Japan 2017 – Day 4 – March 21

Day 4 was a long one for poor Squi. Kaz and John Jack were teaching and in meetings a lot of the day and into the evening. Some of the time I was able to take him out and walk around and try not to get lost. We came up with a game where we would walk and every block or so I would take a photo of where we came from so we could find our way back. Much better than bread crumbs. I still am not sure how to do it in a way that shows me where to turn left or right unless I make notes. I’m working on it.
Squi enjoyed this game and wanted to play it everywhere we went in Japan but it doesn’t work so well on a bullet train!

It was mostly a day of sitting and trying to behave while Kaz and John Jack lectured but since Squi is only 4 and I have such a juvenile sense of humor, we are dangerous to have around for any length of time.

Los Angeles headshot photographer Michael Helms in Japan

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Squi got so bored he fell asleep, which is not a good thing to do around us. We have a tradition of, when he goes to sleep in a public place, we stack things on his forehead and take a photo. We have tons of photos of the poor little guy passed out with various things stacked up. I’m not sure what these things are – maybe mochi or rice cakes or some kind of cookie. The stack fell over twice and hit him in the face before we got it to stand but he never woke up.

Los Angeles headshot photographer Michael Helms in Japan

Kaz and John Jack spoke to some students at Digital Hollywood and it went so well, they were invited back to have a meeting with the head honcho for future projects. I think it will be a great connection and students from there are going to come take some cases at the Stella Adler Acting Academy here in Hollywood. John Jack is quite the statesman. Stella Adler couldn’t ask for a better PR person than him, especially if Kaz is along also…quite the team. Although I will say, John Jack in his tireless ambition is happy to hang out and answer all the myriad questions that actors throw at him. Being from the South, he answers in a way I would call “thorough”. Sometimes this thoroughness goes on for a while, at which point some of us who shall remain unnamed would remark,”Jesus Jack!”. After a few days of teaching and meetings, he became known as “Jesus Jack” and now owns a special pair of chopsticks with his new name on them. Well earned, my dear friend!

The best tour advice always comes from the cab driver.   So after the workshop, we hopped on to a cab, and asked him “Take us to the best steakhouse that is open this late!”

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Back at our Air BnB, we chatted more about future plans and went to bed happy and full of amazing Japanese food and sake!

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Japan 2017 – Day 3 March 20

Today we got up early due to the time difference, even though we are NOT morning people. By 8:30AM, Kaz, Rick, and John Jack had gone off to teach acting class.Actors Headshot Los Angeles Photographer

After poking about and having morning coffee, checking email, and reading a bit of the ever depressing news from the States, our friend, Seri came by and we nosed about Shinjuku a bit before going to hang out with Kaz and gang.

There were a few actors who had signed up to get head shots done, so I was busy doing that while Kaz translated. We were in a hallway of a building and I was checking out the light there but had decided against shooting there. As we were leaving the area, I looked down and there on the floor was a very special necklace that I had given Kaz years ago. Somehow it had simply fallen off and I found it. Weird.

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After a LONG day of waiting for the teachers to stop chatting with actors, we headed off to the “Robot Restaurant”. It’s a huge production with robots “fighting” dragons, and other robots, and dancing ninjas, and crazy mad costumes of all sorts. It was a formidable costume and light show with lots of loud music. First of all, allow me to clarify…it is NOT a restaurant in any way, shape, or form. It is an amazing, wonderful, colorful, fantastic show….if you are 8-10 years old. Otherwise you will feel completely ripped off. Maybe we’re jaded because we are from LA LA Land, but it takes more that costumes, lasers, and jumping around for me to be drawn in.

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We got a kick out of that and wound our way out of Robot hell to try and find a bar. Dan, Rick’s brother, mentioned there was a fairly famous bar nearby. It’s the Albatros Bar and was visited and recommended by Anthony Bourdain when he was in Tokyo.

When we got there we were informed there wasn’t much room left except a bit in the upstairs loft overlooking a small part of the city. That was great for us, so we headed up the stairs.   The group of Californias asked us “Did you take JAL from LA on Friday?   We were sitting in front of you guys.”   We found out they were at the same show at the Robot Restaurant.  AND one of them were living in SF – where Dan works, and his cousin lives in Little Tokyo in LA.    What are the odds, eh? In all of Tokyo, we ran into them 3 times.

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We had a good laugh, tried to join them for drinks but there wasn’t enough room where they were or where we were the next floor up….so who knows, maybe we’ll run into them again in LA.

When in Tokyo, it’s hard to keep track of time because everything is lit and even at 2 or 3AM people will be scurrying about the city, so at some point we made it back to our house just a little worse for wear.

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Japan Trip 2017 – Day 2 – March 19

Things always start out innocently enough in Japan, maybe even with honorable intentions. But inevitably, there comes food. Small portions, so you think,”Oh isn’t that cute and pretty and delicious!” And then there comes some more food, and more food, and more food, and beer….LOTS of beer…and Sake….LOTS of sake.

You have lots of moments in Japan where, toward the end of the evening as you are staggering home, you are unable to cipher how you got from “innocent tiny food” to full, happy, and barely able to walk. The good news is, the dreaded hangover never comes. I think it may have to do with the lack of preservatives in the booze there, but whatever the magic is, I’m glad for it because there were a LOT of evenings that I went back to our room wobbly and smiling. Since the day we met, I have never attempted to keep up with my lovely wife. Kaz must have a super liver – or maybe doesn’t have one at all – but she is
a force and unerringly led the “fool brigade” back to wherever we had come from. At that point none of us knew in all of Japan where that might be.

The day started with Kaz and Rick teaching an acting class from 9Am- 2PM. John Jack, Squi, and I hung out at the BnB, went for a walk, and waited for Rick’s brother, Dan, to join the gang.
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We were joined by Kaz’s long time friend, Seri, who brought Squi some adorable cookies.

Many things are just SO “Kawai” (cute) in Japan. Cookies, information signs, bathroom logos, and even the street construction barriers are often some sort of adorable little bear or bunny. It’s odd to see a well dressed suited business man on a subway with a cute little charm hanging off his phone. But Japan is that way….Kawai is everywhere.Los Angeles Headshot Photographer IMG_6034

When we all reunited at the house, it was off to the subway to Izakaya to meet up with Kaz’s brother who had invited ALL of us to dinner. THAT’S when it started. Kaz brother ordered food…cute food….awwww…I can eat that. The more food, and beer – LOTS of beer, and Sake….LOTS of sake.
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Here’s John Jack pointing and saying,”Drink THAT!? ALL of THAT!? OK!”

Here’s John Jack a bit later when Squi found some spooky eyeball stickers. Yea – that’s NOT Kawai.Los Angeles Headshot Photographer

There was a family sitting nearby to whom we apologized in advance, during, and after our meal. In typical Japanese fashion, they joined in and people we’d never met before laughed and took photos with us as if we were long lost relatives.

There was singing…a LOT of singing. And there was bonding over some group named “Bauhaus” and bowing and scraping when the name Peter Murphy was mentioned. John Jack, Rick, Dan, and Kaz’s bother became united allies in the name of post punk rock.IMG_0518

Guess I’m too old….never heard of the dude…but I don’t care, I’ll drink to him.

Squi and their children bonded over the absurdity and silliness of adults. IMG_0507

 

And of course, the requisite selfie was taken by our waiter.   Kaz’s brother, Takeshi, picked up the entire tab and we will be forever grateful.IMG_0511

Pretty sure we all slept well that night.IMG_0492

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Japan 2017 – Day 1 – March 18

Journey to Japan – Day 1

Boarding a plane bound for Japan is an exercise in mixed feelings. We’re SO HAPPY to be going but dreading being trapped in an aluminum tube at 37 thousand feet for 12 hours.Michael Helms Los Angeles Headshot Photographer
I’m jealous of those who can sleep on planes…I can’t. So, I have found the best way for me to pass time is to catch up on all the movies I haven’t seen. “LA LA LAND” was first on my list. What a horrid film…slow paced, predictable, schmaltzy, and I’m sorry but Emma and Ryan are neither singers or dancers. Watch Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire…listen to Julie Andrews or Judy Garland sing.
On the other hand, I LOVED “Moonlight” and feel it deserved to win. Well shot, directed, acted, and a wonderful story that walked a tough line concerning a sensitive and current topic. Sadly, the people who SHOULD see it, probably won’t.
I saw “Doctor Strange” – liked it a lot and recommend it. I’d watch Benedict Cumberbatch read a phone book.

We arrived at Narita Airport and on our way to pick up our baggage, Squi was running through the airport, tripped, fell, smacked his face on the floor and got a black eye. Great….we hoped this wasn’t a sign of things to come.

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We got to AirBnB rented house in Shinjuku around 3 in the afternoon and Kaz had to leave soon after to go teach an acting class. Squi and I decided to have a treasure hunt, so we went out on our own and wondered around. The “treasure hunt” consisted of taking photos as we went so we could find our way back home. I think it worked better than bread crumbs. But ultimately we were too tired to walk very far, so we found our way back home, put our feet up, and watched Sumo Wrestling!
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John Jack, the head honcho at The Stella Adler Acting Academy arrived that evening.
So when Kaz got back, we started our first food search.Los Angeles Headshot Photographer
We knew of a teeny hole in the wall restaurant in an alley in Shinjuku called Shinagawa Tei. The restaurant has room for about 8-10 guests and is owned and operated by a little old lady and her son. It’s a VERY popular local eatery and is practically impossible to get reservations but the last time we were there we just walked in at the right time and got seats! So we thought we’d go by and just say hello. As fate would have it, we got there just as they were opening and we got to eat there again!!! When we walked in the little old lady looked at Kaz and said, “OH….Matamura-san!!” We were stunned that she remembered us but so happy to get to have more of their wonderful food.Los Angeles Actors Headshot Photographer

We love Japan and I’m pretty sure living there part time will be in our future. Also – MANY of these blogs will mention food! Food you can’t get in the US, food that you can get in the US but is WAAAYYY better over there, and food served in a way (both in terms of service and presentation) that you can’t find here in the US.Los Angeles Actors Headshot Photographer Los Angeles Headshot Photographer

After our meal, we wondered around a bit in Shinjuku before we met up with Rick, an instructor  from Stella Adler, who was also coming in to join the teaching forces.
We’d been up for a LONG time, so after a snack and too many Asahi beers, we crashed  at our house, happy, full, and excited about the days to come!

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Photography Workshop – Weekend intensive – July 2016

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This gallery contains 2 photos.

RESERVE YOUR SPOT – EventBrite   STUDIO vs. NATURAL LIGHT SPECIAL WEEKEND SEMINAR: Saturday 10 AM to 4 PM Sunday, 10 AM to 5 PM $375.00 – Two Day Intensive Saturday – Arts of Photography Basic of Photography – Natural Light vs. Studio Light How to work with Lighting equipments Glamour – Old Hollywood Look […]

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This year’s Labor Day weekend ….

Nope.  I didn’t got to the Burning Man.

I had four days off !   I laid one more row of cement block on my front retaining wall (125 feet long!) then stucco on the whole thing, then brick cap on top.
Too old for this shit!

I love doing projects like this.

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Shooting engagement in Nashville!

We are going to see my parents in Nashville in September to cerebrate Squi’s 3rd birthday!

So, while we are there – I thought I should shoot some artists!   Contact Kaz via email to make an appt!

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Summer 2015 – Headshot Workshop

Special Intensive Weekend Workshop:

Saturday,  July 11
Sunday, July 12
(10 AM to 4PM)

SIX students only

Saturday, 9 AM to 12 noon – Introduction
Saturday, 1 PM to 5 PM – Basic

Sunday, 9 AM to 12 noon – Intermediate
Sunday, 1 PM to 5 PM – “Starting up as a business” / Special Guests

Two Days for $350 (Return Student Discount $175)

Individual Workshop:
Introduction $120
Basic: $150
Intermediate: $200
Seminar: “Starting up your photography business”: $120

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Photoshop ­ – to retouch or NOT to retouch

One of the things I hear a lot these days is “I want my photo to look natural”. Yet, when I sit down in front of a computer monitor after a photo session to view their head shots, I hear ”can you fix this, and that, and that, and….”

In this age of digital manipulation, the general rule is: It is a GOOD thing to Photoshop your photos, it is a BAD thing to OVER­Photoshop your photos”

If you are in the public eye ­ an actor, model, CEO, or celebrity ­ you need to be aware of your image. The first thing to know is that you are not in the business of reality.

You are in a business of fantasy or at the very least idealism. No one who views your photos wants to know you had a zit the day of your photo shoot. No one is interested in seeing your blobby mascara, nose hairs hanging out, or blood shot eyes, even though that’s the “way it really looked” or the way it was “naturally”. When we view photos of George Clooney, we want him to look as perfect as our fantasies imagine him. We want Angelina Jolie to have flawless skin, perfect hair, and a trim lovely figure.

Dove has been running a campaign the last few years showing makeovers and accentuating all the stuff done in Photoshop afterwards. The idea is to show the “real” faces of models and therefore make them more “human” and accessible and thereby draw attention to their products. In my opinion, this is a huge marketing mistake. These videos will draw a lot of attention and get a lot of nods of approval but in the end will not increase sales of their products as much as an ad NOT showing the before images. People need a goal to strive for not someone who they look at and ”Oh well…with THAT MUCH photoshop, I can look good too!” It’s like telling people there is no Easter Bunny!

I had an agent here in LA tell one of my clients to “just shoot a selfie” for her head shots!! While I understand the agents frustration with actors bringing her head shots that don’t look like them, I also think a selfie is a horrid misrepresentation of oneself. The distortion of camera phone lenses, awful lighting, and unplanned images makes selfies fun but useless as a business tool.

So where is the magic line? When is an image “over Photoshopped”?

If you have a mole, leave in it because to will be there when you go on an audition. If you have a blemish, retouch it out.

It’s OK to soften laugh lines a bit but to remove them is a mistake. Taking the red out of your bloodshot eyes is fine because HOPEFULLY you won’t always have that, unless you live in Colorado.
If you plan on losing a little weight, then it’s OK to take some off in Photoshop but rarely do people actually go ahead and lose that weight and so you’d do better to look like your photo.

If you are taking a photo for your wall at home or for a gift, then you can Photoshop to your hearts content, but if it is for work, then less is more.

While on this topic, I should add that there is a lot of BAD Photoshop out there, so buyer beware. A photographer should either do it himself or have someone on staff who is proficient and will sit down with you to do the Photoshop Head shots in LA are going through a “natural” phase right now, which is a good thing, but beware of anyone who tells you not to do any Photoshop at all.

Remember ­ it is a GOOD thing to Photoshop your photos,

it’s a BAD thing to over­Photoshop them.

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The head shot!

I suppose it’s a good thing that after 37 years of shooting head shots for actors, that I still enjoy it. I attribute this to the fact that I find people endlessly fascinating and what better place to be a head shot photographer than in Los Angeles! I get all sorts of fascinating characters through my photo studio and I sometimes think it should be a sit com.

In the past, an actor would get a recommendation from his Agent or manager for what head shot photographer to go visit. Usually an actor would meet with four or five photographers, look at their portfolios, check out the studio, and choose who they felt would be the best for the images they needed. This decision making process was good for everyone, actor and photographer alike although it required the photographer to sit through hours of seemingly endless and unnecessary recitations of resumes.

While I understand the concept that an actor wants the photographer to capture a certain essence, it has little bearing on whether or not that actor will actually book a job. The reason for this is that very very few actors see their casting. Every actor has an idea of the roles they want to play in film, commercials, or on stage but very few actors understand that it is a business and they will be cast according to how they look to a casting office.

An example of this would be a girl who came to my studio for head shots and she handed me photos of fashion models and proclaimed,”I want photos like these!”. What amused me was that MY idea of her casting was that she would be prefect in a role as a midwest farmers wife…perhaps pulling a plow. Suffice it to say she was NOT in shape for Victoria’s Secret.

Agents in Los Angeles have lists of head shot photographers that they recommend and I am fortunate to be on almost all of those lists. So, it presented me with a challenge, because, knowing her agent, if I shot images the agent liked, she would be unhappy but if I shot images she liked, the agent would be displeased.

I suggested to her that she show her agent what wonderful versatility she had as an actress. I told her she should shoot some rather plain images, then we could add more makeup and fluff her hair for more sexy images. She reluctantly agreed.

A week went by and I got a call from her and I winced as I asked her how she liked her photos. This was in the days of film so it would take a few days to process. She told me she was really happy with “some of them but some of the others she liked less”. I asked her if she had shown them to her agent and she frustratingly replied,”YES…and you won’t believe what he said to me. He said he liked the plain ones and could use those but the pretty shots he didn’t like. He said to me, these are pretty but I can’t use them because you aren’t pretty!”

“Yikes!” I responded,”What did you do!?”

“Well, I’m looking for another agent!” she growled.

I have had actors in my studio who did their best to imitate Robert DeNiro, sexy women who wanted to play “smart” roles, nerdy looking guys who wanted to be James Bond, and the aforementioned chubette who wanted to be Cindy Crawford.

When an actor walks through my doors, I know in the first minute how I am going to light him. I already know what roles he will get. I already know, after years doing head shots in Los Angeles, how an actor will be marketed. But it is not my job to make those decisions but rather to provide and actor with what type of photos HE/SHE wants. I make suggestions, I talk it over with all my clients, I can tell them what wardrobe I think will work, and I can let each individual know what the trends in head shots are current, but ultimately every actor needs to do their homework and see this as a business and realize they are a product and how best to market that product.

The idea is to have a head shot that gets you called in to a casting that, when you arrive and look around the casting office, you see actors who are in the same category. You don’t want to look around and see people who are 40 years older.

If an actor looks at TV, film, and commercials and identifies characters that “look like” him, he will know how to dress for a photo shoot. Basically an actor needs a smiling head shot for commercials and a more serious shot for theatrical purposes. Nothing more.

Casting offices generally know what type they are going to choose for any given role, so if you got a call, you have a shot!

The rest is up to you!

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