So, there is always a curiosity about who is going to come through the front door; but whoever they are, it’s my job to give them a first class experience and portrait. Let’s face it; having your picture taken can be somewhat intimidating. Ultimately my goal is to create a fun tone for the photography session and discover the best look for my client. It is their brand and I want that brand to stand out in our visual culture.
Making them comfortable is the first step and that starts with an interesting environment. I like to think that begins at the front gate of my home/custom studio in North Boulder. I’m very fortunate to live in a Boulder Landmark home. On top of that, it is a home that we renovated to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum certification. It is one of 7 such homes in Boulder with fifty-four in the state. You can see the creation of this house through my film on Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/101043238 – As you enter the house you come into a gallery of my award-winning landscapes (bobcarmichael.com/landscapes).
Over a glass of water, we talk about what the person wants to communicate with their images and which wardrobe is going to best communicate it. Once the styling decisions and makeup are set we enter the studio and start the process of taking the photographs.
In my custom 1,000 sq. foot studio, I have a portrait stage that has a comfortable sitting stool and a professional portrait table. I shoot tethered to a computer screen so everyone knows what we are getting. I use Hollywood style continuous lights so there are no strobes going off. My camera is a Nikon Flagship brand and I use a portrait prime lens with a trade secret portrait filter. My experience with lighting and my extensive Hollywood grip equipment all contribute to the client sitting confidently and ready for their “Close Up”.
Once the lighting scheme is adjusted to the particular client we can start doing the search for looks and expressions that communicate what they are about. One of the real joys of photography for me is discovering aspects of client’s looks that even they are sometimes not aware of. It is something of a revelation to discover in a persons face their beauty and by that, I don’t necessarily mean classic glamour but rather their spirit. Sometimes people will come in and truly not know how “beautiful” they are. When I can show them that, it honestly is a profound experience.
It comes down to having a discerning eye and I’ve tried diligently to train my eye through decades of actual industry experience as well as through a never-ending search for visual reference. I’ve had my eye to a either a still or motion picture camera since high school and that is now 50 years. I started in my journalism class shooting for the yearbook and student papers, that eventually took me to make my first 16mm films as I graduated from college. I was lucky enough to get hired as a staff director/cameraman job at NFL FILMS, and then pursued a career in Los Angeles TV, National Commercial Spot directing and feature film production, earning an Academy Award nomination and an Emmy along the way. I have a wide range of interests photographically that include action sports, music, event coverage, product shot and landscapes. All these factor into my awareness about the people’s faces and of course their eyes (you know the expression). I’m a member of the DGA and International Cinematographers Guild, along with the American Photographic Artists.
My experience in studying acting under Milton Katselas at the Beverly Hills Play House in Los Angeles really helped me look deeper into finding truth in acting and in life in general. My son Jesse and his music mates starting in 8th grade led me on another visual path of shooting music performance for their band Maroon 5. So I guess, the point of this little blog is to say, I’m not your typical portrait photographer. I have worked under some great directors and directors of photography and I have learned from them. My experience as a director and cameraman translates into interesting headshots because I’m curious about my clients and look at each session as an exercise in self-discovery. My entire studio system is set up to do that.
Acknowledging the humor and intensity of the portrait session allows my clients to enjoy a very positive exploration of themselves. Music wise, we have a great sound system that plays any type of music as the session unfolds. I want my client to know they are in good hands and that the entire situation can be really engaging and fun. At the end of the session, we immediately edit down to the precise images that they choose to advance their endeavors and careers. I’m happy to be a part of it all. -Bob
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