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

Michael Helms Los Angeles Headshot Photographer 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.
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.

MIchael Helms Los Angeles Headshot Photographer
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!
Los Angeles Actors Headshot Photographer
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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Tokyo – Fri. March 18 & March 19 – 2016

I will be shooting headshots and portraits for Japanese public figures and actors!

We still have several spots available.

Please contact Sayoko or myself directly.

 

headshot photography in Japan

headshot photography in Japan

PDF:

Tokyo Shoot 2016

 

 

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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!

Headshot-photographer-Michael-helms

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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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Everything is beautiful … NOT!

In the 1960s, Ray Stevens wrote a song titled “Everything Is Beautiful” and it won him a grammy. Perhaps it was the idealism of those times or maybe a personal philosophy that gave birth to this song. It starts out with children singing “Jesus Loves the Little Children”, a song I remember singing in church when I was a child.
“Jesus loves the little children
All the children of the world
Red and yellow, black and white
They are precious in His sight
Jesus loves the little children of the world”

Like Disney’s “It’s a Small World”, this song has a worm like infectious tune that rolls around in your brain like a marble in a barrel. A child, once he has learned this song, will hum it, whistle it, and sing it until adult ears bleed. Not only is the tune contagious, the lyrics are ideal and Pollyanna to the point of near myopic blindness.
After one chorus of “Jesus Loves the Little Children”, Mr. Stevens’ song moves into his “Everything Is Beautiful, in It’s Own Way” mantra.
The notion he puts forth in this song is that everyone and everything is beautiful in it’s own way. That if we CHOOSE to see the good, choose to find the positive, and choose to open our hearts to love, then …”the World’s gonna find a way”.

The first thing I want to say is, whatever you do, DON’T listen to this song on YouTube or anywhere else because it will stick in your head. In less than an hour you will be begging for some Beatles, the Who, or a good dose of Led Zeppelin.
But beyond that, I have a bit of a dilemma. I am embarrassed to admit, I actually agree with Mr. Stevens… in theory. I truly WISH it was that way. I WANT to believe the best of people. I WISH the world would live in love. Personally, I choose to live my life that way. I choose to believe the best of people, trust people, and see the best in them … BUT… at 62 years of age I can say it’s not only incorrect, it’s dangerous to walk through life with rose colored glasses.
I have had people steal from me, cheat me, and deceive me in many ways, but I STILL choose to believe the best. I choose to be this way because I cannot live my life in paranoid, bitter, and angry resentment for the few times that people have chosen to be dishonest, deceitful, or deceptive.
As the old saying goes, I can’t allow “one bad apple to spoil the whole bunch” for me. I love life. I love people. I am happy when I see generosity in the world such as the relief efforts for the tsunami in Japan. I am happy when I see a child share a toy.

“Everything Is Beautiful in It’s Own Way” is an ideal I wish were true, but when I go downtown Los Angeles, I won’t leave valuables in my car and I won’t leave it unlocked. What I WILL do, is be the best person I can to everyone I meet. I will try to add something good to the world. And through personal experience, I now have a fairly perceptive filter on who to trust.

The way I see it, not everything is beautiful in the world, but I can add my small part to what is beautiful and I can revel in all the beauty around me. People who refuse to love again because of having experienced heartbreak, are protecting and empty house. Love will teach us freedom and experience will teach us discretion.

Now if only I could get that stupid song out of my head. I’m going on YouTube and look for “Stairway to Heaven”!!! Yeah… gimme some Led Zeppelin

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Headshot Photography Workshop 2016

Special Intensive Weekend Workshop:

Saturday, April 23 & Sunday, April 24 – 10 AM to 6 PM

Two Days for $375 (Repeat Student $150)

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

Question? email

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Headshot Photography Workshop –

Special Intensive Weekend Workshop:

Saturday, September 14 –
Sunday, September 15 –
(9 AM to 5 PM)

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

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

Question?  email

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