What does your social media headshot say about you?

Left: an online photo I found.  Right: my portrait on the train.

I have been on the road for a week with my cameras, and on the way back to NY from DC, I met this man on the train.  Because I had so much editing to do, my equipment was everywhere....cameras, hard drives, CF cards, a card reader.  Asking if I was a photographer wasn't much of a stretch.  But this man, a doctor, asked a better question: Did I think I could I make a nice portrait of someone unphotogenic like him?  My answer?  "Of course!"

We talked a bit about the necessary evil that we call 'social media'.  He hates it.  I'm not a huge fan either.  But I know that you have about 3 seconds, maybe less, to make that first impression with your photo.  From there, people will often decide whether of not to read further.  As we spoke, I was noticing all of the other stuff I see as a photographer.....the light, the background, the comfort level of my subject as we talk.

In a portrait photograph, one of the first things I notice is whether or not the person seems engaged.  Is this a person I could connect with?  Did he or she connect with the photographer (we are people too...not just our equipment)?  Did he or she put up some sort of guarded 'photo face', you know the one that says "I'm standing here with a stupid grin on my face, what more do you want?"  While technically competent, I find most professional headshot photos completely lacking in personality and I think we have moved beyond this in the world of social media today.  People want to feel who you are, not just see what you look like.

From the minute we met on the train, N. and I were chatting easily, so connecting with the person wasn't a problem.  He is clearly a smart man, with a kind and gentle side that he thinks never comes through in photographs.  He told me he usually looks scary in photos.   He also told me some interesting things about cancer that I never knew (he's a pathologist), and within ten minutes, I picked up my camera and made the photo on the right.

He was worried he hadn't shaved, and wasn't wearing a tie.  Those were the last of my worries and that isn't what I saw. The hand gesture was all his.  I saw him do it, asked him to hold it, and picked up my camera all in one motion.  I knew I had something in the eyes, and when I looked him up on line later I found the photo on the left. 

If you ask me, no amount of shaving or wardrobe will help people connect with you if you don't have a connection through your eyes, or some sort of feeling in your portrait.

So yes, I can meet a random stranger on a train, and make a nice portrait without anything fancier than a bit of conversation.

Inspired by Barbra Streisand: Glamour Magazine's Woman of the Year

This article about Barbra Streisand by Sheila Weller really inspired me.  I learned a lot I never knew about Barbra and felt inspired to use her words and make this for the daughter of a good friend.  I hope you find a young woman to share it with as well.  Barbra is a true inspiration for women everywhere.

Every Day Is A Beach Day

We moved back to Sag Harbor just over a month ago and my routine now is exactly as I imagined it would be....and better.  For six years, I lived away from the water, in the landlocked metropolis of Atlanta.  The trees there are spectacular, particularly in the Spring and Fall, but for a bi-coastal water lover who grew up in Boston, San Francisco, and New York, living near the water has always been more of a necessity than an option.  I am remembering why.
Main Beach, East Hampton

I never imagined how luxurious this transition could feel.  Every day, I load up my car with my son, 2 dogs and camera and head off to school, just 5 minutes away.  From there, I decide which beach to visit with Sparky and Spencer, our retriever and shepherd mix dogs.  Sometimes I opt for the nearest one because their whining is making me crazy.  But sometimes I just aim for the one I haven't visited in a long time, or the one I suspect will be most empty.  Each one has a different feel, and a different character, created by the homes that line it and the people who walk on it.  Sometimes these differences really shock me (more on this another day). 

Georgica Beach, East Hampton
Crashing waves in motion at Georgica
Every day, I consider leaving my camera at home.  And every day, I am glad I didn't.  Each day is different....the light, the water, the beach itself.  And I approach each day asking myself how I can see it differently, how I can capture it differently.  I think about how I can become a part of the image, like a painter, by use my camera differently, and photographing things not as I see them, but rather as I create them.

Translucent waves, long exposure, cresting at Eqypt Beach, East Hampton

A wave, interpreted in time.  Georgica Beach.

Some days I focus on  the waves, the water, the motion.  Some days I focus on the sparkle on the water or the translucency of the waves.  Some days I see fishermen, or birds or shells.  Some days are full of color and contrast and I consider whether to work with or against the light.  Other days are completely monochromatic and hazy. I tend to focus more on the water than on the sky, and I bring different lenses from time to time just to have new options.

Fire on the water at Main Beach
Homeless on Long Beach

Sunset interpreted, at Haven's beach

I can't imagine what the next months will bring, but my intention is to spend at least one day at the beach every week for a year, and see where I end up.  So far, I have not been disappointed.

Getting the most out of your photoshoot with a professional photographer.

Most entrepreneurs need photos for their websites.  Many think what they need is a head shot or simple portrait, but with a little more planning and forethought, they can get so much more out of the time they spend with a professional photographer. This is a story about some quick and easy ways we can made several years' worth of photo options from just a little extra effort in the planning stages.

Two summer looks.  Max Eicke inside with his table and chairs, and outside with his "T Table" and stackable chair. Using the theater as a backdrop was my way of telling the world where he was based,  instead of writing it in a caption.

People often ask if I do head shots, and I do, but I prefer to say I specialize in shooting 'entire websites'.   For me, a full website session takes only a little more time, and for the money you were spending anyway on a portrait session,  this gives you a much bigger bang for your buck.  
A homepage image from MaxIDNY.com

Max Eicke's story is a perfect example. 
Max designs furniture. I wanted to photograph him with his work (and some of his work alone) in enough different outfits that he would have photos to send to publications for years, and in any season.

In a few hours, we shot six different outfits in different locations, covering a range of seasons and levels of formality using his furniture prominently, or in the background in almost every shot.

The key to a shoot like this is planning out out your wardrobe in advance, changing outfits for each location, and of course, having a great location to work in.  I often say your background is 50% of your image and you should use it to your advantage. 

I also like to capture a lot of product shots (without people) and product detail shots for my client to use the way a cook uses spices to season a meal: sparingly, but with impact.
Above, some of the many photos we shot for Max, and the story he wrote about the experience on his blog.

A playful closeup with one of his cubes, and a summer look down to the flip flops with his "E" desk.

Same background as above, but much closer, in a more wintery outfit.

Max has since been featured in dozens of blogs and publications (including the NY Times) and my photos have been included every time. A lot of publications don't have the money to send out a photographer to tell your story, but if you have good quality publicity ready photos, they will often print them, and pay me for the usage (Ask any photographer what makes them happy, and 'credit or links' and 'payment' will be somewhere on the list). It helps to have a range of images and focal lengths,  meaning tight shots, and wider ones showing some of your environment too.

Many publications are looking for 'lifestyle portraits' meaning not just a head shot, but a portrait that also says something about you and what you do, all in one photo.  Of course you can use these images  all over your website, blog, and social media....but it helps to hold some back as well. That way, you have 'fresh' images that have not yet been published, and you can maximize the value of that one day you spent doing your 'website photo shoot'.
Not all portraits require faces.  Not all chairs require people sitting in them.  After considering what you would 'normally' do for a portrait, you might want to think about other options just to make sure you have an interesting mix of photos.

Two years after our shoot, Max is still getting these photos published with little stories about him and his work all over the world.  Sometimes we add a new piece with a few photos here or there, but nothing that requires the complexity or expense of that first shoot.
We photographed this particular table on a different day, but it only took a few minutes and his been published dozens of times in blogs and print.

What Your Business Is Teaching Me about Mine

Another good learning moment I recently received from someone else's business:

I wanted the new Kate Moss book...all 8 covers.  I tried Amazon (cheap, but can't find a phone number anywhere to explain that I want 8 different covers)  Won't work.

I checked with local Barnes & Noble stores.  A nice manager at a local Barnes& Noble store was able to locate about 3 copies of the book, but wasn't sure which ones she had, and promised to call me when they had more. That was weeks ago, and I haven't heard anything since.

Finally I connected with Barnes and Noble by phone, ordered the book, explaining I wanted one of each cover, and I received 8 books, but not 8 different covers.  I then had to carry them all back to the store for a return.  They were so heavy, and it took so long to get to this (more than a couple of weeks), that they would only offer me a store credit.  Annoying, but fine, since I buy a lot of books and will use the credit as long as I don't lose it first.

In the meantime, I had called Rizzoli, the New York store and also the original publisher of the book.  They had a full set of signed copies;  in fact they had two full signed sets left.  I bought both.  They sent one set to my NY address by messenger, and shipped the other to Atlanta, exactly as I requested. Perfectly wrapped.  Right away.

Did I pay more for all of this service?  You better believe it. Or rather, I paid the retail price of hte books....not the Amazon or Barnes & Noble discounted price.  But I got what I wanted, I  had a great customer service experience with an intelligent person who could actually help me on the phone, and I got what I couldn't find anywhere else.

This was an 'a ha' moment for me.   I realized the kind of service provider I aspire to be.  I don't want to be the discount solution.  I want to charge you a fair price and deliver a beautiful product just as you expect.  No mistakes.  No crushed corners.  No cheap packaging.  And I still love Barnes and Noble and Amazon.  When I want the cheaper solution, I will go to them again.  When I want the luxurious solution, Rizzoli gets it right.  Thank you for that lesson.  I still have some work to do.  Great product requires great service and delivery.  Anything less diminishes the product.

The haunting beauty of Lynsey Addario's photography

I discovered a photographer today whose work leaves me nearly speechless.  This doesn't happen often.  What surprises me most is the fact I did not know about Lynsey Addario sooner.  She is one of the most accomplished female photojournalists who ever walked the planet.  Her pictures have that mix of power and sensitivity that almost brings me to tears.  Looking at her work makes me want to put my cameras down and rethink everything.  She is clearly a brave woman with a really thoughtful yet instinctive approach to her work.

I found this image above  particularly poignant.  Turns out it was Time magazine's picture of the year.  What cave have I been living in?

Run, don't walk to see this woman's stunning website.  You will probably realize you have seen her work for years, on the front page of the NY Times, in Time, in National Geographic, but just never stopped to think about the eye behind the lens. At least that's my story.  Now I am a fan for life.

I'm trying to decide which of her editioned prints I want to buy.  I'm thinking it will one of these two:

Envy is Unrealized Potential

I wrote this over six months ago.  At the time, I wasn’t ready to let it be public. It still isn't easy to share, but I know now I can help others by speaking up.  My life feels much different now.

Are you tired of playing small?  Are you ready to show your true colors?

At yesterday’s pity party, I was alone, in a corner, drinking a nice cup of “woe is me” tea, when along came Hillary to spill it all over me.  She was flailing her arms via cellphone while lovingly kicking my ass. What I heard loudest through my personal fog was “HOW DARE YOU INSULT THE UNIVERSE BY PLAYING SMALL”.   I’m not prone to using all caps, but she was speaking in them, I assure you. 

I was having a hormonally challenged morning, on the heels of an alcohol fueled night of dark obsession.  I was aimlessly web surfing “the competition” and seeing all the things that I was doing wrong….all the things I wasn’t becoming, all the pictures I wasn’t taking.  Worse, I knew it didn’t matter whether or not I was a good photographer, because I really suck as a marketer and self promoter. 

I was seeing fabulous blogs, information products, testimonials about massively multiplied income, and book publishing deals….everything I didn’t have and wasn’t doing, and somewhere on a low boil, envy and jealousy were preparing to burn my vessel.

Hillary prescribed some “pattern interrupts” for my insanity:  take a walk, get out of the house, move your body.  I think I was also supposed to make a list of all the people in my life I was grateful for, and the ways they supported me.  Nice idea, but if you know depression like I do, you know that even simple tasks are not simply done.   Note to HR: I still haven’t made the list, though I sense its vague formations developing in my head. 

I tried an afternoon nap, but I ended up reading a magazine (ok, looking at the pictures) while not watching some serial murder investigator on Netflix, on my laptop, while in bed.  Brain numbing, multi non-tasking.  Let’s just say yesterday was roughly a total loss.

Now I have today.  So far, so good…no early morning run to school (school’s over for the year!  Hallelujah!!).  Coffee in hand, laptop in bed (only when boyfriend is away because officially, we frown on bedroom electronics) back to some potentially dangerous internet surfing. It always starts so innocently with “checking Facebook, or email”.  Where it goes from there is like a daily, dreaded weigh in on the bathroom scale.

But this time, better things come to my screen, and I am inspired by this tidbit that speaks to my soul:  “Envy indicates unrealized potential.  It indicates areas of growth so deeply important that it sparks a profound reaction.” – Amber Rae.   Profound words from some youngster in Colorado with an energetic smile and a snazzy website (upon further investigation, it turns out she’s some kind of star  badass).  Hillary says I have an “issue with age”.  She’s right.  I wish I had been smarter when I was younger.  I hate that my wisdom has been paid for in years…if not decades. 

Meanwhile, how can you not believe in a higher power when the internet sends you such insightful wisdom in such unlikely places when you need it most?

Unrealized potential.  Shizzle.  My fourth grade teacher, Mrs Hansen (who came to mind three times yesterday), used to talk about my potential.  She said I had a lot of it.  She also said I should be more patient with people who didn’t catch on as quickly as I did.  Ouch.  She was saying this when I was 9 years old.  I must have been one smug beech.  Looking back, I see that this was the year my parent were divorcing (and now I know divorce doesn’t happen overnight, it takes years of emotional buildup). 

What kind of pain was I internalizing and pushing out sideways?

By eighth grade, many of my classmates hated me for my straight A’s, athletic prowess, and teacher’s pet status.  You know why prom queens and quarterbacks are not the stars at 25th reunions?  I think that being that ‘successful’ when you are young makes a lot of people hate you.  As a teenager, that is a lonely and awful place to be and not one of your peers has the emotional maturity to see that you might just be a normal person inside with all the same self doubts that we all have. 

In fact, I believe I was something of a star at school because I was trying so hard to get the love and attention from adults (like teachers) that I wasn’t getting at home.   Unfortunately, attention from teachers appeared to be inversely correlated to approval from my fellow pre-teens.  

To fit in with the ‘cool kids’, I needed to screw up, make some waves, hang out with the kids who were experimenting with sex and smoking (thank god I didn’t pick up the latter), and most of all, I had to stop trying so darn hard to be so good at everything.  My parents didn’t seem to notice since they were too busy hating and verbally assassinating each other. 

My peers, particularly in Spanish class,  rejected me as “Miss Goody Two Shoes”.  That was not a term of endearment.

No wonder all of this is coming up now.  Yesterday my son finished seventh grade.  Eighth grade was the year I really took steps to self-sabotage and play small.  “If you hate me for being a pretty girl and a good student/writer/artist/athlete, I’ll show you”.  I lived that year in deep emotional turmoil and conflict.  I’m not saying I am quite that childish today, but Hillary sees that little girl in me and knows she needs some love.  She also needs a stern talking to.

HOW DARE I INSULT THE UNIVERSE BY PLAYING SMALL??  Now it is my turn to yell at myself, with love.  I mean really, Tanya.  How many more people have to tell you how genius and fabulous you are?  How many more people have to say how great your photography is or what a great writer you are?  “How many more people do I have to send?” said the Universe,  “You dare to insult me by not listening to anyone?  Maybe I should stop sending them.  But I love you too much.  Maybe if I just send you a quiet little internet quote by a stranger, you will listen to me.”

When messages this big finally get through, I honestly want to laugh at myself for being so stubborn and having such a thick skull.

This one bears repeating: “Envy indicates unrealized potential.  It indicates areas of growth so deeply important that it sparks a profound reaction.” 

I notice I do not envy many people.  I do not envy many other photographers.  But there are a few that really fuel that burn in me, and I see now exactly why.  I see myself in them.  Something they are doing triggers this profound reaction in me and it really has nothing to do with photography.  It has everything to do with courage, and having a willingness to step into my potential, out onto the stage, under the big bright lights.

The last time I tried living in my potential, I believed that people hated me for being good. Since I really needed to be liked and loved more than I needed to be good, I just played a little smaller.

Finally I have realized I
am liked and loved for reasons that don’t have all that much to do with my work. I have been incredibly fortunate in all areas of my life, both personal and professional almost in spite of myself.  

I am so ready to stop wanting other people’s lives and start loving my own. I know some people will envy me for that, and I can only hope they will learn to step into their unrealized potential faster than I did. 

Whatever happens next will be whatever I choose to create.  I’m living on an edge, about to step out of one paradigm for living and into another.

My Crazy Manifesto

Can you hear me now???

This post is made possible with the help  of the gifted and amazing Amy Oscar!  I dedicate this one to you with love.
Sometimes I feel so creative that I am bordering on crazy. I can't act on it all the time, and I can't suppress it, and being in that place makes me crazy.

And then one day, a wonderful woman named Amy Oscar pointed out to me that crazy is good. So I made this (using a photo of myself from age 4) to keep reminding myself....
Vignettes from my office

This is my office.  The walls are lavender, but covered in photographs.  Next to original photos by Lillian Bassman and Elizabeth Opalenik (two of my great inspirations), are many many photos by Peter Lindbergh (my hero), torn from the pages of one of my favorite books, "The Journey of  A Woman, 20 Years of Donna Karan"  I have multiple copies of this book, but I love it so much that it felt right to put these images on my wall as well.  Next to Peter's images are personal photos, postcards from gallery openings, images from a few other books, things I have photographed, and pages I have loved from The New York Times.  For me, this mix of 'high' and 'low' art is what I love most.  A page torn out to the newspaper sits right next to a $6000 limited edition print, and a photo I bought from and artist on the street while traveling in London.

The table by the window is covered in books, objects I have collected, pottery by my son, and treasures from travel.  I am inspired by all of it.  And I'm running out of space....