Becoming a headshot photographer was the natural next step in my almost two decades of being a professional photographer. It was a great journey, and a story that I love to tell.
I always wanted to perform. I took dance classes when I was younger. I can well remember every single dance recital, every jazz dance, every tutu. For a brief time, I thought that I wanted to be a dancer. Perhaps a prima ballerina, maybe a contemporary jazz dancer?
As time went by, I realized that I didn't want to just dance. I started to discover theatre and musicals in middle school, and signed up for theatre classes the second that I started high school.
I remember every single show that I did in high school like it was yesterday. I remember being a high school sophomore, having to decide whether or not I wanted to continue being a cheerleader or to dedicate more time to the drama club. As if that was even a decision! (Spoiler alert : I picked theatre).
I remember the plays that I was in. I remember every single musical, from Once Upon A Mattress to Godspell. I remember every costume I wore, every dance step of every song. Even now, I remember it all.
I remember being fascinated with not only performing, but the production itself. I loved watching the lights being hung, and loved watching the lighting designer create patterns that illuminated the performers. I was fascinated with how light shaped a scene, how it pushed forth emotion, how it cemented the entire vibe of a moment.
I was also fascinated with the creation and design of every set, every costume, and every prop. I loved seeing how every element came together to create a singular production. I loved how it existed in such a fleeting time, here now and then closed the next week.
That was when I first became enamored with theatre photography. How could these moments just exist and disappear without someone to document them?
I took my first trip to New York and Broadway my senior year of high school and was utterly captivated by the production photography on the fronts of the Broadway theaters. Shooting production photographs was someone's job?! How was such an amazing thing even possible?
I decided to keep pursuing performing after high school. I auditioned for and was accepted to a Bachelor of Fine Arts program for theatre, and off I went. I spent four years learning how to perform. I always had a camera in hand, and I remember documenting the shows that I was in. That was a time of my life that I really loved.
The summer between my junior and senior years of college I moved back to Manhattan for two months. I was an intern at a Broadway theater, working first in the casting department and then in the education department. I learned a lot about how the shows worked, and it was a fascinating learning experience and summer internship. I am so glad that I participated in it.
That summer also opened my eyes to more of the New York theatre scene. I went to show after show after show, a wonderful perk of the job. I saw on and off-Broadway plays. I saw every musical running. I saw downtown theatre, shows in small black box houses. I saw huge multimillion dollar Broadway productions. I saw it all, and I looked at every single production photograph.
Even then, theatre photography was pulling at me, and I didn't even know it. I thought that I was meant to be a performer, an actor, a dancer. I thought photography was still just a hobby, even then.
My first experience with headshot photography happened when I graduated from college and moved to Manhattan. I read issues of Backstage, looking for my own headshot photographer. After all, if I was going to make it as a performer in New York, I needed headshots!
I enjoyed my own headshot session so much, and I still have the prints and negatives from that session. I was super nervous throughout the entire session, but the photographer I worked with kept me calm and comfortable. I learned a lot that day about how to interact with clients as a photographer. For that I will forever be grateful.
After deciding that a life auditioning and performing wasn't for me, I moved back down south, got married, and started having kids. I loved having a family and staying at home with my daughters, but I still yearned for something that was all mine. Was I ever meant to have my own business? Was I wrong to leave performing?
I worked with the local community theatre over my years in the south, but it wasn't enough. I started to dabble in photography, beginning to shoot weddings. I took that photography skill to the community theatre, documenting their performances.
I kept feeling a pull back to New York, but kept my love for theatre and photography alive while building my business in Florida. Eventually life would take me back to New York in 2008, but I thought I was still just meant to be a wedding photographer. I thought my part in theatre world was just to be a lifelong fan - little did I know what was in store!
I started working with performers in 2014 when I opened my first Brooklyn-based studio. I began photographing theatrical portraits, which naturally led to headshots.
I LOVE photographing headshots. I am blown away by how it brings together everything that I love about photography and everything that I love about theatre all in one shoot. Listing what I love about shooting headshots would take all day, but here are a few things:
It's amazing how life has taken me from a wide-eyed college theatre student to an established New York headshot photographer.
I'd love to hear where you're at on your professional journey! Are you still in school? Are you a graduate? Are you seeking your MFA or additional training? Are you on tour? Are you working, auditioning, performing?
The more I can learn about you, the more I can tailor your headshot session to your particular needs. Drop me an email or give me a call today and let's chat! I look forward to talking to you about your headshot needs soon!
broadway (45), theatre portfolio prep (42), tyler hanes (6). 1/125; f/8.0; ISO 250; 70.0 mm.