Author Headshots for Deedee Derksen

One of the great things about being a headshot photographer here in Brooklyn is that you have no idea who or when you are going to be shooting from week to week. Unlike other genres of photography like weddings that are booked well in advance, often times clients will call looking to schedule a headshot session in the next day or so.

Towards the end of the summer, I got a call from Deedee Derksen regarding setting up a headshot session. Whenever someone books a session, the first thing I do is "google" them. I think it is a disservice to your clients to not have any knowledge about them ahead of time and it gives me something to talk about during the shoot. When I googled Deedee, results came up for a Dutch war reporter who had written a book called "Tea with the Taliban." So I started thinking to myself, this ought to be an interesting session, although I'm not sure all my usual dumb jokes and random things I say during headshot sessions would be appropriate for someone that was a writer of such serious topics. 

But as it turns out, she was a delightful person that appreciated all the ridiculous things I say during a headshot session in the pursuit of eradicating blank expression photography. And it was also interesting to get someone else's take on a country, Afghanistan, that is so often portrayed in one way by our media here in the US - she loved being in Afghanistan - not something I ever imagined hearing from someone. 

Author Headshot Deedee Derksen
Author Headshot Deedee Derksen

Portrait of an Engineer

A recent editorial assignment had me shooting portraits for Doggerel. Doggerel is an online magazine that covers the built environment, published by the international engineering consulting firm Arup. The focus of this assignment was shooting a couple environmental portraits of Matt Clark, a structural engineer with Arup that was being profiled by the magazine.

I was free to do pretty much whatever I wanted for the shoot but also realized that Matt would probably not want to spare more than 15 minutes so I had to keep it pretty simple. Therefore I decided to use natural light instead of trying to haul all my lighting gear around. I scouted locations near the Arup office in Manhattan's financial district beforehand and found an area under the FDR that would be perfect because it is covered so a) weather wouldn't matter and b) most importantly, you get that soft directional light, similar to a big window. Location - check, lighting - check!

The one requirement for the shoot was for the subject to be fairly centered because of the way Doggerel's website crops the photos depending on the reader's browser view. But just because this was going to be a simple setup, doesn't mean that I wasn't going to try something cool and honestly, keeping it simple tends to allow for more creativity during the shoot since you aren't confined to one complex setup. To try something different, I had been experimenting with panoramic portraits. Why would anyone want to make a panorama of human? Well, a wedding photographer named Ryan Brenizer popularized the method because it allows you to have a very shallow depth of field with a wider composition. Gives the image a feel of old school large format photography. The method essentially consists of taking a grid of photos of the subject and surroundings with a longer lens at a large aperture and then combining the files into a panorama using photoshop or other stitching software. I wouldn't recommend trying a new method on a paid gig so for some background, I had been testing the method with my favorite subject, Buddy:

Dog Panoramic Portrait

For Matt's first photo, I had him stand centered in an open area underneath the FDR in the East River Park. The hard part about doing this type of panoramic portrait is that you have to wait for the background to be clear for each shot and make sure that there are no gaps in your grid of photos. This meant waiting for the tourists to clear the scene of each image and making sure Matt didn't move too much. There are tripod heads that are designed specifically for shooting panoramas but these two portraits were shot handheld. The biggest benefit of using a panoramic head is the elimination of parallax error that is caused by the shifting plane of the sensor from shot to shot. Parallax error makes it hard for the stitching software to combine the images and can cause items that are supposed to be straight do some funky stuff.

Matt Clark Engineer Portrait

For the second photo, we walked down to an area of park benches for a more casual portrait. The sun came out from behind the clouds creating a warmer feel than the first portrait.

Matt Clark Engineer Portrait 2

I ended up with some parallax error that made post production a little more work than I would have liked but, overall, I was pleased with the way the panoramas came out.  Here is a link to the accompanying Doggerel article:

Profiles in Design: Structural Engineer Matt Clark



Appboy Headshots

Recently had the pleasure of shooting headshots for the Manhattan tech company, Appboy. They provide mobile centric CRM. For the shoot, it was important to have the headshots be in line with their brand logo:

If you've ever been in front of my camera, you know I never ask for a smile, rather it is my job to connect with the subject and bring a natural expression to the image. I think we achieved the goal of syncing the headshots with the brand, below are a few from the shoot.

The Firefly in Bocas del Toro, Panama

Located on Bastimentos island in Bocas del Toro is the Eco bed and breakfast called The Firefly. Lauren and Ryan, the owners of The Firefly, turned what was originally just a single home nestled in the jungle just steps from the Caribbean into one of a kind accommodations that now includes a bar and restaurant, bungalows, an infinity pool, and a yoga studio. The goal of the shoot was to provide The Firefly with images of the rooms, bar and restaurant, and a hero twilight shot of the new pool and bungalow. 


The twilight photograph of the bungalow shown above was the shot I had in mind before even arriving in Panama. The light painting method used for shooting this twilight image I learned from a Los Angeles photographer named Mike Kelley ( Light painting entails using any form of light to illuminate a scene with the quantity and quality of light that is desired. In the video below, I'm shown individually lighting the scene with a handheld flash. Post-capture, all the images are brought into photoshop where masks are used to reveal the desired lighting. It is a very labor intensive and time-consuming method but the results are worth the effort. 


Brooklyn Barber Shops

Over the summer, I shot some environmental portraits for a publication called Satellite Magazine. The purpose of the article was to explore what impacts gentrification in Brooklyn is having on area barber shops. So, one Saturday we traversed the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Carroll Gardens, Gowanus, Prospect Heights and Crown Heights with the goal to interview and photograph owners of a cross section of barber shops. Shown below are tearsheets from the article.

The two portraits below are my favorites from the shoot so I've included them separately so that they can be viewed full screen. Lana is actually my barber. She is a wonderfully sweet woman that always gives me Christmas gifts and even a bottle of wine for celebrating my wedding last year. She also adores Buddy, my golden retriever. Whenever I'm walking Buddy near her shop, I pop in and she immediately abandons her clients, mid-haircut, to rub Buddy's tummy for at least 5 minutes! 

Henry was an interesting guy. A former political prisoner of Castro, he came to NYC and has been cutting hair 66 years which is astonishing in itself but factor in that he is 78 which means he has basically had a pair of scissors in his hand since he was a boy. His wife was heckling him from across the street when this photo was taken.

And for anyone interested in how this series was shot, all photos were taken with a 24 mm tilt-shift lens so that I could meticulously compose given the limited space available and the lighting was achieved with an Elinchrom Ranger Speed AS power pack and S-head with 39" deep octa soft box.