Why natural headshots?
Following her father’s passion for gardening, Alexa Ryan-Mills decided to change her career and is now a qualified garden designer. She wanted natural headshots to reflect her passion for nature and plants, but most of all, because she just doesn’t like the corporate look – and neither do I (I’ve got to admit!) She also wanted to build her website with photos that featured her everyday work as a garden designer (such as sketching, trimming, talking to clients, seeking for inspiration etc.), and how approachable she is, which a studio photo session would just not cut it.
How did you choose the location (the 2012 World gardens at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park)?
The flowery gardens around the London Stadium were planted in a steep bank around River Lea, and that is so handy in photography as it makes easy to fill the whole frame with flowers on the back and foreground. The flowers have a bright colour palette, which Alexa absolutely loves, and are not at all formal. If I didn’t know it was all planned, I could believe it was a specially enhanced wild meadow – yes it’s that beautiful.
We photographed in two of the four linked ‘World Gardens’ that make up the 2012 gardens in the London Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park – a 1.3 km linear sequence of perennial gardens. It’s fascinating to see photographs of the gardens throughout the year. We photographed in the North America garden and the Southern Hemisphere Garden, which is inspired by species found in South Africa.
On a side note, it was a joy to see the Olympic park being successfully repurposed – the space was dotted with children playing by the water fountains alongside families and residents enjoying themselves around the stadium in a warm Summer afternoon.
How did you choose the outfit?
Alexa likes to wear jeans and t-shirts, it is how she feels more like herself. Of course my outfit suggestions were built on what she feels more comfortable as the success to achieve natural photographs lies in crafting a believable enhanced version of your everyday self. Go too fancy, and the photo can feel contrived or unsuitable. Go too relaxed, and the headshots can give a careless impression.
I had sent Alexa some outfit/makeup tips alongside with a loose order of photos we would be taking and Alexa brought a couple of outfit options, mostly eye-catching Boden items, which we selected together at the beginning of the photos session. She likes bright colourful t-shirts and that helped her to stand out against the wild meadow background. More importantly, the fact that she chose a colourful background was very much in tune with how she likes to dress and this made her fit in on the environment. A classic win-win.
Fun (almost tragic) fact
I lost my rucksack during our photoshoot and only realised it when I and Alexa were heading back home. Luckily, the Queen Elizabeth Park staff found it but to my utter embarrassment, they’d had to trigger as a security alert (any unattended bag left in public space is treated seriously in London.) I was mortified even though the security staff was very nice and cheerful.
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