Marc’s Miracles

About a year ago I had asked Marc Clermont to be a subject for my artist portrait series. He is the Facilities Manager at Western Avenue Studios, in Lowell, MA, and the founder and  President of the Board of Directors of The Miracle Providers NorthEast, a non-profit organization that helps raise money for children and their families impacted by HIV/AIDS. Among their many fund-raising events, they regularly produce musical extravaganzas at the Onyx Room, also at Western Avenue.

I really didn’t realize what kind of preparation was involved for Marc to get into character, which was of course how I wanted to photograph him. I thought, a little mascara, a wig and a dress… what’s the problem? Well a couple of weeks ago Marc asked if I could show up at the Onyx Room for the next Miracle Provider’s show, at which time he could sit for my photographs before the show. I think it took Marc about an hour and a half to get ready. It was worth the wait! I hope you enjoy my take.

Please go to the Miracle Provider’s web page, or Facebook page to see what incredible work they do! They also have shots on the Facebook page from that, and other shows, expertly done by other photographers.


Obehi, the Multitalented

I recently met Obehi Janice while casting for a promotional video that I was working on with filmmaker Pete Pedulla. A performer, writer and speaker, she clearly fit with my ongoing goal of finding interesting people to photograph. She came to my studio yesterday along with her sister, and UMass Lowell student, Joy. It was a fun shoot!

...and this Big Door Portrait series is really on a roll!

Obehi regularly performs her own, solo work, FUFU & OREOS, and will be doing so in Chicago, on Friday, February 15th. Check out her web site for more information:


The Scott Grimes Cover that Almost Didn't Happen

Back in August, Masschusetts native, actor and musician Scott Grimes, of ER and Band of Brothers fame, came home to do a benefit concert at Lowell's Memorial Auditorium. Merrimack Valley Magazine loves a hometown success story, so Scott was a perfect fit for the cover. It was all arranged. We were to meet Scott back stage before his concert and do the cover shoot. Nothing highly produced, just a series of portraits of him sitting, singing, enacting a voiceover session in a theatrical setting. Dramatic lighting, minimalist background... you get the idea.

I had the lights all set up. Everything was ready to go. I did some test shots with the publisher sitting in for the star. He loves that (ha!). In walked someone in charge. 'Scott won't be able to come down. It's too close to showtime.' I looked at the publisher and the creative director as they went completely pale. I blurted out: 'can he just give us five minutes?' The guy paused and said, ok, I'll check. He walked away and the aforementioned magazine honchos shot me a look. A glare really... I said, 'I am all set up. If he comes down here for 5 he will be here for 15.' I may have even said 'trust me'... I really need a manager; someone to stop me before I say 'yes' again!

Scott came down to the set and was incredibly personable, helpful, ready for a photo shoot, and seemed to be in no rush to leave. Happy to accommodate. We shot the cover in a little less than 10 minutes and followed that up with several relaxed, informal posed shots of him, his band and our writer, Beth Daigle. It had turned out to be a good night all around. But someone really needs to stop me next time.

And please don't miss this issue to check out Creative Director Steve Pennimpede's great vision and Photoshop work on the cover concept!

Merrimack Valley Magazine - November/December 2012

Merrimack Valley Magazine - November/December 2012

A Happy Team - Merrimack Valley Magazine's owner, editor & publisher, Glenn Prezzano, writer for the Scott Grimes story, Beth Daigle, and creative director Stephen Pennimpede

A Happy Team - Merrimack Valley Magazine's owner, editor & publisher, Glenn Prezzano, writer for the Scott Grimes story, Beth Daigle, and creative director Stephen Pennimpede

Goals and a Vision for your Head-Shot

A potential client contacted me a few weeks ago inquiring about having an actor's head-shot done. She was very specific about what she wanted and seemed to like what she had seen of my work. I forwarded her some information about the way that I work, the fee and my deliverables. We then set up an appointment and she asked if I would mind if she sent me her ideas about the shoot. I love when a client is personally invested in this process, so I naturally said, yes, please do! She then sent along a Word document listing her goals for the shoot, what she thought the head-shot should be or entail, as well as a list of questions.

To a portrait photographer, this is what a great shoot looks like. That isn't to say that everyone needs to do this! In fact, most subjects are actually rather unsure of what is going to happen when they arrive at my studio or I at their location. When possible, I prefer to have a pre-shoot conference, either in a separate sit-down, or if that's not possible, immediately before the shoot. My objective is to explain the process, answer any questions and to solicit any input that the subject would like to contribute. I cannot speak for other head-shot photographers, but I really appreciate input from my client. The great thing about the actress to whom I was referring was that once we started, she wasn't into micro-managing the session. She had shared her vision with me before we met and my job was to make her vision reality. I hope the work speaks for itself.


I work with all kinds of clients, creating actor head-shots as well as corporate head-shots, although I prefer to call the latter, corporate portraits. Irrespective of the client though, having a vision and goals in mind before the shoot begins is key.

What Not to Light

If you want to make something more interesting, it's important to know what not to light. I know that a great photographer said something like that, but I cannot remember who that was or what his or her exact words were. It's a phrase that I think about constantly though. One of my new favorite shadow creator combinations is a beauty dish with a grid. Soft, fairly large, but most of all, very constrained. I would say it is easily disciplined.

Here are a couple of my favorites from a shoot that my friend and client Ed and I did earlier this week. Ed is a retired accounting professor and an up-and-coming actor and singer. We created hundreds of actor headshots, but once those were in the can, we worked on some additional dramatic, less traditional shots.

Just Some Photos that I Like!

When I blog, I like to write something that readers will hopefully find interesting and will compel them to read and look further. It's often a challenge, as I don't feel like a writer. As photographers, we communicate with our images. Ultimately, that's what I hope will draw people in. I know it won't be my words, but I hope that my words will serve as an introduction to my work.

This time, I only have my images. As a commercial photographer, I spend a lot of time creating photographs that are not strictly artistic. While artistry is involved, their role in life is largely utilitarian. That is true in a business sense, but the discerning client knows that they are more than that; they serve to evoke an emotion in the viewer. The esthetic value may be subtle, but it's there. That's why I can only shake my head in disbelief when I see a cell phone self portrait or a red cup party shot used as a business headshot. People! Potential clients are judging you, possibly unfairly, based on an initial impression. You've heard this rant before, I'm sure.

So since I have nothing to say today ;-), I thought I would post some business portraits and some actor headshots that I did recently and that I really like.

The first bunch of shots are of a young actress and dancer.


I also had the privilege of photographing this Boston attorney, who also does legal commentary on a TV network. She really understands the value of good images!

Spring Cleaning of the Mind

Is it a headshot, or is it a portrait? I get a fair number of calls from people looking for a headshot. They are often business people who are told that they need to get a headshot taken for their employer's web site, or they are in business for themselves and they are working with a professional to improve their branding and on-line presence. They are often actors or musicians too, who need a headshot in order to audition. But this "headshot" thing... I think the term is complicit in the dumbing down of the concept in popular perception. If all they needed was a shot of their head, the arm's length iPhone self-portrait would do (or should I call it a self-headshot? Self-inflicted headshot?), as would scanning their driver's license photo, although there may be copyright issues there ;-) Clearly, neither approach would be acceptable to a casting director or a marketing/branding consultant.

The ease with which we can all create digital photographs of exceptional technical quality has made professional photography a difficult pursuit. Consequently, there are many photographers who, out of desperation I think, will be willing to do a $20 headshot. I will not. Art can never be a commodity. Once it becomes a commodity it cedes its place as art. A professional must value himself or herself as an artist.

Now there is nothing in the slightest wrong with a traditional approach to a headshot. In fact, many purposes for what a headshot is used have specific requirements and norms for such shots. That being said, artistry does matter. An artist will fulfill the client's requirements and then go the extra distance to make the session matter. Other artists, such as performers, are easier to convince, but it's often difficult to persuade business people of the value of really great photography, especially when they are the subject. But when you see or think of the best kinds of business branding and marketing, the photography is never mundane or perfunctory. It's extraordinary and special. It's art.





If you have read some of my previous posts you may recognise a couple of these people. Some of these "headshots" were done in the course of doing environmental portraits for them. But these headshots are portraits just the same! They are unique and in each case I have made an attempt to bring out the personality in each individual while creating an esthetically pleasing experience. A photographer who cares and who values his or her work and artistic sensibilities is worth investing in.










A Break in the Weather

Around here, this "summer", you have to be ready to take advantage of the breaks in the weather when they happen. I had an actor's headshot session scheduled for last Monday, which, as it turned out, was the only good day this week. Not funny, really. It's July 9th as I type this and I think we hit 68F for a high today, and when I looked at the thermometer at 8:30 this morning, it was 60! At least it wasn't raining today, even though we haven't seen the sun to speak of since Monday.

Anyway... Monday... Justin Carrasco, an actor who has recently returned to the Greater Boston area from Florida was interested in having new headshots done outside. There are several locations in downtown Lowell, Massachusetts that I like to shoot in because of the colors, textures and the shade.

I'm sure if you are familiar with downtown Lowell, you will recognise at least some of these locations.

But we also did some nice work in the afternoon sun, balancing things nicely with small strobes. Justin didn't choose this next one, but I really like the look of the scene,  and his expression.