Sunday, February 17, 2013

“Quick, we need a headshot!”

Last December I was thrilled to participate as a guest ‘expert’ at an accessories boutique’s 'Get Glam for the Holidays’ event.  The opportunity presented itself without a tonne of notice, which happens often, and they needed a headshot from me for their marketing.  Although I take seflies on my iPhone somewhat frequently I didn’t have a professional looking headshot.  I only had two hours (they could have extended the deadline but I was happy to try and make their lives as easy as possible) and so I sent them a headshot that I’d done for our family Christmas card the year before (the card had been 'Brady Bunch’ style with separate headshots of our entire gang, furry kids and all!).  The headshot I sent worked out fine and, in fact, suited the opportunity in that I’m wearing a fabulous accessory in the shot!  That said, I swore, that day, to not be caught again without a professional headshot.

Well, that was in early December, and we were en route to Mexico for a friend’s wedding...then came Christmas...then it was early January after WAY too many delicious meals...and then it was early February when I needed to have minor surgery to remove Basal Cell Skin Cancer on my cheek (I blogged about this and encourage you to read that post to learn more about what type of sunscreen you should be using!)...and then, recently, I was approached for an upcoming opportunity and they needed a headshot, and I STILL didn’t have one!

So, this past Wednesday (knowing I needed to send my headshot to someone on Wednesday!) I set up some lights, readied my assistant (mannequin), and was LUCKY to have my truly lovely friend and talented HMUA, Sarah Byrne, do my hair and makeup (I had intended to do my own but she, being the generous soul that she is, insisted on helping me!).

In approaching this self portrait shoot I waffled a little with how to light it.  I knew that I couldn’t, or maybe shouldn’t, try to do anything too moody/technical for two reasons: I don’t think the average headshot is moody (and I wanted to portray my happy self!) AND it’s tough enough when you are shooting alone to get things right and so fiddling with the light hitting me was going to make the process that much harder.  I opted for clamshell lighting (which is flattering (I'm not 21!) and I knew it would be easy to make sure I was in the light), with a boomed hair/rim, and a tall piece of Styrofoam.

I used Principessa, my assistant, to stand in for me whenever I changed lenses or camera orientation, so that I could get a crisp focus.  Despite being a lover of shooting wide open I knew that it wasn’t really necessary given that I had a plain, black backdrop, nor could I risk the focus; I shot, on my Canon 5DMII, at f/11, 1/125 second, at ISO 100.  I started the shoot using a Sigma 85 f/1.4 but found that I liked the ease of a zoom in this scenario; therefore, majority of the images with a 70-200 f/4.0.

After focusing on Principessa with the studio lights on, moving her out of frame and the stool into position; I turned off the primary studio lights (to avoid any colour contamination) and used my camera’s, which was on a tripod and aimed at subject in the small space in between the two umbrellas, 10 second self timer to fire the shutter.  I was using Pocket Wizards to fire my Canon 580 EXII flash, which was modified with a large umbrella in front of subject and angled up; the flash then triggered two strobes: one situated in front of subject angled down and modified by the same size umbrella as on the flash, and another strobe that was behind subject, camera right, situated on a boom facing the subject’s back/hair, with a 40 degree grid in the reflector.  I used the Styrofoam on camera left to help reflect back some of the hair/rim light from the boomed strobe to help add some separation on the subject’s right side.  It’s noteworthy that there are some shots that I could absolutely see the difference that the rim light provided and others that I couldn’t; inevitably I know that I moved a little when moving the stool to position Principessa for focus and then moving her back out of frame, together with the fact that I was moving in and out of frame for each shot...this was a somewhat tedious process and I only had an hour and a half until I had to do my afternoon school run!

I situated the two umbrellas so that you can see them in the diagram, they were actually in line with each other, with the camera in between them and directly in front of subject.
I knew that I wanted a really clean shot and had hoped for a headshot that was simple and without fancy clothes…after all, what I most love when shooting women are those shots that really show THE WOMAN as opposed to the fancy clothes!  The following are a few of my favourites from this adventure.  I really enjoyed the process (although I did swear a few times :) ), and would encourage any photographer to tackle their own self portrait!  

Life is beautiful!


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