By Sean Setters
Last month I posted about my experience regarding shooting headshots for Kim Frick-Welker
, a local actress and theater director. The gist of the post – trust your instincts and find a way to capture the images that are in your imagination (even if the client hasn't asked for them specifically).
The point became relevant once more as I was shooting headshots for Billy Hollis
, software designer, at his home in Nashville this weekend. Billy told me that his last headshot was "...taken about five years – and fifteen pounds – ago" and he was ready for an update. He wanted a few different versions of his headshot for display on social media, conference bios and various marketing tools. The only shot he specifically asked for was the "...boring, traditional on-white headshot." Other than that, I could shoot whatever I thought was appropriate (indoors or outdoors).
We decided to start with outdoor shots as the sky was overcast which provided a good, soft ambient base to work with. I found a spot behind his tool shed that provided an interesting combination of elements – a tree trunk, some limbs and an old window surrounded by weathered bricks. I used Canon EOS 5D Mark III with an EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS USM and a Canon 580EX diffused by a 24" Glow Pop Soft Box
(camera right) to light the subject and a bare 580EX to light the background (camera left). His favorite from that series is shown at the top of this post.
Moving indoors, I created a white background setup by placing a Botero #037 Collapsible Black/White Background
behind the subject (lit with three flashes). I used the same Glow softbox for the main light (camera right) and added a 580EX reflected into white umbrella
for fill light (camera left). As I was firing my off-camera flashes with manual triggers, the first shot was simply a test shot to dial in the power of my lights; it was a throw-away. I'm usually pretty close on the first shot after setting up my lights. However, I had forgotten to change the aperture on my camera when moving to the indoor setup. With my camera set to f/3.5, my test shot was extremely over-exposed. I nearly deleted the picture right after seeing it, but I didn't.
Realizing my mistake, I set my camera to f/6.3 and the next exposure was in the ballpark. But after reviewing the images the next day, I kept coming back to the horribly over-exposed test shot. Something about it captivated me. I sent it to Billy and he's now using it as his Twitter profile picture
. New lesson learned – make sure and take a good look at your "throw-aways" before actually throwing them away.
After about 20 minutes of shooting (trying various shirts and poses), Billy had the standard headshot on white that was a "must-have" request.
But while we were shooting the headshot on white, I started formulating another shot in my mind – a profile shot. So before packing up, I asked him if he would like to try one more setup. He readily agreed. I asked him to change into a black shirt while I made a few changes to the setup.
While he was changing, I turned off all of the background lights and flipped the Botero background around to its black side. I then took my mainlight and placed it on the left side just beside of (and slightly behind) where Billy was standing. I added a grid to the softbox and angled it away from the background to keep it from spilling onto the background. I remove the umbrella from my fill light, added a Honl Speed Grid
and moved it to the right side to illuminate the back of Billy's head. The shots that followed were undoubtedly our favorites from the day.
So again, let me reiterate something that I mentioned in the Kim Frick-Welker headshot post:
"It may sound obvious, but here's something to keep in mind – anyone who hires you was likely impressed with the work you've already created. So if a shot really inspires you, it will likely inspire your client as well – so try to devote a few minutes to getting the shot you want to get, even if it's not a part of your agreed shot list."
It was true then, and it was true again this weekend. Trust your instincts and shoot for yourself. Never leave your best shots on the table. ;-)