I am thrilled to have finally gotten professional headshots from a top notch photographer! Aleksandr Karjaka has quickly become synonymous with classical musician headshots in New York City, but his work spans far beyond that.  With Karjaka Studios, you're getting an experience from a skilled photographer and an all-around great guy that puts a smile on your face...unless you're not into smiley headshots!  

Last October, I was asked by three different ensembles for a headshot and bio for programs, and I found myself digging through the lower levels of my hard drive for something that would work.  My options ranged from a JCPenney photo studio shoot from my high school senior year in 20(edited for content), and a photo from two years ago that I took in a hurry because I was due to have our son in a month (credit to Aurora Flores, my sister, for letting us use her fabulous camera).  I knew then it was time to get serious and get a real headshot!

By way of everyone's best social media friend Facebook, I noticed that most of my musician friends were posting new amazing headshots taken by a single photographer: Aleksandr Karjaka.  I felt it was time to have a properly Photoshopped shot, so I decided to email him and ask a few questions about what he was offering.

A rapid-fire of emails ensued and, after a lengthy Gmail chain that we're all so familiar with these days, we settled on a date at the end of December.  I was lucky to catch him in the middle of a holiday offer where he was more than accommodating of my budget and time constraints.   I was intimidated by the level of his work, but Aleks is very approachable and my fears were definitely unfounded.  His website has several pages of advice on what shows up best on camera, suggestions for approaching your photo shoot in terms of travel, frame of mind, and even ideas about how to enjoy yourself after your shoot is finished.  It's obvious from the get go that he considers it part of his job to create an experience that eases the subject into the best photos possible.

His photo studio is located in Astoria, and unfortunately our appointment ended up on one of those dreaded, cold New York City rainy days.  I spent about an hour beforehand doing my own makeup using this guide from Buzzfeed.  I did my hair and covered myself in a loose fitting hoodie and giant umbrella, fully bedecked with my horn and a bag of wardrobe and jewelry selections.  I'm sure it was a sight to behold!  I made it without melting and with minimal flyaways, things that I usually don't think about but kind of enjoyed being mildly obsessed with. 

When I arrived I was greeted warmly and had a cup of tea.  We chatted in his office about what the shoot would be like while bossa nova rhythms floated out of a respectable sounding stereo system.  I touched up my makeup and I changed into my first choice dress, put my horn together, and entered the studio.  

I'm not a big photo person, so I was a bit nervous about how I should sit.  Aleks must have sensed all that because he never missed a beat and assured me that everything was looking great and I should be comfortable.  Aleks is also a clarinet player, so while I was getting comfortable he took my mind off of the shoot by talking about some of the things he had played recently.  I quickly forgot all about what was happening as we talked about our families, our favorite parts of the city, and the roller coaster of New York City Real Estate.  I really enjoyed talking to him about his work as a photographer: the passion and enthusiasm he has for what he does fills the room and, in my opinion, fills my headshots as well.

Aleks works quickly, naturally, and precisely, and in no time we had several great shots to choose from.  He was constantly adjusting various shades and lamps and I was in awe of how seamless he transitioned from one shot to another.  I was expecting to look at a non-stop clacking camera, but I'm happy that he didn't take a shot unless he was sure it would come out great.  The time flew by and I could hardly wait for our proofing session!  Two weeks later, nearly to the day that he projected, I met him in midtown with Steve and slowly narrowed 20 great shots to 17, then to 10, then to 6 that were very difficult to choose from.  I ended up taking 4, and I still wanted to have more!  Three weeks later to the day, they were Photoshopped and ready for use.  It's so nice to work with someone who gives an exact time frame to expect and then sticks with it faithfully.  Also very helpful is the fact that he keeps all photos from proofing and retouching sessions, in case you want to purchase more or lose the shots you purchased.

For as long as I can remember, I have been a lady who is always looking to lose a few pounds.  I find myself looking at these photos and feeling like I wouldn't change a thing about myself, which is something I didn't expect to take away from the experience.  Even my horn looked prettier!  Another shoot is definitely in my future and, next time, I hope to jump off my conservative little stool and take some more creative photos in different poses.  After seeing the creative shots of so many of my colleagues and having the experience myself, I regret not trying some less traditional ideas.  Next time I'll ask for some suggestions, as Aleks takes some pretty editorial photos for professional models.

And so this is my ringing endorsement for Karjaka Studios for your headshots, or for any situation in which you would need amazing photos of yourself.  Maybe they're for others, or maybe they're just for you to remind yourself that you're fabulous.  I'm lucky to say that I have them for both.  Ask Aleks about his work and have a visit to www.karjaka.com, I'm so glad I worked with him!

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