Photographing headshots in a small space
This headshots photo session for a large corporate client, started off as a bit of a challenge — they wanted half-length seated portraits against a white background. Because the room they put me in was a bit too tight, I set everything up at an angle, so that I could shoot from outside the door to get a proper working distance. I would have had enough room here if I only had to do tight headshots, but the client wanted half-length seated shots, and the space was too small for that if I wanted an even background.
I wanted to avoid the need for any avoidable Photoshop work. I had to photograph 40+ headshots that day, so I want to keep Photoshop to a minimum. Even though Photoshop’s Content-Aware Fill Tool is fantastic, I really wanted files out of the camera as close to correct as I could. Therefore I dragged in a roll of 9ft-wide paper roll, and lighting stands.
Lighting setup for this photo session
I used 4 lights, as can be seen in the photo above. Two lights on the background, and two lights for my subject.
The two main lights on my subject were Profoto D1 Air 500Ws studio flashes (affiliate) that I ran off AC power.
The main light to camera-right is the Westcott 7-ft Parabolic Umbrella – white (B&H / Amazon). You can see the corner of the main light (the 7-ft parabolic umbrella) in the top right-hand corner of this frame. This large umbrella just floods the entire place with light, helping to avoid specific shadows on the background – although the two background lights would remove most of any shadow. Here is a review: Westcott 7-ft Parabolic Umbrella.
Because the space I had for the fill-light to camera-left was so cramped, I used the narrow Angler Parsail 60″ Umbrellas (affiliate). It is a superb umbrella that helps me in a pinch. Here is the review: Best photo umbrella for a home-studio & indoor headshots
About the photo session workflow
For this headshot session, I rented a the Nikon D850 (B&H / Amazon). The client requested seated portraits as the headshots, but I also wanted to be ready for requests afterwards for a tighter, more usual headshot. The extreme megapixel count of the Nikon D850 still gave me an easy 12-16 megapixels on a tighter crop of everyone.
I had to photograph around 40 people intermittently during the say as the group took breaks or had lunch. Then it is a 5 minutes per person crunch. And then I sit and wait for an hour or two to the next break time.
I shot everything hand-held. I don’t do tripods for headshots.
It is essential to shoot tethered to a computer. This helps client to pick a favorite photo, and also change anything they want in how they present themselves. This 99% avoids anyone being unhappy a week later when you send the photographs over.
The computer I used here was a MacBook Air, but I brought a 26” Apple Cinema display along to give an impressively large image which helps in the selection process which had to be fast.
I use Nikon Camera Control Pro as the tethering software, and I use Bridge to preview the RAW files.
I shoot, go through the images … star rate them and pick the subject’s favorite shot. Then I rename, and move the images to a folder of their name. Next!