When I was on staff at the Providence-Journal (Rhode Island), I had a boss who was crazy about getting an H.E.T. on every assignment. For Chip, HET stood for HAIR, EYEBALLS & TEETH. That’s a really tight portrait of your subject that was more than just a “drivers license photo”. I shoot with a Nikon F3 back then (a film camera of course!) and loved the 180mm lens for shooting these photos. I’d have the person in some really sweet light with a dark background and focus in as close as the lens would go and shoot wide opens at F2.8. I was a portrait shooter even back then and I loved to see every wrinkle on that face. Now Chip was both a retired Navy frogman and a former AP photographer so lets just say if he wanted an HET on every roll then that’s what he got. When I started freelancing for the New York Times I was well trained to always get that tight portrait of the subject because it often was the one photo that would get into the paper. After an assignment, I’d eagerly pick up the paper and scream when I’d see what some dim witted editor had done. The headshot in the paper was not my nice clean HET I had shot. No it was a totally different picture. Most likely, it was a wide-angle photo from 30 feet away and had to be cropped 3000%, which looked grainy, soft and just plain ugly.
I was sure everyone that looked at that photo but must have thought I was a really sad photographer…except all the other photographers who had received the same treatment at the old gray lady.
This picture I made of Quincy Jones while on assignment for The New York Times is one of my favorites and I’d say it would pass Chip’s test of what a tight portrait should look like. I was using an 85mm lens and shot wide open (F 1.8) using Tri-X (that would be film for you new comers) and had him stand near a window so I could get some natural light on that famous face.