Featured Headshot Session: Cornell Researcher/Dancer Leila

Leila is a Post Doctoral Associate in Music and Islam in the Contemporary World. at Cornell University. She contacted me because she needed a professional headshot for her personal “about me” web page where she directs her potential employers. Her previous headshot, like so many others who contact me, was the best photograph of herself that she could find that her friend had taken of her on her cell phone. While it was lovely, it wasn’t exactly what she needed to compete in her competitive job market.

After receiving her “What to Wear for your Headshot Session” information packet, she arrived to the studio well prepared with several clothing options to choose from.

We began on a white backdrop with a few various black tops that she brought. Leila has a very photogenic smile, and so it was rather easy to capture her radiance.

What doesn’t come as easy to most of my clients is their more serious side, the classic “I mean business” face that nails two factors, approachability and professionalism. Leila took some coaching, but she nailed it with these two.

We then moved on to a gray background and switched up the clothing to achieve a few other various results. I often find that those with darker hair photograph exceptionally well on a multitude of backdrop colors, so we went for it. I find it amazing how a simple change of background color can make such a difference in the results of the image.

I had her change tops a few times on the gray background, some tops were casual, and others were more professional, as she wanted a variety to choose from depending on the vibe of the job offer she was applying to. Leila does not take a bad photograph, she’s stunning, however when she switched into the burgundy top and threw on a darker shade of lipstick, it all came together.

I decided to take this same shot on a darker black background with a more serious expression on her face, and voila! Something about black and burgundy makes my heart sing.

At this point we had more than enough shots to choose from, but I decided to get a bit playful and have her try out a more vibrant color, the mustard colored sweater she brought had to be tried, and I think it was successful as well.

Throughout the duration of the shoot, Leila and I chatted about life, our goals and ambitions, and who we are as humans in this crazy world. I really admire her for all that she’s accomplished through research on performance and politics and Africa and the Middle East, and i was super drawn to the tattoo on her arm. I decided it would be lovely to send her home with a more celebratory/personal headshot of herself. So we ended with this beauty.

Its not everyday I meet a client who could also easily become one of my closest friends! I so loved getting to know her, she’s a gem of a human, and I wish her all the best with her Postdoctoral research at Cornell, I have no doubt, she will go on to support incredible things!

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