It’s been a bit of a headshot week so far and I’m not talking about barristers on Linkedin.
I’ve heard it said by Peter Hurley in the USA that headshot photography is not really about photography and, to a point, I think the same goes here whether it’s in Exeter, Plymouth or Bristol. What he meant by this is that the technical aspects of headshot photography can be relatively simple but what makes the difference is the interaction between the photographer and the sitter. Let’s be upfront about this, for most people sitting in front of a stranger with a camera is not a natural thing, why would it be?
So the greatest challenge is to help a sitter to relax in a potentially stressful situation.
Lighting a Headshot Photograph
Many people assume that a nice bright sunny day is all that one needs for a good shot. No!
However, for pure headshot photography the lighting and background can generally be fairly simple. What would probably surprise many is the need for height in a room, it’s good to get some light above the sitter. In the simplest form a single light and clean wall (at a distance) will be good. The light could even be a lovely large window but hey, this is Devon so as professional headshot photographers we generally try to bring and control our own light.
I was trying to work some figures out last night; I have a few cameras, Nikons and Leicas that I use (plus the fifty or so old ones in my collection); I have four speedlights (flashguns) plus a box of old ones; I have six Bowens strobes (studio lights) but I lose count of the number of light modifiers that I have – soft-boxes – snoots – honeycombs – barn-doors – beauty-dishes – reflectors.
So the joke is that a headshot can be taken with a single light as was the case with the mono one of Jonathan (below). We had taken some more formal shots but I wanted to try a more cut-down look so this was with a single overhead Bowens Gemini (with a medium Bowens softbox) to the side and a simple reflector panel underneath it to lift the shadows. I guess if you want to put labels on it the session had started as a clamshell but turned into a Rembrandt setup.
For the record all three shoots had started up with the same lighting setup although the light modifier with Andrew and Karin was a Lumiair Octobox. There was a second Gemini pointing at the wall behind the sitter with the power lifted to about a stop or so up blow the background out.
These are simple professional portraits to be used in professional environments. From a photographer’s point of view I never forget the trust that sitters put in me.