A couple of weeks ago I had a call from Debra Jonckers to ask me if I would take some head shots of both Maarten (Mr Jonckers) and her. Without hesitation the answer was "Yes": Local businesses sticking together is something I truly believe in. If you're local to Maidenhead (Berkshire, UK) then you may very well know of Debra, or at least of Birth Matters. If not check them out - http://www.our-birthmatters.net/profiles/debra.aspx
Aishah and I attended Debra's Birth Matters Antenatel Classes in late 2011, when Aishah was pregnant with Zahra. We wanted something different to NCT, something more local and to meet a group of like-mined parents-to-be. I found Debra to have a wealth of knowledge on all topics. Perhaps having 4 children of her own and teaching hundred's of couples every year suggests that Debra is very qualified.
Anyway, the head shots: Debra explained that she was after something for her new website and that Maarten - who runs his own business as a Head Hunter - wanted something for LinkedIn. So, something 'business-casual' for Debra and something more 'business' for Maarten. "We can do that, it'll be good fun" I said.
I arrived at Debra's house mid-afternoon and started to set up in the living room, the very same room where we had many of our Birth Matter's antenatal sessions...in fact, the back drop was positioned in the same place I had practised child CPR on a toddler-sized manikin when taking one of Debra's first aid courses! (you can never be too prepared as a parent!).
Debra stepped up first and we went through the same routine I always go through when shooting head shots:
The Way I Shoot Headshots
I have my camera settings dialled in, the lights are set and I know exactly what I need to do. Typically I'm on about ISO 400, Aperture between f2.8 - f4.0 with my shutter speed being whatever is remaining (usually upwards of 1/120). With head shot work you don't even need the shutter speed to be anything fast, so long as it's above 1/60 or 1/80th it's fine. Your model won't be moving that much! I was shooting with the Canon 24-70L f2.8 USM (Mk 1).
At this point all I'm focussed on is getting the model relaxed and to have some fun - to get a genuine smile going. I shoot tethered to the laptop so that the images come straight out of the camera and onto the screen. I keep the iPad to hand on which I have a selection of sample shots to refer to on occassion. To begin with I usually shoot about 15 - 20 shots and use the first batch to show my model what they should not do and what they can improve on. Typically the first batch are thrown away because the eyes aren't following the mouth's smile or the eyes are completely shut because they're laughing so much. The key is shoot at the tail-end of the laugh, when it's settling down. So in the first 15 shots we look at the smile. In the next 15 or so images I then get them to pay attention to their shoulders, then, the next 15 images after that we work the neck & jaw position. Combining the things we had just been practising over the past 50+ shots (smile & eyes, shoulders, jaw & neck) usually means we end up with a few good shots to take home at the end of it all.
Debra's first 30-or-so were actually quite good. I always try to find a common ground with whomever I'm photographing so that I can get some natural laughter from them. With Debra this was actually quite easy, not least because Debra is a naturally smily person, but because I'd met Debra before and I know a little bit about her. Our common ground was going to be children, babies and a few anecdotes about my first 12 months of being a Dad!
After working on the shoulder positioning and showing Debra what I wanted to achieve with her neck and jaw Debra got back in front of the camera and just switched it on like Kate Moss, like a model with attitude. I think Debra actually enjoyed being a bit of a Diva for the camera :) Here's what we ended up with for Debra (click to enlarge):
As with all headshots I do - I make a few adjustments in Photoshop to make the image 'pop' just that little bit more.
So, that was easy. We went through and rated a few of Debra's other favourites just to be sure there wasn't another image she preferred more, but, this was the chosen image for the day. I usually leave my clients with all of the images they love. I try not to leave behind any 'maybe' images. Just the best ones. I don't limit the number of images my client choose to take home.
Next up was Maarten.
The first time I met Maarten was on the day of the shoot. When the antenatal group used to meet at Debra's house for classes Debra would evict her entire family to other area's of the house! Debra is fortunate enough to have a beautiful, inviting home with plenty of space. In our antenatal group there were 7 couples meaning there were often 15 people in a class at one time (including Debra). This is one of the reasons I wanted to set up the studio in Debra's living room - there was ample space to work in.
Just as Debra and I had finished going through her favourite images from her session Maarten came in to see how we were getting on. It was clear from the word go that he was a decisive Man. He joined in looking through Debra's images and was giving his thoughts. Whereas Debra would "Ummmm" & "Eeerm" about pictures and seek a second opinion when we were scrolling through, Maarten was more "Yes. No. Not that one. Yes. Keep it. Delete. Yes" with each picture we looked at...instant feedback, without hesitation. That was my common ground with Maarten right there - I'm decisive and Aishah is far from it. So married life and children were things that seemed to make Maarten smile the most.
As good as Debra was at taking direction and getting pleasing shots right off the bat, Maarten knew exactly what he wanted even more so. I started to follow the same routine I had with Debra minutes before; I shot around 10 exposures, explained my techniques for jaws & shoulders, showed Maarten one previous shot on the iPad and Maarten turned into a model too! I was sure that Maarten had done this before. Each time the shutter clicked Maarten would adjust his pose slightly. I was getting good natural laughs with ease. It couldn't have been 5 minutes after we'd started that Maarten was looking through the next batch that he'd picked out around 10 images or so that he'd liked and was done! This was Maarten's final choice of image:
We cropped a little differently for Maarten as this image was to be used as a profile picture for LinkeIn and the profile images on LinkedIn are more central aligned. Again, a little polishing in Photoshop and we were done. Maarten went ahead and posted the image to LinkeIn before I'd even began packing away my gear!
Here's a couple of Maarten that Debra picked out, but Maarten said wasn't business enough:
Overall it was a fun Sunday afternoon. It was great to catch up with another small business owner and exchange Idea's. it was also great that both Maarten and Debra were so easy going in front of the camera. Debra sent me a message later that evening to say:
So, please be sure to Like Debra on Facebook. If you're having a baby and thinking of antenatal classes then definitely get in touch with Debra and go along for a free taster session. I would personally, highly recommend it to you!
If you're looking for a head shot for your website, for LinkedIn or for anything at all please do get in touch. I'll be adding a page to my website soon. A headshot session starts from £75. There are no time limits and no limits to the number of images you can take home.