Last year I ventured out of my comfort zone of photographing people on my tripod, an idea that first came to me when I photographed my friend John Wells for his musician portraits. Using a tripod is a rather structured approach that has many benefits but moving off it I've discovered a fair share of liberating results as well. Realizing this I decided to create an ongoing project I called "Exploratory Portraiture". I know how to light my sets like the back of my hand therefore I know exactly how my images will look before I even take the picture, but something inside told me there was more for me to learn, an energy that remained untapped. I needed to explore this curiosity but I also needed to create an experience for my subjects as well, in this case actors. So just as I pushed my tripod and rules to the side and began to move around on set, I instructed the actors along the same lines. I wanted them to explore their environment, their expressions, their characters... I would essentially turn my set into an actor's theater where they were free to explore their art. I was only there to document them through my own exploration. The first person I invited on set was my good friend Joshua Loren, a talented actor now pursuing his career in Los Angeles. I explained to him what my goal was and we went to work. By merely adjusting my lighting positions and traveling around the set photographing from different angles and distances I discovered new ways to tell one's story. The images we began to create were layered with raw emotion and intimacy while finely wrapped in a cinematic aesthetic. To me, this was satisfying my curiosity while maintaining an artistic style I've built my brand around. What we have now aren't just traditional images of an actor you'd see on comp cards or iMDB, these are genuine moments of a person, an honest chapter of their story told through actors portraits. A unique piece of work that's can be hung on the wall as art or used in their personal branding when submitting for auditions. It is imagery like this that will Josh apart as individuals. Josh, thank you for embarking on this exploration with me and for all the wonderful talks we've had. Cheers!
"I think one of the cool things about working on a project like this with Gary is as an actor I get to embody moments and glimpses of the human spirit versus aiming for the right expression and smile for a headshot. I get to explore the internal world and let Gary paint what he sees. It’s a great experience because you get to play in a different way as an actor. Then sometimes you get something unexpected and even personal. My favorite shot of the set is one where I’m looking off to my left with a subtle, poignant look of hope and peace. This was such an encapsulation of my own life at that moment as I walk the line without a net, coming from a darkness and now seeing a future filled with hope. That’s what Gary was able to draw out and capture in his own artistic way." - Joshua Loren
Louisville actor John Wells and I have worked on various projects through out the years now, but never before have we worked on the personal branding for his acting career. Last November he reached out to me in need of something different, something more him. To be specific, he was looking to add a refined layer of theatrical headshots to his acting portfolio. However, during our discussions we decided to add portraits to further expand the content we would create. You see, John is a passionate believer in needing portraits as an actor, a cornerstone of branding which sometimes gets overlooked. With personal branding, sometimes a headshot is needed while other times a portrait is needed, especially in the online or social media world. The session day came and we quickly captured what we needed and within days John had started promoting the images online, they were well received! Another job, another collaboration of ideas and another story of success!
"Gary is not only a consummate professional, but a joy to work with. I frequently collaborate with him for creative and professional endeavors, because he never fails to create images that are striking, characterful, and uniquely and effectively "me." His work reflects the soul of the moment, and connects and resonates to evoke a true emotional response." - John Wells reflecting on the personal branding experience.
If there is one thing that being a part of the world class Headshot Crew has taught is that to be prepared for every situation. Whether that pertains to tricky lighting situations or having the tools to take your client's headshots experience to the next level, it's good to have a few essential tools under your belt, I call mine the Headshot Survival Kit. Every professional headshot photographer should have something similar, why? Because life happens. Client has a suit that attracts lint? No problem, I've got that covered. Dirty glasses? Nope, those things are getting cleaned before you even step in front of my camera. Collars that want to be free as bird and fly away? Wrong, this is headshot land not a Skynard concert. For myself even, did I drink too much coffee? Most likely, I've got myself covered with 5 Peppermint Cobalt gum. This is my first video insight into just one element of what sets my brand apart from others and in return, gets the clients some rockin' headshots! Check out the video and then leave a comment of what you think it's missing or what you have in yours! Cheers Amigos!
It's a question asked many times and it's a question that can be answered many ways. But when it comes down to it, there is only one true reason why headshots are so important. They are important because they represent who you are as a person, they represent your brand. Abbie Purdue, a talented model who's work I've been following for sometime. While on set we were chatting about life and careers where she enlightened me to the fact that she is also a business communications major. Dual careered if you will, and if you have two careers then it's probably a good idea to have a headshot for each. I personally use two different headshots. I have one for all my branding, social media and press submissions then I have a second one I strictly use for my LinkedIn. Now Abbie is as equally prepared as well, during our session we photographed her headshots creating a robust suite of range, from my hand painted Oliphant Backdrop to a high end corporate aesthetic. Perfect to cover her modeling career and her future career once she graduates. So now whether she's attending a casting where she needs to bring a modeling 8 x 10, or applying for an internship, we've got her brand management sitting in a pretty nice position. Best of luck to you my friend!
"There is no denying the fact that a good headshot is a must for most career and growth opportunities that arise. When I needed new branding headshots, Gary was my only choice! As an experienced, skilled, and talented photographer, he not only helped me portray myself in the best presentable way but he also made the session relaxed and a lot of fun! As a trained photographer, he understands the subtleties of body language and expression and served as my guide and coach to help me collaboratively create some of my favorite portraits! I could not be happier with the beautiful shots. Thanks Coach G! You are the best." - Abbie Purde
PS... we have fun on set. Lots!
2017 is at it's end... and for a brief moment I can now exhale. It's been a year of setting goals, pursuing the drive to accomplish them and the fear of failing. I've been shooting professionally for over 5 years now, and I feel this is the year that has defined my career and given a clear path on where to move forward into the future.
At the end of 2016 I had two major goals for the new year, to start working out of a studio and to refine my business structure and niches. My first goal of getting a studio, induced a sizable amount of fear as it was equally a sizable risk, a risk I could not afford to fail at. So after searching around town for a perfect environment, I discovered Story Louisville. A community of Louisville's movers and shakers, who share their creativity in a common work space. Shortly after meeting with Natalia Bishop, the Chief of Happiness at Story Louisville, I made the decision to jump on board... I have not looked back since. Working out of a studio brings a higher sense of purpose and responsibility, a move that has been a cornerstone in my brand's growth. I now have a space to create images and tell the stories of all my amazing clients. That being said, working out of a studio laid out the foundation to my second major goal refining my business structure.
Running a business is no easy task, refining it to take it to the next level can be even more daunting. This goal was more complex to achieve as it was layered with several stepping stone goals. How did I come to this goal? It was simply by addressing something right under my nose the whole time. I would frequently get requests to do headshots, however having a friend who specialized in them I knew how much truly goes into them so I would honestly refer them out. I would do them here and there by special requests of friends but that was it. My wife and peers would mention to me that their is no reason why I shouldn't be doing more of them, I already have the lighting and people skills along with a distinguished brand in the community, so why not? I would just need to take what I already know from my portraiture experience with human emotions and dive deeper into the philosophy of headshots. So back in January it was off to headshot land I went. First stop, Peter Hurley's Headshot Crew! Chicago headshot specialist Michael Schacht invited me to check it out and see what they had to offer so I signed up then after browsing around for a few hours I was fully on board. This amazing community has set the standards world wide on headshot portraits so I knew I was in the right spot with where I wanted to take my own brand. This would be the vessel to help me navigate where I wanted to be on this day today (31 Jan 17). Through education, trial and error, I have elevated my brand 10 fold and now fortunate enough to be recognized as a premier headshot photographer in Louisville KY. Through this journey I'm also extremely proud to of earned the position of Associate Photographer for Peter Hurley and his Headshot Crew, a milestone not easily achieved.
Rounding out the year, is my creative body of work, ranging from fashion to lifestyle portraits. Running a business can easily become exhausting and at times, being an artist, this could cause one to become stale or stagnant. Understanding this, I feel it's important to the vitality of one's creative vision to always have some creative projects on the side. Sometimes I am blessed with an opportunity to be commissioned for my creativity as in the case with KMAC Couture. This a the city's most diverse fashion runway show and for the second year in a row, I photographed their campaign. Whether it's exploratory through light or the human emotion, there is always something out there to learn... if you are not searching then you will not discover what you may be missing.
So what do I have in store for 2018? Well let's just say I have several irons in the fire patiently waiting to be struck but in the mean time, here is a concise review of the milestones I achieved this past year -
Thank you to my amazing clients and teams!
All of this wouldn't of been possible with out the help and encouragement from several amazing people in my life. Starting with my family, my wife AnnMarie and parents Dan and Pam Barragan... your love and support means more than you will ever know! Friends and mentors, Antonio Pantoja, Clay Cook, Michael Schacht, Michael Sansone, Joey Goldsmith, Josh Eskridge, Josh Kroll, Pam Butler, Peter Hurley and Ryan Parker, thank you for all the words of wisdom, guidance and support. Your time is valuable and to pay it forward in the caliber you guys do speaks volumes of your character and heart, for this I sincerely thank you my friends. Bring on 2018!
What Next in 2018?
Exploratory Portraiture, but for now here are a couple teasers.
At the beginning of the year I set a goal to advance my headshot portrait work to a world class standard. I knew I would need to further educate myself in not just the art, but the technique as well. For the direction I wanted to go, I felt the best course of action was to study under world renowned headshot photographer Peter Hurley. Over this past year, I have been closely studying with him in person and through his online education group Headshot Crew, learning and growing, fueled by the desire to continue delivering the best headshots in the region. On Wednesday November 29th 2017, I put my portfolio in front of him to personally review and well... I'm proud to announce that I am now an Associate Photographer of his. What that means is my work has excelled above his standards and he can put his trust in me as an associate knowing that I will deliver some of the best rockin' headshots in the world, while elevating our own market here in Kentucky. It's an accomplishment I've worked my ass off for and I'm honored to reach this milestone in my career. To put this in perspective, there are less than 100 fellow associate photographers of his around the globe. So what does this mean to you? Two things. The first is knowing I care that much about my work with you, my amazing clients, that I'm willing to invest time and money to further hone my skill sets as an expert. The second is that if someone is looking to have Peter photograph their headshots but aren't able to make it to NY to work with him but they happen to live in the Kentucky region, I am one of a select few he is able to recommend for their needs. I will still work independently under my own brand but you can think of it like this... remember when Yoda completed Obi Wan's training and he became a Jedi Knight? It's the same thing principal, except I use light strobes instead of light sabers. It's a title I will proudly carry through out my career and I look forward to seeing you in front of my camera! Cheers!
Sarang, pronounced sa-dang, it’s Korean for the word “love”. As humans, it’s been said that a child’s first true love is their mother. That particular bond, beginning at conception is undeniably one of the most amazing connections a person can have. The mother gives life, and throughout time, there’s always going to be motherly tendencies to overlook their children, even as they grow into adults. I’ve witnessed this amazing relationship first hand with my wife and her mother, to be honest, I would never have the right combination of words to truly describe what I see with them. So one day, while we were visiting the family, my mother in law, Oma (Korean for mom), brought me this photograph, it was a small wallet sized portrait, weathered and tattered in nature. This photograph, one of her as a child sitting next to her mother, was the only one Oma had of them together. Every photograph has a story to tell, and with the condition of this particular one, it became apparent the amount of sentimental value associated with it. A true heirloom that tugs at the heart. So back to this photograph that she handed me, she asked if I could fix it, an intimidating task given the condition, but I told her I would give it my best shot.
Over the course of several days, I would sit down for a couple hours and meticulously work on different parts of the photograph… restoring the textures of the dresses on one evening, or bringing depth back to their faces through a technique called dodge and burn. I am no restoration retoucher by any means, but it was a rewarding feeling to step away from my headshot and portrait work and apply my skillsets to something more personable for the family. Eventually the photograph began to visualize new life of a memory greatly cherished. Upon completion, I wanted to run it by a few peers to look over to make sure there was not anything I overlooked or something that could be done better. I’ve always felt it was good move to cross check your work and this was no different. All feedback came back positive, but one friend suggested I try to take it a step further… to colorize it. A technique even more intimidating than the restoration itself, but I did little research on that technique and gave it my best shot. I had my wife AnnMarie call her mom and see if she could remember the colors of the dress, from her recollection she could best remember as her dress had little red flowers. From there I envisioned the best colors to suit their Hanboks (traditional Korean dresses) and bring the story yet another layer of life.
When all the work was completed, my wife and I decided to have a few small prints made along with an 11 x 14 canvas wrap. Knowing how much this photograph meant to Oma we wanted to surprise her and present them to her as a gift. So on Thanksgiving, after the table had been cleared of the dinner and deserts, I handed her the canvas to be unwrapped. Oma’s reaction was simply indescribable, I could feel the strings of hearts being pulled, myself included. Tears of joys were shed as she began to describe her memories of that day and how she remembers what she was holding in her hand… it was small mint wrap candy. It’s times like this that remind me that I have more than just talent but a gift to make a difference in people’s life. We now look forward to seeing this heirloom hung on the wall where it rightfully belongs. My friends, life is good. :-)
Special thanks to Jim at Iris Pro Imaging for beautiful prints and canvas wrap.
Passing on the Portrait Tradition with the family's Hanbok
Since I am writing about my mother in law and her mother, I feel it's a perfect opportunity talk about my beautiful wife and a portrait session we did back in December 2015. Initially my wife wanted me to take a few snaps of her wearing her mother's hanbok, a traditional Korean dress. However I just I didn't want to do "snaps", I wanted to tell a story of this dress, another family heirloom. So we browsed Pinterest for some ideas and I asked my friend Ana Perez if she would be willing to collaborate. At the time, I had just recently purchased my second Oliphant backdrop and there is just something about the work that Sarah Oliphant creates that infuses so much soul in portraits. So this would be the first time I used two backdrops in my work, one hung up and one used as a floor drop. This would create the perfect stage for our story of beauty, love and tradition. To this day, this one of my absolute portraits I've taken of AnnMarie, and yes these are printed and hanging in the house, where they should be. Everyday when I wake up, I pass a wall that has her portraits along with our son and our fur baby... this is story that lives in our house, not a digital file stored in computer. As our life continues on, I'll always look forward to capturing new chapters of our stories thought the art of image making. Cheers amigo!
Why do folks update their headshots? For many reasons, maybe their corporate headshot is outdated or maybe they need to portray a certain character through an actor’s theatrical headshot to land a particular role. Other times it’s because they’ve gone through a physical transformation such as improving physique, or in Molly’s case, having a stunning new look. Represented by Heyman Talent Agency in Louisville KY, Molly Kays is an actor here in town and recently went from having long hair to a rocking a new pixie hair style. She reached out to me to update her current headshots to match her new look by going with cinematic headshot aesthetic, it was a perfect decision.
Once on set we briefly talked about her previous headshots and how she envisioned her new ones and within a few minutes we were knocking out keepers left and right! Within no time, we managed to photograph a nice set consisting of 3 different looks outside, then we took it to the studio to get knock out a few commercial headshots and some moody theatrical headshots.
All in all, we had a really good time while wrapping up 5 distinct looks, a rather nice range of headshots ready to be used at moment’s notice for casting calls. Why so many? Because different jobs call for different tools and the actors headshots is what gets them in front of the right people to do what it is that they do… perform and act. Best of luck to Molly and I look forward to seeing these in action. Cheers amigos!
Gary was great, I’m usually so uncomfortable having headshots done but he was the perfect coach, he made me laugh and we got some nice shots!
Did I mention the fun we had? Yes fun, headshots don't have to be boring, in fact as a Louisville headshot photographer it's my goal to create a memorable and unique experience!
Ready to update your headshots?Let's chat!
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?
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!