Monday, September 2, 2013

The Importance of Having a Current Head Shot

©Douglas Nelson Photography 2013

This holiday weekend I put my husband to work taking new photos of me for self promotion, so much for his Labor Day! I have been asked to give a workshop with Art is You in Petaluma, CA next summer and they requested a current head shot in addition to my artist statement and bio last week. Let me preface all of these lovely Douglas Nelson Photography photos by telling you that I really do NOT like having my photo taken. It takes me a good 25 photos to loosen up and not look like I am in pain. Just sayin'. Thank goodness for digital photography.

©Douglas Nelson Photography 2009

The photo above was the first time we shot me in front of my art, a peacock on an easel in our living room. I put the hat on because I was having a bad hair day, and it turned out to be a very good look. My husband had a small window of time he could work on the photo and I took advantage of it, bad hair or not. I even forgot to put earrings in I was moving so fast!

I have taken my head shot in a number of different settings over the years but my favorite remains to be either outside with blurred greenery behind me or in front of my own artwork with blurred color fields behind me. The colors from my work really help to make for a beautiful back drop as well as say something about the vibrancy of my work. My husband has a lens with an extremely wide aperture that offers a very shallow depth of field, this is what blurs the background. The art is just back there for color, I don't want it to be in focus and competing with me and my sometimes painful expression! ouch 

Always Be Prepared - Like Any Good Girl Scout

In the last six months I've had to submit my headshot for an art exhibit I'm judging at the Art Gallery of Viera as well as for the Seminole County Employees Art Contest which I judged last month. I was very glad to be able to hit reply and attach my head shot within the same day of the request. People love dealing with someone who can get back to them with the materials they request in a timely manner. I would not have been able to be the featured columnist for the ARTzine if I did not have a head shot on hand the day the director contacted me. Be a good Girl Scout, be prepared at all times.

©Douglas Nelson Photography 2012
Original image and post processed image by Douglas Nelson

My column on mixed media, along with my headshot. Submitted within a week of being requested. You snooze you loose, I was prepared with my head shot on my computer. 

Last year when the Sedona Art Center was putting together their course catalogue, they asked me to write a sidebar column and submit a head shot. They had to have the files within the week to meet their publishing deadline. Lucky for me I had my photo on hand and ready to email to them, the writing was the easy part. If you were not married to a photographer who loves your cooking and appreciates you on oh so many levels..., you would be looking at a turnaround time of a week on your digital photo after the shots are taken and then up to another week for any post production effects that the photographer might use to enhance the image you chose. And who knows how long it might take for you to get on their schedule in the first place. You can see why this would not have worked when the director of the art center said to me "Can I have this from you by Friday?"

Is That Really You?

©Douglas Nelson Photography 2007
In this shot I look a lot younger (only slightly in pain) I could keep using it, but it would be kind of a cheat, don't you think?

I always have a current head shot on my computer in a high- and low-rez version for submission at a moment's notice. This is a good idea, and you should be proactive with your head shot rather than reactive, which means rushing to figure out how to have a head shot taken when you are asked to submit. Current to me means within the last six months. We have all been to art exhibits and seen artists bios on the wall and said "Wow, that photo looks at least ten years old!" I mean let's face it, you and I both looked a lot younger ten years ago, but that's no reason to hold on to that head shot and to keep using it.  This shot above was on marketing materials for the now defunct Katherine Butler Gallery in Sarasota, FL circa 2007.

Out With The Old, In With The New

©Douglas Nelson Photography 2013
This head shot was current up until a couple of months ago.

Why did I have to shoot this weekend rather than take my own advice? I changed my hair, drastically. As you can see from the above photo, I cut my hair off and went blonde. I could not really send this photo to the folks at Petaluma, so it was time to update my head shot, even though it has been less that six months.

©Douglas Nelson Photography 2013
Even this image is now outdated as I went even shorter with my hair, but I think I could still squeak by with it in a pinch. 

The above studio of me working is a nice one for editorial purposes. It shows my medium, and my studio space, it's colorful and fun and can be used for a variety of purposes. Again though, if your look has changed, your studio shot needs to change to, you have to be current at all times. 

Customized Images Beyond Your Head

©Douglas Nelson Photography 2012
Shot for Lake Mary Life magazine, showing what I do by surrounding me with my collage paper

Last summer I received a call from Lake Mary Life magazine and they editor said, "We'd love to do an article on you this month, do you have photos of yourself we can use for the layout?" This is more than a head shot, this is images that show what I do and can tell a story. Often times people ask for images of me working in my studio. If you can swing it, images of you working in your studio are great to have on hand as well. You might be able to get a photographer to come to you and shoot your head shot and studio shot in one day. 

©Douglas Nelson Photography 2013
This image was shot in the studio on a white back drop and effects were applied in Photoshop by Douglas Nelson specifically for a magazine article 

This June I traveled to Western Upstate NY to teach a class and compete in a triathlon, the local paper wrote an article about me and asked me to submit a photo they could use. I was going to send a head shot but my husband really wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to present them with a true true editorial photo. The Chronical Express ran the photo with their article and it really was great! Once you establish a relationship with a photographer, you should bounce ideas off them for future photos that might tell your story or explain what you do more than just a head shot.

Putting your Best Foot Forward

You'll notice that all of these images are three-quarter view, shot from the same side. I never take a photo head on, I always insist on using my good side. If you know there is an angle that is most flattering for you, don't be afraid to tell the photographer you are working with. Nobody knows you better than you, so speak up and ask the photographer to try getting on a ladder and shooting from above or shooting you from your good side, we all have our own quirks. When you are paying for the photo session and the images you want to be sure you come out with something you are happy and confident to submit to those requests for publishing.

©Douglas Nelson Photography 2013

The Price of Being Fashionable

When you think about cutting all your hair off you have to remember that you're going to need another new photo, this gets expensive. I liken it to getting a new prescription in your glasses an then having to change lenses in all the six pairs you bought just so you could be über fashionable. It gets expensive, über expensive... so make the most of your photo session and your photographer.

Typically head shots are vertical in nature, make sure to ask your photographer to shoot some horizontal images of you for your Facebook masthead. Social media is of the utmost importance to artists and anyone trying to market their product. You can use your head shot for Facebook, Google, Blogger, Twitter, etc. Don't forget to keep them current too, once you receive your new image, be sure to go in and update your online photo presence. The above photo was part of my head shot photo session and is now my current Facebook masthead image.

Thank You, Thank You!

Many thanks to Douglas Nelson Photography for his patience and ability to take photos of me at my beck and call. He's a saint to put up with my good side and edit out 400 photos with ouch! painful expressions. If you're looking for a good headshot, look him up in the Orlando, FL area. 

thank you for being a part of my 
Art Journey, 


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  2. Thanks for sharing! Loved seeing your progression of headshots and thought process. I too have to put my hubs to the task of capturing my spirit on film... He's not a photographer (that's my hobby) - but he does eventually catch it once I hand over the camera.

  3. Susan, any time you've got someone who can help you out for free that's a big deal. Since you know the technical aspect of photography and can help your husband to capture a good shot, you can work together as a team to provide yourself a professional image that you can have on hand, ready when you need it!

  4. Hello Elizabeth,
    How awesome to have such a talented hubby! Your new photos look great. I love reading your blog and newsletter. I'm so glad I was also able to take your class in Traverse City in August. I am having a blast trying to find my way with paper collage. My next project will be the scene from a steel foundry. Your class really inspired me. Thanks for that. Your work is such an inspiration and you are such a fantastic Artist and Art teacher. Thanks for sharing your talents with us!

    Kindest regards,
    Susan Libertiny

  5. Susan, we had such a good time in TC didn't we? I will be back next summer in June. I love swimming in lake Michigan. YES! I am lucky to have a hubby who can make me look fantastic. LOL Thank you for letting me know that I have inspired you, that is really important to me and I love to hear it. THank you !!

  6. What a good article, Elizabeth. I love all the glamour girl shots which certainly capture your essence as an artist and a powerful woman. Your hubby deserves lots of hugs.

  7. Thank you Jo and good to hear from you again. I hope all is well. :) He sure does deserve those hugs!


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