Headshots for Friends
I took headshots for two students in Chloë’s General Assembly UXDI 30 class and for a friend of my neighbor, Susanna.
First Chloë and I took photos for Stephanie. They spent several hours designing and creating the set, including the items taped to the wall and the contents of the desk (our dining room table).
I used my Canon 5D Mk II, a Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS USM L Mk II, three mains-powered strobes, a Canon Speedlite, and various umbrellas and softboxes. I typically shoot at 50 ISO, 1/160, f/10: the low ISO means low noise, the 1/160 is within the flash’s firing window (if I shoot at 1/250 or higher, part of the image is black due to the shutter closing too soon), and my lens was measured to be sharpest at f/10 using Reikan’s FoCal software. However, we wanted a shallower depth of field for these images. No decrease in ISO or increase in shutter speed was available to compensate, so I added a circular polarizer filter to act as a neutral density filter of sorts. It worked well enough and I was able to shoot at f/4 or so.
These were shot with four lights: two mains-powered strobes with 2’x3′ softboxes lighting the background, a Canon 580EX behind a white 24″ umbrella acting as the optical trigger and hair light, and a big beautiful umbrella/softbox hybrid on a mains-powered strobe for the key light. I love that light because it is big and soft enough to use as the only front-illuminating light on the model. (The only other light on the model is a hair light.)
I’m told that my Macro 100mm f/2.8 IS USM L is supposedly a sharper piece of glass. I don’t use it for portraits, however, as I find the focusing too slow and prefer focal lengths close to 135mm. Oh, also there’s something oddly satisfying about hefting a piece of glass that big… it is a favorite of paparazzi everywhere for a reason!
Here’s Charlene, Chloë’s other talented protege.
Charlene was interested in a dramatic, high-fashion, relatively low-key shot. She was also interested in a 3/4 body shot rather than just a headshot, which meant that my usual trick of using my projection screen as a backdrop wasn’t going to work. I brought out the stands and started with black fabric. Charlene returned with a black top which I thought would be challenging, but the lighting worked. We used two hair lights: the Canon Speedlite behind a 24″ umbrella and a mains-powered strobe with a standard reflector dish. The left side of her face was illuminated with the 60″ umbrella, while the right was illuminated with a 2’x3′ softbox. DXO OpticsPro 11 software was used to process the RAW images into 16-bit TIFFs. These were brought into Photoshop to use with Google Nik Collection plugin “Color Efex Pro 4” software, where subtle skin softening and occasionally a Skylight filter for any needed warmth. I save the edits back to the TIFFs, create high-quality JPEGs, and give everything to my model on a DVD or thumb drive. I don’t charge anything.
Here’s Susana’s friend Vanessa, who was most interested in a headshot. Same lighting and workflow as Charlene. I like how her scarf provides the form of her figure in the second photo as her dress was extremely dark.