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."
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."
"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!"
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."
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."
"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."
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 firstname.lastname@example.org .