Kerry-Lou and I recently had the pleasure of shooting Susannah Solis…yet again! Our first shoot with Susannah was over 9 years ago, and since then we have done her headshots every couple of years and worked with her on multiple portfolio shoots. Our longterm relationship has formed a wonderful friendship and also an inspiring collaboration. Shooting Susannah is always fun, but also magically productive. Her beauty is self evident, but she also embodies the multitude of qualities that make up a true Muse: fearlessness, energy, creativity, and trust.
You will see her photos sprinkled throughout my portfolio, I can’t bring myself to retire the older ones because I like them so much. The first shot was taken in 2007. It’s a perfect example of the fact that nothing matters in a photo except what is visible.
This photo was taken with Susannah seated on the hallway floor in a shopping mall in Bethesda! Shoppers were actually walking around us as we shot, but I knew the light was beautiful and the color of the tiles worked well with her coloring. The piece de resistance was the perfect match between her blouse and eye color. The high angle perspective gave her a vulnerability and wide eyed innocence.
A few years later Susannah got a new haircut, which prompted a phone call and a new series of headshots. It was a pleasant time of year with comfortable temperatures and I wanted to shoot the entire session outside using the sun as our main source of light. The dramatic dark background shot was taken in the hallway of my studio building against a freight elevator door, the light came from an open door to an outside terrace. The outdoor shot was under the beginnings of a scaffold on the FIT campus. The openness of the background gave the shot a fresh sparkle. Voila…
The next time we shot, a year later, I was playing with horizontal shots and white backgrounds: horizontal because that’s the orientation of the film and TV screen, and working close trying to capture intensity. White backgrounds work well because they are clean, crisp, classic and create beautiful skin tones. With a clean background the form of the silhouette becomes architectural.
Then an opportunity arose to test a new light diffuser. The company that manufactured the ellipical umbrella brought a few sizes and we experimented, finding the sweet spot for the light…I wanted to get a fun, upbeat shot for Susannah with very pure, beautiful, simple light. One light carefully placed…that was my mantra.
Most recently, her manager requested a new round of shots for her film and TV work. He wanted a natural dramatic shot, something strong and stripped down, a sophisticated professional ala Robin Wright in House of Cards, and a polished leading lady. Here they are…our latest installment…
It’s fun to watch the development of Susannah’s persona and the evolution of my shooting style over the years. In photography, stagnation is the enemy. Pushing forward with new techniques, new equipment, and a fresh vision keeps the work vibrant and productive! As actors gain experience, they begin to fine tune the qualities that casting directors respond to, and so the image they project in their headshot must adapt and reflect those qualities.
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