If shooting headshots in studio isn’t an option, or you’re looking for something different, Vancouver offers a number of great outdoor locations for headshots. By ‘great”, I mean outside locations with great ambient lighting, unique backdrops, and are easy to access. Whether you’re looking for modern urban, rustic or vintage urban, or the best spots for a great view of the mountains, below are three of the best downtown Vancouver headshot locations to consider.

North False Creek Headshots (around the Roundhouse Community Centre and creekside)

Vancouver headshots OutdoorsThis is one of my favourite corporate headshot locations in downtown Vancouver. The location around the Roundhouse Community Centre offers a good mix of older brick walls and modern glass buildings. The sun is south of this location, so you’ll want to time the headshot sessions to ensure you don’t get too much lens flare off the water if you’re shooting closer to the creek.

Headshots at Jack Poole Plaza

For Vancouver headshot locations, this is one of the best places with an unobstructed view of the north shore mountains. Check out the top of the Cactus Club Cafe for a great shot of Georgia Straight and the north shore in the distance. When shooting towards the north shore mountains, the sun may be directly in the face of your subject, so make sure you have a scrim or some way to block the sun from your subject’s eyes. A off-camera mixed lighting setup is definitely recommended for this location.

Headshots along West Hastings

business headshots outdoors in downtown VancouverWest Hastings Street between Burrard and Howe Streets offer some of the best urban backgrounds that feature a quintessential classic metropolitan look. There are a number of buildings that, if shot from a distance and with the right lighting are reminiscent of old urban America. Buildings such as the Sinclair Centre, the Vancouver Club, 850 West Hastings (Montecristo), the Marine Building, offer a classic look at street level.

There are also a number of modern backgrounds along West Hastings. New buildings can be found just west of Burrard Street, and offer a unique bokeh (blurry background) effects with the right depth and light.

These are just a few of my favourite spots for outdoor headshots in Vancouver. I’ll be adding some locations and providing more tips on how to shoot in these spots in upcoming blog posts. In the meantime, if you have questions, feel free to drop me a line.

 

CaRMS photo specificationsCaRMS medical residency photoCaRMS (Canadian Resident Matching Service) is a program that matches Canadian medical students to one of 30 different programs across 17 medical schools in Canada. A part of your application will consist of a headshot digital photo that you will need to include as part of the residency matching program.

We’ve worked with many medical students in Metro Vancouver to produce photos for their CaRMS application at excellent rates, and can also help you to produce a professional looking headshot photo as well.

The photos are taken at our studio with professional lighting and backdrops, but can also be photographed on location for groups or individuals. Typically, photo sessions take about 20 – 30min at the studio, and you will be able to review the photo proofs and make you photo selections during the session.

After the photo session, your digital portraits will delivered within 2 business days online (rush services also available). You will receive an full copy of your selected photos, as well as a cropped and

CaRMS Specifications and Requirements

CaRMS photo specs VancouverAccording to current CaRMS photo requirements, the digital headshots need to meet these specifications:

  • CaRMS photo are usually photographed as a head and shoulders portrait
  • Photos need to be submitted in digital format online under My Documents in the applicant web portal
  • Wallet sized photos should be 2.5″ x 3.5″ (63.5mm x 88.9mm) – the photo may be resized to 3″ (76.2mm)
  • Make sure the photo file type is JPEG with the extension “.jpg”
  • The maximum photo file size should be 256k
  • Colour or Black & White headshots are accepted

You can refer to the CaRMS timelines for key dates for your application and more information on the application requirements.

What to Bring to your CaRMS Photo Session

  • Wear a well-pressed shirt or blouse; neutral colours are usually best
  • Bring a suit jacket or blazer in case it’s needed
  • Bring hair product to control fly-aways if needed
  • You may bring makeup, but please keep makeup to a minimum
  • If you wear glasses with transitions lenses, please choose non-transition lenses for the photo session if possible

To schedule a CaRMS photo session, please visit our contact page and send us a message to set up an appointment.

Many of my clients ask for unique backgrounds for their headshots or group portraits that feature beautiful office spaces, venues, or homes. These backgrounds are popular because they draw attention and interest, but capturing business portraits in these spaces isn’t always possible for a variety of reasons (e.g. access, logistics, weather/lighting limitations, etc.). So another option is to produce green screen headshots (also known as Chroma key) in the studio and replace the backgrounds in post production.

Here is a sample of a business headshot I photographed in-studio for a local realtor.

green screen headshot shot in studio

After this was photographed, we chose a background of a beautiful residential space and placed his business headshot into the background with some Photoshop magic. The background was “blurred” to draw attention to my client. It also allows his graphic designer to drop in a logo and a title in the space on the right of the image. Alternatively, the photo can be cropped closer if just the head and shoulders headshot is needed for web advertising or business cards.

green screen headshot for realtor

Another background was selected as well, and it was easy to place the headshot into a new space with little additional Photoshop editing required.

Some of the keys to making this all work are: the studio lighting placement, background selection, and colour grading. Knowing what the background will be in advance is important to making the final composite image look as realistic as possible.

Most of the backgrounds I prefer selecting have a brighter and/or generally muted colour palette, which helps to minimize the contrast between the headshot and the background. Knowing that the background is going to be generally brighter means adding some back lighting or rim lighting to the subject’s photo.

Colour grading or matching tones is another important ingredient. Compare the top image with the bottom one. Notice that the warmer skin tone of the top image fits better with the residential background due to the similar warmish tone.

Headshots from the green screen process rarely look as good as shooting in the actual space, but it’s an acceptable compromise when certain access or seasonal limitations keep us from shooting on location. One way to add fidelity to the image is to apply a tighter crop. This can usually help because it removes much of the background distraction, but includes just enough of the background to maintain context.

green screen headshot cropped

If you would like more information about producing headshots, group photos, or commercial images using this green screen technique, feel free to drop me a line!

Adrian Verdejo had his musician headshot taken at my studio in East Vancouver this month. Portraits for musicians are a key part of promoting an artist in Vancouver and abroad. These musician headshot will be used for publicity on his website and other marketing materials related to his music and teaching.
Classical guitarist musician portraitsWe did a headshot session with a couple of different looks. For the casual look, a simple black turtleneck was the perfect clothing choice to focus the viewer on the artist himself, and his guitar. We did both a darker scene as well as a  high-key look with plenty of negative space to the left of the frame so that text can be at a later time. Adrian VerdejoA slightly more formal attire choice below presented a professional look. We chose to feature both the front and back of his classical guitar in this shot. The lighting perfectly highlighted the wood grain and its specific characteristics. Vancouver classical guitarist Adrian Verdejo

For more information about headshots to help promote your music or art, please contact us for get information on portrait rates for Vancouver sessions in studio as well as custom sessions on location.

These two studio headshots were photographed at the same session with two lighting setups for two distinct looks. The Studio Dark look on the left conveys a more dramatic look, while the look on the right is brighter with softer lighting.

Studio lighting looks for headshots
Studio Dark (left) and Studio Bright (right) lighting looks

Notice the difference in shadows around the face. The headshot on the left has darker shadows around the jawline, which helps to shape my client’s face. The headshot on the right has more even lighting across the face, and appears softer and brighter overall.

Although both these headshots were photographed at the same time of day, the configuration of studio lights, type of modifiers and reflectors has a big impact on the overall look and feel of the headshots.

If you are looking to produce two different looks during your photo session, get in touch with us for details on what type of headshot session would work best to meet your goals.

Here are some headshots for Vancouver business coaches I photographed at the studio against a seamless white backdrop. The headshots were produced for use on their Vancouver-based leadership coaching website and other marketing materials.
headshots for business coaches in Vancouver

The clean white “high key” background was a good choice for versatility. The white backdrop produces headshots are simple, yet fresh and modern. leadership coach headshots

If you are interested in producing similar headshots for your coaching business, please get in touch with us for rate information and availability. Headshot sessions can be done at the studio or on site at your office.

I did this headshot session with Sandeep over the summer. We shot outdoors using a mix of strobe lighting and natural lighting (a la Cinematic Headshot). Sandeep wanted something shot on location that would be different from the other realtors in town, so I chose a location with an interesting set of background cool bokeh options.

Surrey and Vancouver Realtor headshot outdoors

These realtor headshots were shot using Canon 580EX flashes and Westcott softboxes. What I loved most about working with Sandeep was his easy going nature and openness to showing his personality in the photos. The fact that he’s a sharp dresser with good attention to detail didn’t hurt one bit – All signs of a good up and coming real estate agent. I’m looking forward to see how he uses these realtor headshots in his Metro Vancouver and Fraser Valley realty business marketing.

Metro Vancouver Realtor Headshots Metro Vancouver Realtor business headshot

The team photo below is an example of another composite corporate group photo created in Adobe Photoshop CC from 7 separate digital business headshot portraits. These types of photo composites are great for company websites and print marketing when the option to add or remove people is needed. It was shot against a pure white background in studio for the specific purpose of maximizing flexibility in the future to modify the team size over time.

How often have you scheduled a corporate group photo only to have one or two people become unavailable for the photo session? Do you reschedule and hope to find another date and time that works for everyone? Composite team photos offer you flexibility in these types of situations. You can photograph everyone that is present, then add team members missing from the photo at a later date.

Composite team photo created from separate headshots taken at my Vancouver photo studio.
Composite team photo created from separate headshots taken at my Vancouver photo studio.

Working in Vancouver, it is often difficult to get those interesting on-location hi-key photos during the winter months. The cold weather and dark rainy days limit shooting outdoors, and we get so few sunny days during these months. Many of my clients also work during the day, so a lot of my headshot photo sessions are done in the evening to accommodate busy work schedules. Quite often, I’m shooting in-studio using a plain backdrop, and using complex lighting setups to get the hi-key look for some of the portraits I produce.

So when I want to produce headshots that look like they were shot on-location, I sometimes need to rely on producing Photoshop composite photos to achieve the final product I’m after. Here’s a sample of what a Photoshop composite headshot looks like before and after:

Headshot composite before shot
Headshot BEFORE Shot – Shot in Studio against a white background

 

Headshot composite background
Background for Headshot Composite Photo
Headshot After Photo - Composited in Photoshop CC
Headshot After Photo – Composited in Photoshop CC

There are many Photoshop compositing tutorials on the web, so I won’t go into the nitty gritty detail of how to produce composite photos. But here are some valuable tips I’ve picked up along the way that will help you produce headshot composite photos that are easy to achieve and look realistic:

1. Use the Same Key for Composite Photos!

If you are planning to produce composite photos that is hi-key (i.e. lighter and brighter background), shoot the headshot against a background that approximates the color or key of the replacement background. So if the background you are adding in has a lighter tint (such as in the example above), try shooting the original headshot on a background on white or something close in key or tint.

Doing this will make it a lot easier to cut out your subject using Photoshop’s masking tools or a third-party tool like Topaz Labs’ Remask. This is especially helpful when you go to mask out the subject’s hair. If I had shot the above example on a darker backdrop, it would have taken a lot more work to mask out the subject’s hair for the lighter background.

2. Shoot Your Own Out of Focus Backgrounds

Whenever I see a cool potential background that combines colour, light, and shadow in interesting ways, I’ll shoot it out of focus and will save a copy on my computer for later use. As I shoot it, I’m keeping in mind the type of headshots I typically produce and apply just the right amount of out of focus blur in-camera. I also try to collect a number of different backgrounds I think can work for darker or moodier headshots as well as hi-key or brighter headshots.

Producing your own out of focus background doesn’t require you to scout out interesting locations. You also don’t need to purchase pre-made backgrounds for composites, although there are good resources out there if you do. Most of my shots are take around the studio, at home, or at a local park during a walk. There’s no need to find these backgrounds in hard-to-access places or to spend a lot of money buying them since they’re going to be out of focus anyway. Almost any place with a mix of interesting light, shadow, and color will do.

3. Use a Good Image Masking Program

Photoshop includes a good masking tool for a large number of objects, but I’ve found that other tools do a better job at extracting or masking out hair. If you’re extracting an object with a relatively smooth edge, Photoshop is fine. However, for subjects that have intricate edges (e.g. human hair or fuzzy sweaters), I’ve found that using a tool like Topaz Labs Remask, OnOne’s Perfect Layers, or Vertus Fluid Mask 3 makes the producing an accurate and clean mask a little easier.

4. Match up the Direction of Light

After you’ve extracted your subject and placed him or her on a layer above your chosen background images, the next set is to match up the direction of light. It’s usually easier to match up the background with the foreground subject than the other way around, but of course, that all depends on your particular image. A good way to achieve this is to use the Photoshop Curves tool to bring the overall exposure up or down to match the foreground subject. Then use a gradient mask to produce a directional lighting effect that matches the direction of light of the background with that of the foreground subject.

You may also need to flip the background image to match up with the direction of light on your foreground subject. In the image example above, I shot the background with the window light reflecting off a white wall on the right of the frame, but because I shot my subject’s headshot with an Elinchrom Rotalux Octa from the left, I decided to flip the image in Photoshop (using the Flip Horizontal adjustment under the EDIT > TRANSFORM menu) to match up the direction of light.

Keeping these tips in mind before and during production of your composite headshot photo will help you achieve final images that look as natural as possible. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them behind in the comments section below.