Creating Dynamic Head Shots with Unique Catchlights

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My name is Kristina Sherk and I shoot headshots for a living in Washington DC. Previously, I’ve been known as the “reflector girl” because of my frequent use and demos on Photoflex’s 5-in-1 and 9-in-1 MultiDisc Reflectors. I love shooting with natural light so the MultiDisc Reflectors have been a perfect fit for my style of photography. I’ve even been known to submerge the translucent inner frame portion of the reflector underwater to use for light diffusion (they survived without a scratch on them).

But unfortunately, the weather here in Washington DC is not suitable for outdoor shoots during the winter months. So, I needed to come up with a snazzy new indoor lighting set-up that would set my head shots apart. My clients always comment on how great the eyes look in the photos on my website, and that’s the look they want when they come in and shoot with me.

I’m incredibly happy with the lighting look I was able to get with my new Photoflex HalfDome softboxes. For this set-up I used two medium HalfDomes and one small one. My clients love the catchlights the three HalfDomes create in their eyes. It makes them look nice and bright, and definitely makes their eyes pop off the page.

In this lesson I will walk you through two of my easy, go-to lighting set-ups which are quickly becoming my most popular.

My first lighting set-up illuminates not only the eyes of the subject, but also their skin. It truly makes your client look like they are glowing from the inside out. As you can decipher from the lighting diagram below, I used two medium HalfDomes placed vertically towards the client tilted inward at a 45° angle and the small HalfDome in front and below. I also used one strobe on the white background to light it. Pretty simple, right?

My two top lights were set at equal exposures, and the bottom light was set at 1/2 power. To do this, I used a neutral density gel (film) and taped it over the bottom lamp head. In the final images below you can see how the light is illuminating the face from every direction. I absolutely love this look! And her eyes, even from far away, seem to jump off the page!

Here is a close-up look at the catchlights.

Next, we did a shot with the same lighting setup, but we moved the model much closer to the light source. Check out how much larger the catch lights are with this adjustment.

Next, we moved on and adjusted our triangle lighting setup and turned it into a slightly more advanced approach. As you can see from the diagram and behind the scenes images below, we lit the front of our model with the two large HalfDome soft boxes, and then used three lights to illuminate her from the back. To light from behind, we used two medium sized LiteDomes with grids on them, and one bare strobe on the floor pointing directly at the back of the model.

I couldn’t be happier with the feedback I’ve been getting from my clients since I’ve started using the HalfDomes for this lighting technique. They can really see the difference and they love the way they look in the shots I take. And if I’ve got happy clients, then I’ve got a happy life! Am I right?

Here are some additional client images that were shot with the HalfDome triangle lighting set-up.

Photography: Kristina Sherk
Assistant and BTS: Melissa Robbins
Makeup: Jessie Campbell
Hair: Philip Gravels
Models (In order of appearance):

  • Cari Funkhouser
  • Patty Markos
  • Emily Sargeant
  • Tarsha Darden

Written and photographed by Kristina Sherk.

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