Some of my sneaky little tricks when doing Headshots.
1.) Unless there’s no way around it, show up and set up ahead of time. Nothing drags a session out longer than somebody with a tight schedule waiting for YOU to get set up. Lighting ‘tests’ will always be inevitable, but that doesn’t mean the need to be there to watch you haul in your gear. Of course there are exceptions; sometimes you’ll show up at a person’s home and you have no choice, but in an office environment? Get there early and be ready to go when the shoot is scheduled to begin. I’m an hour early any time it’s possible to be.
2.) There are Portrait Lenses out there that astonish. I’ve used quite a few. Canon’s 70-200/2.8 L II is deliriously good for skin tones. I can’t speak highly enough about this lens. I’d stack it up against anything.
3.) Shoot fairly wide, backgrounds are a beautiful colour-wash of brilliant bokeh blur. It cuts your subject out in ways that are absolutely beautiful. Any quality long zoom or telephoto will accomplish the same thing. just move your ‘victim’, lol, away from the background. That’s the effect you’ll achieve.
4.) When I’m shooting, I seldom talk about Photography and much less about ME. Ask your subject Questions and listen to the answers, I also give them ‘direction’ quite quickly. “Drop your chin, turn your shoulders this way…” if you do this quickly enough it has a wonderful effect of making them listen and pay close attention, and thusly? Uh-huh. Takes their mind off their nerves–they’re too busy paying attention, to think about anything else. Works Wonders. Trust me.
These images were part of a session done for a large commercial client.
In the beginning, and now we’re talking when I first started, I used to multiple light everything– at least three strobes with multiple lighting ratios too boot. And then I realized that I could blend flash with the available light in the room and for the most part, you could barely tell that flash was used. For these I used an Alien Bee 800 in a silver umbrella barely to camera left and a Canon 580EXII with a Stofen Diffuser at shoulder height to the right.
Perfectly wonderful for the background was a floor to ceiling etched window that faced the foyer. Morning sunlight was coming in from outside the large front doors lighting up the glass in patterns. These were shot at about 160mm/4.5 ISO 200.
The hotshoe trigger for the Alien Bee was fussy and decided not to co-operate. I used the 580EX II in a pinch: it triggered the big flash but added a nice degree of fill as well.
So, there you have it. It took 22 years to figure it all out.
Location Portraiture, Johnny Style!
Call me if you NEED some!
John Sharpe/ Sharpeshots