The other day, I got a referral from a friend, Leslie Liberatore, to shoot a headshot for Jackie Jensen, the founder and COO of Ticketcake, an online event management system. Initially, I was thinking I’d decline as schedules have been insanely tight the last couple of weeks heading into the holidays with manuscript reviews, manuscript submissions and travel for collaborations coming up, blah, blah, blah. But two things made me reconsider. 1) One of my New Years Resolutions for 2012 was to say yes to more things, which has led to an insanely busy year with awards, lots of fun and great science, some exciting collaborations and new potential prospects with a close group of friends that I am pretty excited about. And 2) Photography has evolved into a way for me to expand my awareness of things outside of our own little focus in science. Science has a way of taking you down the rabbit hole into very specific and tightly focused knowledge. Yet, there is a whole world out there with some really interesting folks that possess incredibly specific domain knowledge. Saying yes to various photography opportunities has introduced me to explosive ordinance specialists that are amazing artisans, taken me into the depths of the ocean on nuclear submarines, on embeds with the 3rd SFG, gotten up close and personal with air combat and served as a way to bond with colleagues and friends, not to mention documenting good times with friends, family and the flow of knowledge in the science that binds those that I seem to spend the most time with. The other really dramatic benefit that photography has had for me has been keeping me fresh with the science so that I am excited to keep coming back into the lab, even on weeks where the writing is slow or the experiments are not working. Because of this, the thought that photography has been a great blessing to me has been rolling around in my head for a little bit, so I said yes.
Jackie related that she needed the headshots for an upcoming TEDx talk, so I told her that I already had my gear with me because of another shoot I was doing up at the U and if she could meet me up in my office, we could carve out 30 minutes or so to shoot some headshots. Saying yes to these sorts of things has a way of opening up a whole lot of other things to think about… Things that because you get to know the subjects you photograph, there is some insight into what and how they do what they do. While Jackie sat for a number of photographs, I got to know her and her company, Ticketcake and the process they are going through with standing up a company. Its pretty exciting seeing people passionate about starting a new company and meeting a need that has gone unmet or not adequately served.
This of course, like other things seems to dovetail with other things that are going on in my life and I was able to pick Jackie’s brain on some of the process on how they have set up her company, organized funding and have been moving forward.
Enough with the introspection and on to the photographic techniques… This photo shoot was not nearly as challenging as the one with Guido, but I still took a Strobist approach because its fast, easy and delivers nice results. Sitting in on the Flash Bus Tour last year with David Hobby and Joe McNally was an absolute revolution in my understanding of how to easily and quickly manage light in a portrait type session. Previously, one had to have a pickup truck full of lighting gear with power packs, reflectors and assorted accoutrements and the amount of planning required was tremendous. Yet David Hobby has revolutionized this segment of photography by teaching people to use standard camera flashes in new ways and focusing on the fundamentals of how to “see” light rather than focusing on the gear and this has made all the difference to me.
The above three shots were made in the afternoon with the sun coming into large floor to ceiling windows. Always use what you got is one of Hobby’s mantras, so using the sun as a hair highlight while providing even light with two diffused off camera flashes behind me was the design for these. I always like natural looking lighting for portraits and anytime you can use the sun to your advantage, its a good day.
This shot was turned around with the sun behind us and the flashes pumped up a couple of stops to give that Glamour magazine style image that was so popular a few years ago. Even though its an unnatural form of light for a portrait, It still works I think for headshots of a certain flavor.
The last three shots below were more traditional shots that could be more professional head-shots for corporate use. They were shot in my office with the lights down low to allow for the pupil to increase in size. People naturally tend to like this look and throughout history have done crazy things to get this look like put atropine in their eyes (what we give patients to dilate the pupil and allow for eye exams). I prefer to darken the lights and then dial down the flash some to get the desired lighting. The danger is that your shutter speeds are a bit slower, though modern cameras have really nice noise performance at higher ISOs.