$10 Headshots – A charity project

$10 Headshots – A charity project

I have been working on a little project at work called ‘$10 Head Shots’.   My company has a philanthropic model they call the 1% model where employees are given 6 days a year to focus on helping the communities they live in or supporting causes they believe in.   I have been helping Cambodia through Tabitha Foundation over the past few years and I have been looking for ways to continue that as part of my 6 days.

One of my coworkers Neeracha was visiting Tokyo.   Knowing I was an avid photographer she asked me if I would take a new head shot for her for her profile for our internal social network.  I said absolutely and we went and shot a few head shots for her.

$10 Headshots for Charity

Shortly after she posted it I started to received requests from other people to do the same and from people who also wanted a photo to update their LinkedIn or Facebook profiles as well.  My new philanthropic project was born: ‘$10 Head Shots for Charity’.

I am proud to say after just 6 weeks I sent off a check last night for $3,100 USD to Tabitha and my company will be matching that 100%.   $6,200 USD goes a very long way to helping the people of Cambodia and the efforts of Tabitha Foundation.

While this program has yielded so much for Tabitha it has actually has done lot for me that I never really thought about when I started it.  I have;

  • met 100s of people in a very short time in my company
  • met many people that I really would not have needed to otherwise meet in my daily job
  • built a strong personal network and reputation in the company in a very short time
  • have a long list of people now waiting for their head shots in Tokyo and to help my efforts (I am actually booked out for the next 6 weeks)
  • have a list of people in any office I am traveling to waiting to meet me
  • made some new friends
  • gained some new followers for ShootTokyo
  • improved my photography
Some of the comments and emails I have gotten from people were the most meaningful to me.  Many people have come back and thanked me after getting their photo and said ‘I have never really had a good photo of myself – Thank You’.   One women told me her daughter took her photo and posted on Facebook and said ‘Check out my hot mom!’ and the photo got more than 100 likes.  Many people said their significant other was really happy to have a great photo of them.   It feels great to hear these stories.

$10 Headshots

Doing one of these projects is actually easier than you think.   Everyone wants and these days needs a nice photo of themselves for their blog, Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Pinterest, or LinkedIn account.   Few people have them.

I am doing very minimal post processing on these photos.  You really have no time when you are shooting so many.   I have a very minimal digital workflow.   The idea here is to improve upon the photo where there are imperfections that need to be improved.  Here is all I do to the photos;

  • Crop if I didn’t get the subject where I wanted or if there is something distracting on the edge of the photo.  It is always a good idea to run your eye around the boarder of your photo.
  • Add a vingnetting of -25 to -30.  This will help focus the viewer on the subject of your photography.   Many of my lenses have a natural vignette so I adjust it depending on how much cropping I do and which lens I shot with.
  • Use the spot removal tool to clear up anything on the skin that is standing out.  People are usually very grateful for that.
  • Occasionally I will use the clarity slider and reduce it to -20.  It really makes a bit difference on some people’s skin.
  • As a last step sharpen to about 100 with a radius of 1-2.   I am only focused on the eyes and improving the sharpness.

My typical setup is my Leica M9-P with my Noctilux 50mm f/0.95 and natural lighting conditions.  I am typically shooting less than ISO 400, in Aperture Priority at f/1.8 or 2.5.   As I am typically heading from an office to the outside with people I try to find somewhere that is well lit up natural light but where there sun light is not directly falling on the area.    I look for a background that I think will blur our nicely and won’t be too distracting.

If you are not comfortable with giving models direction you will be quickly.   Many people don’t know how to pose for a photograph so do not be shy in giving them directions so the outcome is a better photo.   You want to face them in the direction of the sun so you can capture nice ‘catch lights’ in their eyes.   Let them know what looks better such as ‘chin up a little more (or down)’, a side profile, or looking straight on.

Here are a few of my favorites pictures from the shooting sessions…

This is Stacy at the entrance of Peets’ Coffee.    I had just finished shooting her and a large group’s photos and we were stopping to have coffee.  I thought the light looked good and asked her to pose there.   She said ‘Here?   Really?”.   Trust your instincts as the photography.   This ended up being the keeper photo in the bunch.

$10 Headshots for Charity

Meet Roman…

$10 Headshots for Charity

Meet Patrick…

$10 Headshots for Charity

Meet Kritsten…

$10 Headshots for Charity

Meet Zobeida…

$10 Headshots for Charity

Meet John…

I really liked his background.  It was a semi mirrored wall of a hotel.  It caught was really cool bokeh from the traffic driving by on the street.

$10 Headshots for Charity

Meet Scott.

…another cool background.  It was a wall that had vines all over it but half of them were dead but when blurred it made some very cool bokeh.

$10 Headshots for Charity

Thanks for stopping by today…  Meet people, help people, and improve your skills… it doesn’t get much better than that.   I hope this inspires you to kick off your own photography charity project!



  1. Bravo..I applaud you..Well done.

  2. How wonderful , doing what you enjoy and giving benefit to a charity. I am going to make sure my son (the hobby photographer) see your work and reads your comments. Sharing is a good thing.

  3. Very nice portraits. I (hopefully) will learn to take photos like this with my new Nikon 1 J1 :)

  4. Great initiative! Great photos too as always!

  5. What a great initiative! Fabulous portraits too!

  6. What a wonderful idea!

    We do community affairs in our company as well and I can only recommend doing this. It is a very nice, warm feeling if accomplishment, spending a day helping others.

    Oh, and nice photos. But I guess, they already told you so :)

  7. Great stuff how do we join in to your project?

  8. Fantastic work and such a great cause!

    I really do enjoy reading this blog!

  9. Dave,
    Nice to see the shots. Glad to see that you can help out a great cause by doing what you love to do. Nice job!

  10. Hi Dave,
    well done on the project, and the fantastic donation. A great and generous gesture.

  11. Thanks Bob, Mark and Joe.

  12. Julian – I am just offering it in my office. It’s too hard to coordinate individuals at $10 a shot.

  13. Thanks Philipp, Hans and Alexander.

  14. Hey Dave, great work, I’m in when we next catch up

  15. I will gladly give you $10 next time your in Singapore – there is a great coffee shop right by your office…

  16. Great photos and a really positive idea. Brilliant.

  17. It goes without saying the shots are great, Dave. I especially appreciate the technical advice – it’s interesting that in recent attempts at portraiture (which are nowhere near as good as yours, but we all knew that already) I found myself shooting similar settings: AP, aperture 2.2, ISO 100 or 200. I really do need to sharpen up on my editing skills, though. And a Leica, at some point. ;)

    In any case, thank you for a really inspiring idea. Now I want to try and come up with something that might help make a difference.

  18. What a great idea! And wonderful photos as well!

  19. Excellent shots and brilliant idea for a great cause.

  20. Congrats Dave!
    Inspiring me to do the same here from Singer…

  21. Dave,
    What an inspiration you are, this is really a win, win, win project.
    Support for a worthwhile cause, all involved get a great head-shot, you meet others in your Company that you might not otherwise meet, lots of portrait experience.
    Wait that’s “Win, Win, Win,Win”
    Great job as always and kudos to your company for their 1% model

  22. I really love these!

    Your photographs are always inspiring (You have no idea how giddy I was to see you use 35mm film! My favorite!) and these are no exception. I almost wish I could see them all, so many interesting faces.

  23. Dave,

    What a great story!!!!!!

  24. I run a charity for wounded service members and am interested in learning how you get enough people together to do headshots cost effectively. This looks like something we could incorporate to improve our fund raising. One at a time per location would be expensive in time and travel. How do you get people together and only charge $10 per headshot?

    Thanks Eron

  25. Eron – I do mine at work so I send out mails or post on our internal network. I think you could look for organizations; such as professional, companies, associations, that allow you to shoot 20+ people in a single sitting. This doesn’t scale if I am just shooting singles as you said it will eat you up in terms of travel and time.

  26. Dave

    I cam across your blog while surfing about Leica technology. It’s such a wonderful blog with crystal clear photo. And It’s very inspiring about your charity’s project. Thank so much for helping Cambodia as well as others countries who need help in the world.

    Best Regards,

    Chhayou Hak

  27. Thanks Chhayou…

  28. I missed this originally and thus I am pleased a link appeared on FB today. A great project, Dave, with super outcomes for everyone. Bravo. And thanks too for the processing tips – I want to photograph people more (buildings are my thing usually) ANC so these will help a lot. Incidentally, if you ever shoot me, I’d like to request -35 on the clarity slider please! :-)

  29. Glad you liked it Tom! I’ll make sure you give you a bit of slider effect…

  30. How can I find a photographer in Tokyo participating in this?

  31. Pat – I’m not sure if there are other photographers doing similar projects.

  32. This is amazing! You need to run this again!

  33. Divya – I will!

  34. What a great project – brilliant idea!


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