During the month of August, we’ll be posting interviews during our popular Saturday segment, Tech Talk. We’ll speak with editors, photographers, and other people who help writers become the best they can be in their chosen field.
Stay tuned on Saturday for a new interview!
Today we’ll speak with three photographers who help authors look their best. Two Girls and a Camera is a local business who took my photos that I use on my website and business cards. The second photographer is Mary Denman, who takes headshots for authors at the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers conference. The third photographer is Emilie Hendryx, who takes headshots for the ACFW conference.
As authors, we need to present our best self to publishers and readers alike. Photographers help us do that.
Please tell us a little about your photography business.
Two Girls and a Camera: Our business was birthed out of a genuine love for photography; our favorite being lifestyle photography. We love to snap pictures that aren’t as posed and formal but instead capture the personality of our clients. We try to follow the lead of the client and get a feel for who they are and just simply let them be themselves. We photograph newborns to weddings and a little bit of everything in between. We love people, and love what we do, and hope to capture many moments for our clients that they will cherish for a lifetime.
Mary: My interest in photography started when I was in middle school when I got my first camera. I’ve been documenting life ever since. Eventually, once my five kids got older and I had more time for photography, I found my niche taking headshots for authors. I’m also a writer so I understand how important a good headshot is. I love working with people, especially those who hate having their picture taken.
Emilie: I started E.A. Creative Photography back in January of 2013 but before that I had been attached to a camera for as long as I could remember. When my dad bought me a Nikon DSLR, the photography bug became an obsession. I shot my first wedding and, despite the anxiety of pretty much having no idea what I was doing, I fell in love.
Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to expand into a lot of “realms” of photography. I do weddings, portraits, events, business related things like headshots, military homecomings, and I’m moving into some product photography as well.
At the heart of what I do is a commitment to capturing true moments. Sure, there’s some posing here and there, but I wait for that moment when my client “eases in” to the pose and I can capture them naturally. Plus, I’m a sucker for emotion and seeing a genuine smile or laugh is more than worth it.
How do you choose a setting or background?
Two Girls and a Camera: It all starts with knowing yourself, what you want your picture to say, and what speaks to you. Even if we choose this for our client, we try to talk with them first and get a feel for what they like. We have some clients whose personality fits great in an open pasture with bright sunny skies and big fluffy clouds. The next client may have a more edgy feel and their personality fit best in a moodier, darker street scene. One tip is to look through others photographs and note all the ones you like. Then compare and see what it is you like about those pictures. This is an easy way to find your style. Also, if the focus of the picture needs to be about the person, choose a background that is not busy and distracting. If the picture needs to capture an emotion, your background can either enhance feeling or take away from the feeling. Know what you want the picture to say, and don’t be afraid to convey that to your photographer.
Mary: I love to use natural settings and natural light. I try and keep the background simple and blur it so the focus is literally on my subject.
Emilie: It really depends on what the client wants. If we’re talking about a wedding, you want to highlight the great parts of the venue. For portraits, it depends on if we’re going somewhere for the scenery (maybe it’s important to the couple) or if it’s just to capture the couple or individual. With headshots, I approach things a little differently. You want a great background that will transition for the client through various platforms like print, social media, or website. The less distracting the better.
With all of this though, there is one thing that’s important across the board. Lighting! Really that’s what it’s all about. No matter how great the background or pose is if the lighting is off you’ll really feel that in an image. Sunset is my absolute favorite time to photograph because you get that yummy glow low in the sky. That’s not always possible, of course, so you work with what you’ve got and get creative!
What are the components of a good headshot?
Two Girls and a Camera: Traditional head shots show the client smiling and looking directly into the camera with the upper arm, shoulder and face included. However, I’ve seen many in the creative groups that look away from the camera, have a sober-looking face, and wear big accessories that would normally be distracting. Somehow they work. The key is to know who you are and what you want your picture to say.
So for the professional more traditional look be careful not to crop too small. Cropping at the neck is usually not a flattering look for anyone. Be careful when choosing busy patterns on your shirt, large hats, large jewelry, and even excessive facial hair. These will all try to “steal the show” and take away from the focus: Your face! Now, if big earrings and large floppy hats are your signature look, I say go big, be bold! Stay away from heavy makeup and big hairstyles that aren’t you. Those give you a glamor shot look versus a head shot….unless that is the look you’re going for. Your background should be simple. Natural light works but stay away from harsh direct sunlight. Also, make sure you are evenly lit with no hot spots. The brightest object in the picture will catch the viewer’s eye first. Ideally that should be your eyes, then face, and lastly the background.
Mary: It needs to capture your personality and focus in on your face.
Emilie: Genuineness. I know that sounds like a cop-out, but I really believe the strength of a great headshot showcases the personality of the person represented. That’s not to say you don’t need to prepare or look your best, but that does mean that the most important part of your photos is you.
For practicality, I’ll list off a few things that I think help to comprise a good shot:
- A professional photographer: Ha! This should go without saying, but it’s true. I hate to break it to you, but a selfie or phone picture is not a substitute for someone who knows how to compose a great shot with a high-quality camera.
- A good background: I’ve talked about this already, but one thing that your photographer will (or should be) aware of is a background that competes with the subject (you). You must be the main focus.
- Clothing: Ah, one of the hardest things is to choose what to wear. I always advise no white or very light colors because this can compete with the exposure in the camera – yet, that said if you want to wear a white shirt, wear a white shirt. Your photographer should be able to compensate for that. It’s just not ideal. Otherwise, I advise solid colors because patterns can draw the eye too much (just as a busy background can).
- Pose: Ok, I’ll admit a big pet peeve here: Hands on the face. I can’t get behind a pose like that because, to me, it feels unnatural. We don’t walk around with our hands framing our faces 😉 BUT, that said, I have seen some great headshots that can pull it off. My advice is to do what feels natural and if it doesn’t, then don’t do it! I find it’s most flattering for everyone to look up slightly and if you ever see me at work, you’ll see me climb on things or stand on my tiptoes. It’s actually pretty funny, but it’s all for the shot.
Share three words of wisdom to someone who wants to make a good first impression through a photograph.
Two Girls and a Camera: 1) I remember an old quote that said “eyes are the window to the soul….” And that’s true for your picture. A picture that focuses on bright sharp eyes will grab the focus of the viewer almost every time.
2) Make sure it sells you. Be true to your personality.
3) Look professional. Quality & presentation counts. If it’s a print, use a professional print company with quality heavy weight materials, correct color, and such. If it’s a digital image, make sure it’s cropped properly, and finishing techniques are applied. Sometimes a simple SOFT vignette is all you may need to give it a polished look.
Mary: 1) You want to look natural in your shot.
2) Don’t overdress for the photo. If you don’t normally wear make up, don’t start just for the shoot. Dress nicely for you and be yourself.
3) Don’t have your images edited heavily. Sure, a photographer can make you look ten years younger and twenty pounds lighter, but you want people to recognize you as you are. Not a romanticized version of you. You’re great the way you are.
Emilie: 1) Don’t let fear or anxiety of being photographed sneak up on you! I do my best with every client to help make them feel comfortable (even to telling some pretty lame jokes and laughing at myself).
2) Be confident. Trust me, this will come through in your images. Smile with meaning and if you aren’t, take a moment until you can.
3) Lastly, have fun! Laugh, be silly, and make a funny face. A good photographer will capture the genuine essence of you (laughing and serious) and be able to pull out those images that accurately represent you (and maybe a few funny ones too).
Where can we contact you?
Two Girls and a Camera: Website: Twogirlsandacameraphotography.com
Mary: You can contact me from my blog: www.MaryDenman.blogspot.com
Emilie: I’m all over the place this year, which is pretty exciting! First and foremost, you can always find me on Facebook: www.facebook.com/eacreativephotography and on my website: www.eacreativephotography.com. But, I’m also on Instagram (@eahendryx) and love posting about my daily life in Washington, DC. If you’re near the DC/Maryland/Virginia area don’t hesitate to contact me for a session! I definitely travel all over as well and am always up for an adventure.
I will also be doing some additional traveling too. I’ll be the conference photographer at the Virginia ACFW Writers Conference in Woodbridge, VA, at Realm Makers in St. Louis, and at the ACFW Conference in Dallas this year. If you’re attending and interested in a session, shoot me and email for more details: email@example.com.
Thank you all for joining us for Tech Talk. Please check out everyone’s bios and information below. Next week, we’ll interview two editors with different genre specialities. Don’t miss it!
Christina Parker and Brigitte Terry aka Two Girls and a Camera are first and foremost friends, and they share a passion for the same thing… Photography. They teamed up and formed Two Girls & A Camera and have been going strong since day one. They offer maternity, newborn, senior, large family sessions, fundraising, event, and business marketing photography. The ladies look forward to working with you, your loved ones, and your business for many years to come!
Mary Denman is a writer who also loves photography. Or a photographer who loves writing. As a freelance writer, Mary has had articles published in various forms ranging from Focus on the Family publications to magazines to devotions to op-ed pieces. She’s a member of several professional writing organizations including ACFW, My Book Therapy, and Word Weavers.
As a professional photographer, Mary has had photos published in both print literature and online. Her shots have been used by businesses and by fellow authors alike. Her philosophy is to catch a moment that reflects God’s beauty and creativity, whether in nature, in life or in the face of her subjects.
Mary blends the two mediums of writing and photography on her blog. www.marydenman.blogspot.com.
Emilie Hendryx lives in Washington, D.C. and fills her time with creative pursuits. She writes, runs a wedding & portrait photography business, reads, plays guitar, and drinks too much coffee. She’s a member of ACFW and is currently working on a romantic suspense series while dreaming up a YA dystopian world on the side.
You can also check out her writing blog, Thinking Thoughts.