Photographer Takes on a Nerve-Wracking Project: Headshots of Fellow Photographers

Dani Diamond is a talented portrait photographer based out of Connecticut and is also an active member of our Fstoppers Facebook Group. His headshot work is impeccable and eye-catching. Recently Dani has started a personal project coined simply as "The Project." His mission is to find fellow photographers from around the world, take their headshots and challenge his craft under the scrutiny of his talented peers. I had a chance to chat with Dani about The Project, its origins and how it has inspired him to become a better portrait photographer.

To start with, I was curious about where Dani got his start and where this project came from. Every photographer has a beginning, and it's fascinating to see where someone with such awesome talent first got introduced to capturing photographs. Dani gave a small introduction to his humble beginnings.

"I'm 24 years old. I live in Connecticut with my wife, Etty. I moved to Connecticut around five years ago for college. While in school, a friend of mine would carry around a DSLR camera. I approached him and asked him how cameras work."

fstoppers_dani_diamond_ Samantha Schannon

The Project is a interesting concept to bring photographers from all over the world in front of Dani's camera and have their headshots taken. The idea is to truly master the art of taking a headshot. If you're familiar with any of Peter Hurley's headshot intensives, then you already know that the key to taking a great headshot isn't the lighting or camera, but the way you interact with your subjects and can bring the best of them out for the camera.

"I recently realized that photography is more than just settings and technical details. I became conscious that when a photographer connects with his subject and captures his or her personality, the picture is going to ultimately be more attractive to the viewer. A head shot is all about the subject's expression.

"I knew that shooting fellow photographers would be the greatest challenge. As a photographer myself, I know that I am more comfortable behind the lens and many of my friends share similar feelings in that regard. If I could get photographers to be comfortable and themselves in front of the camera, than I will have mastered the art of taking head shots.

"I also found that social media has given me the opportunity to build connections and relationships with photographers from all around the world. I never had the chance to put names to faces and meet my friends personally. My wife and I love to travel and we've made our way to quite a few places. I thought it would be really great to meet these friends and challenge myself with taking their head shots.

"And so the idea of The Project was born."

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"When I first started The Project, I had to ask photographers to join. Like I said before, most photographers are never really on the other side of the lens, it's a unique experience for photographers to have their pictures taken.

"Thankfully, The Project has really taken off. I get so many requests for head shots. Basically, whenever I'm in a new city, I update the group I created on Facebook and let members know where I'll be. From there, I connect with photographers who are interested and we try to coordinate a time and place to meet. We schmooze for a while about our love for photography and compare notes and then I take pictures until we both feel like we have a picture that's a keeper!"

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Shooting other photographers has to be a stressful task. The amount of scrutiny and expectations that we take in each other's work is high to say the least, surely it must be a little daunting to shoot your fellow peers.

"Shooting other photographers is so nerve wracking. A mediocre photograph just won't cut it!

"I can't remember a photo shoot where a photographer didn't say 'I don't know what to do in front of a camera! I never come out good in pictures' or something along those line. To both mine and the photographer's surprise, everyone has been extremely happy with their head shots."

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In my opinion, the headshots are simply beautiful. I asked Dani what his shooting process was and the gear that he used when shooting.

"The the first two things I'm conscious about when walking the streets with a photographer is soft light and potential for good bokeh. I only use natural light and shoot wide open, f1.6-2.2. I use a Nikon D800 and 85mm 1.4G but I always tell everyone its not the gear and to prove this head shot #10, Toby [shown below], was taken using her gear - 7D and 50 1.4. To me post processing is equally as important to shooting. I do a few advanced retouching techniques to each headshot."

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"I always say that I wasn't born talented, I was born ambitious. For any photographer out there, be aware that photography does not require any born skills. If you try hard enough and practice all the time you can become a great photographer. Take your camera everywhere with you and just snap away."

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You too can join in on The Project and have your headshot taken by Dani. He has a Facebook Group that you can join to see where he will travel to so that you can make arrangements to meet and shoot with Dani or you can shoot him an email at info@danidiamond.com .

The Project Facebook Group

You can also view more of Dani's work at his Facebook Page. I'd also like to give a shout-out to Moshe Bree for filming and editing the video.

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35 Comments

Ihab Mokayed's picture

This is pretty awesome, I can't imagine the pressure that he's under when taking those head shots!

Svein Jarle Bamle's picture

Wow. Love the look of those headshots :)

Edward Porter's picture

I enjoy his attention to color and making natural lighting work. At f1.6 it's hard to bring anything conceptual to the portrait so they just become characterless headshots. That isn't a bad thing necessarily, but there needs to be something beyond bokeh threading these pictures together.

Yael Miller's picture

What's connecting these photos beyond bokeh is obvious: emotive connection. The photographer has clearly connected with his subject and that shows. These are delightful to look at just for this reason alone.

Ett Venter's picture

Agreed. When the connection to the subject is as strong and powerful as this, you need absolutely nothing else.

Edward Porter's picture

It seems I lack appreciation for the softer side of photography to the point I am blind to such things.

Happy happy. Joy joy.

Alexandra Giamanco's picture

Good article, great work, but has anyone proof read this piece?

Trevor Dayley's picture

Love this idea and Dani's pictures are fantastic. Hoping he makes it out to Arizona some day.

Bert McLendon's picture

Love projects like this, good luck! The shots remind me of Markus Schwarze's work, which I say as a compliment because I love his portrait work. Good luck and have fun, and let me know when you're in Austin Texas!! =)

Noam Galai's picture

Awesome photos... and great idea, after all, us photogs are always behind the camera... nice to change that a little

Noam Galai's picture

Thank you - glad you liked it!
And feel free to email me, lets make it happen.

Jonathan Bean's picture

Very nice portraits, it's his attention to what's going on in the backgrounds and space around his subjects that makes them pop! Lovely.

Antti Karppinen's picture

This is cool! I started some time ago bit similar project, but every photographer takes a photo of the same subject, ME :D This way I will see the variations of photography :D http://makemypicture.wordpress.com

Paul Monaghan's picture

Great project, a great way to meet with others who share the same passion.

Sean Gannon's picture

Great feature! Photographing Headshots when you are photographing one on one is a great challenge at the best of times. Add in photographers who are terrible in front of a camera and the challenge is magnified massively. Results are great!

Yael Miller's picture

What a terrific series. The headshots are nothing short of breathlessly beautiful. Excellent work, Dani!

Mike Hylandsson's picture

I really like these - great set!

Mo Gelber's picture

The photo Dani took of me is great. We walked and chatted a few minutes and when he thought the time was right he started snapping away.I made the photo my facebook profile picture because I like it so much.

jackpeterbuilt's picture

Tell us about how you got the rights to the Keane song.
It seems so unlikely that a million selling band would give rights to a small video production that it has to be an interesting story.

anushbmx's picture

@jackpeterbuilt:disqus lol

Mansgame's picture

You know the rules. Photographers should get mad at anybody who uses their picture whether it's in a video, paper, or even some kid's facebook and send DMCA takedown requests, but other artists are fair game. I mean, Keane should be paying him right? Am I right?

jackpeterbuilt's picture

Photographers who steal songs really take the wind out of the "stealing pictures" argument that's so popular these days.....with photographers.

Perhaps I'm wrong though, in which case the amazing story of how a simple photographer convinced Keane to give him rights to their latest million seller will be a great read.

I mean, either that or it's straight up theft, right?........or is there something I'm missing Dani?

CharcoalBurner's picture

Actually, you can lease the rights to a song. There are websites set up for that.

Peter Lai's picture

Wow these are just some really beautiful pictures of people. Real pretty and handsome people.

Mansgame's picture

Good pictures but all I could think of was "that dude is like some sort of super hipster" with the beanie, skinny jeans and the round glasses.

David Miller's picture

I know this guy. Really well actually, grew up with him... This guy is as far from a hipster as they come. Those jeans are skinny because they fit him and those glasses, well he's had them for years. The beanie? Are you referring to his yarmulka?

Dani, I'm happy to see you're doing well. Keep up the great work man! Love what you're doing and ignore the lame haters. They're just jealous.

david reardon's picture

Must have avoided all the ugly photographers... or at least not included them in his video..

Heather Liebensohn's picture

David, I do not photograph well at all, just look at my other fb profile pictures, but Dani was somehow able to get an amazing shot of even me.

Peter Hurley's picture

Great project Dani! One of my biggest pet peeves is when a photographer doesn't have a picture of themselves on their website. I started shooting each one that came to my workshop and it's my favorite part of the weekend. Glad you are sorting this out for photographers out there and really nice work. Get in front of this guys camera PEOPLE!

Seshu's picture

Hey Peter, I did! Just last week. Looking forward to seeing it be a part of Dani's project. (fingers crossed). Thanks, Dani!

Dani Diamond's picture

@peter_hurley:disqus Wow wasn't expecting you to stop by here. What an honor! You get a lot of credit for this Project. A few years ago I met you, Lee and Patrick at a Fstoppers meet up in NYC after you had filmed "The Art behind the Headshot." Lee showed me the headshot you had taken of him and that's when I first got introduced to your work which inspired me. Thank you!

Peter Hurley's picture

Awesome. Nice to hear that.

Neil Winch's picture

If you make it down to Australia I've got a bunch of 'togs you can shoot Dani.

Patty Mills's picture

Your images are beautiful! If you're in the Memphis area anytime in the future, please let me know. I'm about 100 miles south of there and at 54 (not the studio ;-) I'm finally ready to follow my heart into photography as a career. I'd love to meet you and pick your brain of all you've learned from these other amazing artists.