Understanding and Capturing Expressions

Understanding and Capturing Expressions

For a long time, researchers believed that there were only 6 expressions that everyone  in the world could identify: happiness, sadness, fear, anger,  surprise and disgust.  But with over 42 muscles in the human face, the combinations are nearly limitless.  Since photographs don’t contain any auditory or written communication, understanding and being able to read the subtleties is so important in portrait photography as these expressions are the main method of communicating our emotions to our audience.

The moments of real emotion can fly by so quickly, you really have to be patient, wait on them, make them happen, seek them out.  But once they emerge, it’s essential to shoot frame after frame to capture that awesome instant.

Just as important, recognizing these emotions in others also helps us determine whether or not we are truly connecting with our subjects.  When I am shooting, I am in the moment.  Of course, I like to direct when it’s needed but the approach is gentle, expressions genuine and atmosphere relaxed.  I think the good stuff comes organically and evolves when my subjects get comfortable with my camera and with me.

There is no Photoshop action or plug-in filter that can replicate the impressions and impact of a spontaneous laugh or the sparkle in the eyes that accompanies a true smile.   You’ve got to be fully engaged in that moment and remember, “Don’t shoot what it looks like, shoot what it feels like.”-David Allen Harvey

 

The C-CAP Competition Arrives Again!

The C-CAP Competition Arrives Again!

I was just looking back over my archived images and it looks like I have been the event photographer in Chicago for the C-CAP annual competition since about 2008.  And really, this is one of my favorite events to cover.

C-CAP (Careers through Culinary Arts Program) works with public schools throughout the country, training students in under-served communities to prepare for a career in the hospitality and restaurant industries.  After a year of training, the students come together for a competition where they show off their mad skills and it’s pretty intense as the stakes are super high.  Since its’ founding in 1990, C-CAP has awarded $37 million in scholarships, we are talking some major full-ride scholarships.  Their alumni have gone on to some equally impressive positions as well from the Marriott to The Four Seasons in addition to being named in Forbes Food & Wine List: 30 Under 30.

Even after photographing this event over the past several years, it can still be a challenge to show the competition in a different way. This year, I was playing with angles with a wide lens and doing some shoot thrus so there is something in the foreground, slightly out-of-focus that draws attention to the center.

Also, the lighting in these kitchens where the competition is held is such a mix.  There is tungsten that runs a little orange/yellow as well as fluorescent which shows up in the unprocessed images with a green cast.  Add that to the daylight from the windows and some fill-flash and you have yourself a potentially hot mess.  But balancing for skin tones and using a gel on the on-camera flash does help with the white balance and with a few tweaks in post, the color balance is as close as you can get to perfection.

Really looking forward to Monday morning when I will be at the Signature Room for C-CAPS’ Award Presentation Breakfast.  I seriously have to try to keep it together as they hand out these scholarships because I get so excited for these kids and I may even get a little choked up.  What an amazing opportunity!

Check this out when you have a chance, Richard Grausmans’ (C-CAP founder) daughter is a documentary film maker who produced and directed the film Pressure Cooker.  I just watched this within the past few weeks and thought it was awesome.  The film revolves around a passionate culinary teacher in Philly who scares the crap out of me and is a no b.s., high-expectations, leave the coddling behind, instructor who leads her students to shoot for the culinary scholarships offered by C-CAP.  And yes, you might tear up a little.  Check it out on Netflix streaming.

 

Dominican University: The Grace House Project

Dominican University: The Grace House Project

Last week I was invited by Dominican University to do a commercial photography shoot involving head shots and full body portraits for their fashion design students who have been creating custom fit and tailored garments for the women at Grace House, a transitional living residence in Chicago.   The women of Grace House who are on the upswing, putting their lives back together and preparing to rejoin the workforce, worked closely with their designer for weeks to create the outfit that best matched their style and personality.

This was such an awesome assignment as there was nothing less than excitement and really a feeling of empowerment as these women, who are unaccustomed to being professionally photographed, came on to the set and just owned it! They were confidant, stunning and incredibly comfortable in front of the camera.

The Chicago Tribune came by as well for their feature story which you can check out here and make sure to look for yours truly in the video!

Thanks to Dominican University and the ladies over at Grace House for such a fantastic and memorable day!

 

 

Corporate Photography for the Amata Offices in Chicago

Corporate Photography for the Amata Offices in Chicago

One of my favorite assignments over the past several weeks was for the Amata Offices of Chicago who needed corporate photography including head shots, several environmental portraits and a group photo.  Amata offers corporate office suites along with all the bells and whistles including meeting space & phone answering services which is especially helpful for companies that have managed to outgrow their home offices.

As a kudos to their clientele, they offered an open head shot session where people could stop in and get an awesome portrait for their LinkedIn and other social media profiles in a matter of minutes courtesy of Amata.

With the help of my Assistants Whitney and Conrad, we had the lighting set-up in no time and Beth and Anne from Amata ran the scheduling seamlessly with little wait time not to mention keeping their clients incredibly entertained while they waited for their session.  Here’s a few selects from the 50 corporate head shots we managed to complete in just a few hours.

After a quick break, it was on to part two.  8 environmental corporate portraits and a group photo for the law offices of Birnbaum, Haddon, Gelfman & Arnoux who share the corporate suite with Amata.  This is most definitely a lot to take on in just an afternoon but we had strategically planned and scouted prior to the assignment and with two assistants, I knew we could nail it.  Granted, I may have forgotten to hydrate, needed to remind myself to breathe and felt like I was training for a marathon but the results were awesome.  Here’s a few selects:

This editorial portrait of Jacalyn Birnbaum has turned out to be one of my new favorites.  Apparently, I am not the only one who has a collection of toys in the office to keep myself entertained.

Chicago Corporate Photographer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What you don’t see is that on the wall that is not pictured is that Jackie has a cabinet with each shelf dedicated to a particular theme associated with an animated character.  A few shelves are taken up by the villains: figurines of the Evil Queen from Snow White and Ursula, the sea witch from The Little Mermaid.  Below this, there is a full shelf dedicated to the heroic figures of Jiminy Cricket and Yoda.

No, Jackie does not strike me as someone who hits Comic-Con or hangs out at the Renaissance Faire, not ever.  Rather she uses her display to explain to her clients who are pursuing a divorce that the whole unfolding can seriously bring out the worst in all of us and her job is to act as the wise intermediary, the Yoda, the Jiminy Cricket, that can pull everything back to the center and add diplomacy to the process.  I so did not see that coming and absolutely love it!  Pretty sure Jackie was the true character that day!

And the grand finale…the group photo of the Birnbaum, Haddon, Gelfman & Arnoux law team for the article that will be appearing in Forbes.

Chicago Corporate Photographer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A big thanks to Beth Lestingi, Anne Huffman, Jackie Burnbaum and my buddies Whitney and Conrad for making this an incredibly productive and fun day!