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DPChallenge Forums >> Tips, Tricks, and Q&A >> Headshot lighting
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03/22/2015 10:25:53 PM · #1
I was fooling around today doing an impromptu headshot session with a new lighting setup and I have to say i just love the results.

One Alien bee 800 on each side of the model in a large softbox PLM, set to equal power and a large silver reflector center and beneath the face. I had the model look straight at the camera with a turned upper body. The catchlights this setup produced are amazing, the eyes just sparkle.

All shot at with the Tamron 24-70/2.8 at 70mm, 1/160, f4, ISO 100.

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Message edited by author 2015-03-22 22:44:08.
03/22/2015 10:34:14 PM · #2
The lighting is good and even, and I agree, the eyes do sparkle. If I had to quibble, this set up tends to flatten the face. I'm partial to butterfly lighting when the model is looking straight on, though it doesn't work for everyone.
03/23/2015 01:33:07 AM · #3
Maybe it's just me, but the catchlights feel a bit overpowering and dominant. Otherwise I generally like the lighting. Does seem to suit those with more cheekbone structure better, however.
03/23/2015 08:57:16 AM · #4
Hmmmmm, to my eye, on all of them the center of the face is noticeably darker, making the face seem slightly sunken in the middle. Plus it tends to emphasize the folds of the smile lines.
03/23/2015 09:26:43 AM · #5
Originally posted by tanguera:

Hmmmmm, to my eye, on all of them the center of the face is noticeably darker, making the face seem slightly sunken in the middle. Plus it tends to emphasize the folds of the smile lines.


Part of what makes the catchlight so interesting is the fact that the light bounced of the edge of the reflector hotter on the sides, next time I may use a light instead of a reflector underneath the face. I was trying to get more of a ring like look without getting the crazy eye ring light catchlight.

I'm appreciating the feedback.

03/23/2015 10:28:35 AM · #6
Mike, I'm not sure what you mean by "headshots". In NY and L.A., they very specifically refer to the photos actors use to get work. For those purpises, in these markets, I'm pretty sure those catch lights would be soundly rejected as too garrish and distracting.
03/23/2015 10:45:14 AM · #7
Curious about that comment, who would reject them, the talent or talent evaluator?

I realize that headshots are supposed to be safe, well lit and well, boring. I was just experimenting with something new and different here and as I said, I'm appreciating the feedback, because I certainly have my own bias about these images.

03/23/2015 11:28:16 AM · #8
Casting directors. Agents. Managers. And while headshots have to fit certain criteria, they must be anything but boring. Headshots are quite challenging to do well because they look deceptively simple. When CDs are viewing headshots, they do so electronically, often on a page with hundreds of thumbnails smaller than those on DPC. Headshots including anything other than the head further reduce the real estate of the most important part. At that size your catchlights would nevertheless be invisible. And when blown up full size, would be distracting.

From a purely lighting poverty, they're rather interesting.
03/23/2015 11:36:25 AM · #9
great info, thanks!
03/23/2015 01:06:34 PM · #10
If you are going for a flat light look, you've succeeded. Would be easier with a single light however. All those catch lights add nothing of interest for me.
03/23/2015 02:10:21 PM · #11
Originally posted by jemison:

If you are going for a flat light look, you've succeeded. Would be easier with a single light however. All those catch lights add nothing of interest for me.


of course, but where is the fun in experimenting?
03/23/2015 02:26:10 PM · #12
I participated in an online lighting workshop, and was actually surprised that the fashion photographer (Lindsey Adler) who taught the course said that when you have lights on both sides of the model, the lights compete with each other and often produce a less than desireable result, so for flat lighting (which isn't a negative thing -- it's used alot in fashion photography where you want the whole face lit up), it's better to have one light a little above the model's face pointing slightly down in front of the model. I used to always try to use 2 lights positioned on both sides of the model too. But, I've been experimenting with her techniques, and I do believe she's right. Not that I should have questioned her... she only makes about a bazillion dollars and is published in every fashion magazine in the world :)
03/24/2015 08:36:45 AM · #13
as with any type of photography, you have to consider its purpose and who it serves. is it being shot for the photographer to hang on their wall, the subject to hang on their wall, or for a third party to view?

if it's for the photographer, it really doesn't matter what anyone says, as long as the photographer likes it. if the photographer doesn't like it, then the only thing that matters are those things that help the photographer achieve an acceptable result.

if it's for the subject, it really doesn't matter what anyone says, as long as the subject likes it. if the subject doesn't like it, then the photographer might need some help fixing the situation. the only real problem, especially with headshots, is when the subject likes and accepts the image, only to have someone else bang on it harshly down the road, leaving the client feeling like they were rooked.

if it's for a third party, then the photographer needs to know what the third party expects; otherwise, somebody is not going to be happy.

as for these photos, at thumbnail size, the hotspots are a little too prominent, leaving noticeable contrast with the face centers. at full size, the extreme crop puts those catchlights right in your face. a more traditional crop might work better.

this is, after all, the beauty of digital photography - the ability to experiment until you find something you like and can replicate consistently. keep on clicking!

Message edited by author 2015-03-24 08:36:59.
03/24/2015 09:19:30 AM · #14
good insight Skip.

over the weekend i wanted to try something new so I found a few willing subjects who wanted some new headshots for so i entered into a typical TF agreement with them. I set up a lighting style and explained to the models what i hoped to accomplish and that I was experimenting with a new light setup.

The images I displayed are for me and I am quite happy with them. I purposely cropped them tight because I was trying to showcase the detail and to hopfully differentiate them form a typical headshot. I know cropping off the top of the head is a major no-no when it comes to headshots. The ones I provided to the models were cropped further head and showed more shoulder and the whole head. Some have the head turned slightly so the light isn't quite as flat.

Really I was just trying out and experimenting which is why this thread was started, but it evolved into what i didn't expect. I appreciate to hear when something doesn't work or it does, however what is just as beneficial is what the industry standards are. I dont deal with actors and models headshots too much in a studio setting, what I usually get are folks who wants linked in photos or something for a website or flyer.

This information that you and Johanna provided in invaluable as to what the industry expects in the form of a headshot. thank you both.

I hope that more people would post stuff on on their experimentation here. There are others sites to do that but this place seems to have a more community feel than the others.

Message edited by author 2015-03-24 11:08:50.
03/24/2015 10:25:53 AM · #15
Re more threads on experimenting... Lead by example. Be the change you want to see. You're off to a good start :)
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