Friday, March 20, 2009

An Interview with Professional Headshot Photographer--Jeffrey Nicholson/The Shot Photography


My last post discussed the importance of hiring a professional photographer.  To illustrate my point, I wanted to introduce you to Jeffrey Nicholson of "The Shot Photography."  I started noticing Jeffrey's work when some of our local actors began bringing in his work to ABC Pictures for reproductions.  I noticed the quality right off and I asked our clients who the photographer was.  There started to be a "Jeffrey Nicholson Theme".   Everyone I talked to was very pleased with their results and told me how fun it was to work with him. After digging a little deeper, I found out that Jeffrey is an award winning Los Angeles Photographer who has worked with over 5000 actors.  His celebrity work has appeared in Elle, Marie Claire, Good Housekeeping, Maxim, Stuff, USA Today, Shape, Muscle and Fitness and Oprah magazines.  He has photographed many celebrities such as Eva Longoria, Jamie Foxx, Josh Duhamael, Cameron Diaz, Dane Cook, Shannon Sossoman, Masi Oka, Dave Chappelle, Kelly Hu, Tracy Morgan, Josie Bisset and Jay Mohr, just to name a few.  I reached out to Jeffrey and asked if he would be interested in doing an interview for our actor audiences and I got an enthusiastic "yes"!  And just for the record, our clients were right, he really is fun to work with--and he is coming to a city near you!  Stay tuned for more information on that. Find excerpts from our interview below.


Name:    JEFFREY NICHOLSON                                                  

Business Name:  THE SHOT PHOTOGRAPHY

Occupation:  PHOTOGRAPHER

Specialty:  ACTORS AND MODELS

Website:  WWW.THESHOTPHOTOGRAPHY.COM

Location:  LOS ANGELES/KANSAS CITY

How did you decide to become a photographer?  

I WAS ALWAYS KIND OF A SHY PERSON, STILL AM ACTUALLY.  I WANTED TO HANG OUT WITH THE PRETTY PEOPLE AND THOUGHT – WHAT DO THE PRETTY PEOPLE NEED?  AND THEN IT DAWNED ON ME – PHOTOGRAPHY.  PRETTY PEOPLE NEED PICTURES TO PROVE HOW PRETTY THEY ARE – AND THAT WAS IT, A CAREER WAS BORN. 

What was the process you took to becoming a professional photographer?  

AFTER COLLEGE I WAS DATING A GIRL THAT WANTED TO GET INTO MODELING.  SHE WAS ALWAYS COMPLAINING ABOUT GETTING GOOD PICTURES SO I BORROWED A CAMERA FROM MY DAD, SHOT A TEST AND HER AGENCY FLIPPED OUT AND STARTED SENDING ME ALL OF THEIR MODELS AND ACTORS TO SHOOT.  SADLY, THE GIRL DUMPED ME AND I’VE NEVER HEARD FROM HER AGAIN – BUT IT WAS A HUGE TURNING POINT IN MY LIFE.

I ACTUALLY MET MY WIFE SHOOTING FOR THAT SAME AGENCY AND 15 YEARS LATER, I STILL GO BACK AND SHOOT FOR THEM AS OFTEN AS I CAN.

Where do you do most of your work?   LOS ANGELES.  MY STUDIO IS IN BEAUTIFUL DOWNTOWN BURBANK, CALIFORNIA.

Do you ever travel outside of this area with your photography?  YES. I ALSO SHOOT IN NEW YORK, CHICAGO, DALLAS, DENVER, PHOENIX, KANSAS CITY AND OKLAHOMA CITY AND THIS YEAR I WILL BE EXPANDING TO A CITY NEAR YOU! 

How long have you been a photographer?  20 YEARS – WHICH IS REALLY AMAZING WHEN YOU CONSIDER THAT I AM ONLY 29.

What is your photographic specialty?  I AM TOLD IT IS – CREATING GREAT ENERGY IN AN IMAGE AND ALWAYS ROCKING THE EYES.  I THINK I SEE THE BEAUTY IN ALL PEOPLE AND HOPE I CAN BRING SOMEONES INNER BEAUTY TO THE SURFACE.  I LOVE THE CONNECTION AND THE ONLY WAY IT HAS STAYED SO FRESH FOR ME OVER TWO DECADES IS MY LOVE OF PEOPLE AND MAKING NEW FRIENDS.

You seem to have a really great sense of humor.    Do you incorporate that humor into your shoots?  NO.

HONESTLY, I AM USUALLY THE ONE LAUGHING.  THERE WAS A TIME WHEN IT WOULD BE HARD TO NAME A STAND UP COMEDIAN THAT I HAD NOT SHOT.  SEVERAL OF MY FRIENDS ARE THE VERY TOP COMEDY FEATURE DIRECTORS AND I JUST SEEM TO ATTRACT THE FUNNY PEOPLE.  NOT REALLY SURE WHY.   ONE OF MY FIRST BIG BREAKS WAS SHOOTING THE CAST OF SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE A FEW YEARS BACK – MAYBE THAT IS HOW IT STARTED.

You are originally from Kansas City, Missouri.   Is photography what took you to California?  NO.  

I TOOK A CAR...  

(crickets sfx)

GET IT…A CAR.

OK.

ACTUALLY NO – I HAD HUNG UP MY CAMERA AND WAS HAVING A NICE LITTLE LIFE IN FRONT OF THE CAMERA DOING PRINT, HOSTING, ACTING AND A TON OF COMMERCIALS. 

MY ROOMATE AND SEVERAL OF MY FRIENDS NEEDED HEADSHOTS.  I PULLED MY CAMERA OUT OF THE CLOSET AFTER SEVERAL YEARS AND SHOT EVERYONE IN OUR GROUP.  SINCE I DID NOT HAVE A STUDIO/LIGHTS/BACKDROPS ETC. – THE HEADSHOTS WERE MORE THE WAY I DID MY FASHION WORK – WITH GREAT NATURAL LIGHT.  AT THE TIME, ALL OF THE BIG HEADSHOT SHOOTERS WERE DOING THOSE BORING STUDIO HEADSHOTS AGAINST A GRAY PAPER BACKGROUND.  I’M SURE THERE WERE OTHERS SHOOTING NATURAL LIGHT AT THE TIME, BUT I WAS VERY MUCH A PART OF THE MASSIVE MOVE TOWARD NATURAL LIGHT HEADSHOTS IN LA AND THERE WAS A 5 YEAR PERIOD WHEN I WAS SHOOTING WELL OVER 300 ACTORS A YEAR.

What kind of changes have you seen in headshot photography since you started and what do you see changing in the future?   THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCE IS NOW THERE ARE 300 HEADSHOT PHOTOGRAPHERS IN LA!  GOING DIGITAL IS HANDS DOWN THE BIGGEST CHANGE I HAVE SEEN OR EVER WILL SEE IN PHOTOGRAPHY.  GOING DIGITAL HAS LEVELED THE PLAYING FIELD SO YOU HAVE SEVERAL REAL PHOTOGRAPHERS COMPETING AGAINST HUNDREDS OF WANNABE SHOOTERS WITH A $3000 CAMERA.  OF COURSE, YOU AND I KNOW THERE IS A HUGE DIFFERENCE – BUT I THINK IT’S BECOMING HARDER AND HARDER FOR POTENTIAL CLIENTS TO SEE IT.  IN THEIR DEFENSE – SOME ARE QUITE GOOD AND IT KEEPS US FILM GUYS ON OUR TOES.  I DO ZERO ADVERTISING – SO I AM VERY THANKFUL THAT I RUN COMPLETELY ON REPEAT BUSINESS.  MY CLIENTS SEEM TO APPRECIATE THE DIFFERENCE AND I NEVER PHONE IT IN.  I SHOW UP TO ROCK IT EVERY SINGLE TIME.

Are there any trends that entertainers, actors and models should be aware of?  I HAVE HAD TO CHANGE THE WAY I SHOOT TO GIVE MY CLIENT EVERY OPPORTUNITY TO ‘POP’ ON LINE.  SNAPPY COLOR IS AS CRITICAL AND WE HAVE RETURNED TO MORE OF A CLOSER HEADSHOT – SOMETIMES EVEN AN EXTREME CLOSE UP IS BEST.  GET THE EYES AS BIG AND BEAUTFUL IN EVERY SHOT.

What tips can you share with entertainers about how to look for a good headshot photographer?  YOU BET.  IT’S GOING TO BE HARD TO FIND A GREAT HEADSHOT SHOOTER IN A SMALLER MARKET.  THERE JUST IS NOT ENOUGH OF THAT TYPE OF BUSINESS FOR A SHOOTER TO FOCUS ON AND GET A TON OF EXPERIENCE SHOOTING.  SO – IF YOU ARE IN A SMALLER MARKET – YOU NEED TO PRINT OUT SAMPLE HEADSHOTS FROM HEADSHOT PHOTOGRAPHER’S WEB SITES THAT YOU LIKE AND TAKE THEM IN TO TELL THE SHOOTER WHAT YOU ARE LOOKING FOR.  THAT WAY – THERE IS SOMETHING TO DIRECTLY COMPARE WHAT YOU ARE GETTING – TO WHAT YOU ARE WANTING.  IN A PERFECT WORLD – YOU FIND A SHOOTER THAT IS WILLING TO PLAY A LITTLE AND SHOOT BOTH INSIDE AND OUT.  I AM WORKING ON A BOOK TO HELP BOTH PHOTOGRAPHERS AND ACTORS GET A GREAT SHOT – NO MATTER WHERE THEY ARE.

THERE ARE SEVERAL LA SHOOTERS WHO ARE TRAVELING NOW TO SMALLER MARKETS TO SHOOT, MYSELF INCLUDED.  FOR EXAMPLE, THIS YEAR I WILL BE SHOOTING IN KANSAS CITY, DENVER, ST. LOUIS, DALLAS, OKLAHOMA CITY, CHICAGO, OMAHA, DES MOINES, SPRINGFIELD AND BRANSON IN SUMMER ’09.  I’M KINDA LIKE U2 – BUT WITHOUT ALL THE TRUCKS AND FANS AND…YOU KNOW…COME TO THINK OF IT, I GUESS I’M NOT LIKE U2 AT ALL.  ϑ

MY POINT IS THAT IF YOU ARE WITHIN DRIVING DISTANCE – YOU CAN TYPICALLY GET TO A GREAT SHOOTER.  MANY OF MY CLIENTS FLY OUT TO LA AND MAKE A VACATION OUT OF IT.  LA RATES ARE ABOUT HALF OF NY RATES, SO I HAVE TONS OF NY ACTORS THAT CAN FLY TO LA AND SHOOT WITH ME AND GET A COMBO #5 AT TACO BELL AND STILL SAVE MONEY OVER SHOOTING IN THE BIG APPLE.

I BELIEVE YOU HAVE TO SHOOT WITH SOMEONE THAT GUARANTEES THEIR WORK.  MOST DON’T IN LA ANYMORE BECAUSE PEOPLE TAKE ADVANTAGE OF IT – BUT IT IS REALLY IMPORTANT TO FIND A SHOOTER THAT WILL STAND BEHIND THEIR WORK.

What questions should they be asking when they are shopping?  

DO YOU SHOOT EXCLUSIVELY IN A STUDIO/ON LOCATION/BOTH?

DO YOU PROVIDE HAIR AND MAKE UP OR CAN I BRING MY OWN/DO IT MYSELF?

HOW MANY LOOKS/CHANGES ARE INCLUDED IN YOUR PRICE?

DO I GET A DISK OF ALL THE IMAGES IN HIGH RESOLUTION FROM MY SESSION?

IF NOT – HOW DOES IT WORK?  WHAT IS INCLUDED – WHAT IS NOT?

DO YOU OFFER RETOUCHING/PRINTING?

DO YOU GUARANTEE YOUR WORK?

WHAT IS YOUR POLICY IF I HAVE TO RESCHEDULE?

After they have found the photographer how should they prepare for the shoot?  

I LIKE PEOPLE THAT MAKE A MIX – OR BRING THEIR IPOD – SO IT’S THEIR PARTY.

I LOVE IT WHEN PEOPLE BRING A FRIEND TO KEEP IT SOCIAL AND GIVE THEM A PERSONAL ASSISTANT.  I LOVE IT WHEN PEOPLE ARE RESTED AND BRING A GREAT ATTITUDE TO A SHOOT.  EVERYONE HAS THAT AWESOME PART OF THEM THAT IS IN THEIR SCRAPBOOK THAT RARELY SHOWS UP TO A PHOTO SESSION – BUT THAT IS THE PERSON WE ARE ALL INTERESTED IN – NOT THE ONE WITH THE PHONY SMILE AND NEON WHITE TEETH.  BRING A FRIEND CAN HELP KEEP YOU – BEING YOU.

ALSO, BRINGING SAMPLES OF IMAGES OFF THE INTERNET OR MAGAZINES DEFINITELY HELPS YOU COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER WHAT YOU WANT – OR PERHAPS MORE IMPORTANTLY, WHAT YOU DON’T WANT.

Have you ever shot anyone who later credited your photography for getting the job?   EVERY DAY.  I HAVE STACKS AND STACKS OF THANK YOU CARDS THAT KEEP ME GOING WHEN I’M FEELING EXTRA CHUBBY.

Have you ever photographed anyone who later became famous?  YES.  ALL OF US IN LA HAVE HAD THAT HAPPEN.  NOT TO ME AS MUCH AS ONE SHOOTER – KAREN BYSTADT WHO SHOT – BRAD PITT, JOHNNY DEPP, SANDRA BULLOCK, ROBERT DOWNEY JR., AND TONS MORE.  YOU CAN CHECK OUT HER BOOK – BEFORE THEY WERE FAMOUS ON LINE.  I’VE NEVER SEEN A SHOOTER SHOOT THAT MANY HUGE NAMES.  SHE SHOULD HAVE BECOME AN AGENT!!

IT’S FUNNY THOUGH.  MOST HEADSHOTS PHOTOGRAPHERS USE THEIR FAMOUS CLIENTS TO GET WORK – BUT THAT HAS ALWAYS FELT STRANGE TO ME.  I WILL GO TO WITH A GREAT IMAGE  OVER A FAMOUS ONE ANY DAY.  AFTER ALL – WE ARE ALL FAMOUS TO SOMEONE?

Have you ever photographed anyone famous?   YES.  MANY TIMES AND FOR THE MOST PART – THEY ARE ALWAYS VERY NICE AND UNDERSTAND THE IMPORTANT COLLABORATION BETWEEN THEMSELVES AND A PHOTOGRAPHER.  MANY TIMES – THEY WILL ONLY SHOOT WITH THE SAME PERSON.  KINDA LIKE FINDING THE RIGHT HAIR STYLIST.  RARELY DO PEOPLE TRY A DIFFERENT ONE EVERY 6 WEEKS.  A CELEBRITIES IMAGE IS SO IMPORTANT AND SO PROTECTED.  I TYPICALLY LOVE WORKING WITH THE TALENT – IT’S THE ENTOURAGE THAT COMES WITH THEM THAT TAKES ALL THE FUN OUT OF IT FOR ME.

Who was the most fun to photograph and why?  WOW.  THIS IS TOO HARD TO ANSWER.  YOU HAVE TO UNDERSTAND THAT I HAVE SHOT OVER 6000 ACTORS AND ALL BUT 7 WERE REALLY FUN.

A FEW STAND OUTS INCLUDE – TRACY MORGAN, SHANNON SOSSOMAN, DANE COOK, JAY MOHR, KELLY HU, JOSH DUHAMAEL.  THERE WAS JUST A PRESENCE ABOUT EACH OF THEM THAT WAS SOMETHING YOU DON’T LEARN IN ACTING CLASS.  THEY JUST HAVE IT.

Are you working on any other projects that we should know about?  I HAVE STARTED DIRECTING COMMERICALS AND AM VERY EXCITED ABOUT THAT.  I HAVE ALSO SPENT THE LAST FEW YEARS IN AN ATTEMPT TO TRANSITION FROM STILL PICTURES TO MOVING ONES.  I HAVE WRITTEN AND DIRECTED SEVERAL FILMS, ONE WITH DANE COOK AND ANOTHER THAT WILL BE OUT IN THE FALL CALLED FREESTYLE, STARRING HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL’S CORBIN BLEU AND LITTLE MADISON PETTIS FROM THE GAME PLAN.  STILL PHOTOGRAPHY HAS GIVEN ME A GREAT FOUNDATION TO BUILD FROM AND MY UNDERSTANDING OF LIGHTING. COMPOSITION AND ESPECIALLY DIRECTING THOUSANDS OF ACTORS HAS REALLY GIVEN ME AN EDGE THAT I AM VERY THANKFUL FOR.

If someone wants to hire you, how do they do so?  I HAVE A REP THAT HANDLES MY COMMERCIAL DIRECTING WORK TSMITH@BACKALLEYFILMS.COM – FOR MY STILL PHOTOGRAPHY COMMERCIAL WORK – MY REP IS  HYPERLINK "mailto:NIC@SYNERGY-PICTURES.COM" NIC@SYNERGY-PICTURES.COM MY HEADSHOT CONTACT IS THESHOTPHOTOGRAPHY.COM AND I AM LAUNCHING A SENIOR PICTURE DIVISION SOON THAT WILL BE AT SENIOR-PICTURES.COM

OR – YOU CAN JUST CALL MY MOM.  

SHE ALWAYS KNOWS WHERE I AM.




3 comments:

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Thanks!
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Robert Kilmer said...

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