Lighting Styles for headshots

Recently I had the privilege of shooting with Laura, an experienced model and a new friend.  Laura needed some updated headshots and I wanted to try a few different lighting styles.  The lighting in the first image, above, is pretty traditional. We had a large main light to camera left and a fill light on low power just slightly to the right coming over my shoulder. If you look closely at Laura’s eyes, you will see the two catchlights reflecting the two studio lights.  This is a classic, flattering lighting setup. A soft feel, but you still have some sense of three dimensionality – notice slightly more shading on the right side of Laura’s face (right as we look at it).  There was a third light way over to the right side, just putting some highlights in her hair, but positioned so as not to hit her face.

Here’s a very different lighting arrangement. There is just one small light high and to camera left. I was going for a dramatic, almost cinematic feel.  This is often a difficult light for photographing women, but Laura’s smooth and clear skin could carry it off. Notice the small, well-defined catchlights in the eyes.  When you look at a headshot, check out the catchlights first – they can often provide clues to how the lighting was set up.

The shot above is one form of “beauty lighting” – one light directly over the camera angled down at about 45 degrees and then a reflector held just under the visible frame of the picture to reflect some light back into the face.  Normally, an image with this lighting would have the model looking straight ahead, but it works well here, in my view, with a slight turn and tilt of the head.

This is the same lighting setup, but with Laura’s face almost squared up to the camera. I love the spontaneous big open laugh!

Back to soft overall lighting below.  I always like to do a few headshots that include the hands. These can be tricky. Hands are very expressive and we infer a lot of emotions from them, based on how they are positioned.  What feelings are you reading into this image? Your comments, as always, are most welcome – either on the blog or by email.


1 Response to “Lighting Styles for headshots”

  1. November 22, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    Very nice Blake, Nice email as well.

    Happy Thanksgiving, Steve

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