Real Simple Headshots on Location

Using very simple tools to create a soft and gentle headshot

Occasionally you may have a situation where you have to do a lot of images in a very short amount of time. These kinds of gigs can be a little disconcerting if you over think them and get caught in a web of setting up and production as time slips ever so quickly by.

I was asked by a local dance company to photograph all the dancer’s headshots. I had 20 minutes to set up, one hour to shoot, and 20 minutes to vacate for another group coming in. That doesn’t leave a lot of time for setting up studio gear and the times were pretty well carved in stone. There were 28 dancers.

The images were going to be used rather small, about 2.5 inches in a brochure and the Company Director asked if they could also be made into 8×10’s for use in lobby posters.

I decided to shoot with a wide light source and fill card. Keep it really simple. My soft box was not going on this trip as the setup time prevented it, so I took my trusty shower curtain (Target, $12.99) and a few stands.

I also decided to use speedlights as I could be in, and out as fast as possible. I took the usual 550EX and 430EX as they are always in my bag. I use radio triggers whenever possible.

Our workshop site is new and has a lot of fun things… take a look at it here.

On to the simple headshot shoot.


ON LOCATION: with Jerry OConnor, Jim Vigileos and Christina

Photographers in Phoenix like dramatic skies. We get so many days in a row of bright, blue that when it gets dark and moody up there some of us grab cameras. My friends Jim Vigileos and Jerry OConnor did that recently and along the way they grabbed Christina to add to the mix.

Both shooters use small strobes a lot for their work. Moving fast with speedlights, they shoot everything from classic pinups to glamour to portraits both on location and in the studio. Today was big light day… Jim with his AB’s and Jerry with his Elinchrome Ranger and beauty dish.

The day started with me having a ton of work to do and sitting in front of the computer getting ready to do it. A text comes in from Jerry saying he and Jim were working with Christina, did I want to come down and hang and have lunch with them. Pile of work versus hanging with a couple of fun guys and Christina… no brainer. It takes me about 25 minutes to get to Maricopa, a tiny, but growing, town south of Phoenix.

The day had started with lots of bluster and the skies were threatening rain. Perfect. We had lunch and headed over to a site Jim had scouted earlier… an old grain elevator on the tracks there in Maricopa. I was happy to go along to photograph them making pictures.

Before we continue, be sure to check the 2009 Workshop Schedule. I have been working on the new workshop daily, with workbook and shooting with Briana for it… It will be a truly amazing two days and the amount of lighting we will cover will be staggering. The workbook and supersecret DVD for only the workshop attendees will make the experience even more valuable.

Let’s see these guys in action.


Shooting on the Beach with Two Speedlights and the Sun

This is a simple shoot that can have some very nice nuance as you work two speedlights into a shot with the sun as back/side light. Using two sources a bit apart can cause multiple shadows, so you have to be very careful to make sure they are not a problem.

For this shot we used the sun as a bright side/slightly back light. I added the light from two flashes to smooth out the light, seemingly creating a wider side light. I love shadows, and the shadow cast on the little building was very nice.

I had to find a way to attach the strobes quickly on this trip, and hit on a unique, fun and easy way to securely attach the strobes. After the link, I will show you how we did it.

But first a question for the readers. I have been wondering if this Blog setup is working as well as a web site would. Currently we are using WordPress, but I have been thinking about working with a web site with CMS so it could grow laterally as well as vertically. The site under current configuration seems a little less than user friendly. Your thoughts please.


Legacy Article: A model in the surf – the full shoot.

NOTE: This is a legacy article. Please click the “home” button at the top of the page to return or use your back button.

HOUSTON is coming up fast. If you haven’t signed up for our last western state workshop this year, I would advise you that time is running out. Cleveland is the last workshop available in 2008 – Philly filled – and then we start booking for next year. We are actively seeking hosts in cities who would like to have us come in and do a two full day workshop for a small group of photographers.

Click here for the article and return when you are done. On the next page you can see the full image and you can grab a free desktop.


“Why did you light it that way?”

A friend and fellow photographer and I were sitting and having some overpriced coffee when he asked me a question about one of my shots that we were looking at. “Why did you light it that way?”

It took me a bit by surprise because most of the time I am asked “how” not why. I mentioned a post at Flickr I had made earlier about asking why instead of how, but he insists he doesn’t do forum stuff on the internet (and I believe him) so it was unrelated.

And I was off guard.

The shot was one I posted a while back and I had to make some decisions about how to do it and what tools I would use to do it. It is a shot of Briana taken on the Mexico trip and with the look of a candid.

I had nearly anything I would have wanted at my disposal… great house for a set, studio lights, soft boxes.. you name it.

But I wanted the shot to look natural and without the ‘hand of the photographer’ in the image.


Deconstruction: Briana on the Pier (Spotlight Effect)

Let’s take a single image today and deconstruct it out to see exactly how it was created. The shot is of Briana in Mexico while we were doing the September workshop in Puerto Penasco, Mexico. Also known as Rocky Pointe, the little town had become a favorite shoot spot for us so we always return for an afternoon of image making and fun!

Evan was working with Briana in an area very close to this set so when he finished I asked to jump in real quick to take a shot. I already knew exactly what I wanted to do so it was easy and quick to set up.

Have you seen the newest column by our resident model and author, Briana? She is taking questions about modeling and working with photographers. If she doesn’t know the answer, she vows to get it. If you have a question about that side of the camera, the really scary side, ask away in the comments section. Go to the tags and click on “Ask Briana” or visit her “Model Behavior” section on the site. Also take a look at our newest post on the Magazine.

A plug for the workshops: Detroit is this week, and Atlanta next week. Get enrolled fast. I think they only have a few openings left.