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Meet North Hollywood Photographer: Charles Mitri

Today we’d like to introduce you to Charles Mitri.

Charles, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I got interested in photography in 2013 after watching a video on YouTube on New York headshot photographer, Peter Hurley. He has a very distinct style and although he inspired me to start shooting, I didn’t particularly want to mimic his look because it lacked a sense of depth and location that I really liked in images.

I started shooting headshots with a mix of natural light and off-camera flash outdoors and did that for a while. During that time I discovered photographer, Joel Grimes, who’s well-known for his composite work, taking subjects (mostly pro athletes) shot in a studio and compositing them into a separately shot background. The idea came to me then that I wanted to try and incorporate Grimes’ compositing technique to headshots, but I didn’t act on it because I was too occupied with learning basic retouching techniques in Photoshop and improving my photography.

Cut to a year or two two later and I discovered the work of Dylan Patrick, whose cinematic style spoke to me in a big way. I learned his style and loved the results but soon began to experience difficulty shooting outdoors dealing with wind, heat, sun, and a lack of privacy. I wasn’t enjoying the experience and it wasn’t the best for my clients either. I wanted to shoot indoors and have more control of my environment.

After expressing my frustrations with a fellow photographer friend, Casey Hale, he mentioned the compositing idea I shared with him a couple of years back, and he urged me to give it a try but I was highly skeptical it could produce the kind of results I wanted. He threw together a quick composite and although not perfect, I could see the potential in that rough image and felt it could work with more technique and practice. I dove into compositing and learned everything I could for weeks and just practiced and practiced and through trial and error, eventually started producing headshots that started to look seamless between the subject and the background. I can’t tell you how excited I was when that moment happened because I felt I could finally have my cake and eat it too — in other words, I could shoot indoors in a controlled environment, yet still produce cinematic images that looked like they were shot outdoors on location.

The big advantage of shooting this way is that it allows you to have complete control over the look and feel of not only your subject in the foreground, but also of your background independent of one another… and that’s huge! I could now adjust the color, hue, contrast, etc. of the background to complement the hair, skin tone, and wardrobe of the subject. I like to think of it as the Feng Shui of photography. I could also change locations and mood by just selecting a different pre-shot background and compositing in a different headshot from the shoot.

Since applying this technique to my headshots (something no other headshot photographer is doing anywhere, as far as I know) the response to my work has increased dramatically, and since I’ve only been doing this a short while, I feel I’m just getting started!

Has it been a smooth road?
Learning how to seamlessly composite a headshot shot in a studio and matching it to a background shot separately does take some practice and an aesthetic eye, but the results can be stunning. Photoshop is an amazing tool and there are many different ways to achieve the same result, and I’m still learning and growing… in fact, that’s something I don’t think will ever stop.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
I think a segment of headshot photographers will slowly venture into the arena of compositing, mainly out of a need to shoot in a controlled environment where perhaps, in the area they live in, it’s just not possible to shoot outdoors during periods of extreme heat, rain, or cold. It gives them the ability to offer their clients the same great look year ’round, assuming, of course, they have a library of backgrounds that they shot during a milder period of time. The advertising world has embraced compositing whole-heartedly, and even architectural photography has an element of that as well, so it’s just a matter of time before this technique crosses over into other photographic genres. I think the photographers that will try compositing are the ones that do their own retouching in Photoshop and are more technologically inclined. The shift mirrors the shift in our own society whereby we’re being divided into two segments, those who embrace and keep up with the rapid pace of technology, and those who don’t. I made a conscious decision at the beginning of 2014 to jump onto the technology train and social media express and be a part of that. Having said that, I think there will always be a place for photographers who shoot with natural light and strobes and not use compositing at all, and that’s fine too. It’s just another option headshot photographers can use depending on the circumstances.

What has been the primary challenge you’ve faced?
My biggest challenge so far has been one that most artists face, and that is turning your artistic passion into a profitable business. Learning about marketing and how much to charge based on what the market will bear is usually an area most artists don’t like to spend a lot of time thinking about, but it’s just as vital, if not more so, than what you create artistically. The process has been a lot slower than I thought it would take but as long as I feel I’m moving forward, I’m happy.

What advice do you wish to give to those thinking about pursuing a path similar to yours?
My advice for anyone wanting to become a professional photographer or even a headshot photographer would be to specialize. Decide, based on your interest and passion, on one genre or style you want to focus on, and know it inside and out and get that business up and running and earning you money. Then, if you can develop a style so strong and unique that others know who shot a particular image without knowing the photographer who shot it first, then that’s a brand… and the sky’s the limit with that.

Pricing:

  • 2 looks, 2 digitally retouched images, $275
  • 3 looks, 3 digitally retouched images, $375
  • 4 looks, 4 digitally retouched images, $475

Contact Info:

 

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