4.22.2009

The Art of the Headshot.

I absolutely love to do portraits.  My dream, when I started taking photographs many years ago was to have a little ivy covered studio in the hills west of Austin.  Nothing fancy, just a little office, a dressing room and a shooting room of about 20 by 40 feet with a nice, tall ceiling.  I'd have a highly organized and vaguely beautiful assistant who would book sittings and take care of getting prints and various orders from the lab and make sure they got to the client.

It never worked out that way.  I've spent the last 20 years doing some head shots in my small office studio but most of the work is done on location at advertising agencies and corporate headquarters.  I'm pretty much a location portrait shooter.  And by location I don't mean that I spend time putting babies in patches of blue bonnets or photographing families at the beach.  I spend my time taking conference rooms that started life as broom closets and making them into temporary studios so I can photograph the movers and shakers of corporate culture.  And I love that.  Everyone has a story so everyone is interesting.  Anybody who doesn't have a story is interesting because they don't have a story.

I made the portrait above as part of a series for a very chic agency here in Austin, Texas.  I came in and moved the conference room furniture around to make room for three lights.  While I was setting up Patricia Garcia was doing make up on the seven people we needed to photograph.  I usually light with one big soft source to the left of camera and a large white reflector on the other side for fill.  I usually pick a gray background when I'm left to my own devices.

This time we all wanted something just a little bit different.  I used two umbrellas instead of just one main light.  I keyed the portrait from the left (creature of habit) using a 48 inch white umbrella with black backing.  I used a 60 inch white umbrella five feet further back and slightly to the right of camera as my fill.  The background was lit by a standard profoto zoom reflector with a sloppy, wide grid on it.  The background is a soft blue paper.

The sitter in the above example was made up so well, and had such great skin that I don't think we had to do any retouching to speak of.  Maybe a stray hair or two.  That's about it.

I love shooting portraits.  No nervous energy.  No hesitation.  Just a great afternoon yakking it up with people.

Camera:  D700.  Lights: Profoto

To learn more about my approach to studio lighting check out my new book