Tag Archive | Head Shots

Lynn Tao of Juniper

Lynn Tao of Juniper

I love narrow depth of field head shots.  This one was recently taken of Lynn Tao, the CEO and founder of Juniper (http://www.getjuniper.com).   She needed a head shot for some fund raising and we offered to take a couple of shots in our home studio before I gave birth (any day now).

Narrow depth of field lets you focus in on the eyes and lets the other elements drift off.  The lighting setup was pretty straight forward and shown below.  I used a softbox a bit off-axis exposed at f/8.0 as the key light, then used a shoot-through umbrella exposed at f/5.6 as the fill light, and then two strip boxes shooting down as hair lights exposed at f/5.6.  These are pretty strong hair lights, which gave a nice shine to her hair.

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One of the challenges with shooting with lighting is that you can’t shoot arbitrarily fast, typical sync-speeds with cameras are 1/160s to 1/250s.  Thus to get a narrow depth of field you either have to turn down the lights very low, but that requires shutting out ambient light or you have to come up with a way to reduce the amount of light getting into the camera.  I typically use variable neutral density (ND) filters to reduce the amount of light by some sizeable amount.  The ND filter I used in this shot was  55mm filter that reduces light by a factor of 2 to 400, i.e. 1 stop to 8.6 stops.  You can lose some sharpness with ND filters if they aren’t high quality.  This one fortunately is a good one.

Another interesting feature  about narrow depth of field head shots is that there is a minimal aperture you should ever use.  If you frame a portrait head shot, it will be about 60cm tall.  You always want to have about 3.5cm in focus.  Now if you change focal length, keeping the aperture number fixed and keeping the framing of the shot, the hyperfocal distance will change, but the distance to the shot divided by the hyperfocal distance stays fixed.   For a full frame camera, this works out to an aperture number of N=2.2, while for a APS-C crop sensor it works out to be N=1.6.  I’ve attached a slide showing how the math works out.

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Young professional headshot


Sorry for the delayed post, I’ve been behind the Great Firewall and somewhat shockingly, WordPress is blocked.

I recently got back and took a couple of quick headshots for young professionals. This one was a gorilla-style headshot in the Financial District in SF. He wanted something with a bit of a cityscape in the background. We shot for about 20 minutes and got about 100 shots off before we quietly disappeared.

I used my 135mm f/1.8 lens that has become my go-to lens for most shoots. This shot was at 1/200s f/4.0 ISO400. It was a bright sunny day and he was under an awning looking towards the sun. The key light is reflecting off a neutral colored wall. The catch lights came from him looking out towards the sun. We had to work at making sure he wasn’t squinting.

Head Shot For Young Professionals

Head Shot Set Shoot

I had a head shot booked Saturday morning with two young, professional twins looking for photos for their workplace websites. I set up the home studio with a simple white backdrop.

I wanted to do a four light set up, a key and fill plus two hair lights to give a symmetric feel for any joint shots with the two twins. I first exposed the hair lights and set the exposure to f/2.8. The hair lights were in strip boxes with speedlites aimed down. I then set up the fill light to f/4.0 with a monolight with a shoot-through umbrella. Finally, I set up a softbox monolight as the key light exposed to f/5.6.

I set the lighting expose on the low side because my home studio has a low ceiling with white paint, which thankfully isn’t gloss. In the past, brighter exposures have had problems with bleed over from light bouncing off the walls and ceilings. I sometimes set up black backdrops on the sides and even the ceiling to control the bounces. But I didn’t want to set up these control measures because they look a bit ghetto, particularly the backdrop covering the ceiling.

After the shoot began, it went pretty fast, we knocked about 200 shots off divided evenly between Ashley, Dana and the pair together.  Throughout the shoot I used an 85mm f/1.4 on a full-frame camera shooting without a tripod and a 135mm f/1.8 on a APS-C crop sensor for an effective focal length of 202.5mm mounted on a tripod. The 85mm came out very well and provided more unique shots because of the free form, but the best shots in the lot were on the 135mm, which is better length for portraits.

I included a crop of the catch-lights. I’d be a bit happier with the catchlights being more symmetric and a bit wider. I am thinking about getting a second softbox and white shoot-through umbrella to be able to get symmetric catchlights.  I like the look when catchlights frame the pupils.  I wasn’t gong for that look here, but I think angling both catchlights wider would have given a better result.

Two shoot day


Since I’m an amateur, I usually only do at most one shoot a day, but today I ended up being double booked with one shoot in the home studio and the other on location.  I don’t have a dedicated space for my home studio, so I have to put it up and take it down whenever I do a shoot.   It ends up being quite a bit of work, but it does produce reasonable results.  Location shoots are fun, though they present their own challenges getting enough shots.

I did a headshot shoot in the home studio for some twins.  They’re young professionals and needed some professional shots for their school and and internships.   I set up a four light shoot with a simple white backdrop with a soft box key light, a shoot-through umbrella as a fill and a pair of strip boxes shooting down as hair lights.  we knocked out a couple outfit changes for each and a couple of candid photos of them as a pair.    I used a 135mm f/1.8 and a 85mm f/1.4.  Both work great for studio work.  Today I had the 135 on the APS-C sensor bringing the range to an effective 202.5mm, which is great for portraits.  I had the 85 on the full-frame.

In the afternoon, I went over with my husband to an eating contest.  It was held outdoors with beautiful Bay Area weather.  We set up a two-light photobooth to take photos of the victors and then had another camera doing candids.  For the photobooth, we used an APS-C camera with a 16-50mm f/2.8 lens.  For the candids we used a 24-70mm f/2.8, 16mm f/2.8, 85mm f/1.4 and 135mm f/1.8.  The 135mm f/1.8 is a relatively new lens for us, but it is has quickly become one of our favorites.  It’s a Zeiss Sonnar lens design and produces crisp images with beautiful colors.  It’s amazing when we switch over the 24-70 to the 135, the change in image quality is stunning.  If it wasn’t for the lack of range, I might stick with it for entire candid shoots.

The eating contest produced a lot of great shots and had a lot of scenes.  The best scenes were the pie eating contest, the Odwalla drinking contest and the hot wing eating contest.  We got to meet some great people, I also got to meet some of my husband’s acquaintances.