Leah Huebner was a student at John Rosenfeld Studios for many years, and during her time in class she found her love for photography. In a short time, she has become one of the more popular and in-demand photographers in all of Los Angeles. We asked her some questions and here are her answers.
How did you get into photography?
Photography has been my hobby since I was 18, I loved running around, experimenting, and capturing moments. Once I moved to LA, I realized how vital a good headshot was.. I couldn’t afford the photographers I really loved so I started playing around with my camera/light/etc. I took a LOT of really horrible photos to finally understand how lighting works and it just clicked! I took a couple friends headshots and they sent their friends and then their friends and so on and so on… 9 years later, here we are!
What is your favorite thing about your work?
My absolute favorite thing is getting to change people’s minds about headshots. I would say 75% of my clients walk in with a lot of bad past headshot experiences and usually say things along the lines of ‘I HATE headshots’ so it’s just the best when they walk out feeling the exact opposite.
How has your acting career helped you in your evolution as a photographer?
I think the fact I was(/is/will always be regardless of pursuing it!) an actor makes it my ‘secret sauce’ for photography. One of the biggest acting notes that stuck with me (and I believe I learned this from you, John!) is “Acting is not about making yourself look good, it’s about working hard to make your scene partner look good and from that, you’ll inherently be good!” I firmly believe that goes the same for headshots. If I’m focused on making my client feel/look/be good and not focusing on me, then I’m honoring the overall objective/scene — and inherently, I’m better too!
Do you help actors understand their brand? If so, how?
I think this can be a little tricky so I try not to talk too much about ‘brand’. However, before I start shooting I always make sure that we go over the actor’s goals for the session. Usually being: Are we going for commercial/theatrical or a mix today? What is your age range? What are some shows/genres/commercials you can really see yourself on? Let’s talk through your looks and make sure they feel authentic to you and if not, (because maybe an agent/manager requested something) how can we make it more authentic so it doesn’t feel like we’re putting on a costume? I want actors to feel that every look we shoot comes from THEM and not from outside of themselves.
What are some of the worries that your clients bring into their sessions with you?
A lot of the worries are usually people coming in from bad past headshot experiences. It’s either:
1. I got headshots taken that don’t look anything like me and I’m really nervous that will be the case again…
2. I had a really bad previous headshot experience and all the photos showed that.
Because those are the top 2 worries, I do everything in my power to make the opposite true. I WILL make sure you look like you in your shots (externally AND internally) and I guarantee ease and comfort to flip the script and change their experience so they walk out feeling positive and headshots don’t need to be as daunting as we make them out to be!
If you could give actors any advice in regards to how to prep for a shoot, what would it be?
Take a little time to figure out what you really need to accomplish during your shoot. It doesn’t have to be rigid and super planned out. (It can if that’s your vibe though!) But in the same way you wouldn’t go to an audition/set without having learned your lines, made some choices, done prep for your scenes, I believe looking at your headshot session the same way will really help you. Prepare, prepare, prepare so that when you arrive, you can throw it all away, be present, and have a little fun!
Can you give me an example of the best type of client?
The client who tells me where they are at the minute they walk in the door. If you’re nervous, tell me. If you’ve had a weird morning, tell me. The more I can know where the client is up-front, the less guess work I have to do. When someone says ‘Oooh I’m kinda nervous!’ I’m like ‘GREAT! I love knowing that–I can handle nerves!’
Can you give me an example of the type of client that makes you wanna tear your hair out?
Piggy backing off the previous question— my most difficult type of client is one who is nervous, anxious, had an f*ed morning and doesn’t tell me. We’re human, things don’t work perfectly and that’s ok! I spend about half the shoot trying to find a way in and if they had just told me from the get go, I wouldn’t have to do so much guess work as to what I can do to make this person feel more at ease/get them out of their head/etc. I just feel that they’re ‘off’ and I don’t know what it is (Is this just who they are? Is it a front?). TALK TO ME! I’m a judgement free zone, nothing’s too weird or too much, I’m here for you!
I would imagine that being a great photographer, you have to think much like a great actor, “What story do I want to tell?” Is this accurate?
Absolutely, that’s why I feel it’s really important to talk through goals upfront. I watch a LOT of tv (honestly more than I did when I was still acting—oops!) so when someone references a show, I can be like ‘YES I know exactly what you’re going for!’ The more specific we get on ‘what world does this version of you live in’, the better. And as we shoot, if I’m finding the show/genre we discussed isn’t getting them fully there for the shots, I will throw out a prompt (Thanks to JRS!) whether it be a phrase or a word to really get them tuned in.