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.

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On to the simple headshot shoot.

Gentle hairlight makes a nice look for these dancer headshots

Gentle hairlight makes a nice look for these dancer headshots

You can see what I did in the lighting shots, but I will explain that the 430 decided to go whacky on me that day. I don’t know what it was, but even fresh batteries couldn’t get it to be stable. I decided to use the sunlight, actually Northlight, coming in the clerestory windows as my hairlight and the shower curtain with the 550 for the main.

You can see the bright north sky light coming in above the set

You can see the bright north sky light coming in above the set

The high clerestory windows gave a lot of light, and at the angle that it fell on the backs of the heads of the girls, it created a very nice hairlight. I shot without strobes to get the exposure for that hairlight and then matched the strobe power to the hairlight. Shutter speed for hairlight, f-stop determined by strobe.

Here is another setup shot:

You can see the location of the fill card in this image as well as the spread of light on the shower curtain.

You can see the location of the fill card in this image as well as the spread of light on the shower curtain.

The challenge is to get the speedlight far enough back to fill that shower curtain without having a hot spot from being too close or the speedlight having to be up so high that the recycle kills the timing. I had a lot of shots to do and waiting for a 3 second recycle would be mindnumbing. You can see that I angled the shower curtain (scrim) a bit in front of the subject to help wrap the light around the face a little.

I also have the fill card in front of the subject and to the side. I do not want to waste any fill on the backside of the subject so bringing it forward maximizes the amount of light it catches.

You can see how subtle the hair light is on this shot of a girl with very dark hair. Subtle, but there enough for the shot.

You can see how subtle the hair light is on this shot of a girl with very dark hair. Subtle, but there enough for the shot.

Lighter colored hair worked very well too. These two shots show how well the light works, even for a more ‘glamorous’ look.

Alissa

Alissa


Michaila

Michaila

I had to be careful not to pick up any of the over spill of the strobe hitting the background, a large 10×20 muslin that I threw out of focus with a wider aperture. I prefer less depth of field on shots like this. Here is one more setup shot showing how far away the speedlight is from the shower curtain. You can also see the over spill on the back.

You have to watch your angle if there is this much over spill. Bringing the camera to the right will eliminate it here.

You have to watch your angle if there is this much over spill. Bringing the camera to the right will eliminate it here.

I hope you enjoyed this simple little way to make images with very little in the amount of expense. Grab a scrim and fire away.

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About 

I am in love with light.

Also known as Don Giannatti, photography has been the focus of my life for most of my adult years. I have written three books for Amherst Media (available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble: keyword 'don giannatti'. Lighting Essentials is my flagship blog and ezine with a slightly different slant than most photography related blogs. If you are interested in becoming a better photographer, check out www.project52.org. Thanks for visiting.

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