was "looking at" the plate of soup, the girl in the coffin, or the woman on the divan, showing an expression of hunger, grief or desire, respectively. The footage of Mosjoukine was actually the same shot each time.

To me the best head shot is one of ambiguous emotion so the casting director can place them in any role.

A Professional business portrait should be highly expressive. The personality and energy should shine through sending a message that they love their job. Images like the one above is much more processed than the actor head shot. This is because unlike the actor head shot this is about representing a company as well as a person. If it had been a personal portrait I wouldn't have retouched and given her that magazine photo look. On the other hand I think my edit was lighter than what many professional magazine re-touchers would have done. I chose a middle ground that I feel resulted in an image that the subject can be comfortable with and sends a message of professionalism to customers.


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