What's better than wallcrawling? Read on to find out.

So, it’s Friday afternoon and you’re stuck in traffic. Behind you, alongside you, as far as your eye can see, nothing but other people in their cars, going nowhere. All you and your fellow escapees from the grind want to do is GET HOME. And you wish you had some sort of superpower to eject from your seat, leap across all the cars, and land gracefully (in a killer Lycra bodysuit) at your front door. But there’s no such thing as superheroes and certainly no such thing as superpowers. Don’t be ridiculous.

Well…maybe not the sort of superpower that leaps tall buildings, but perhaps there are other superpowers. And maybe everyday folks like us have them, but don’t think of them as special, like the ability to breathe under water, a la Aquaman. But maybe we ought to.

Let me share a recent experience with you.

I’d received an invitation to talk to some kids at a local school about being a photographer. The guidelines were simple: twenty minutes, share what I liked about photography, and why I chose to pursue it. Pretty standard fare, as presentations go. The one caveat was this: the class was comprised of special needs kids so I had to be sensitive to that and tailor my talk accordingly.

Twenty minutes wasn’t enough time to get into anything complicated, so I knew I’d have to find the most immediate link between the kids and me and not meander down the gear head path. So what did we all have in common that could start a conversation about the importance of photography?

And then I realized that there’s not a soul left on earth who hasn’t heard of Superman.

Like almost every kid, I grew up watching superheroes save the world with their special powers. The idea that an ordinary looking person can do extraordinary things with hidden strengths is not new. The sentiment has been attached to the human psyche for millennia. But the concept for the Marvel universe is relatively modern and it never fails to intrigue. Batman saves Gotham City with cool tech toys while being tended to by a British butler. Clark Kent (as Superman) and Ironman save the world, too, the former disguised as a lowly reporter who’s actually the savior of the universe; the latter because his haughty ego was taught a lesson and he now wants to serve humanity rather than create weapons to destroy it.

But what do superheroes have to do with photographers?

The day of my presentation, I went armed to the class with cookies and one of the new instant cameras (link here) from Fuji, loaded with film and several extra film packs. Both are available here for purchase on Amazon. The kids were enthusiastic at my arrival, and immediately upon entering the room, I noticed one young man was wearing—if you can believe it—a Superman T-shirt and cape. My inner kid fist pumped a silent YEAH!

Because my last name is so unconventional, there was some initial debate after the hellos as to its pronunciation, with one of the girls nailing it spot on right away, which is tough to do. The niceties out of the way, I launched into my discussion.

“You guys,” I said. “Let’s talk about something interesting. Who here likes superheroes?”

The boy in the Superman T-shirt got excited, and shared a high wattage smile that lit up the room.

Everyone raised his/her hand.

“Superheroes?” the kids asked, confused about where I was going.

“Yup,” I said. “Let’s name some.”

So we ran through the popular list.

Then I asked, “What do superheroes have?”

Kids: “Superpowers.”

Me: “What’s a superpower?”

Kids: “Special stuff they can do, like climb walls.”

“Yeah, that’s a good one,” I said. “Can everyone have a superpower or only superheroes?”

There was mixed reaction. One young lady said that she thought other people besides superheroes could have superpowers. Maybe.

“Well,” I said. “I’m here to tell you that I have a superpower.”

Mixed reaction.

“Who knows what it might be?” I asked.

Some speculation ensued among the kids. The teacher, an absolutely wonderful man we’ll name Mr. C., raised his hand and said, “Freezing time.”

(Dammit. This dude stole my punchline).

“Yes,” I responded. “I freeze time. What does that mean? Anyone want to take a guess?”

Lots of heads shaking ‘no.’

“It’s like this,” I continued. “I have a dog as a kid. I love this dog. We’re best friends. Together all the time. But I grow up and the dog gets old and one day, the dog dies. And I’m heartbroken. But I remember that I have photographs of my dog. So I gather them all and spend hours every day looking at them and I recall all the special things about my dog and all the fun things we did.”

I paused to take a breath, because I got a bit choked up.

“I can see her clearly in my mind,” I continued. “Smell her wet fur after a swim, feel how soft her ears were when she came home from the groomer. I’m there with her again. And because of those photographs, my best friend isn’t really gone. And that’s why I take pictures of people. So that they’re never forgotten and so that their lives are always honored.”

Several kids offered that they, too, had dogs, and whipped out their phones to share photos. A discussion of breeds and names followed. But I needed to stick to the twenty minute rule.

“I brought some goodies with me,” I continued, to bring the conversation back on track after the photo sharing moment. “Cookies and a camera so we can take each other’s pictures and you can share my superpower with me.”

I walked to the large carton I’d brought with me which contained my props. There was a general murmur of appreciation about the cookies. The instant camera was new to them, although I grew up when they were all the rage in the seventies, and I looked forward to using one again in this context.

“Who wants to go first?” I asked.

By then, most of the kids were standing around me (I think because of the cookies), so I made sure the camera was turned on and handed it off to one of them, followed by a brief run down of how to find the light when you want to take a photograph of someone. Then I turned them loose and watched.

At first they were shy about how to use the camera, but Mr. C., helped them figure it out. They took individual photos then spread them out one by one on the desk next to me to watch them develop, laughing as the images came to life. Finally, they handed the camera back to me and I took a group photo of them all and let it do its thing on the desk alongside the others. Afterwards we talked briefly about the fact that now they had a collection of memories they could hold and look at to remember this day and cookies to make it a sweet memory.

Vintage Polaroid instant camera and prints

There were lots of giggles and I think the kids generally had a good time. It was nostalgic for me and reminded me of my own school days. As I left and said thank you to the class for having me, I was filled with a feeling of great satisfaction that I had perhaps managed to connect with the kids and given them something to think about.

I later learned that the class was quite enthusiastic about our time together, just as I’d been. In fact, it was one of the most satisfying things I’d done since starting my photography business back in 2012.

And it stayed with me for several weeks afterwards because the experience had forced me to think in ways I wasn’t used to. The entire time I’d been in business, I learned about gear, technical lighting, shadows, gradients, Photoshop, my camera specs, the art of making portraits and all the million, million things about business that make every entrepreneur crazy. And I knew in my heart why I did what I did, but I’d never been challenged to articulate it in the precise way I had for the kids in that classroom.

Photographers generally do not have a mandate to save the world. But we have superpowers that go far beyond that: we make the intangible tangible and capture it for all time. Wedding photographers photograph love, captured in moments during the most important day in many people’s lives. Other photographers capture innocence and hope through newborn photography. Still others capture ambition, via head shot photography. I photograph women and men of every age who want a high touch experience and legacy portraits, so I guess you could say I capture self-love.

“Freezing time” is not just a superpower for photographers. It’s available to anyone who picks up a camera. Photographs create a living, breathing pictorial of life that says: you were here, you were loved, you mattered. And they’re all that will be left of us once we’re gone.

Just like I said to the kids about my dog: photographs bring back loved ones. You can relive precious, even forgotten, moments by holding their image in your hands. You’ve frozen the time they were here and that you were lucky enough to be with them. You documented a legacy for all future generations.

You want to be a superhero? Take a picture.

Now, where’s my cape?

List of superpowers.

#new #superheroes #Marvel comics #fuji #photography #superpowers

Product Review: the new Fuji instant cameras are cute and fun, easy to use right out of the box.They make ideal gifts for kids who want to play with an inexpensive camera and get instant gratification while they watch the film develop. By and large, it's a pretty good little camera for that purpose and only that purpose. Great stocking stuffer, birthday gift, etc. My only complaint is the film quality, although I really had no expectations, because I purchased the camera specifically for this presentation and not for everyday use. Prints are small (about 2"x 3") and not as large as the vintage Polaroids were. And they tend to be on the blurry side, with the images rendering darker than the actual scene. But again, no expectations.

Inspire: to fill someone with the urge or ability to do or feel something, especially something creative.

I don’t know about you, but when I feel creatively sluggish, it’s usually because I’m not inspired at that moment. I don’t really subscribe to the notion that artist’s languish about until the mood to create arrives. I rather believe that once I start the work, the inspiration follows. But sometimes the ideas in my head stay there unless another person takes the baton and adds her/his talent to help bring my project to life. This is the beauty of creative partnerships and, not coincidentally, the secondary meaning of the word inspire which is to “breathe in.” A creative/creative partnership then is literally the thing that fills your proverbial artist lungs with air.

Alison, one of my favorite people to photograph. This was for a custom cycle shoot we worked together on. Bonus: her winged eyeliner is just the best.

You’ve heard about painters and photographers and their muses, right? Well, let me tell you about mine. I met Alison seven years ago, before I even knew to take my camera out of auto mode. I was shooting a series for a local clothing boutique and needed a hair and makeup artist for three models, each with different styling, over the course of several months. Alison was recommended to me by the boutique owner, Carol. So I gave her a call.

We spent about three hours on that phone call, as I rambled on about my lofty goals for this project as a (newb) photographer while Alison listened intently, occasionally interjecting a kind “Oh, wow” with a confident, contralto voice tinged with a hint of gravel. Bless her heart, she must have thought me mad at the time, but she graciously gave me the space to share my thoughts, a trait I would experience over and over again through the years.

She agreed to do the hair and makeup artistry for the first model of the series at no cost, so I could judge if we would be a good collaborative fit. I would handle all the wardrobe styling, sets and locations plus the photography. We agreed to meet on the day of the shoot, slightly ahead of the model’s arrival. I was excited, as I felt very grown up—I had a “team” of sorts, just like the big dog photographers in New York and Los Angeles. I can say that now in amusement at my naivete. But at the time I was filled with blind enthusiasm for this series of shoots and I wanted to nail all the images, although I had no idea what I was doing.

I met her at the boutique. She sported a retro vibe with dark curls and deep red lips and sported tattoos. She exuded such genuine warmth, I couldn’t help but feel…inspired, uplifted. She moved through the model’s hair and makeup with an ease and skill that was breathtaking. And when our model emerged from the dressing room in the first wardrobe piece, I got teary because Alison had realized in actual fact what I had had in my head mere hours ago. It was exhilarating.

The shoot went very well, even as a newb pretending I knew something about posing, direction, lighting and the million, million details that go into a shoot. But, God be praised, I managed to get some very fine shots that I still love to this day. We finished the boutique project which I felt was a great success and the images are now framed and still hang in the boutique.

There’s absolutely no question that without Alison’s hair and makeup genius, those images would have been more “meh” than “wow” and I would never have had the zeal to move onto the next phase of my photography path, had she not realized my ideas as brilliantly as she had.

Shortly thereafter, Alison became my own hair guru, no small task, as I’ve moved through many iterations of hair over the years. When I sit in her chair, she always asks: “What are we doing today?” Many times, I wave my hand and say, “I don’t care. Something fun. Go crazy.” I mean, how much trust goes into a statement like that, especially when the person to whom you’re saying it stands over your head with a razor? But she’s never steered me wrong and I always love my hair and all its colors, so it’s another type of successful creative collaboration.

One of my favorite images of Alison shot at dusk in the summertime. To me, it captures the light she has inside as well as the gorgeous evening light.

We’ve worked together many times by now, as she does a fair amount of hair and makeup for my clients ahead of their sessions. My clients adore her, I adore her, and she brings a soothing yet upbeat energy with her wherever she goes. She’s truly one of my favorite people to be around and I consider myself blessed to have her as my creative spirit sister.

More than anything, her vast experiences as a mom, wife, singer in a band, stylist, daughter and all her other roles, give her a spectrum of understanding on how to tease out the very best in those with whom she works. I’ve never seen her angry or impatient, she never rushes anyone (including me or my clients) and she only ever has good things to say about people. But she has one gift in particular that is utterly unique to her: she INSPIRES me. She makes me WANT to be creative. She fuels my creativity with her own and I love her for that. It’s a rare, rare gift that she shares freely with me and which I treasure.

If you experience periods of depletion or lack of drive to accomplish creative goals, consider reaching out to someone. Maybe there’s someone you admire who has great ideas about everything. Take her out for a glass of wine and listen to her stories. Maybe there’s a local artist who has an unique aesthetic. Ask him out for coffee and pick his brain about what his process is like. At the very least, you’ll come away with fresh thoughts that may catapult you into new work. Best scenario is to find a creative with whom you can join forces. It doesn’t always work out, of course, but when it does, it’s the most elevating experience.

Alison's hair and makeup artistry. The image works well because all the styling elements support and enhance it.

I think it’s because creatives are a little different in temperament, a little weird in how they see and interact with the world, that they have a great desire to connect with other creatives. They have a language that I swear to you only other creatives can understand and they’re childlike in their wonder, and oddly out of place in many situations. When I try to explain my ideas to non-creatives, their eyes glaze over. And I don’t blame them for that-- I’m speaking in a foreign language to them.

Alan Alda says, “Be brave enough to live life creatively. The creative place where no one has ever been.” And be sure to have your own Alison who inspires you to do just that.

This headshot works because the HAMU is professional quality and unique to this client who has very, very long hair. Wardrobe is flattering and although patterned, the pattern is not distracting. Backdrop matches her eyes and compliments her skin tone as do the wardrobe colors. Other factors that make this a strong head shot: eye connection of the subject to the viewer and professional retouching.

What IS it about the standard head shot session? You feel vaguely like the third grade you on school picture day: your hair resembles a wire pot scrubber and your chosen outfit clashes with the (hideous) backdrop the photographer selected. You endure three minutes with a nameless person behind a camera who tells you to smile, which you do because it doesn’t occur to you to NOT smile-

you'll do whatever just to be free of this.

You also realize when the shutter clicks your chin disappears into your neck. But the photographer says nothing and provides no coaching during the “session.” Then, with a wave of his/her hand, the photographer dismisses you and you sprint to the exit hoping to avoid seeing your images on the tethered laptop screen.

But, what if you could hire someone to work with you to create a head shot session that made you feel great about yourself, confident in front of the camera and excited to view your images? A sort of stylist/photographer/director? Well, you can. I’ll tell you how. But first, a few facts about why a professional head shot is so important right now.

“Business cards are out. Headshots are in,” says Peter Hurley, arguably one of the world’s top head shot photographers with studios in New York and Los Angeles. “It (sic) puts a face with a name. Companies and personal brands are starting to get that. Anybody that is entrepreneurial needs a head shot.”

And according to William Aruda who writes about personal branding for Forbes Magazine: “In a world that’s becoming more and more virtual, your head shot is the ultimate way to communicate your traits on a human level. It makes you real to those who connect with you. And the bar is being raised.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/williamarruda/2016/12/18/2017-personal-branding-trends-part-1-the-death-of-text/#7309762577e1

Resumes, business cards, job applications and websites all trend towards professional and polished head shots or business portraits. Why? Because your resume seems more approachable with your smiling face on it. Your company’s website has more interest, a more personal touch with beautiful images of the team. Again, think approachability.

In fact, the push towards approachability is really what we used to call “neighborly.” Small towns are perhaps more familiar with this word than city dwellers, because neighborliness is the currency in the former. Basically, it means some old fashioned things like your handshake is your bond, you’ll help the elderly lady across the street with her groceries, and so on. Our culture moves so fast today, that neighborliness has been sacrificed for speed in many cases. But corporations and small businesses alike understand the tremendous value in at least the appearance of neighborliness, hence the push towards appearing approachable.

Now I’m going to say something unpopular here: your cell phone may suffice for lifestyle pictures on Instagram, but it’s not a substitute for an intentional image. Your cousin Mary with her new camera may get kudos from her mom when she photographs flowers, but Cousin Mary is no replacement for a pro who knows how to prepare you and light you and guide you to stand out images.

So with all that aside, how do you get a great head shot you’re proud of? First, hire a professional. Yes, it will cost some money.Yes, it will take time. But your professional footprint is worth the effort, isn't it? Besides, the right person will listen to what you need and make an action plan that will give you a range of usable portraits.

At Deanna Dusbabek Photography, for instance, I meet with clients initially to learn about them and what they seek. If we move forward, we then schedule a wardrobe styling meeting. I go their homes, peruse their closets and we come up with various looks. We talk about how they wish their hair and makeup to look so I have notes to share with my hair and makeup artist ahead of the session. Usually I leave with their wardrobe so it’s ready and organized for them the day of their session. Planning is absolutely key for head shots and is the single biggest chunk of time I spend preparing for individual sessions.

Recall above where I mentioned finding someone who is a combination photographer, stylist and director? That’d be me. I handle every detail so you can relax and feel confident. Styling and professional hair and makeup artistry is included in every session and I'm proud to offer those services to all my clients.

If you choose NOT to hire a professional for whatever reason, and want to give it a go yourself, here are five tips I’ve learned along the way that work for my clients and me:

1. Get your hair and makeup professionally done. I can’t emphasize this enough. You will look great and feel great and own your space in front of the camera. Camera ready makeup is not the same as everyday makeup and a great HAMU artist will be an enormous asset for head shots. You can find some great makeup artists at local salons, makeup counters in department stores or on Instagram.

2. Your focus in a head shot shot starts just below your shoulders and goes to the top of your head. This is the traditional head shot crop and leaves very little room for styling mistakes. So choose colors wisely: blue, black, grey or white are always great and flattering. Avoid patterns or aggressive color choices like purple, red or yellow unless these are absolutely the best colors for your skin and eyes. You likely know by now if they are.

3. Avoid anything bulky like wraps, scarves, heavy jewelry, ill-fitting jackets or heavy cable sweaters. They add too much visual weight to the image and are also distracting.

4. Find a soft natural light source and face it. You don’t need fancy lighting gear, just a broadly lit window with diffused light, either from natural cloud cover or some sort of diffusion material, like white sheer curtains.

5. Keep your backdrop to white, grey, dark blue or black. Sometimes you can go wild and toss in another color, but you have to be careful with that.

Hopefully these tips will help you get a shot you’re happy to use. But keep in mind, they're only the beginning: I haven’t addressed the most important factor in great head shots: a photographer who gives great posing direction and knows how to bring out your best.

But I can’t give away all my secrets, now can I?

If you need a standout head shot, I’d love to talk with you and meet you at my studio for coffee. Please reach out at Deanna@bainbridgeislandportraits.com or call (206)779-4284.

Deanna Dusbabek Photography

Bainbridge Island/Olympic Peninsula/Seattle/PNW 

(206) 779-4284


© 2021 by Deanna Dusbabek/All rights reserved