10 Steps to a Flattering Self Headshot

Final Shot Web


NOTE: The video below is available in Spanish here.

In this lesson, Light Leader Noel Del Pilar explains how to
create a headshot for yourself with flattering lighting. It’s important to
master this skill because sometimes there isn’t a fellow photographer on-hand to
help out.

1. The first step is to set up the key light. In this case I used a strobe with an OctoDome: Small soft box (3 feet).

2. Grab a chair or stool for you to sit.

3. Set up a background light behind the chair/stool pointed at the backdrop. In this case I used a strobe with a Photoflex RUD 45″ Shoot-Through Umbrella to spread the light across the background.

4. Place a reflector in front of the chair/stool to add fill flash from below. Here I used a translucent LiteDisc in the 32″ size but if you don’t have a reflector, you can use a piece of white foam board that you can find at any art or craft store.

5. The next step is to set up your camera. For this headshot I used my Canon 5D MKIII with a 85mm 1.2L lens. I chose this lens because it is a great portrait lens with beautiful detail. I try to avoid wide lenses due to the distortion and showing more of the background than I need.

6. Now it’ time to measure the power of your flashes. I use a Sekonic L-358 light meter and set the key light to fire at f/8.

7. Then the next step is to measure the background light. Because I want a clean white background, I set the flash to f13. I recommend using up to 2 stops more power than the key light to create a pure white effect in the background.

8. The final step is to choose how to fire your studio flashes. You can use a fire trigger as usual, but in this situation I select to use a Canon 600 EX-RT in manual mode at 1/128 to fire my strobes in optical slave mode.

9. Now that everything is set, you need to choose how to fire your camera remotely. I use a cheap RF602c wireless remote flash trigger. To monitor the composition of the camera I choose to use the Canon EOS Utility (free in your Canon CD software) in Live View mode. I also can fire the camera from the Canon software, but feel that it is more difficult to do it by myself from the keyboard, that is why I choose the wireless trigger.

10. After everything is set and testing, I adjust my camera white balance for true skin tones and fire away.

Written and photographed by Noel Del Pilar.

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