We had the good fortune of connecting with Maria Proios and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Maria, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
Being both a headshot photographer and an actor, I am blessed with insight on both sides of the camera. My brand is more procedural in nature rather than visual. It begins with a consultation where everything is discussed and I get a sense of the actor’s brand. I advise clients on each of the looks they want and give them homework to do for the day of the shoot. During the shoot I act with them and I aim to treat the session as a rehearsal. This technique really works to bring out their essence and they are able to connect with the camera without being self-conscious or posing. Instead, with my guidance, they are completely immersed, as they would be performing a scene. They are present and are able to have fun in the process.
Most headshot photographers aim to have a brand because it helps them stand out and become recognizable. Usually it is something visual that informs the viewer of their identity, for instance their preferred lighting or the specific backdrops they use etc.
As an actor I have been in many Casting Director workshops and Q&A’s and I have heard many discussions about this. The photographer’s brand should not be the first thing they recognize when looking at a headshot because it distracts them from the actor.
The actor’s brand is king. My job is to have my client’s brand come forth loud and clear and have my own be invisible. The success of my brand is being able to adapt to the actor’s brand every time.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I studied Photography in Athens, Greece where I was born and have lived most of my life. After my studies I started working as an assistant and later studio manager for Dinos Diamantopoulos, one of the most renowned celebrity photographers in Greece. Being photographed by Dinos meant that you’ve officially “made it”. He was a genius at capturing personalities and one of the first retouching experts in the field. This is when my education really began. I learned that there is so much more to being a great photographer than just knowing what an f stop is and what lens to use. You need to be like a movie director who knows all the technical things but is also able to get a performance out of your subject and have their personality shine through. I remember when he was on his giant screen retouching photos, I would go and sit next to him and ask him questions. Watching him work from behind the camera with clients or on the screen retouching photos was a master class. A few years later I felt ready, and with maestro’s blessing and encouragement I ventured out to start my own photography business. I started with fashion, which I always loved to shoot due to its storytelling aspect. Then came collaborations with different artists and magazines, gallery exhibitions and finally headshots with actors. Times were getting hard in Greece though. The crisis hit the industry and I found myself having to make some tough decisions. I needed a bigger and financially stronger industry to achieve my goals.
Los Angeles. Small fish in a huge pond. Different culture, life style, world. I joined an acting class, because I’d always wanted to try acting and it was a great way to meet clients. Turns out, I loved acting so much that I had to keep doing it. So here I am with two pursuits, and like all entrepreneurs can attest to, it’s hard enough building the one. Let alone two. I had to find some means to support myself and the building of both businesses in the meantime. The dreaded day job. I did quite a few. I saved and invested all of my income in my headshot business and my acting. This meant sacrificing going out a lot, or buying things for myself or even going home for a few years. It was tough.
It was all worth it though, since I’ve come out the other side a stronger person, more patient yet determined, full of experiences and hope for the future. I am grateful to be able to pursue both art forms that bring me such fulfillment and happiness.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I would probably start with the sights on Hollywood Blvd. and the Hollywood sign. The Griffith Observatory to marvel at the view of the city and the La Brea Tar Pits to soak up a little pre history of Los Angeles. A drive up the PCH toward Malibu is always fun and there are so many places to stop and have food or drinks along the way.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My gem of a brother and my wonderful friends, who are always supportive and loving but also very open and honest. We are all on the same path of becoming better people and we cheer each other on along the way. Their beautiful minds always rejuvenate me even in the hardest circumstances. My artistic journey would be so much more difficult without them by my side.
Copyright Maria Proios