Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Perfect Headshot with Rebecca Fay

Diana Damrau for EMI by Rebecca Fay

An integral part of the entertainment industry, whether it is film or music, is a headshot.  Having the perfect headshot taken can be a daunting task, but it shouldn't be with the right photographer.  I contacted Rebecca Fay, the wonderful photographer who not only documented our 2013 gala, but also the Semi and Grand Finals at the Metropolitan Opera House.  She has taken headshots of the hottest stars in the business, from many National Council applicants (and winners), to Diana Damrau's cover for her newest EMI album.

If you are in the market for some new headshots yourself, you can contact Rebecca at  You can check out her work on her website and on her facebook page.

Rebecca started her career in the opera world as a singer.  As she explains:

Naomi Ruiz by Rebecca Fay
"I began taking voice lessons when I was thirteen from a wonderful mezzo-soprano in Olympia, Washington: Joan Winden. I went to college at the University of Puget Sound, majoring in Voice Performance with a BM while simultaneously juggling duties as Social Chair of my sorority. My senior year I met Carol Vaness and she told me I was going to be a star. That fall, I won the district Met Competition, beating out 45 other singers at 22 years old. I even placed in the Regionals without much attention to my vocal training (Carol was away singing her last Rosenkavalier performances for months). When she took a teaching position at Indiana University, I followed her there on a Voice Scholarship. From then on I won many more awards in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.  I placed in the Bloomington District Auditions in 2006 after Jamie Barton, the current Cardiff Singer of the World. A couple of years later, Gayletha chose me as a prizewinner in 2008. That is something I like to brag about."

Opera Idols: What made you go from being on stage to being behind the camera?
Rebecca Fay: Honestly, it’s kind of a sad story of being too competitive and losing focus. I became so fixated on winning that I lost the thing that made me special: my vulnerable self. I would go into auditions and not share anything real or genuine with the audition panel. I had hardened myself to rejection. I became obsessed with the competition and lost sight of my own special talents. I was trying on every other aria that someone else sang in order to do it better, even when it was vocally unsuitable. When I shifted my focus to celebrating others rather than competing with them, I felt so much better in my heart. It was an effortless transition that has improved my relationship with myself and the world.

OI: Are you influenced in your work by your own experience on stage?
RF: I am constantly drawing on my many years of training with Carol and other important directors. Secrets from legendary performers are whispered to only a privileged few.

OI: What can singers expect when they have their headshots taken with you?  
RF: That is something that you will just have to come experience for yourself. I have to have my secrets.

OI: How many shots do you generally take and how do you go about picking the right ones?  Do you edit them a lot?
RF: I usually take as many pictures as I possibly can. I like to think of the shoot as a movie I am watching that I have to capture organically.
As far as editing, it depends on the mood of the shot. Most photographers compare themselves by how little editing is required. Less editing indicates true mastery of technique.

Erik Anstine for CAMI by Rebecca Fay
OI: How should a singer select their clothes, jewelry, and make-up?  Do you recommend different looks?
RF: I am usually very involved in styling the shoot. I am art director and photographer in one. Simple is better.

OI: Do you have a preference for indoor or outdoor shoots?
RF: I am much more comfortable with natural lighting. Studio lighting has always been challenging for me, but is sometimes necessary for very high-end clients. I really excel with natural lighting because I understand it more. The sun is an abundant and free light source that I can constantly manipulate.

OI: Any further tips for the singers when getting their headshots taken or  when auditioning.
RF: Be yourself. It’s good enough. Don’t ever pretend. Learn what is your “persona” and get rid of it immediately. That isn’t what makes you special - it’s simply you.

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