We recently sat down with Melbourne photographer David from CBD Photography who we see on a regular basis, often covering corporate photography jobs around Melbourne; for a chat about headshots, cameras and the type of work that he enjoys shooting.
So, give me a little about your background. Have you always been a photographer?
David : For as long as I can remember I was interested in photography. As a kid I won a Ricoh film outfit for selling the most washing machines at Grace Bros. I also have vivid recollections of my Dad’s old Kodachromes and being surprised at how good they were. Maybe that shaped my interest.
I once had a career in book publishing, albeit in sales. I put my hand up to photograph PR events, book launches and the odd internal events and book covers. So when a round of redundancies went through the company I found myself exploring other options and a friend of mine was working in a camera store and got me a job there. Hey, the pay was rubbish but being surrounded by the gear and talking to professionals, and those that thought they were (!) was a great environment to perpetuate my interest in photography. Plus having access to loan gear and trade discounts didn’t hurt my enthusiasm.
Eventually you start shooting for clients and you move on from there. In the early stages I was truly in the “fake it ’til you make it” category but hey, I wasn’t charging much and you really do get what you pay for!
Tell me how you came to start shooting business portraits and headshots?
A number of years have gone by and have now married my wife, Carmen, who is a real photographer. By that I mean she is a degree qualified photographer and has done an apprenticeship (they do that in Germany, yes she is German and they take this sort if thing very seriously!). At some stage I convinced her to second shoot a wedding with me. More to make sure there was a backup in case I buggered it up.
Somewhere in there we photographed a bride who worked at a very large commercial property group and was asked “Hey do you do Headshots?” Of course we do (see previous comment regarding fake it till you make it!) Actually, it wasn’t such a stretch especially with Carmen’s experience and knowledge.
So thats how it started, quite organically really. Having built a few websites and becoming mildly obsessed with SEO, being able to push out a business idea is not that daunting and found after some gentle nudging the headshot side of the business is doing quite well.
What do you enjoy about working with corporate clients?
I really enjoy talking onsite and working in the clients environment. Mostly because I meet really interesting people. I also relish the idea of getting great headshots from people I have just met. Maybe that’s from my retail experience and from shooting weddings. Being able to judge a person quickly and to either make them comfortable or figure out that they aren’t comfortable and moving them into a happy place.
How much do headshots cost?
I pretty much do onsite only these days. I do have a fully equipped studio but find most corporates appreciate the minimum disruption that coming onsite affords.
Onsite, the pricing starts at $385 for two people and of course goes up form there on a mostly pro-rata basis.
I find there are a couple of price points or price resistant points more accurately. Depending on the number of headshots required $1k and then around $3k and that comes down to perceived value and how much the client values good photography.
It’s hard to get that point across sometimes without being a smartarse about it. But if you are going to a have an entire team then a consistent background (colour and I mean that if ist is supposed to be white then it NEEDS to be white, not various shade of grey – a bug bear of mine) as well as great natural expressions.
What are your tips for creating great headshots and business portraits?
- Enough space to set up a good lighting rig is important. Saves retouching time as well.
- Don’t organise your shoot for Monday or Friday. Tuesdays are best followed by Wednesday and Thursday if you have to.
- Give your people a reminder the day before and if you can get them excited well before hand. I had one group of 40 headshots on a day and every single one of them was that excited. Not one of them said “I hate having my photo taken” Maybe that comes down to workplace culture.
- Break out areas are usually the most convenient for space etc but can be less than ideal if there is a lot of traffic coming and going. Although I do pretty well at keeping my clients on task, distractions can be a problem for nervous clients.
- Show your warm side. Smile. With teeth. Be genuine. If the first impression of you from your Linkedin profile sits well with a connection, there is good chance that the rest of the connection will follow easily.
- I shoot live to a laptop so my clients so get to see what is happening immediately. It can go a couple of ways doing it this way. All positive and we could get exactly what we want on the first couple of frames or it could be the opposite when the client has a look at the images. After the initial shock of seeing themselves on screen, they start to get an idea of why I am directing them in the way I do and they then become quite relaxed. At the end of their session we discuss the images and make the final selection on the spot.Works well.
Do you also offer headshots for actors?
No not specifically. I mostly find that they are looked after by their agency.
How far do you travel to photograph headshots? Do you just service Melbourne or do you travel further afield?
I cover anywhere from greater Melbourne to Geelong, with most of my clients in the business districts, either CBD, Port Melbourne, Docklands, Richmond and St Kilda. Hey, but I will go anywhere.