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You’re Beautiful. Seriously.

I’ve been doing a fair number of headshots, as of late, as part of my work for the upcoming CRAVEportland Shopping Guide for 2011. It’s been great meeting and connecting with female-owned-and-operated businesses in the Portland area, and a few of the shoots I’ve done for the Guide have turned into very fun collaborations.

Because there’s an emphasis on the women behind each business, I also take a few minutes to capture a headshot. No matter whom I’m working with on a headshot, it’s always interesting to see how each person responds to having their own photo taken. The majority of people, both male and female, seem to land in one of two categories: 1) uncomfortable with the camera and thoroughly convinced that they’ll always look bad in photos, or 2) almost too camera-ready, instantly snapping into the perfectly posed–and oftentimes, stiff–version of themselves that they believe will look best on-camera.

It’s rare to find an individual who doesn’t have some preconceived notion of what their physical flaws are, and although I’ve seen it happen dozens of times, I’m always at least a little surprised at what each subject notices about himself. It’s rarely something I would ever notice, if it weren’t pointed out to me. I always feel a desire to capture the image that helps each person see past that perceived flaw: the moment of natural grace, when the subject lets go of the discomfort, the forced smile, the painstakingly calculated head tilt. There’s always at least one moment in a session when a subject is simply herself, and it shows both her face and her personality in the most flattering light possible.

With that in mind, here’s the lovely Paula O’Neil, one of the two ladies behind Est Ovest, a PDX fashion and wardrobe consulting firm I shot for just a few days ago. Her warmth, love for her work, and genuine desire to make her clients feel good, comes across easily when you engage her in a bit of friendly chatter, so when she got to chatting on set, I kept shooting. This shot caught all of that beautifully, and Paula seems to agree. Credit goes to the talented Austie Eckley for her excellent makeup and hair skills.

My best advice for anyone who’s having their photo taken, be it a professional headshot or a relaxed-and-groovy portrait, is to stop worrying about how you look, and think about how you feel, and who you are. Don’t think about pimples, or wrinkles, or which side is your “good” side. Be a complete and utter goofball. Let yourself slouch a little. Laugh, snort, smirk, react, express. There’s beauty to be found in you, so believe in that, let it out, and trust that the rest will take care of itself.

Paula

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