You are somebody – so smile

I am somebody

I chose the handle @ursomebody for my Instagram account after realizing that julianhaberphotography was too long. But that’s not the only reason – I also chose it because I believe that everyone is a somebody but not everyone believes that about themselves and I find that kind of sad.

I realized that the core of what I do – photograph people at work and at play – provides me with a unique position from which to observe humans in their sometimes unnatural habitats of gala parties and conferences, work parties, and social gatherings. From years of peering through my lenses at thousands of faces, I’ve honed my intuition and feel sometimes like I can see right into who someone is, just by the way they look when they don’t think anyone else is watching, or how they present themselves when they do. I feel this is one of the privileges of being a photographer and I am very grateful for the experience.

What I have observed countless times is the amount of discomfort and social anxiety many people feel that they do their best to hide. Reflecting on that, I came to the conclusion that main reason people feel awkward in social situations is because they harbour a sense of insecurity about themselves. They feel judged. They don’t think they are pretty. They think their clothes don’t fit them well. They think they are fat. They think they are too short. Too tall. Too skinny. Too ugly.

So they develop ways of hiding. They lean away from the photographer. They smirk rather than smile. They slouch, they turn their bodies defensively away from the lens. These gestures and subtle adjustments to posture and pose when facing a lens are not always conscious or deliberate. I believe, in fact, that most are unconscious. But to me it says that the person before me feels a kind of pain and I’ve learned that a big part of my job as a photographer of people at social and professional events is to make that pain disappear – however briefly. One easy way to do it is just by being kind and by recognizing that not everyone who is beautiful believes it about themselves, so I try to make them feel that they are. I think this is a valuable thing to learn to do for oneself as well.

We are somebodies
We are somebodies

A few helpful things you can do if you are one of those people who doesn’t like the way they look or feels uncomfortable in front of a camera – and there are many others who feel just like you do – is to smile. Just the act of smiling opens up positive energy inside of you and actually improves your state of mind. And you instantly look much better, I can guarantee you that.

We are somebodies
We are somebodies too

Deeper down, my wish is also for you to stop being so hard on yourself. I was once chastised (in a friendly way) by someone whose portrait I had taken for having slightly blended out a few small wrinkles in her face. I hadn’t really thought much about it as I try not to edit portraits very heavily and only allow myself slight interventions to enhance the natural beauty of the person I am photographing. But in this case, the woman – a mother of four – told me she was proud of her wrinkles and didn’t want them brushed away and I realized that she was absolutely right.

You’ve earned the face you have now. Be proud of who you are, how you look and what you can still give to the world.

You are somebody.


Leverage conferences for updating new corporate portraits

Conference organizers know that a lot of planning goes into creating a program of interesting and relevant content and attracting a strong roster of speakers, panelists and breakout session leaders. Effort is usually spent creating a detailed shot list for photographers to make sure that nothing on the agenda is missed and the investment in hiring a professional shooter to cover the event pays off with a load of marketable images of attendees and conference activities to help promote next year’s event.

conference-portrait 1Conferences often pull together people from within and across organizations that are otherwise rarely all in one place at the same time, and this creates an opportunity for updated group photos, corporate headshots and bio pictures that is often overlooked by organizers with heads full of conference planning details.

Often the venue itself will provide interesting and useful on site backdrops and your photographer will also have the necessary lighting and equipment to set up a small mobile studio in one of the many spaces occupied by the conference. You’re paying for it already so why not leverage the space to either update your firm’s set of portraits or offer the service to your attendees as an added value for attending your event? conference-portrait 5

Everyone needs a headshot these days – something I’ve written extensively about in posts on personal branding and profile pictures  – but organizing one can be a tedious task often dropped due to other more urgent priorities. If you can offer the service conveniently and quickly to attendees who are already on-site and available, you are providing a useful service and alleviating a pain point preemptively for both your attendees and perhaps the marketing team within your own organization.

While candid photos are always good to have, there is still a need for planned, posed and conventional headshots. I am often approached by conference attendees – people not paying me directly for my work – who say things like, “I need a new LinkedIn photo” or “My headshot is ten years old, can you do a new one for me?”.  Aside from essentially asking a working professional for a freebie, these kinds of requests would take time away from what I am hired to be doing and are rarely accommodated for.  They reveal the demand though, which could be better met by including an on-site portrait option within the general conference coverage contract.

Wconference-portraithy not leverage the inherent social nature of conferences to turn a portrait session into a networking opportunity in its own right? You could promote the on-site photo booth as a place to meet other attendees, leverage its presence by offering another component a sponsor could brand, or embed it inside a collaboration or meeting lounge space that conference attendees can pop into when they have a spare five minutes.

When planning the shooting schedule and generating a shot list for your conference photographer, consider asking about including a mobile photobooth for corporate and group portraits. You’ll save time and provide yet another added value to your attendees.

Yes, people judge you based on how your profile pic looks

Professional headshot

It’s not fair. It’s not even nice, but it seems that people really do make decisions about who you are based on their gut reactions to how you look in your profile picture. As a headshot photographer, I’ve always thought that it was my job to make people feel good and look good when I take their picture (it’s hard to have the latter without the former anyway), but I never gave much thought to why. Then I read this article, “Modeling first impressions from highly variable facial images” – or more accurately, stumbled across it while exploring Pinterest pages on headshots and realized that my work can have a tangible and direct impact on whether someone gets a job, finds a match on a dating site, or gets Friended, Retweeted or LinkedIn. It’s kind of sad, but the truth is, appearances really do matter so you might as well just accept it and try to get the best – and most appropriate – profile photo you can. What works on Facebook (and no, it’s not a good idea to use a photo of your kid as your profile picture there either) doesn’t work on LinkedIn and vice-versa. I’ve written about this before in my post on how to prepare for a photoshoot, and in my post on how your online photo is your avatar, but here are a few thoughts and tips to keep in mind when you realize that it’s time to take your online image as seriously as you do your real world one and update your set of profile photos:

  1. Your online photo is a marketing tool. Perhaps the most important one you’ve got as a shockingly high number of people may not even bother to scroll past your photo if they don’t like what they see.
  2. You can optimize the way you look online. While excessive and heavy-handed use of Photoshop doesn’t really look good (plastic fantastic may work for Barbie but is not recommended for your portrait), that doesn’t mean you can’t have your photo professionally taken, with flattering lighting and lightly retouched to take away distracting elements that take away from your natural good looks.
  3. Choose wisely. Before uploading any photo of yourself, whether it’s for a profile or not, ask yourself if you would feel comfortable with this being on the front page of the New York Times. If not, don’t do it.
  4. Be appropriate: Different online identities call for different looks. While it’s all “you” in the aggregate, a picture you put on Facebook for your friends and family is not necessarily (probably isn’t) appropriate for LinkedIn. Your image should reflect your personal brand in a professional setting, and your personality on more social networks. They don’t have to be mutually exclusive, but a cropped photo of you from your vacation in Italy is not a good image to lead in with at the head of your LinkedIn profile page.
  5. Don’t do it yourself: while I am a fan of the Maker Movement and respect entrepreneurs and DIYers in general, a good photograph of yourself is harder to get than it looks. I’ve been a professional photographer for over a decade and I wouldn’t take my own photo. In fact, I probably take the worst selfies on the planet. Whether you hire a pro (recommended, of course) or get a friend who knows what they are doing, try to get the best quality image you can get. If you think of your headshot like an online ad for yourself, the cost of paying a professional to take it is negligible compared to the amount of space and views it will garner as you push it out through your various online personae.

As cutting as it sounds, we are quick to judge people on how they look and long to remember our facile first impressions. Make yours count.

Capturing company culture in a corporate portrait

One of the aims (and challenges) of portraiture is to tell a person’s story in just one image. Those that do it well, like Yousef Karsh‘s image of Churchill, are memorable because you see more than a representation of what someone looks like – you see something of who they are.

I was once on a portrait assignment in Old Montreal and asked to capture in a few portraits the main executives of a company with a long and interesting history.

The client, a family operation, has an extensive shipping network and is one of the leading shipping companies in Montreal. The current CEO is following in the footsteps of his father, and his father before him. The corporate portrait needed to capture a sense of the current CEO’s personality and show a continuity and link to the company’s important and valuable heritage.

Next in line
Next in line

I set up this shot in the board room, using two soft-boxes and positioning the CEO and VP beside earlier portraits of their father and former CEO. My intention was to give the impression of people who are in charge but know their place in history.

I took the next few portraits with the company’s business in mind. I wanted to include a view of the St. Lawrence Seaway visible down below, while highlighting the person in the portrait. Lighting a subject in front of a window is a bit tricky, but  with the help of an assistant holding up a baffle to block unwanted glare, and a willing subject, we were able to capture an image that highlights both the main subject and allows in elements of the background that I felt were important, if subtle, accents to the portrait itself.

A man with an Empire
A man with an Empire

Taking good corporate portraits often involves thinking not just about the subject and the technical requirements of the shoot, but also about your client’s business. I believe a good corporate portrait shows a subject in the context of the actual business. While in many cases, a client only needs or wants a straight portrait shot against a seamless grey or white background, in those cases where more can be done, a good way of capturing a corporate portrait is to situate the subject within a framework of visual elements that speak to the culture and brand of the company itself.

What are catchlights and why do you need them in your portrait?

One of my client recently asked me why there were lights in his eyes from the proofs gallery I’d sent him to select his headshot from.

“They are called catchlights,” I told him. “Without them you look dead.”

Catch me if you can
Catch me if you can

As you can see, the photo on the right has had the catchlights removed. The resulting image is somehow unsettling, as if my subject had suddenly been turned into an android with a drained battery.

So what is a “catchlight anyway, and why do photographers want them in their subject’s eyes (aside from wanting their subjects to look alive)?

5853eA catchlight is the light reflected in a subject’s eyes, sometimes called eye lights, that give a sense of life to a portrait. Look into someone’s face the next time you are talking to someone outdoors and you’ll see the reflected light from the sky in their eyes. It is this single source of light – the sun, in other words – that the catchlight mimics. Typically you’ll see the catchlight in the upper portion of the eye, as the placement of studio lights are generally done at an angle above the subject’s head.

We expect to see eyes sparkling when we see someone, even if we are not aware of it. Dull eyes that don’t reflect light appear lifeless. Look for how the next villain or evil character is lit in any film or television show you watch. Now you won’t be surprised if you see the eyes lack catchlights, enhancing the character’s “dark side”, literally.

There are no specific rules to how catchlights should be used, but I like them best when they are not too large, and situated a little off-centre in both irises. Sometimes you will see two lights (reflecting the two umbrellas most portrait set ups require), though some photographers will edit out one so that only a single gleam remains in keeping with the tradition of mimicking the look of the sun reflected in the eye.

Catchlights can come in different shapes and sizes, according to the light source casting them. If the photographer is using a soft box, the catchlights will be square or rectangular. Or if the photographer is using a ring light (preferred flash technique for fashion shoots) the light will be a round circle, like a tiny little LED donut shape in the eye.

I also really like the word catchlight, and the idea that our eyes do actually “catch” light through themselves, allowing those of us fortunate to have good vision see the world.

How much space do you need to take a good portrait?

I'm touching the walls on either side of me;)
If I open my arms I’d be touching two walls

The answer is, not much. While all photographers would love a beautiful, white walled studio with a full cyclorama, mounted studio lighting for every occasion, a view of a lovely European city below, most work out of rented studios or their homes. For photographers, like many of their corporate clients, the real working spaces they inhabit are often small, sometimes a little cramped, or shared so they are elbow to elbow with their colleagues. Most likely there is a boardroom available for meetings, but the day-to-day worker spends a lot of time in a little space and is concerned about whether such a space is adequate for having an in-office portrait done.

The truth is, a good corporate portrait photographer has to be highly adaptable and adjust to client spaces, not the other way around. While nearly all people working today require not just one but a few different profile pictures, this increased online presence has cut into one valuable resource that can’t be bought: time. The time-strapped professional doesn’t want to travel out of their office for a quick portrait to update their headshot, when the same service is available to them in their offices, at a lower cost and in a fraction of the time.

The space required for a corporate portrait is much less than you would think. I’ve worked in offices large and small, in downtown Montreal, industrial parks, hotel rooms, lobbies, boardrooms and people’s homes. The most space I’ve ever had to work with has been maybe 12 by 12 feet, and the least has been much tighter. I’ve been in closets bigger than some of the offices where I took portraits – but the thing is, regardless of the available space, the shots always come out and the subjects look as good.

I took this in my living room
I took this in my living room

Without getting into unnecessary detail on the positioning of lights, and the finagling of backdrops, the point is that a good corporate portrait a client will be able to use for at least a few years, can be taken in any sized office, and the process from start-to-finish can be done in no more than 45 minutes (with most of that time allocated to set up and take down).


Unconventional portraits for families, artists and corporate warriors alike

When a young family begins to blossom, many parents are motivated to hire a photographer to shoot their family portrait. Even though parents document nearly every waking (and some sleeping) moment of a new child with iPads, iPhones and inexpensive point and shoot cameras (there are still a few around), there is something about hiring a pro to shoot the “official” family portrait that still has appeal. I’ve done my share of family sessions, in studios, in parks, living rooms and backyards, but one still stands out for its singular point of view.eyes1The idea for this eye-level family portrait actually came from my client herself (99% of all family portraits are booked and organized by the mother of the house). She had a vision for exactly the kind of photo she wanted for her family portrait and I helped execute it for her. This is also an example of the co-creativity involved in producing real, meaningful portraits and this approach can be applied to any kind of portrait, not just the family, but for corporate or professional head shots as well. Sometimes all it takes is stepping out of the office and into the street, taking advantage of the natural urban setting, or finding a convenient, non-traditional backdrop, as in the two shots below.


Lapointe_CEO_KATIMAVIK2011 100Other times, a really non-traditional portrait can be created by focusing on mood or atmosphere, or playing off an idea generated through discussions with clients about how and what they want to present as an image. Here are a few which turn the concept of a traditional portrait on its head, but still achieve a distinctive look that could be interesting and useful for some purposes.

avf_01 IMG_9162 IMG_9217 IMG_9257 IMG_9316 JsPicks (3)

Whatever your purpose is for having a portrait taken, consider your creative options before doing it. You may want and need a straight up conventional shot for an updated LinkedIn profile or to add to your bio when publishing a piece of your work, but you can also explore and have a little fun with your image, generating portraits that say something about how you feel or wish to be perceived, whether that is for a private audience or more personalized project in which you want to show something of yourself that is unique, creative and clever. Non-standard crops, artsy Photoshop filters, even blurred images can produce interesting images that might look good printed on canvas as a gift to a loved one, or just to show a different side of yourself to the one everyone expects to see. Whatever your goals are in creating a portrait, taking time to explore your creativity with your photographer can often produce images that are as memorable and unique as you are.


Using context, collaboration and communication to create great portraits

classics 3
Classical Studies Summer Students

School may be out for most classes, but the hard-working students at the McGill School for Continuing Education are in session right through the hot summer months, and yesterday posed for their class photos on campus. The weather was hot and sunny  but this Montrealer is not complaining as winter is always just around the corner in this city.  After this brief  portrait session was done, I reflected a while on what it takes to create a great portrait whether you are just snapping a few shots of your family on vacation, or looking online to gather a few guidelines to inform your next corporate portrait photo shoot.

  1. Draw out the connections between subject(s) and their relevant subject matter or theme: whether your subject is someone famous, or just one of the millions of hard-working corporate workers out there in the world today, or a group of young summer students taking a course in a Classical Studies program, your job as photographer is to come up with ideas that can be translated into images that represent visually what is relevant to your subject. For example, if your subject is a Math Professor you could set up your shot in a classroom posing your subject in front of a blackboard covered in formulas and equations. Or if your subject is an author, you could set the subject in a contemplative space, perhaps the one where they write, or surround the writer with books. In the case of the McGill Classical Studies students, we (why we? see next point) sought out “classical” looking backgrounds to imbue the young group with a bit of the weight and substance of what they had gathered to study. In brief, contextualize your subject within the essential context of what makes your subject portrait-worthy in the time frame of your photograph.

    Cuban born artist, Alexander Poll
    Cuban born artist, Alexander Poll
  2. Collaborate with your subject(s): In my many years of experience photographing all types of people alone or in groups, from CEOs to
    Let's get married! On skates???
    Let’s get married! On skates???

    toddlers in diapers in a family living room, I’ve found that the single most important element of creating an excellent portrait is having a rapport with the subject. This rapport or relationship is created by including the subject in the creation of their own image. Even world-famous executives with a private jet waiting to whisk them away can and do enjoy a brief moment to create a photograph in which their likeness features that says something about who they are as a person. All portraits have an element of playfulness about them, even the serious ones, and the best ones happen when you as photographer can encourage that innate sense of play in your subject.

  3. Communicate with your subject: this is really just another aspect of collaboration, but it merits its own point as it is really so important when trying to capture an image of someone as they really are, which is the true call of a portrait artist. Talk to your client/subject throughout the creative process. Explain to them what you are thinking or wanting to do. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen my initial ideas improved upon by sharing them with my clients who gamely take up the challenge and often contribute new ideas and have even better backgrounds in mind than I come up with on my own. While I don’t think it’s important, or at all interesting, to tell the client the technical aspects of what’s happening (I’m not sure how many clients I have had who would care what aperture I am shooting at or what lens I am using) I do think it is critical to engage your subject in a dialogue about what you are doing and give them the space and opportunity to contribute their ideas to how they will be portrayed. At the very least, it gains their confidence, and more often than not leads to a better portrait.
Using features of the landscape for a good portrait
Using features of the landscape for a good portrait

A good portrait, whether of an individual or a group, should aim to capture some of the context of the subject, both physically and conceptually. Using both setting and features of the context of the subject will help to strengthen the portrait. After all, what is a portrait but a window into the heart and soul of a subject. The best ones, particularly photographs like Yousouf Karsh‘s epic shot of Winston Churchill reveal the essence of a person’s character – at least as they are in that moment. Portrait photography is the short story of people-oriented photography and the artistry involved is not something that can be easily reproduced. However, the core concepts connected to creating a great portrait are accessible to anyone who takes the time to learn and implement them. Central to all great portraits is establishing a rapport with your subject by collaborating and communicating during the session. And finally, as always, cultivate a sense of play and playfulness throughout your session so that the experience reveals not just who the subject is, but the best version of themselves.

Feedback welcome – on your own terms

JHP on Yelp
Yelp me out if you want to!

If you are like me you get feedback requests from nearly every online service you use. I get texts from my cell phone company asking me to fill in surveys after every call I make to them, emails from news sites I subscribe to asking for my opinion, and then there are all those annoying little slidey-up, pop-up windows that appear when you’ve visited a site asking for your opinion. Not to mention apps that periodically request a review – even ones you’ve already paid for. I get it – businesses large and small (especially small) often thrive on positive reviews and sink on negative ones. Word of mouth marketing can be the Midas Touch or the Kiss of Death, depending on how well you perform as a business in satisfying your customer needs. For an independent freelance photographer, providing superior client service is just table stakes. Nonetheless, I’ve always believed that if a client is really happy with your work, they will make the time to say so. If you’ve really done a great job, telling their friends and network about you will reflect well on them as you can then provide the same great service to their social circles. Everybody wins.

But I respect my clients and people’s time above everything and since I find requests for feedback increasingly annoying, I assume others do as well.

Which is my round-about way of saying, that I’ve created a separate page on a the pretty popular recommendations service, Yelp, where reviews from my past, present and perhaps future clients are welcome. Good or not, your honest, real feelings and thoughts on the work I’ve done for and with you are welcome and if you feel so inclined, and have the time, please stop by and let me – and the world – know what you think.

Here’s the link: Julian Haber Photography on Yelp

Thank you!

Family Portraits in Westmount Park

9157eTaking family portraits in a park is such a fun and easy way to create a lasting memory of your family. Even without the photography, an afternoon in a park is a great way to spend time with your family. Put away the phones, turn off all notifications, and just spend time with each other. It’s a simple, yet often overlooked way to reconnect with each other and nature. Using a park as natural setting for a series of family portraits is also a fun thing to do on these summery afternoons. 9198eI was recently hired to create some memorable family photographs by a dad whose daughters were growing up and moving away for school. As a parent of a young daughter I was sympathetic to how he might have been feeling. I look at my little girl and can’t imagine her more than an arm’s reach away, but of course, they grow and spread their wings. Which is what we want them to do and what we spend our lives preparing them for, but still…it’s a little bit sad to say goodbye, even if it’s for all the right reasons. When taking on this contract I really wanted to do a good job for my client and give him photos he would be able to treasure of his beautiful daughters. I imagined myself being in his shoes one day and did for him what I would want someone to do for me in the same situation.9205e The photos almost shot themselves. In Westmount Park (in Montreal), there is an abundance of settings and backdrops to choose from. We began in the greenhouse and just wandered down one of the paths leading to the small lake at the other end of the park, stopping along the way wherever my instincts told me to stop. I’m pretty proud of the results and my client was delighted with his photos, a sample of which are included here.

Professional photoshoot for professional women

The future looks bright

Over 90% of the people who hire me directly are professional women. This may be because there are usually more women working in professions like communications, public relations, and marketing then there are men and professionals in these fields dominate my client list, bringing me in to cover events they are organizing, or produce marketing materials they are managing.

As well, I am often hired directly by professional women who are engaged in their own branding. These entrepreneurs (as they almost all are), know what they are looking for, know the image they want to project and are smart enough to invest a little time and money in working with a professional photographer to get the results they are after. Typically the images from these sessions are used across a variety of platforms such as websites, email marketing, newsletters and of course headshots to accompany the bio documents that these professional women use often when invited to speak at conferences, publish a chapter or article for a journal, or simply update their LinkedIn profile -which they do regularly as they are productively growing and developing their careers.

Lara Evoy & Stephanie Garrow: Strategic Consulting for social innovation and organizational learning
Lara Evoy & Stephanie Garrow: Strategic Consulting for social innovation and organizational learning

On a recent shoot, one of my clients had the brilliant idea to gift a professional photographer session to other women in her networking group. As we were working together on our shoot, collaboratively producing great images (because though my job is to get the best shots, I can’t do it without engaging my clients and having them participate actively in their own photo shoot) she realized that the photo session she’d booked with me was not just a ticked box on a to-do list for updating a website, it was actually fun and something worth sharing. I can’t help but agree.


Your headshot is your avatar

The Mad Hatter
The Mad Hatter

We no longer live in a purely physical world. While everything we need to sustain ourselves (food, water, shelter, love) comes from the world of things (and people) for better or for worse many of us live as much online as we do offline. For anyone born after 1980 the wall between the “real world” and the “digital world” is thin, and getting thinner. Eventually, in a rapidly accelerating future, as wi–fi becomes ubiquitous and free, our refrigerators order beers for us when their shelves are bare and our cars drive themselves for us, I believe we will cease to recognize the distinction between online and offline. Such terms will become quaint artefacts of a time when living memories remembered things like rotary phones, or even no phones at all. Which is my roundabout way of getting to the point that how we present ourselves online matters. It is, in effect, another aspect of ourselves and just like the avatars in video games (or movies), these avatars represent our idealized selves.

We want to look young, smart, healthy, interesting, perhaps a bit mysterious, alluring, attractive and like someone you would want to know. We want to look like our best selves, (or in my case, like someone seriously into tribal head dresses – yes, it’s real). There are a few simple things you can do before uploading your next profile pic, to ensure that your headshot/avatar represents you as you wish to be seen and in your best light.

Here are a few tips to help you choose the best online profile picture to represent you in that brave new online world, that’s not so new anymore:

  1. Show some teeth! By that I mean use a photo in which you are smiling. No matter how awkward you feel smiling (and sadly, many grown ups do) humans respond to smiling faces way better than they do to non-smiling faces. If you are bothering to show yourself online at all, then presumably you want someone to see you and like you. Smiling helps. (If you need some help with smiling, read my post on the subject here).
  2. Use a photo taken on one of your good days: we all have good days and bad days. Don’t use a photo taken on a bad day. Simple as that. If you were having a bad hair/skin/attitude/breath day and your photos didn’t come out the way you wanted them to, do them again. The short-term inconvenience of taking another photo pales in comparison to the amount of time your photo will linger online. (You can read about preparing for a photoshoot here and here if you need a few tips before any shoots you have upcoming).
  3. Make the effort: when you are posing for your professional headshot, on this one day, no matter how else you choose to dress and live, make the effort to look your best. Get a good night’s rest, shave, do your hair, and wear nice, ironed clothes – preferably with collars. Better to be over dressed than under-dressed and in photos, a simple, classic, elegant look will never get stale and can serve you well across multiple online platforms.

There are countless other ways to make sure your headshot/avatar does what it is supposed to do for you online. Backing it up with some investment in the content you share is also important, but almost all relationships in business, or personal life, these days begin with someone you don’t know looking at your photo online. Make it a good one.

Book a full day shoot onsite to save big money

 (Julian Haber | 514.757.7657 | am frequently asked to shoot onsite corporate portraits in different offices throughout Montreal, on and off-island. My set up is all portable (I can even work without electricity if necessary) and I provide quick, professional portraits for use on company websites, social media networking sites like LinkedIn and company publications.

One of the needs nearly every company has these days is to look for ways to save money and cut costs without compromising on quality. With the war for talent still raging (particularly in the high tech industries) it is critical companies project a friendly face to their future prospective employees. Nothing does this better than showing photos (lots of them) of your people and your offices, working, relaxing and socializing together. People are increasingly focusing attention not just on what the job offers in terms of salary and benefits, but also work environment, company culture and other intangibles that are hard to explain in words. Using photography and video to help communicate to your prospective clients, employees and partners helps declutter your site and leave visitors with a strong visual impression of who you are and what your company is all about. In a world crowded with messaging and information overload, this is a valuable service you can easily provide at a very low cost.

 (Julian Haber | 514.757.7657 |

Marketing and Communications teams, Human Resources and Talent Acquisition managers are all operating on tight budgets and being asked to do more with less. Getting a photographer to come to your office is a great way to get both a set of profile photos for your whole team, but also to boost your image library of your space and work environment. Rather than purchase rights-restricted and generic stock images you can have your own customized images created that tell your own story.

To optimise your use of an onsite photographer, hire for a full day over a half day (saving at least 20%-25% of the cost of a half day rate), and book all your employees’ headshots on one day which can provide substantial savings reducing your price per shot to well below the market rate of having a single or small number of headshots taken onsite.

And don’t forget to update your website and headshot photos at least once a year!

Taking pictures of people

It still often puzzles and amazes me that what I do for a job is take pictures of people. And after taking probably hundreds of thousands of photos of people getting married, people in love, new parents, old friends, mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers, best friends, new friends, strangers in crowds, models, actors, performers, artists and my own beloved family in over fifteen years of living and working as a photographer, I think I have finally learned a few simple things about what makes a good picture that are worth sharing:


1. Care about your subject: yes, you can. You may not have the same rapport with each and every one of your subjects, but the best photographs, like the best meals, are made with love in your heart. You need to have a genuine, unaffected, real care of the person or people you are photographing. This is not to say you need to know them very well (I often meet and shoot my clients on the same day, sometimes within minutes of our first encounter). But you need to put yourself into their minds, try to feel what they are feeling with you there sticking a camera in their face, try to empathize with how they may feel insecure about how they look and accommodate them. Help them. Guide them to their best showing. They will appreciate you for your thoughtfulness and leadership. And you will have a better photograph as a result.

CP9JUL 1-hr

2. Pay attention to details: this is true for anyone trying to master a craft. Assuming you know how your camera works, and have a familiarity with the technical aspects of what you are doing, your mental energy should be focused on details in the shot your subjects are not necessarily aware of. This includes the obvious, like backdrop and setting, but also the little details like a stray button undone, or a misplaced lock of hair. If you have the luxury of time during your shoot, pause before pressing the button and scan the scene for details you may have missed. Of course you can do all kinds of repair work in Photoshop, but I think you take better photos and are a better photographer if you actually try to get it right in real life instead of relying on software skills.

3P5A0547 - Version 23. See the beauty in others: let’s face it, not everyone is a supermodel. Even supermodels aren’t always supermodels (see this post) and even Cindy Crawford has famously said she wishes she looked like Cindy Crawford. I believe that everyone has inner beauty that can be revealed through an insightful and thoughtful portrait. It may sound like a cliché, and perhaps it even is, but it doesn’t matter. Look for and find what makes the person you are photographing beautiful. If you can’t see it, you can’t show it.

Thank you to all my readers and clients this past year and all the best for 2014.

Don’t let Photoshopped images deny you the pleasure of a good meal this holiday season


Here’s a quick 5 Minutes Of What The Media Actually Does To Women video,  I discovered on Upworthy, a great site I’ve recently stumbled upon that shares news worth sharing. As a photographer I often spend more time than I want to toiling away in Photoshop making people look like the enhanced versions of themselves. I’m usually working on images of regular working people for their corporate portraits, family portraits or LinkedIn headshots. These are not models with body images but even still, there is the latent desire to see oneself perfected, to have a few lines removed here, a slight restructuring of the jaw there. I admit my guilt in doing these digital cosmetic surgeries, but share the opinion voiced in this video that unrealistic images, particularly of women, are damaging to women themselves, promote self-loathing and create a space where violence against women can happen by dehumanizing and objectifying women. I’m a father of a young girl and I feel a personal responsibility in making sure she grows up with a healthy self-image. She sometimes sits with me as I work in Photoshop where I show her how images are created and hopefully she learns a little bit about the difference between images and reality. She may still love Princesses and Hello Kitty, but when it comes time to eat, she’s fed a good wholesome meal which she devours with pleasure. So this holiday season my wish is that the women of the world reject the notion of false beauty projected through dehumanized, over-Photoshopped images of women, and dig in to their holiday meals with gusto!



Best sizes for your online profile pictures in all social media

Thanks to my friend Ray Hiltz, who sent me a link to this article on How to Optimize Your Profile Photos Across Social Media, the highlights of which I’ve summarized here below. Worth checking out the full article if you are a professional photographer and/or just looking to have your profile photo looks its best on the most popular social media platforms.

One big happy family
One big happy family


  • Profile pics are displayed at 160 x 160 pixels, but the image you upload must have minimum measurements of 180 x 180 pixels.
  • Cover photos should be 851 pixels wide, 315 pixels tall and less than 100KB


  • Maximum file size for a Twitter avatar is 2MB, though it will show only as 73 x 73 pixels on your profile page and a very small 48 x 48 pixels in tweets
  • Header photos can be up to 5MB in size; the recommended dimensions for these images are 1252 x 626 pixels


  • consider what kind of image will work in a round format as the default form in Google+ circles is well, a circle
  • avatar displays 120 x 120 pixels on your profile, but not all of that will show up due to the round crop
  • Post images will be as small as 48 x 48 pixels and just 28 x 28 in comments

You Tube:

  • Since Google owns You Tube, the same image requirements for Google+ apply, however unique to the You Tube platform is cover photo You Tube calls “channel art” for which the recommendation is to upload a 2560 x 1440 pixel image


  • Max file size of 4MB
  • Upload a square JPG, GIF or PNG (default size for a LinkedIn avatar on your profile page is 200 x 200 pixels, but users can click to enlarge the image up to 450 x 450 pixels).
  • Company logos on company pages display on LinkedIn pages at 100 x 60 pixels, and the square logo is 50 by 50 pixels. You can also upload a homepage cover photo-style image to a company page. The minimum recommended size is 646 x 220 pixels.

As mentioned above, this summary is taken from an article on Mashable, worth checking out for more ample detail on the content quoted above.

Your backyard is a studio – family portraits at home

3P5A5071eEvery once in a while as a professional portrait photographer in Montreal, I get to do some work that really makes me feel good about myself and the people I am working with. There is a family I have known for many years, people I’ve grown up with, whom I love and respect deeply. They are a wonderful family, all boys (really big boys) and all smart, successful, personable and just really good people. Of course, a brood like this doesn’t come out of nowhere and the pater and mater familias are themselves true gems of humanity – the kind of people who make you proud to be a humanist and happy to know them.

I had the great honour and privilege to do a family portrait for this family, in honour of a 75th birthday for a man who is, for want of a better word, noble. It was a balmy end of summer evening, the cooler on the back deck was well stocked with white wine and beer, and the grandchildren were all shiny and freshly bathed. To keep things simple, and convenient given the number of people involved, we opted to do the portrait right there in the back yard. And I must say, the results were stunning. I’ve never been prouder of a family portrait than I am of this one, for many reasons but also for the simplicity of the set up and the ease with which we managed to get a series of families portraits done in one quick session.

(We also had a little fun recreating a family portrait taken twenty years earlier.)



Leverage your Human Resources department to get the best deal on a new corporate portrait

3P5A6506eI regularly visit professionals in their workspaces in and around Montreal to update their corporate portrait. Almost without fail, the need for the portrait is immediate, last-minute, rushed. There are many reasons for this:

  • I was nominated for an award and I won! Eek!
  • I am being featured in an article on the company website
  • My department/team hit a major milestone and we want a group photo
  • I was recently promoted and the announcement comes out in 3 days!
  • Our company will be featured in an upcoming news story and they need a new photo of me!

The list goes on and on, but the end result is always the same. I come to the office with a small, convenient professional lighting setup (with seamless backdrops in grey and white), pass a few pleasantries with my subject, shoot a series of portraits (head and shoulders, full body, tight crops around the face, etc) and quickly submit proofs online so the client can immediately choose one, have me edit it and send it out in time to reach the impending deadline.

As you can imagine, waiting to the last-minute and putting a rush order on everything has an impact on the price, as it may entail shifting around other less urgent contracts and/or other accommodations.

3P5A0547 - Version 23P5A2323A good idea and easy way to save on your corporate portrait or LinkedIn profile picture is to work with your HR resource in-house and have them schedule a half or full day shoot in your office. Any day can work, your time commitment is minimal (usually no more than 20 minutes) and even if you are paying out of your own pocket, you will benefit from a group rate as it is much more economical to shoot several portraits in one day in one location, than one or two here and there over the course of many days. It is not unrealistic to gain an 80% reduction in the price of a portrait, simply by coordinating internally to have at least 5 other people in your company have their portraits taken on the same day.

October and November are great months to book a portrait session so that your profile picture is updated and ready to whirl out into cyberspace once 2014 rolls around (it’s sooner than you think!)


Creative corporate portraits

Playful Portraits
Playful Portraits

Not all corporate portraits have to be cookie-cutter just-add-barcode-on-forehead head and shoulders shots. Once and a while it can be fun and fruitful to play around with relevant props and even (dare we) use a little humour and have fun with the shot.

I was recently hired by Queens School of Business to shoot a portrait of a senior VP at Monster and, while I was asked to provide straightforward corporate shots, was also given the leeway to shoot a few playful shots with my subject. Of course, a client needs to have the right attitude, be flexible and willing to play ball, but if they are, the in-office corporate portrait photoshoot can be effective and fun. Here are few takes from the shoot at Monster Canada’s offices in downtown Montreal.

How does an onsite portrait session work?

blog 4I am frequently called by prospective clients looking for a professional portrait photographer to take their picture. While many of these calls relate to corporate photography, a good portion are from professionals and individuals looking for a portrait because they need it, and usually quickly. Maybe they’ve won an award or been asked to speak at a conference and they need the portrait to accompany their bio, or maybe they’ve just published a book and need to provide their publisher with a headshot to go (proudly) on the back sleeve of their novel. Regardless of the need, many people have questions about how it works so I thought I’d try to help them and others looking into having a professional portrait taken by explaining the process of an onsite portrait session.

First of all, onsite portrait photography means the photographer comes to you. Whether that is your place of work, a home office or some other space you’ve got access to, the photographer will bring the necessary lighting, backdrops and gear to do the shoot where you are it. This is both more convenient for you (no moving around, no parking hassles) and saves you time.

Upon arrival, your photographer will scope out the area and determine the best space to set up in. Alternatively, you can show him/her where the shoot needs to happen and he/she will merrily begin accommodating you by putting up the backdrop stand, lighting and tripod for the camera. Depending on the kind of shot you are after, you may want to use an exposed brick wall or you may just want the traditional seamless white or grey found commonly in corporate portraits.

Setup may take 30-40 minutes, during which time you don’t need to be present. You can use the time to carry on with your work, or if your schedule allows, do your makeup and hair or just relax with a cup of coffee and chat with your photographer.

Once the setup is complete, your photographer will ask you to come into the area designated for the shoot and may ask you to pose for a few shots to test the lighting and get the information he or she needs to do any last-minute tweaks to the lighting set up.

After that it’s showtime. Your session may last five minutes if you are in a hurry and nail the shot right away, or it may go on for twenty or thirty minutes or even longer if you have booked the photographer for a full session including full body shots.

Usually during the shoot I like to show and tell. I share the photos I am taking with my subjects by showing them the images on my camera, or from my laptop. This helps assuage any lingering nervousness a client may have and also can improve the shots by giving the two of us something to discuss objectively.

Once I’ve done the shoot and my client has reviewed the images and agreed that at least one (if not several as is usually the case) of the images is good, I very quickly do a sort and clean up then post the images to a private site and send the link to my client. Unless asked, I leave the final selection to the client who can take as much time as he or she needs to review each image privately and at their own pace on my site. Once a choice is made (between 1-5 images) my client sends me an email with his or her selections and I edit those final images to perfection.

I then repost the final images to a new private password protected gallery (at high-resolution) and send the link to the client who then downloads the images directly to his or her computer and the job is done. If there are any requests for final changes then I make them, though usually there are none. corportrait33a

The whole process, from arrival to delivery of final images can take no more than 24 hrs. The usual turnaround is 48-72 hours with much of that time due to me waiting for the client to send me his or her final selections.

My goal and the goal of most professional photographers is to deliver a perfect image that makes my client happy they chose to work with me. As photographers, everyone gets to see our work – there is no hiding what we’ve done as it is usually published or used by our clients very publicly, so we need to get it right.

And that’s it. The process is quick, painless and fun and you end up with an up-to-date, professionally taken, photomagically edited photo (where necessary and not too heavily so that you look like you have fake plastic skin) and you no longer need to rely on that old vacation shot you cropped out of a group photo.