It was early in the afternoon when I arrived at the studio. My client Kiera was early, and I showed her to the studio. Laurie, one of the best and most reliable make-up artists I know, arrived soon after.
“It shouldn’t be this hot.” That’s what I found myself thinking as the two of us stepped into the studio. The hallway had not been as cool as usual, either, but I hoped that maybe the studio would be different. Nope. The air conditioning in the building was not working, and at 24 degrees Celsius, there was not much I could do about it. On Sunday at 1 PM, it was very unlikely that anyone would be around to fix it.
I grabbed my fan and set it as high as I dared – otherwise we’d be taking Glamour shots instead of professional headshots. I introduced Laurie and Kiera and left the two of them alone to prepare for the shoot. Despite the temperature, I could hear them laughing as I adjusted my equipment – ten stands in all, curtains drawn shut and lights in place. In the make-up room, Laurie dabbed away with puffs of powder and added a smooth cosmetic layer to Kiera’s face; after about 45 minutes, her face was primed for the camera.
Once everything was set up, and Kiera’s make-up was finished, I positioned her in front of the background. We talked about a trip she had recently taken around Europe – a point of great excitement for her. Music was on, the small talk was going easy, and it wasn’t long before I was taking test shots.
There’s nothing like a natural smile. The first picture was surprisingly good – the quality was clear, and the positions were perfect; I didn’t need to adjust any of my lights. Good. A few more shots to make sure the lighting was perfect – we were ready.
Then, with Laurie’s help, Kiera and I decided how to place her hair. It was just at the very brink of being too long and heavy to sit properly on her shoulders – delicately, Laurie put it in place. Before long, the lights were running, and I had about ten or twelve photos. All of us looked at the images on an external monitor. They were all very professional-looking, but we still weren’t certain about the hair placement; it looked ‘too perfect’, and we wanted a natural appearance. The quality was so high that the camera picked up a slight mark that wasn’t even visible in person. Add a touch of make-up, another adjustment, and we were back at it. We wanted to get several really great images with the natural look, before adding some more artistic make-up later – I can adjust to what a client is looking for.
“I’m gonna try something a little crazy here. Yes, that’s good, I like it!”
“Can I move my feet?”
“Of course! I don’t want you to be a statue.”
Then we tried some different angles – a shot from one side of her face, a slightly different expression. All of us were very happy with the shots we were getting – I took a few extra before we lost the position and the look. I was reluctant to stop long enough to look at the screen and miss something! Laughing shots, smiling shots, and a few serious expression shots: playing with her chin position gave us new options. After a little while, I didn’t have to give directions anymore.
“Your expressions are awesome already, I’m not even gonna mess with that!”
Finally, a break to look at the results up-close and be picky about which ones were good. Kiera got a chance to give feedback about which shots she preferred, using my computer and the monitor.
“I already marked that one, that’s a great expression. Shoulders are straight, right on with the camera.”
We also had a little luck with the music player – it matched the mood, and helped us stay focused without being a distraction. Of course, we could have stopped at 30 or 40 images, but the idea is to get as many good shots as possible while we are set up. I asked if the heat was getting to anyone, but nobody seemed bothered because of how well things were going; I still missed the air conditioning. Kiera reversed her hair, and tried leaning on her other leg – that changed the way her shoulders sat. More pictures. Laurie was still on hand to make any adjustments to the make-up that might be necessary. Another pause to look.
“They’re all excellent, but I think that’s the one.”
A couple more from that side. By now I was starting to feel the heat, missing my air conditioners, but the girls were fine. Carry on.
“That’s it, awesome.”
It was about the time in the shoot when I usually start to make jokes or say something silly to encourage the client, but Kiera seemed to be really enjoying herself. I’m always surprised at how much body, head and shoulder position affects the headshot; and how many noticeably different pictures you can take of one face.
“Are you thirsty? If you want a drink, we can take a break.”
At this point we had been shooting for almost an hour. I’m always careful to make sure the client is hydrated and happy with how things are going. I showed her one of the pictures I liked.
“What do you think of that smile? Is it natural?”
She laughed. “Yeah, that’s a real one.”
I always ask people about their own expressions. They’re a pretty good judge of whether it looks genuine or not. Thankfully, we had more than enough pictures from each angle for the client to choose favourites. It was time to try a different shirt – I gave her some privacy, and she returned, having chosen a yellow, long-sleeved shirt, very different from the plain white shirt she wore in the first shots. Good! It’s always good to give the client a versatile set of pictures, spread across their wardrobe. However, we didn’t like the high-necked yellow shirt, so we swapped it for a pink one. It worked better: the colour matched the rest of the make-up. I moved the fan to the doorway, and then we repeated the process from earlier.
We must have taken at least 100 shots by the time we finished with the second look – it was 4PM. At that time, we stopped to change the make-up for a new look. Laurie took Kiera back to the room and applied a more dramatic look, and we set out to capture the ‘artistic look’.
This time, Kiera wore a darker, grey-fabric shirt, and stood before a black background. There were a few shots that were really stunning, and we got what we wanted early on – though, we were getting into the hundreds of photos overall.
“There you go. Now, let’s work with this!”
Some of those photos can be seen below, as well as the best of the first group. At this point, I was thinking that we pretty much had everything we could expect out of an afternoon of photography – many expressions, several looks. We stood at the computer and marked off a list of images we liked, but it was hard to get a shortlist; there were so many great shots. Laurie did a little touch-up on the make-up on Kiera’s eyebrows, and we went for a last group of shots (since we were focused on headshots, only the tops had to be switched). The backgrounds and new colours made a world of difference.
The darker look was a lot of fun, and we had free reign to play with poses because the early photos went so well. Having Laurie’s professional make-up help on-hand also made things run very smoothly. The shots were killer. The client felt confident that she’d have what she wanted out of the shoot, and a lot more.
“I love ‘em. Can I stick with the grey shirt? I’m really liking this one.”
Even though we had pushed to the end of our time – it was ten minutes to six – we still wanted to go for more photos with another shirt that the client wanted to try. By this time, Laurie had to leave, so she did one final touch-up and graciously made an exit. Thanks Laurie! Make-up artists are such a huge part of enabling different looks and opening up options. Though I preferred the grey, the final shirt was also pretty nice. Over 300 pictures total. In the back of my head, I was thinking about narrowing down the images to a few for retouching. Now that the shoot is done, I’m going to set up an online Proofing Gallery so Kiera can view and choose her images from home, and get back to me when she’s ready.
I was really glad to have a client who wasn’t afraid to make expressions and have some fun. Despite the unexpected AC problem, it was one of the easiest shoots.