That's me. And it's a fairly terrible photo. You can barely differentiate my skin from the wood log in the back. My eyes are dark shadows hidden by my brow and my neck looks like a blob of black fuzz. But it also feels a bit like me. It's a genuine smile and there are some tell tale signs. More on this later.
That's my wife, Katie. She is extraordinarily photogenic and while we weren't planning for it, this works on a lot of different levels. Sure, there's a 'one way' sign going into her ear (not ideal but kind of funny if you think about it) but the time of day works in our favor and her choice of outfit and earrings really bring out the color in her eyes. This was actually a pretty spontaneous shot, but again, it works because you can feel she's excited for the night ahead.
That's my friend Callan who I worked with recently to create some headshots for her website. Here we were going for something specific - a reflection both of who she is and how she approaches her work as a coach. We wanted to balance a sense of confidence with an approach-ability and comfort. Humble yet wise. A get-stuff-doner but patient. There's a certain alertness and inquisitiveness in her eyes that's brought out by a slight lean-in. It's the subtlest of movement, but quite clearly there.
Sometimes the background adds significant value as well. Here my friend Makeda was getting ready to start a new job doing work with housing and community development and wanted to capture the spirit of that work in her portrait. While we fought the weather a bit, this more environmental portrait was integral for the look she wanted and the story she was telling.
My approach to headshots and commercial portraits have evolved over time but ultimately boils down to the same key elements: the best way to tell someone's story and make the viewer feel what they feel. In that way it's different from a lot of photography where the goal is to express more about what 'I' feel as the photographer. Here, it's to understand, extract, and capture that moment that's most revealing of what lies beneath.