I figured I would share some images from a headshot session I had with Sarah a little while ago. I constantly have other photographers ask me what I use to take simple headshots. My answer is always, keep it simple. The hardest thing to remember about taking headshots is to understand the purpose of the headshot. 90% of my requests for headshots come in the form of “business headshots”. The other 10%, creative/purpose driven. In this example, Sarah was wanting acting headshots. In either situation, I typically use two lights, maybe three.
As you can see from the below images, I used two lights (ProFoto) and a reflector. The reflector acts as a third light source of sorts. I highly recommend a beauty dish or medium soft box (20-30″) for your main light. These two options are usually just large enough to provide good/even lighting on your subjects face/upper body.
My recommendation of a second light would be something for fill (reflector was used in this example). Because I used a reflector, I positioned my second light as my background light. I prefer shooting on grey paper because you can underexpose it to produce a black background, overexpose it for white, and get any variation of grey in between. Additionally, you can gel it to produce any color you wish. It truly is a versatile background color.
When it comes to the portrait, these images were to showcase Sarah for the purpose of acting/theater. She wanted to get some shots of different expressions to show some range. The following were for those purposes.
With the final images (below), I decided to play with the lighting a little more to get a more noire/dramatic effect. I removed the soft boxes and shot with bare bulbs. This produced a much more specular/hard light that gave extremely defined shadow edges. This is opposite of what a soft box/beauty dish does, which is produce soft shadow edges or gradients of the shadows.
One MAJOR thing to keep in mind for shooting with hard light is being extremely mindful of your lights’ position. The fall of a shadow is really what helps to make a portrait appealing or not. In the below image I aimed for “loop” lighting for my main light and set the second light as a side/kicker light, aimed at her hair/head.
Here are the results.
As you can see, a couple of lights or light sources can produce great headshots. If you only have one light, you can still get great images using a reflector to fill in the shadows. Let me know what you think below in the comments! Thanks for taking the time to read this post!