Birthday & Updated Portrait

Birthday & Updated Portrait

As a photographer, when was the last time you updated your portrait? What do you have on your website and business cards?

After years of being a photographer, one of the biggest hurdles I’ve noticed for clients is that they stress about getting new portraits done. I understand that. Everyone has the same excuses to put off professional photos: I’m getting older, I don’t like how I look right now, I don’t have time, it feels vain, I’ll do it later, etc.

So to set the example, and for the mental exercise of doing it, I update my portrait each year. I use my use my birthday as the reminder and catalyst to create something new. I think it’s important to keep your portrait up to date, no matter what.

Many times a client will show me their website, and their business headshot is 5-10 years old. It looks dated, and nothing like them. And I speak and train photographers around the country as a PPA Master Photographer / Photographic Craftsman. Even amongst photographers, it’s not uncommon to see them using old headshots. So of all people, we as photographers should get and show updated portraits.

So for my new portrait, I wanted to try something new this year. I decided to do everything the opposite of my last one. Normally I’m smiling in my images, so I instead I’m serious. Normally as people get older, I photograph them with softer light to hide wrinkles, so for this I did sharp specular light to highlight wrinkles, lines, and textures. Normally headshots are close up, and so this time it’s full length. And normally I do a clean white or fashion gray for headshots, so this time I used a dark, hand-painted, Oliphant-style background that I got in California from DBC Backdrops. Normally a headshot is bright and airy, this time it’d be darker tones and moody.

After setting up the equipment and metering the lighting, I shot a few options both standing and sitting using a hand-held remote to fire the camera. These were my favorites. The artistic side of me often has to live with something for a bit to see how I like it, and so far I am really liking these. They are completely different from my last ones.


And I have another self-portrait to reveal on my birthday. I wanted to do a fun image of me, riding my motorcycle by standing on it, while driving through an exposition, shooting a gun, and waving the American flag. It would be over-the-top enough to be funny and entertaining, but also artistic and well-done down to the tiniest details. I’d do it just like a commercial art piece for a client.

For commercial work, sometimes a shot is impossible to get. In those cases I’ll create illustrative composites – multiple images combined into one impossible-to-create image. These digital composites are surreal worlds that don’t really exist. It’s a complex process, but first the idea is mapped out, then a series of photographs are created of each piece matching lighting throughout, then those parts are painstakingly blended together into one final art piece.

I love how it turned out. It’s comical and fun, but the attention to detail (like the shadows, lighting, and blending) all look great, especially up close.

Portraits should be fun. The creation process should be enjoyable and memorable. If you get them as custom wall art that you see every day, then those portraits should make you happy when you see them. We shouldn’t put off getting portraits either. I’m a believer that we should have current portraits that we love, whether you’re single, married, have kids or not, you should have a portrait that represents this time of life in a beautiful, artistic, and uplifting way.

If you’re a photographer, update your current business portrait. And think about doing something fun too, like an illustrative composite, I’ve lot lots of tutorials here on my site to help you in the process.

And until next time, America.