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 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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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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“It Just Isn’t ME!” – How to be a successful actor

I’ve been a photographer for over 35 years in the Los Angeles area. I’ve been shooting head shots of actors, models, celebrities, and corporate people for all these years. There are some things that I always hear no matter who my clients are and one of those things is,”I hate having my picture taken”.

It seems such an odd thing for an actor to say but it happens at least 90 percent of the time. I usually respond by telling them that a head shot is an acting job just like any other acting job and that they are portraying characters that represent the “type” they will be called in to portray. It’s a completely ineffective response on my part but what I attempt to do is simply get the actor into a different type of mindset so the session doesn’t become so self analytical.

Last year I had a guy come to my studio who was a character type and had a good “look” for casting. But one of the things he said to me was very revealing. He said he got called in for a role as a “very very bad guy” (like a rapist or pedophile) and he said,”I can’t play that! It just isn’t ME!”

As a photographer, I thought it odd he said that because when he walked through my studio doors, my first impression was what a great character type he was and what a perfect “rapist” or “pedophile” he could portray. He was a WONDERFUL human being and a terrific Dad to his children but he had a certain “look” (read CASTING) that conflicted with his real life existence. As a result of his feelings about the “bad guy” role he had auditioned for, he felt it more appropriate that we shoot images of him where he looked more friendly. He wanted a “Dad” shot, a “business man” shot, and a “guy next door” shot. All these “looks” are indeed a good idea and he might book some of those roles but his PRIMARY market will go untapped simply because of his own personal inability to separate himself PERSONALLY from himself as This is a somewhat schizophrenic business to be in.

An actor (model, celebrity, corporate person) needs to see themselves as a product. They need to look at their photos as pictures of “him/her” and NOT as photos of “ME”. If the reason for shooting a photo is for personal reasons and it’s going to hang on a wall or be put in a frame, then, certainly there is reason to want to look good and be yourself but if it is for business use, no matter the business, then that end use becomes the driving factor in what that image should be.

For instance, the CEO of a corporate bank should not have a head shot in a baseball cap and a tank top. It may be a perfectly acceptable look for him on vacation in the Carribean, but not for his corporate offices.

The NUMBER ONE comment I hear from actors when they come through the doors of my studio is,”I just want a photo that captures ME and who I REALLY am!” As harsh and cruel as it may sound…. in this business, who cares who and what you REALLY are!?? Casting offices only look at an actor as having the right look (and talent) for a role. They may be wonderful folks but they have no interest in who an actor “really is”. You don’t have to be a Mom to play a Mom. My client didn’t have to BE a “bad guy” to play a bad guy. His inability to divest himself of his self image damages his career.

Over and over I see this played out in my studio. Girls who are rather plain who want to be sexy, girls who are sexy who want “to be taken seriously” and not do sexy roles, guys who want to be macho leads who look like nerds, and fellows like I just mentioned who could make tons of money playing “bad guys” but are at odds with their casting.

Acting is a business. My advice is to put your money where you make your money. If you are attached to your photos, you are doing a disservice to your business. Look at TV, commercials (where 75% of the money spent in LA goes!), films, and print media and see who looks like you. What are they wearing? How are they cast? Then shoot images that will get you called in to audition for roles you have a shot at booking.

All this seems so “obvious” but I am astounded at the percentage of actors who miss this basic concept. A head shot is NOT about YOU and what YOU REALLY ARE. It is about shooting images that get you called in for work you have a shot at booking. A “great photo of you” is NOT a great photo of you if you get called in and when you get there, you look around the room and  everyone is prettier, older, younger, or just simply not your “type”.

It may be a great photo of you for your wall at home, but if it doesn’t generate the appropriate auditions and get your work, then it’s NOT a good photo for your career.

headshots

Headshots for actors. Three looks to start with.
Commercial / Theatrical / Character (Squi as De Niro)

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Japan Trip – Glass Making

A day after the funeral, we decided to do something creative to cheer us up.
My GF’s friend, Seri, set up the glass making class for me.

MichaelHelms - actors Headshot photographer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Michael Helms - actors Headshot photographer My cheek hurt … it’s hard to get the bubble going, but once you do, then it gets easier.

 

 

 

 

 

 

CLICK HERE for Michael Helms – Glass Making Video
Michael Helms - actors Headshot photographer

I decided to make a bowl. I chose a kind of teal color with a red rim. Here we are shaping it a bit before blowing again to enlarge it.

Michael Helms - actors Headshot photographer Michael Helms - actors Headshot photographer

 

 

Here I’m expanding the opening in the bubble to create a bowl. It takes a little pressure at first and getting the bowl perfectly round is tricky.

 

 

 

Still expanding the bubble to form the bowl while the glass is red hot. Then I changed the angle of the tongs to flare the top of the bowl a bit.

 

In these last two photos, you can see the finished bowl. It has a bubble in the glass, a flaw but some glass blowers think of it as character and leave them in. I like the “flaw”.

Also…my bowl isn’t perfectly symmetrical, but

again, I like it. Gives it character.

Michael Helms - actors Headshot photographer

Michael Helms - actors Headshot photographer

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