Japan 2017 – Day 13 – March 30

Today Russell felt better and we’re off to be tourists again.We took the train to Uji to see a beautiful temple built in 1053.    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Byōdō-in

Los Angeles Headshot Photographer Los Angeles Headshot Photographer

There is such a rich history here in Japan. Russell and I drive the girls crazy because we want to read all the signs and all about the history, whereas Kaz will take a look, grab a brochure, and check it off her list. Luckily, Squi can’t move quite that fast so we can easily compromise.

We jumped on another train and back to Kyoto we go. We hopped a taxi and got lucky because the driver was a pro tourist guide. He gave us lots of info and took us to our destination at Kiyozumi. There are about 67 gazillion steps up to the temple and they call them the “2 years steps” and another place called “3 years steps”. Basically, the legend has it that if you trip on these steps, you lose 2 or 3 years off your life. At my age, I was very careful.Los Angeles Headshot Photographer
We had a really nice dinner at Hashiba at a restaurant that didn’t usually open for dinner but we got lucky. They wereopen because, again by a stroke of luck, we happen to be there during “illumination time” which is a sort of celebration each year where they light up the streets.

As we descended the gazillion stairs, there were shops on each side so Carol and Kaz shopped while Squi begged for ice cream and Russell and I sat and people watched.

Los Angeles Headshot Photographer

The girls got their shopping mojo satisfied, Squi got his ice cream, and off to yet another temple we went.

Kodaiji Temple has a really cool light show that is this crazy sort of 3D thing that they project onto the ground and into the trees.

So pretty and almost impossible to take a photo of….so sorry about that. There is also a wonderful bamboo forest there at Kodaiji Temple and the lights illuminating it were wonderful and magical.

Los Angeles Headshot Photographer

After the light show we wandered around a bit on our way back to our hotel. One common thing to do in this area is look for all the Buddha statues and rub their bellies or pet them in some way. There is a map to where they all are but we just looked for the ones that were convenient to our path.

Los Angeles Headshot Photographer
Carol and Russell were pretty worn out so they retired to their room but Kaz, Squi, and I headed back out to hit the town. We walked over to the Kyoto Tower http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3945.html. and up to the top floor to have a drink but it was packed and we couldn’t get in. We got a kick out of a sign that said,”Sign up for a sheet!” They meant to say “seat”.

We hit the streets again and found Yebisu Bar open and still serving. Squi chilled while Kaz and I had a drink, people watched, and munched on appetizers.

Another great day in Japan!

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Google Plus
  • Email
  • RSS

Japan 2017 – Day 9 – March 26

Los Angeles Photographer Actors Headshot

Asakusa Senso Temple

Los Angeles Photographer Actors Headshot

Rainy Day in Harajuku

One of the things about being in Tokyo, is getting used to spending a lot of time on trains. The thing about the subway system in Tokyo is that it is incredibly efficient. The trains are always on time and you can pretty much get anywhere in this huge city…that’s the good news. The bad news is most of the maps and legends are written in Japanese with occasional English. There are FOUR levels of subway underground and to get from point A to point B, you may have to go down to level 1, take a train for a couple stops, get off, go down to level 4 and take another train for 10 stops, then go back up to level 2 and take another train for 5 stops, then go down to level 3 and take a final train to your destination THEN try to find your way out. Each stop means you have to find the next train and when you come into an intersection, there may be 6 ways you can go….all of this underground.  Not to mention there are entire shopping malls, sometimes 6-8 floors worth, all underground.

Los Angeles Photographer Actors Headshot

Kaz’s Favorite cookie Ginbisu Animal cookies!

So Kaz went to see her Dad and took Squi along to hang out with Grandpa while Carol, Russell, and I explored. Our first goal was Harajuku. Part of being in Tokyo is just being OK with getting lost in the subway but after a relatively small amount of wandering, we made our way to Harajuku. Known for all things “Kawai” (cute), Harajuku is home to “Harajuku Girls” who dress up like dolls with a LOT of makeup and frilly dresses. Many of them are anime inspired costumes and are quite ornate.
Harajuku is pretty much one long street that is super crowded even on a rainy day like it was when we were there. Lots of touristy shops and places to eat and people watch. I have to say, one of the things I enjoy most in Japan is just sitting and people watching…but I can do that pretty much anywhere I go.
Los Angeles Photographer Actors Headshot
After her visit with her Dad, Kaz took Squi to Sanrio Land – home of “Hello Kitty” (which, by the way, did you know, is NOT a cat!?) Squi lost his mind there. It’s a HUGE facility with rides and entertainment for days. Even the cheeseburgers are “Hello Kitty”.

Los Angeles Photographer Actors Headshot

Squi’s grandparents

 

Los Angeles Photographer Actors Headshot

Hello kitty cheeseburger. Kaz said everything was PINK at the Puroland!

IMG_6478We all met up again in Shinjuku and got more of our shopping, exploring, and sightseeing mojo going.
The top two floors of Shinjuku Station are a food court. Maybe because of the rain, but the restaurants were packed and we ended up waiting a while to have some really delicious Thai food!
We wandered around a bit more then headed back underground to catch a couple of trains back to our rooms.
It was a long day with LOTS of walking so we were glad to sit on the train for a bit, then have a beer, relax, and have a little toast to my birthday.Los Angeles Photographer Actors Headshot  IMG_6454

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Google Plus
  • Email
  • RSS

Japan 2017 – Day 6 – March 23

We were headed to Yugawara for my birthday present which was a getaway at a ryokan (an old style Japanese hotel) but first, I had to shoot the CEO of some company. I wanted to pick up a reflector on the way but between the traffic and the stop at the camera store, we ended up getting there late. The Japanese are ever so gracious and I got the shoot done very quickly. Funny how, even a late as I was to get there, the CEOs and his assistant sat us down for a cup of tea before the photo shoot began.Actors Headshot Los AngelesActors Headshot Los Angeles

After the work was done, it was time for vacation to begin in earnest. We went to Shinagawa and waited for our train at the station. Kaz disappeared for a while as Squi and I enjoyed all the trains coming and going. Every time Kaz disappeared in Japan, she always came back with food and this time was no different except for one exception. She got Squi a very special surprise – a fruit sandwich! I had seen most of the other stuff she had in bento boxes but never a fruit sandwich. It is now Squi’s favorite.

The train ride took us down the East coast of Japan to Yugawara.
https://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/regional/kanagawa/yugawara.htm

From there a short taxi ride to Kamata, our ryokan.
http://www.kamata-oku.com/

Los Angeles Photographer Actors Headshot

We arrived in the early evening and were able to walk around the grounds and take a few photos. I have this thing for bamboo forests – why or where it comes from I have no idea, but I enjoy them. So I was happy to see a small stand of bamboo near the ryokan. Hakone2522webLos Angeles Photographer
There were a couple of waterfalls and a koi pond and unlike Tokyo, it was peaceful and quiet. I can’t think of a better place to spend a birthday with my family.

We were shown to our room but Squi ran ahead and down the hall to what he thought was our room. Unfortunately, he went in the wrong room and we went into OUR room knowing he would be along soon. Sure enough, after a minute, he strolled into our room to join us….but not before he announced,”You do NOT wanna go in THAT room….(the room he had mistakenly gone in)…there’s a NAKED MAN in there!” I suspect somewhere in Japan, there is a man still wondering who the heck the little boy was that disturbed his privacy.

After settling in we had an amazing meal of lobster and sushi (Squi had a burger).Los Angeles Photographer Actors Headshot Los Angeles Photographer Actors Headshot Los Angeles Photographer Actors Headshot Los Angeles Photographer Actors Headshot
We decided to try the outdoor private onsen but that proved to be a mistake. In our bathrobes, it was cold walking to the onsen and when we got there, I couldn’t even hold my foot in the water. It was waaaayyy too hot. So we took a shivering walk back to our room and drew a tolerably hot bath there.
Subsiding goose bumps and another beer put me in a true happy birthday mood as I soaked in the tub.

As we were checking our emails, catching up on the days events in the news, and having another laugh over Squi’s misadventure, the ryokan staff showed up to make up our futon beds and we were all ready to snuggle in for a comfy night.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Google Plus
  • Email
  • RSS

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!

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Google Plus
  • Email
  • RSS

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.

Los_Angeles_Photographer_Michael_Helms

Los_Angeles_Photographer_Michael_Helms

Los_Angeles_Photographer_Michael_Helms

Los_Angeles_Photographer_Michael_Helms

Los_Angeles_Photographer_Michael_Helms

Los_Angeles_Photographer_Michael_Helms

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Google Plus
  • Email
  • RSS

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

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Google Plus
  • Email
  • RSS

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.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Google Plus
  • Email
  • RSS

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

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Google Plus
  • Email
  • RSS

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

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Google Plus
  • Email
  • RSS

Interview: Magic Image 12/10

Headshots and Effective Marketing by Michael Helms

Los-Angeles-Headshot-Photographer-Michael-Helms

Bryan Batt

I have been a professional photographer in Los Angeles for 35 years. The thing I hear most when actors come to my studio is, “I just want a photo that really captures ME and who I really am!”

While this may sound good, it tells me there is a very basic lack of understanding of how this business works and how to carry out a strong marketing strategy. As harsh as it may sound, not ONE casting director in all of LA concerns themselves with who you really are. It is their job to CAST you not analyze you.

If you are a 30 year old female, you will get “Mom” roles, business women, nurses, a wife, or a host of other characters seen on TV and in movies. It doesn’t matter if you REALLY ARE a Mom or not…that’s why it’s called ACTING. If you are a curvy girl, don’t shoot sexy photos because you’ll get called in for an audition and find yourself in a room full of skinny models. Conversely, if you are a lovely young woman and you have a nice figure, understand that this is a business driven by money. What sells on TV and in movies is sex and violence. So make sure you have a sexy head shot.

Danny DeVito is a sexy leading man to Rhea Perlman because she is married to him, but it is not his casting. While “type casting” may not be right or fair, it is what it is. Get used to it.

Research, research, research to find the right photographer. The guy in your acting class who has a camera and will do your headshots for free or for fifty bucks is NOT a working professional. An actor who does head shots on the side is NOT a working professional photographer and if he has an audition the day of your shoot – you will be out of luck.

If you want this to be your career – invest in it. Go to a professional photographer. Look for someone with a studio (who can shoot natural light OR studio light), who has been in business for 10 years or more, who has a GOOD web site.

Los Angeles Actors Headshot by Michael Helms

GO SEE THEM! Don’t go to someone who shoots out of their apartment. Simply put, go to a pro. Beware of Agents or managers who INSIST you go to their photographer. An Agent should give you a list of known working pro photographers that you can choose from.Get plenty of sleep the night before your shoot. Don’t get involved in an argument with your significant other.

Don’t bring “a friend” to your photo shoot. Don’t bring your family or Mother or your dog. This is YOUR day.  Most of all… ENJOY your photo shoot. I often hear actors say how much they “hate having their photos taken”. This is your career…learn to love it. ALL of it. Taking headshots is an acting job just like any other acting job.

If someone tries to tell you “film is better than digital”, just walk away. You should expect to shoot, look at the photos on a computer, get them retouched, and have them burned onto a CD, and walk out with them done all in the same day.

Basically, it is a business. If you treat your acting career like a business, you will have a much greater chance of success!

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Google Plus
  • Email
  • RSS