At the end of this post, I'm going to ask you this question: Which headshot style do you prefer?
Kira Lake came to me asking for some help with her portfolio. In exchange, I asked if she would let me experiment with her on a variety of different styles of headshots. I'll title and explain each one below and just ask that you leave a comment at the end. Which style do you prefer?
1) Natural Light
The above image was taken purely with natural light, not even a reflector. Kira is sitting on a chair in my garage. The garage door is open to let in ambient light.
Basically these were shot the same way I did Rachel's pictures with the exception that this was an overcast day about 30 minutes before sunset (Rachel's were at 2pm with the sun striking the driveway behind me). So with the overcast setting sun light, even out in the open Kira would not have had harsh light. The reason I still used the garage was to create "directional light". Standing out in the open she would have been enveloped by highly diffuse "flat" light. The garage created shadows and gave direction to the light. The background is nothing more than my messy garage (highly out of focus due to the shallow Depth of Field of the image).
2) Beauty Dish
Next we moved into the studio to play with studio lights. This image was taken using a 27" Beauty Dish close to and above her head (about a 45 degree angle so that I could get my camera down under the beauty dish).
I'm also using a pair of strip lights (long skinny softboxes with grids in them) back behind and above her to put highlights into her hair. Without a light on the background, the black paper background simply went black.
3) Large Softbox Straight On
I got to thinking about how much I liked the quality of light while shooting in the garage, and how mostly the light is coming straight at her. This got me to thinking. Normally I have my 5' softbox off to the side to create side light. So what if I did it different? What if my main light was straight behind me. In essence I would be duplicating the garage light. But just to make it a little different, I kept the strip lights (mentioned up above) to add highlights to her hair (in the garage setting, her hair went dark along the edges). Another difference is that with my softbox so close to her, there is not enough light to hit the background. So without a background light, the background here goes black.
NOTE: Yes, you can see me in the reflection of her eyes. The black shadow is me standing in front of my softbox.
4) Traditional Portraiture - Large Softbox on the Side
I wanted to compare the above methods with my more traditional portraiture methods. So I put several lights to work here. I have a 5' softbox on camera left as my main light. A smaller softbox acting as my fill light directly behind and above me. Two strip lights to light her hair. And one more light to add a small amount of light to the background.
5) Ring Flash with Fisheye
I had one more scenario I wanted to try. And that was to use my ring flash. I bought this over the summer. It's actually a device that fits over my Canon 580EXII flash rather than a ring flash itself. I had never actually used it for a "real" headshot before, so I thought this was my chance.
I tried it. I hated it! I hated it so bad I'm not even going to show you the picture I took with it. I think the biggest problem is probably the size. This ring flash is just big enough to go around my lens (a bit wider than my 85/1.2L with its hood on. At the distance required to photograph her with the 85mm lens, the flash just ends up looking like a tiny on-camera flash. So I put a different lens on that would let me focus closer to her. I still hated it. In fact, I hated it even more. It was the first flash picture I've taken in a long time that reminded me of why most people hate flash pictures.
So instead, the above image is inspired by Scott Jarvie. It is taken with the Canon 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye Zoom lens at 8mm. Because the lens is so wide, you can actually see the ring flash in the image. I had to have Kira come really close to the lens in order to get this perspective.
So tell me ... which headshot style do you prefer? 1, 2, 3, 4 ... or the unique look of #5?