Part of being successful in this industry is knowing when you’ve outgrown your market. Do you remember your first paid acting gig in Louisville? Were you performing in front of a full house at the Pamela Brown Auditorium? Maybe you had an ensemble part in a musical at Whitney Hall. Were you in short film with a budget, or maybe even a feature headed to Sundance? Louisville has a great acting community, but the larger the market, the larger the opportunities and sometimes to get to that next level, you’re going to have to pack up and go back to being a small fish in a big pond.
I’m Michael Schacht and I’m a headshot photographer in Chicago, Il. If you’re looking to step up to a larger market, I think Chicago is the obvious choice, but before you quit your day job and break your lease, I think it’s important that you be as prepared as possible for the move. Here are 10 things I think you should know before leaving Louisville to pursue an acting career in Chicago.
I can remember clearly like it was yesterday, being told that I am my own brand. Grow it by nurturing it with love and strength, just as you would any other relationship you care about. Folks invest in me for their personal branding with the absolute best headshots and portraits to represent their brand, so it's only right that I invest in myself as well. This is an extremely important step for brand growth in today's vast world of online presences, everyone needs a solid image that represents who are as a person, not some selfie that you took outside on the street. You see, personal brand management starts with me, your professional Louisville headshot photographer, as it's my job to capture that perfectly told story of who you are and how you plan to convey that story to your own audience. Understanding this responsibility, I know I have an obligation in continued education to further better myself, this will be a staple of my brand until the day I decide to hang up the camera. Last weekend I did exactly that, by traveling up to Chicago to attend the 3 day Headshot Intensive work shop hosted by world renowned headshot photographer Peter Hurley which was hosted at Michael Schacht's 312 Elements studio. In order to be the best, you learn from the best to keep your talents honed and maintain a leading edge for your clients.
Headshot by Peter Hurley
It's one thing to learn the technical aspects of any job, but it's a whole other level to really get into the nuts and bolts of it, and this is exactly what we did. I didn't attend the Intensive to learn how to take a headshot, I went to better understand the art of human expression and emotion which in return led to the most valuable lesson of the weekend... trust. Building trust, specifically in myself with setting goals and plotting out a course of action to make these goals attainable. Although I've been doing headshots here and there for a couple years now, it wasn't until this past January that I decided to make it a cornerstone of brand. Since then I've managed to carve out a slice of the market and establish myself as one of Louisville's best headshot photographers by repeatedly delivering robust sets of professional headshots and personal branding portraits for actors, entertainers, models and business professionals. I take pride in the work I do for my brand therefore I am always striving to better myself, the Headshot Intensive was simply a natural course of action for me.
Throughout the weekend, we covered a wide range of topics, such as the artistry of headshots, the vast ranges of human emotions and the personal growth through setting goals. It was weekend built on fun memories, learning experiences and sprints through the rain! Yes rain! The first day of the Intensive was hit hard with rain and during dinner it seemed to hit the hardest. One of the mentors there, Mike Sansone, was on crutches due to an injury, had he walked back he would of been drenched, so I decided to run to back to the studio, grab my car and swing back around to pick him up. Nothing like a harrowing rescue to get the adrenaline going right? lol
Peter Hurley instructing on how constant light interacts with the human face.
Throughout the weekend, we were assigned different tasks ranging from shadowing Peter while he photographed other people to walking nearby streets in search of strangers to photograph. Each of the tasks assigned had their unique purpose, shadowing Peter allowed us an intimate opportunity to see how he works with his go to lighting (Westcott Flex Kit constant lighting where I use Profoto strobes) and how he interacts with client to extract genuine emotion. We each have our own style and technique and it was rather interesting to see how others applied their own to different situation. Photographing strangers on the street challenged our people skills and seeing how quickly we could get someone comfortable enough to give a true expression reactive to our techniques. Being we were outside on the streets, we were also challenged with searching out the best available light for environmental portraits, or headshots that are commonly referred to a cinematic headshot.
By the middle of the second day we were in the midst of a headshot party with multiple stations set up. I brought my entire headshot setup so I was able to replicate in Chicago what I normally back home in Louisville KY for my clients and their professional headshot experience. It was a moment of excitement as I photographed several people there and seeing their reactions as we reviewed the images on screen, a key part to my workflow. I want the people I photograph to feel on top of the world with what we are capturing and by providing a method for them to see how my coaching really dials in the best expression for visual impact.
Michael Schacht, Chicago Headshot Crew Associate and Mentor
As the weekend came to end, I had a lot of information to process and absorb but walking away that new insight on trusting myself to setting goals beyond the immediate future made my time in Chicago worth every single penny. Furthermore, I’m walking away with the friendships of three individuals who are inspiring leaders and genuine humans I’d gladly break bread with any day. Peter Hurley, Mike Schacht and Mike Sansone, again thank you for all the guidance, laughs and memories you provided during the Intensive. See you guys at the top!
Interested in developing or refreshing your personal branding or headshots?
I love working with and meeting new talent because of the new relationships that are formed and be able to use my own talents to help take their careers to the next level. Addie reached out to me shortly before heading into her sophomore year up at NYU to update her acting headshot portfolio. Being a graduate of the Youth Performing Arts School in Louisville KY, she knew first hand the importance of having the best professional actor headshots ready on the whim for castings. But this time was a little different, entering into her second year at NYU she is now eligible to audition and what better way to start that new journey than to have a set of the best actor headshots of her career. She came to the studio ready to work, kicking out some stunning expressions left and right, by the time it was done we had a pretty robust range of commercial headshots along with theatrical headshots, a key set of tools every actor should have on hand. An essential factor in all this was her coming to set with a high and bubbly energy mixing with my enthusiasm of wanting the absolute best for her, headshots that have visual impact! As the session wrapped I felt a new friendship had been formed and I now look forward to seeing her bright future grow! Best of luck Addie!
Hair and Make-Up by the talented Lyndsey Elliot of The Beauty Patrol
Ready to set your brand apart with the best headshots of your career?
Contact me so we can start discussing a game plan for you!
I first met Clark Spalding at an Actors 101 prep class for the Star Wars, Hand of the Empire, a young and aspiring actor whom I've seen first hand the potential this guy has. Venturing further into his acting career he knew he needed some rockin' headshots, this would actually be his first professional headshot session. Clark mentioned that he use to submit selfies for casting calls, it's a path many actors take when they first start out. But such as machinist who uses a Starrett dial caliper, or a nurse who uses a Littman stethoscope, actors need the best headshots possible, an image that is going to set their brand apart as this is their tool of the trade to get them work. Once he reached out to me, we discussed some ideas and acknowledged that we would be building his portfolio up from scratch, so we expanded from a headshot session to a full personal branding development session. We did this by covering commercial and theatrical headshots in the studio then going outside for some environmental 3/4 and full body portraits. A natural talent to work with, we had plenty of material to work with when selecting the images to retouch. I look forward to seeing him in action and as he put it "I feel much more confident submitting to casting calls now that i have these instead of selfies".
After our session I feel more comfortable in front of a camera than I ever have, but also have incredible headshots that I can feel confident submitting to auditions. - Clark Spalding.
Being able to provide that level of confidence to someone nurtures my natural tendency to help the next person out and allows me to tell their story through my art of image making. With actors, we get to have fun with not just them as themselves, but as different characters or roles they are going for. So, if you are looking to take your story to the next level, please feel free to reach out and let's start discussing your story!
A personal journal about any given day in my photography career where I will write about anything from portraits and headshots to sharing my educational experiences. Thank you for taking the time to stop by, it's my pleasure to share my stories with you!