I often do lawyer headshots on location, where I’m photographing a number of lawyers for a law firm, but for this headshot photo session, Grace visited my studio in Vancouver on a sunny November afternoon, so I decided to set up the shoot to make use of natural light for a handful of photos. The headshots taken here are a just a couple from the set of photos taken that mixes natural light with flash strobes.
Here, I’m using natural light from the windows bouncing against a large reflector. I’ve added fill light using one of my new favourite studio strobes, the Elinchrom RX One in a Rotalux Octabox. I particularly like the RX One with mixing with natural light indoors because it allows for a very low power setting, making it easy to balance the ambient light with fill light coming from the front.
Getting the right look is about finding the right shutter speed to let that clean natural high-key backlighting come through. The result is a clean high-key headshot in studio as shown below.
I was commissioned to do business group photos for a Vancouver financial management firm who needed photos for their website and other marketing needs. The group photos were taken at my Vancouver photo studio and shot against a large white background. As with all my corporate studio photo sessions, we took a large number of photos and my clients were able to review images live as we went. Instant review of photos always helps to make sure we’re on track with the type of images they need and speeds up the turn-around time for headshot photos. Below are a few final photos after some editing work to keep the photos consistent looking.
This is one of a handful of formal business portraits for one of our professional clients. This photo was taken at my Vancouver photo studio using three studio flashes and a number of reflectors to soften skin and fill in shadows. Such portraits are great for LinkedIn profiles and professional web portfolios, and they take only 20-30 minutes to produce.
One of the most common types of headshots is the headshot on white background. It’s a timeless option if you are looking for a clean and minimal headshot portrait that will look great on almost any website or for your LinkedIn profile photo. These headshot photos were taken in studio and features a subtle high-key gradient.
A few sample photos from a corporate headshots session I did for a group of managers and executives from a property management firm in Vancouver. Photos were taken on location at their office. The setup was in a tight space, but the portable lighting system I often use on shoots fit perfectly. These corporate headshots are being used as profile photos for the managers, but are large enough to be used in print marketing as well.
This is a recent headshot portrait for a Vancouver investment advisor from a Canadian bank. Two looks are shown here, photographed in studio using Elinchrom monolights and Rotalux Octa light modifiers in conjunction with reflectors from California Sunbounce.
These business headshot portraits were done for a local insurance company on-location. I often do on location headshots at my client’s office, and these were done in the hallway with my usual portrait lighting setup for travel. Usual set-up times are about 20-30 minutes for most locations, and each session can vary from 5 minutes to 20 minutes per person. There a mix of Westcott, Lastolite, Elinchrom, and even California Sunbounce in these photos.
I often get requests for headshots against pure white backgrounds, also known as “hi key” backgrounds. The end product often looks simple, but many photographers struggle with lighting in creating such headshot portraits.
One of the main lighting challenges is getting the background a nice pure white, while exposing the subject properly in the foreground. I’ve struggled with this myself in the past, but found a simple formula that works well in most situations. Here are the steps:
2. I recommend (if you have it) at least two strobes (or speedlights). One on each side of the subject, and vertically offset so that one set higher than the other.
I used to use one 580EX II speedlight or an Elinchrom D-Lite strobe to light the background, but I found the results inconsistent. One strobe often resulted in a gradient background that went from 100% (RGB, 255, 255, 255) white to an off-white that was around 80% – not exactly pure white, and more work was required in Photoshop to create a pure white effect.
3. You need a way to flag the strobes so that light is hitting the background only and not directly back into the camera. V-flats work well for this setup.
4. Set the distance of the subject from the background to around 6-8 feet (or more, depending on exposure). This will allow you to control the background exposure separately from the subject. The more distance you have between the subject and the background, the more control you’ll have.
5. After lighting the subject, use an exposure meter, measure the exposure of the background and subject separately. The difference should only be about 1/2 to 2/3 difference between subject and background, with the background reflecting only slightly more light. This is important. If you have too much of a difference, you may create a hazing (low contrast) looking image. If there is too little difference between the subject and background, it may appear light grey rather than white (not a big deal, but will require a little more work in Photoshop to adjust).
Using these steps will get you very close to a pure white background for your headshot portrait. You may not get 100% white in camera, but if you can get close, you can use Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom to take you the rest of the way.
If you want a slightly easier way to create a white background, you can use a Lastolite Hilite for hi key photography. The same steps apply, except you won’t need to flag your background strobes in the same way you would strobes pointed at a wall or white seamless background paper.