Cory is the photographer of rising stars in Hollywood. He’s able to capture winning headshots as he’s an actor himself. Check his story out below.
Say hello to Cory:
Where are you from? Where have you been?
I grew up on a cotton farm outside of Lubbock, Texas. I’ve lived in Los Angeles for almost 9 years.
How has your experience as an actor helped your photography career, and vice versa?
I’m very aware when the actor is feeling stiff or anxious because I’ve felt this myself many times.
I also know it’s easy to overdo expressions. It can take away from what’s going on internally or even work as a mask. Subtlety, a lot of times, works more effectively for headshots.
It’s important to have a comfortable location to shoot at and let whoever I’m shooting with know there’s no pressure, we’re shooting digital and we’re going to have a lot of options once we’re done. That would make me feel comfortable if I was getting my photo taken.
Tell us about your career. How did you get into it?
I originally bought my Canon DSLR for video projects (which I still make), but eventually started getting into stills as well.
Then, I shot for trade with actors and models for a few months to get started until I felt comfortable working for hire. I soon realized how much I enjoyed working one-on-one so closely with a variety of people from different backgrounds. I find the interactions while taking photos are honest and open…guards go down.
What is the strangest situation you’ve ever faced as a photographer?
Here’s a story…I took photos for an underground Science Fiction author a few times for his book cover. The emails were all very strange and cryptic, but I ventured out. He wanted me to drive to him, deep in the Valley to his apartment behind this old car repair shop. I remember walking up to the apartment carrying my equipment, feeling very on edge, the neighbors dogs barking like crazy against the chain link fence.
He came to the door and his face was white caked with make-up. He had jet black hair slicked back and a black beard to match. It looked like his head had been dipped in tar. He was wearing a black shirt with a pentagram on it and sunglasses. He must have noticed the concern on my face. He told me not to worry and that he had just done this to his face and hair for the shoot.
We ended up getting photos he was happy with and he offered me coffee afterwards and gave me a signed book with a nice note written in it. He was actually quite sweet. I feel sentimental remembering this story. LOL!
Photography is competitive. How do you stand out?
For headshots, with my prices, I feel confident clients are getting the best bang for their buck in Los Angeles. I’ve seen astronomical prices for headshots here.
I stand out because I lack pretentiousness and I’m not flashy. Some people are into pretentious and flashy and that’s ok too. I just try my best to connect with whoever I’m shooting with in a real way. I see what it is they need, and within reason, shoot until they’re happy.
What’s the best advice you can think of for someone just starting in photography?
Take a lot of pictures! If it’s headshot photography you want to get into, understand what type of shots casting is looking for (Hint: well-lit, natural-looking photos that look exactly like the person walking through the door).
Shoot for trade, build a great portfolio, then build a simple, professional website.
What is the best thing a model can do to make the most of a photoshoot?
I usually shoot with actors but shooting with models is something I want to do more of. I think being comfortable and open and cooperative are the best things a model can do…and that comes with confidence.
I’ve been lucky to shoot with some really interesting, good-looking people, but if there’s something internal happening, and it’s shining through, then that’s more captivating than just a pretty face and hot bod.
How do you bring out your actor’s personality in a shoot?
I try not to coach too much and their personality comes out naturally. I know from being in front of the camera that overcoaching causes stiffness, defensiveness and shots turn out no good. Headshots are close up, right in there, and the camera really picks that up.
I’ll normally start with something broad. If an actor needs Commercial shots, we’ll just start by getting a nice smile. Then, I’ll suggest just a grin with no teeth, then a few with a small laugh, etc. But it’s always dependent on what each individual client is like, what their needs are and what they’re using the shots for…then we go from there. I shoot a lot with each person so they can pick from a range.
What’s one post-processing tip you’d like to share with other photographers?
Don’t overdo it. People respond to authenticity. (At least I’d like to think they do)
What’s something nobody knows about you that you’d like to share?
Well…I write, direct, edit and act in a web series called “Up Willie’s Alley.” I never share it with pay clients because I feel it would be unprofessional….
The series is a little rough around the edges. HaHa!
I was invited recently to upload the episodes to a distribution site online and was doing this right before answering these questions, so it’s fresh on my mind.
It’s about an angry, homeless, street character named Willie who lives in an alley. Each episode, Willie comes into contact with different characters that happen to walk through “his alley.” He secretly wants love and respect but treats most people very poorly. It has progressed into something more dramatic and tragic and my filmmaking is improving. I shoot in all natural light and use an application called FilmConvert to make the grading look more cinematic. No big studio deals yet. 🙁
Check out Up Willie’s Alley here!
For anyone that wants to get in touch with Cory, here’s some of his contact information:
Cory, thank you so much for interviewing with us!
If any artists out there want to collaborate with FStop, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.