Archive for September, 2013

Let it shine!

Posted in One Photographer's View on September 26th, 2013 by George DeLoache – 1 Comment

Executive_Portrait_2 My Uncle Tip had this way about him. Confident. Tough. Once a full Colonel in the U.S. Army, he was a man bigger than life itself.

Of the many things I loved about Uncle Tip was the fact that he was a hero in World War II, which, as a black man, had special meaning because the prevalent belief in the military during that time was that African Americans didn’t have the guts for fighting. After enlisting as a private, Uncle Tip rapidly distinguished himself. He ended up pushing the Red Ball Express, the predominately black unit that ran hundreds of convoy trucks, twenty-four hours a day throughout war-torn France supplying General Patton’s troops.

During those years at war, Uncle Tip experienced the worst hell threw at him. Trucks getting blown up. Dead bodies. Loss of friends. Still, he and the Red Ball Express got the job done. They didn’t fail Patton or the men on the front lines who counting on them to get the supplies through.

I imagine no photo would be capable of capturing the spirit of this man. Or anyone else, for that matter. Yet, as portrait photographers, we try. We work to get a living, authentic connection between that two-dimensional moment captured in time and every future pair of eyes gazing upon it. We want the person looking at our photos to feel something emanating from that face in the image.

Like most creative artists, I often find myself battling against the common misconception that what I do is mostly a technical process. I suspect this belief hangs around because the medium itself has become diluted by mediocre photographers whose mediocre work has been passed around as being something when it is not.

Great photography, the kind that is outside of time, always has creative insight behind it.

More than not, I have been told by those who run art galleries that my work needs to be grittier. “Put in some of the dark side. Some of the ugly.” Problem is that I don’t see human beings that way. When I look through the lens, I see that individual’s unique beauty, dignity and nobility. The person could be a skid row drag queen and I would want to make them be photographed the most noble skid row drag queen. I want people to say, “Wow. Look at that. That’s beautiful.”

I am this way because….? Too much dope? Who knows? I am simply the external optimist. The glass half full guy. I am the ant that dropped the rubber tree plant: I am the ram that knocked down the dam. To me, there is beauty in every human being.

To see it, though, means you have to lose the mask.

Yet, here in Los Angeles, everyone wears a mask, some with designer labels. As a portrait photographer, I want to capture the person hiding behind a mask. So, with humor, patience and understanding, I work with my subjects to help them lose some of their self-consciousness, at least long enough for us to capture the real “them.”

I understand that the choice between having a root canal and having a picture taken can be a tough call. My goal is to create an environment and atmosphere that allows make my clients to feel safe enough put down that mask for a fraction of a second. To let them be themselves. Which is a beautiful thing. If I am prepared for that moment, which I will continue, jokes and all, until I am, we will capture them.

It can take time but the results are worth it.

The vast majority of my clients – even those with the guts to stare down a growling assistant district attorney at twenty paces — bulk, squirm and dig in their heels when having their portrait taken. Others turn into something that belongs on Mount Rushmore.

One tactic that often works is humor. I am a strong believer in that time-proven, make-‘em-laugh routine; the theory being that if I can get them laughing at me, a guy who is completely comfortable with the fact that I am not the most beautiful person in the world, then they just might be themselves. The stiffer the client, the funnier I get. Sometimes I just can’t help myself.

“George, I would rather have a root canal than get photographed.”

“Hey, my sister is a dentist. I keep a stack of her cards right here. You can get that root canal and have your portrait taken at the family discount rate!”

That usually melts the some of the frost. Even with those who are searching for the fountain of youth.

“Mr. Deloache…”

“Please. Call me George.”

“Mr. Deloache. Listen. I do not want to look old.”

“Ma’am, I will make you look so young that you are going to get carded.”


Cross my heart and thank Photoshop. By the time I get done, you will be ten, maybe fifteen years, younger.

Then you have the average Joe like me.

“I like your work, George, but come on, man. Look at me. I am 6’4.” I’m big, fat, old and bald. I hate every picture taken of me.”

“I specialize in guys who look just like me. Old. Fat. A little out of shape. If I can make me look good, I know I can make you look good. After all, look at this face.”

A laugh.

“Dude, you’re no Telly Savalas, but, hey, if you have a bald head, wear it proudly. Get it out there. Let everyone see it.”

“Think so?” they invariably say, taking a glance in the mirror. Maybe the sky isn’t falling after all.

“Let it shine, man”

“Maybe you’ve got a point, George.”

Even though my sense of humor might appear goofy for an A-list portrait photographer, I understand the natural resistance that human beings have to being photographed. It is rare to find children who are told that they are beautiful. Adults, even more, fall into that category. In a culture where beauty is among the most highly valued attribute, the definition of what is actually beautiful leaves most folks, including me, out in the cold.

The result?


So, with humor, patience and understanding, I work with my clients to help them lose some of their self-consciousness, at least long enough for us to capture the real “them.”

I understand that the choice between having a root canal and having your picture taken can be a tough call. My goal is to make my clients feel safe enough put down that mask for a fraction of a second. To let them be themselves. Which is actually a beautiful thing.

If I am prepared for that moment, which I will continue, jokes and all, until I am, we will capture it.

Truth is, when the masks come down, I have yet to find an ugly face. What I see is the spark. The life. I see the real you.

Old, bald, fat?

Perfect. Let it shine.

I Wish Not To Appear Fat

Posted in One Photographer's View on September 7th, 2013 by George DeLoache – 1 Comment

080401_061-2_1aThe man walked into the room and the air evaporated.   I turned, not quite certain at what I was seeing.  Tweed Herringbone double-breasted jacket.  Black and white polka dot bow tie.  Horn rimmed glasses and a pocket handkerchief. Self-expressing.    Without care for convention.  It was vintage chic; a way of dressing that you could only pull off in a major metropolitan area such as New York City or Los Angeles.

This was the chief executive officer.

The day had been a long one but thus far productive.  I had just finished shooting portraits of the management team of this multi-billion dollar investment firm.  Only one portrait remained; the top dog himself.  There he was at the door, looking like some 1940s Hollywood mogul, inspecting the room with an unmistakable air of power.

My first thoughts?   Ah-oh, Deloache.  This could get tricky.

“So, you are the photographer,” he queried.

“Yes, sir. I am.”

“I do not wish to look fat.”

I would have laughed had I not known better.

“I certainly understand that, sir.  I have photographed myself for years and if I can get it to work for me, I know I can make it work for you.”

His response was a mere frown.  Clearly, from his point of view, the jury was still out on my answer.   And after ten minutes, I was beginning to wonder.  No matter what I did, this CEO remained stiff as a board. I pulled every trick out of the hat but nothing worked.  I was starting to a little concerned around the edges.   I might actually flop on the most important shot of the day.

I kept fixing lights, talking to myself and trying everything to put him at ease.  Suddenly, I heard myself saying, “I have to tell you, sir, that I am so very impressed by the way you look.   You have an air of a Hollywood mogul and the ambiance of a JP Morgan.”

With that, he looked at me down the barrel of those horn-rimmed glasses and said, deadpan, “George, you are full of shit.”

“Yes, sir,” I shot right back.  “All the way up to my big brown eyes.”

Suddenly he laughed.   The ice broke and for a brief moment, this hard-nosed executive let me see behind his façade.  What I say didn’t surprise me. Truth was that the man dressed in tweed wasn’t the least bit hard-boiled.  He was actually a bit of a character who dressed had such confidence that he dressed exactly the way he wanted.  So much so that it said, “What do you expect?  This is who I am.”

Over the next few minutes, we had made a connection and I got the shots. Although he never really smiled, he did say at the end of our time together, “This has been a very pleasant experience.”

Later, after he saw the portraits, he sent word to me.  “I like the photographs.  No one has ever made me look good.”  What could have turned out to be a disaster ended up being a memory.

Such lessons come with experience.  When I paid him that compliments, I was sincere but I was seeking to put him at ease because, without a fundamental level of trust between photographer and subject, the end result will fall short of the mark. Skill with people, listening to what they are saying behind what they are saying and understanding what is uniquely motivating them, often sets an experienced portrait photographer apart from someone just starting out.

It doesn’t matter how much money you have, what your job title is or whether you have no title at all.  None of us want to look bad in a photograph.  We want the best “us,” the unique individual that we are, to be captured in a way that makes us look fabulous.  The camera doesn’t care what profession you have.  Nor your history.  A good photo simply captures the best “you.”

To capture that kind of shot requires trust.   The responsibility for building that kind of trust lies on the shoulders of the photographer.  In this, I seek to go every extra mile, even seeking to see what my clients see about themselves.  For example, if I know that a potential client had some shots taken already but is not happy, I will say, “O.K.  I am going to give you some homework. Send me the photos of yourself that you hate and tell me what you hate about them.”

After they send me the shots, I tell them, “Then I want you to get on the Internet sites, such as Google Images, and find some photos you really love.  Send them to me and tell me what you love about those images?”

When they ask “Why,” I tell them,  “I want to see what you see.  All of us have some image in our mind that we believe is the perfect image.”

Invariably, as they tell me what they like and don’t like, I start hearing what they are seeing.  “I like how this shot makes me feel free.”   Happy.   Strong.  Successful.  Youthful.   Adventurous.   “I like how that head is turned.”  “The dramatic lighting.”

My goal is to understand that their vision.  Once I see what they are seeing, I can create the best photo they have ever in their lives.

As my clients and I do this homework together, what they often don’t realize is that I am always a few miles ahead, envisioning the shot.  In fact, I have found that the perfect portrait is usually already created in my head before the client sits down in front of the camera.

Homework?  Of course, I do this with my clients at no charge.  It is all part of the customer service and building trust.  Being best in your field takes this kind of commitment, understanding and effort.  For me, it is sheer joy.  It is what I love to do.

Horn-rimmed glasses included.