Ardean Peters: Toronto Photographer | People & Light

How to shoot a 1 light headshot

I didn’t start out to shoot a headshot. But since I had an {almost} willing model that I was already stalking with my camera and I had started to think about the awesome headshots of Peter Hurley, {watch a great video here from him on getting a great headshot}, and I wondered if I could pull off a totally off the cuff, quick headshot.

I decided to use the wall in my office, which happens to be gray as I didn’t have any white seamless. AND I had to make it work with 1 light, because my 2nd flash is currently broken 😦

With my model {thanks Shawn!} leaning right against the wall, I decided to bounce my flash, on full power off the ceiling, about 2-3 ft away from the ceiling. If I had shot with direct flash {pointing straight at the subject}, it would have caused harsh shadows on the wall, and on the models face. And since this was happening so quick, I didn’t bother to pull in my soft box from the other room, which would have been a good light softener.

[click to view large]

Flat image: no reflector used

Flat Image, no reflector used | © Ardean Peters

You can see from the image above that the light is pretty nice, but there is still some shadows in the hollows of the face and the image is a bit ‘flat’. So I added a reflector just out of the frame, parallel to the ceiling and slightly angled to the models face.

Now in the image below, you can see where the reflector has lifted the shadows from the eyelids, under-eyes, temples, chin/under the lip and neck. It’s also added a 2nd catch-light in the 6 o’clock position in the eyes – adding more sparkle.

[click to view large]

Image with Reflector, headshot, Photography By Ardean

Image with Reflector | © Ardean Peters

It’s of note that I shot these not with my arguably non-pro {you gotta read down to were Zack mentions it/and a good un-related read for gear heads} Canon 5DMkII, but with my entry level Canon XTI and the 18-55mm kit lens. I chose a fairly deep depth of field at f8, ISO 200 and 1/200th and 40mm {effective 64mm – sortof short for a portrait, but hey, I had to hold a reflector AND shoot at the same time!} . I wanted the increased depth to ensure everything was in focus AND most lenses are sharper stopped down, so shooting at f8 definitely increased the image quality.

Then comes the editing, which I did in Photoshop Elements {Adobe Lightroom & Photoshop is in my future – somewhere}. My first step was to edit out minor blemishes. Which I mainly used the ‘spot healing’ brush for. As you can see, Shawn has a scar healing on his forehead. Now I’m no photoshop wizard, so I just used the ‘clone’ brush and aimed to lighten up and blend the scar, not completely remove it.

Then I decided that I wanted the background to be white. I felt it would make the headshot stand out more and suit more of a traditional headshot. So, I used the ‘dodge’ tool at about 5-10% opacity and zoomed in to at least +50% and started carefully dodging the background to white {Note: I would normally just shoot on white seamless, blown to white and avoid the extra hassle of doing this!}

[click to view large]

Image: Head shot demo #1, Photography By Ardean"

Edited in Photoshop Elements | © Ardean Peters

For the final image below, I brightened the eyes. I cloned different areas of the eyes, using around 50% opacity, until evenly brightened. Then I increased the overall brightness a bit, added back some black levels, to make the image ‘pop’ a little more and then sharpened.

And that’s how you shoot a 1 light headshot 🙂

[click to view large]

Headshot, Photography By Ardean

Final Headshot | © Ardean Peters


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