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  • Welcome to my blog

    "I am a Boston-based commercial photographer and short film maker. This blog is a companion to my main website. Instead of simply offering up more photos, it is the place for behind-the-lens glimpses into campaigns, reflections on the photography/marketing industry, and a more expanded view of a shoot - not just the best image. Enjoy!"

Another year of shooting the Cognex annual report.  Another year of recognition.

As readers of this blog know, we’ve been shooting the Cognex annual for over a decade now.  We’ve gone to California to parody the Martha Stewart Magazine and have recreated the Springsteen “Born to Run” album (below… and don’t forget last year’s Back to the Future annual report).  Never a dull moment with these gentlemen.

This year, the annual took the form of a Bon Appétit parody.  Our fearless leaders, Dr. Bob Shillman and Rob Willett, led us on a culinary tour of their tech company.

As with pretty much all of our previous annuals, this one garnered high praise in international creative competitions.  Here are the MerComm Inc. International ARC Awards results for our annual report in its division:

  • Gold Award for design/graphics
  • Gold Award for cover photography and design

and here are the results for the League of American Communications Professionals (LACP) Awards in our industry:

  • Gold Award worldwide
  • Top 100 Annual Reports worldwide (ranked #67)
  • Most Creative Report in the Americas region
  • Top 40 Annual Reports in the Americas region (ranked #24)

Kudos to the Cognex team and Point One Design.

Boston Workplace Candid Photo: banner image of Building Venture team.

Group portrait of the Building Ventures leadership team for their new corporate website.

I spend a ridiculous amount of time working on my SEO.  I try hard to position my services so people can find me.  As a result, I get a lot of calls asking for headshots.  The trouble with headshots is that if you’re not careful, they can be so boring that you just cry.  You know the ones I’m talking about.

So when I get a call from a venture capital firm that positions itself as “proud to be working with some of the most disruptive teams in the industry”, the sky opens up and the Light of Hope shines down on me.  I love when people think outside the box for headshots.

Meet Heather Widman, a principal at Building Ventures.  Part of a team of 4 experts who help nascent companies get funding.  Their vision is to build a better world by partnering and mentoring companies that will help our planet.

As a rule, I try to listen rather than talk during the “getting to know you” call.  What does their company want to say with the photos?  How do they see themselves positioned in the market?  How are they different than their competition?  If you let people talk for a while, they’ll tell you how to take your shots – not directly or technically of course, but they’ll tell you the experience they want their audience to have when they see the work.

As a VC company, their imagery has to look professional, sophisticated, and compelling.  But as a company that specializes in disruptive thinking and innovative start-ups, the headshots have to be non-traditional. They have to feel personal.

We decided to shoot in black & white – classy yet unassuming.  We decided to focus in on the team members as they worked together rather than having them look at the camera and smile.  I guess you could describe these as “candid headshots.”

The results is a short series of approachable and striking portraits.

Building Ventures has an office at the Boston WeWork.  We leveraged their conference room for the above group portrait that became a web banner.  Normally, when you’re shooting 4 people around a table, it’s visually awkward – someone has to has their back to the camera or else it looks posed.  This setup lets us see everyone clearly and uses reflections and sunlight to give a sense of authenticity.

You can see the candid headshots on Building Ventures’ new site with this link.

Individual headshot photos: engaged portraits with a distinctive look.

Resource: for anyone who’s looking for a general resource, here’s an article about candid photography with good info.

“David shot candid team and headshot photos for our venture capital firm. We wanted upgraded photos for our newly redesigned website that would both fit our aesthetic and reflect our personality. David delivered on both counts and beyond! He is a pleasure to work with, making the process easy and enjoyable. We would hire David again in a heartbeat!  -Heather Widman, Principal, Building Ventures

I’m pleased to have just been chosen for Expertise’s “Best Portrait Photographers in Boston” awards.


David Shopper is chosen as one of "Best Portrait Photographers in Boston, 2020"

In their words: “We looked at 219 portrait photographers serving Boston and picked the Top 20.  We scored portrait photographers on more than 25 variables across five categories, and analyzed the results to give you a hand-picked list of the best portrait photographers in Boston, MA.”


I just finished a portrait shoot for Katz Nannis + Solomon, an established CPA firm in Waltham, MA.

My challenge was to unchain them from the bonds of gray-backgrounded postage stamp headshots.  They wanted a modern, dynamic, and approachable look.

Stylistically, I approached this shoot like any other.  I found a common area with good architectural structure and complimentary natural light (you can see what this normally looks like on this entry).  But technically, I took a different approach.  Instead of using a long portrait lens, I used a very fast normal lens (the Nikon 50mm f1.4).  Huge difference.  With this lens, you have to stand closer to the subject to fill the frame.  This proximity subtly comes through in the photo – it’s more intimate.  You can see the unusually narrow depth of field did some funky things to the background.  It’s softness brings the execs forward and makes them look sharper.

I think these CPA portraits do a nice job of celebrating the individuals who make up KNS.   They brand the Boston company as forward-thinking, personable, and trustworthy.  All important qualities of a firm that you entrust with your finances.

Resources: further reading on what makes for a great portrait.

I was recently asked to create professional employee headshots of all the people at DataRobot‘s Boston office.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with DataRobot, the company harnesses machine learning to help customers build predictive models.  This may or may not mean anything to you (I had to look it up).  The important takeaway is that there are a lot of smart and enthusiastic people bouncing around their offices.

Millennials appear to make up the majority of their employees, with a smattering of GenX’s and some boomers.  With an open-plan workspace and casual atmosphere, the office has a comfortable social aspect that inspires innovation.  Meals are catered so everyone eats together.  Their t-shirts sport the company mascot, which is a simple illustrated robot on a new employee’s shirt.  But if that employee sticks around for a while, their shirt-bot gets an upgrade: a ray gun or jet pack.

As with so many of the new breed of high-tech companies, their culture is their product.  The employees and their collective brain power is what makes DataRobot a force.  Often, headshots like these illustrate a culture and help sell the company to potential recruits.

So how do you make headshots like this happen?  You skip the ties, stuffy studio lighting, and dappled backdrops.  You simplify the production.  You let personalities and great attitudes take center stage.  You maintain the highest standards of quality and the lowest confines of formality.

Here a few headshots from our shoot.


“We have an incredibly unique culture here, and David and his team did a fantastic job of capturing the spirit of our employees with the headshot shoot. It was wonderful to work with David and everyone is so happy with how their images turned out (no easy feat!).” – Alex Chang, DataRobot Corporate Events Manager