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Constant Light: Low Key Classic Headshot with Female Model

Lesson 23 from: The Business of Professional Headshots

Gary Hughes

Constant Light: Low Key Classic Headshot with Female Model

Lesson 23 from: The Business of Professional Headshots

Gary Hughes

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Lesson Info

23. Constant Light: Low Key Classic Headshot with Female Model


Class Trailer

Class Overview


Getting Headshot Clients


Headshot Pricing Models for Individuals


Headshot Pricing Models for Groups and Companies


Payment and Delivery for Groups


Six Styles of Business Headshots


Headshot Lighting Gear


Posing Basics for Headshots


Basic Standing Pose for Headshots


Basic Seated Pose for Headshots


Head Position for Headshots


Expression Sells the Image


One-Light High Key Headshot with Male Model


One-Light High Key Headshot with Female Model


Two-Light High Key Headshot with Male Model


Two-Light High Key Headshot with Female Model


Two-Light Standing Pose Headshot with Male Model


Two-Light Standing Pose Headshot with Female Model


One Light Low Key Headshot with Male Model


Two Light Low Key Headshot with Female Model


General Q&A


Constant Light: Low Key Classic Headshot with Male Model


Constant Light: Low Key Classic Headshot with Female Model


Constant Light: Standing Pose Headshot with Male Model


Constant Light: Standing Pose Headshot with Female Model


Setting up the Background for Extraction Shoot


Shooting for Extraction Headshot with Male Model


Shooting for Extraction Headshot with Female Model


Shooting Low Key Modern Headshots for Extraction


Basic Headshot Facial Retouching Techniques


Basic Headshot Eye Retouching Techniques


Basic Headshot Retouching Techniques: Dodge and Burn


Basic Headshot Retouching Q&A


Extracting a Single Subject


Creating a Headshot Composite


F-Type Headshot Lighting: Equipment and Principle


F-Type Headshot Lighting: Execution


Shooting Headshots in Volume


Lesson Info

Constant Light: Low Key Classic Headshot with Female Model

I keep having minor heart attacks because the posing stool in my studio has wheels on it. (laughs) So I always have to tell people to be careful when they sit down and I don't have to do that here. I should probably just get one without wheels on it. That would probably just be the smart thing to do. OK. Although I do like a little element of danger in my studio. Gary, just wanted to pop it. We're getting a lot more questions about the gear that you're using. All of these are hybrid lights from SweetLight System, and they're called hybrid lights because you can use a constant light source, which is not a modeling lamp, it's an actual fluorescent. I don't know if we can get a shot of the bulbs, maybe we can do that a little bit later. But there's a whole circle of fluorescent bulbs inside here and they also have a mount on the back where you can attach a studio strobe which is a real cool way so you can have two lights to accomplish two different things without having to buy two sof...

tboxes. But I really like these a lot, I use the constant lights in the studio. They are kind of cumbersome so I don't necessarily take these on location. I have a separate set of gear, I use my speedlights mostly on location Alright cool. So I'm gonna show you the same exact thing, except we're gonna do the male and female versions. Now what we've got is we've got this perfect setup. I'm gonna go ahead and turn off the main light real quick if we need a little more light because I just wanna show the backlight again on her hair, how cool that is. OK there we go. Alrighty, I'll stand in the spotlight. Here I go, OK. Now if you're looking through the camera, we're gonna do the same exposure, maybe I'll amp it up a little bit just so you can see. Focus, good. OK, now we're gonna be able to see just the edge light. Her hair, because she's got long dark hair, is gonna be a perfect way for us to be able to see what our edge lights are doing. Add one more. There. And you can even see it with the naked eye which is really really cool. Focus and shoot. OK let's pull up the next one which is going to be 7391. I'll go ahead and turn these back on. Now you can see exactly what I'm going for. All the way around her hair, the top of her head, and her shoulders, you have that thin separation line that's gonna keep her off of the background. That is super important when you're shooting low key. The varying level of intensity is up to you. That's a stylistic choice. I really like to use it so that it almost doesn't look like it's there. I just want it to be there enough to accomplish my goal of separating the subject from the background. Perfect. OK, I think we're good. Now again we can also vary the intensity of the shadow side, we're using that classic directional lighting, by the distance of the reflector from the subject. So I can put that nice and close. And again this is constant lighting so you can see exactly what you're getting. So let's do that. Perfect. Or you can bring it out and make it a little more drama. A little more drama. So that is almost flat. You see what I mean? And then if you want to, she's got this great bone structure that you really could do well to show off, but if you wanted to slim her face a little bit you bring that shadow. So put 7394 and 7393 next to each other as soon as you can that'd be great. So let's work on the posing a little bit. Again, with the ladies I'm gonna do both sides of the face. Sometimes I'll even ask, do you have a side of your face that you prefer? And about 50/50 they'll go, what are you talking about? Is one side of my face ugly? No I'm just kidding. But they'll say yes, yeah actually I prefer this side. And then you know you wanna make sure that you do that. In fact sometimes you'll put them into a certain angle and they'll go, oh no, no, I don't like that side of my face. So what you wanna do is, even if they don't know what they're talking about, you wanna be seen to do what they're asking you to do. That's gonna create a better working relationship OK. Alright, so if you'd just bring your feet this way a little bit for me. Perfect. She already has good posture and her hand position is fine. If I wanted to get a little more on the shoulders I would ask her to bring her hands a little further up her lap. Good. OK and if you would turn your head into that light a little bit for me. And there we go. Perfect. And let's do a little tilt this way. And just a tiny smile at the corners of your mouth. Just a little bit. Cool. Alright. Did you get a bagel this morning? They had really good bagels here. They do. They have excellent bagels at CreativeLive. Because we lost a little bit on the height switching from Oscar, then we're going to lower it just a little, because I don't wanna get hooding in those eyes. I wanna make sure that those eyes are lit. So I lowered this just a couple of inches. And you'll see that just like always, I'm not pointing the light at her. I'm using the soft light that's coming off the edge of the softbox. I'm still getting direction, but it's gonna give you softer light, it's going to give you smoother transition into those shadows, and it's going to give you a more even light across the face. You ever take a picture and then this side of the face is like three stops brighter than this side of the face? Because your light's too close and you're pointing in at them. If you use it this way it's going to be a lot more easy, or a lot easier, and a lot more pleasing to look at for the most part. OK, she's ready to go. I want you to lean into me just a little bit. If you extend that face to you, you don't have this so don't take this the wrong way, if you have somebody with a little bit of weight on them, leaning them towards you, putting their head in front of their body mass is going to thin them out. And not only that, but you're going to elongate the neck and bring that chin forward on somebody who maybe their chin isn't as prominent. So if you have somebody like me, I have a beard so you can't tell, but somebody like me who has a sort of weak chin, you definitely wanna have them lean in to you. Always bring that face to be the closest thing to the camera. Perfect. You don't have that problem at all. (laughs) Lean into me a little bit. And lift the chin just a touch. There we go, perfect. One and two. I want you to tilt your head this way a little bit. And turn your head just so. There you go. One and two. Cool. And now I wanna bring your feet round the other side. Just so, excellent. Sitting up nice and tall. You're gonna lean into me this way. Turn your nose this way a touch. Tilt your head like that. Good. Nose this way a little bit. See how easy it is to direct? I'm not only showing her with my hand but I'm doing it myself all at the same time. Awesome. Leave a little headroom is our classic look. One and two. That looks awesome. Perfect. Alright, is my hair OK? Good thanks, I appreciate that. (laughs) Alright now I want you to tilt your head this way. There you go. One and, perfect expression, two, excellent. Alright, cool. So now we just basically we did four different looks in about two minutes, where she's, no matter what she prefers about herself, she's gonna get an angle on her face, something that she likes. And you can do that without even letting them know that you're doing it. Be like, oh I'm shooting this side of your face because the other side's a little messed up. You don't wanna say stuff like that to your client. Yours isn't at all! No, you're beautiful all the way around. OK cool, so I'm gonna switch to, how are we doing on time? We're actually doing good on time. Alright, killer. So we can take our time and do this. And I wanna just one more time show you, bringing the light around, and we're gonna do a standing this time so we're gonna have to raise the light a little bit. I would actually, if you could go over here just for a minute in case I knock something over it'll only be damage to equipment, not damage that requires a neurologist or a neurosurgeon. Is everybody having fun with the constant lighting? Does it not seem so much easier than working with strobe? Absolutely. I would encourage these hybrids again, I'm not trying to make it a commercial for these lights but if you want to learn lighting and you can use these and you can see what you're doing as you're doing it and then when you're ready to jump up and start using studio strobes it's absolutely, you just stick one on the back of these and that's what they become. Pretty cool idea. So I wanna show you that the underlighting using the female subject, how it's a little more pleasing to the eye most of the time. Again, we're not pigeonholing anybody. I have a daughter and I would be sad to think that she just bought into traditional gender roles without ever examining her life, but photography is what it is and we're playing the averages here. Seriously, I think it would be really cool if she was a drummer in a rock and roll band. That would be awesome. Doesn't that sound like I'm a thousand years older, (mimics elderly voice) drummer in a rock and roll band. (mimicking elderly voice) When I was your age we didn't have hot chocolate, we just had hot. (laughs) That's not my joke, I stole that from Grandpa Simpson. I just wanted to confess that to you guys. Alright, you ready? It's thirsty work, educating. Now I wanna show you how soft this light can be. I want you to come even a little closer. Right there, perfect. I'm gonna angle this right up. This is full power. This is gonna be half power. Because if you go, yeah it's a little too much so we're just gonna keep this at half. And even at half power, I mean, the difference between these two lights, the ratio. There are six 65 watt bulbs in this one and four 45 watt bulbs, so even at full power this isn't putting out near what this is, but because it's smaller, it has the ability to add some of that specular light into it. So let me just adjust my lights a little bit. And the difference between the two types of light we're gonna talk about photographically, specular and diffused, specular is extra shiny, diffused is nice and soft. And the smaller the light source, the more specular the light if that makes any sense. Cool? Jumping dangerously back over all these cables. Yeah that's cool. Let's just do a quick test of that. Oh too much. Again, I'm not changing anything except my ISO when I move the lights. There we go, that is awesome. So this is gonna be something that is gonna be a lot more along the lines of sort of traditional glamor lighting. If you ever happen into a grocery store and at the checkout counter all those magazines there, they're doing something fairly similar to this. One permutation of it or another. So this is a really cool type of lighting that, in people's minds, they really only see this in the context of magazines and celebrities and stuff like that, so when they see themselves lit like this the reaction is often very positively strong, like they had no idea they could look that good. So this is one really cool setup to use for clients. And remember we talked about relationship marketing? Doing portraits for your friends that are professionals so that other people will see them and want them. This is the type of thing that will typically, just kind of knock people's socks off when they see it, because most people have never seen themselves like this before. So let's pose this a little bit. I wanna have you turn this way for me just a touch. Alright, I want you to bring your arms back. Just rest it, grab those behind. Now what this has done, is if she holds her sort of, gently hands or wrists, or what do they call this in the military? Parade rest? Then it's gonna give you automatic good posture. Because if you're hands are just at your sides like this, you're gonna have to keep telling them to straighten up. So since this is just a headshot I say just relax and hold those hands back here. You automatically are gonna get a really nice posture. Especially, I wouldn't recommend this sitting, but (laughs) standing it works really well. Because that would be a really weird pose to be in if you were sitting. OK so, I want you to take your right foot and point that toe at me. Good. Excellent. And now we're gonna tilt your head back this way just a little bit. Bring that chin down. Awesome. Killer, killer. I'm gonna just give it a quick look-through. Yeah, I like the way that looks a lot. We've got great separation. We've got really great... Yeah that's beautiful. OK here we go. OK you're gonna tilt a little this way. I want you to relax that jaw, let a little air go between the lips OK? Perfect. And now I want you to slowly bring that into a smile that touches the corners of your mouth. Soften up those eyes too. Like you're looking at a cute guy or something. There you go, perfect. (laughs) Wow! (audience laughs) Boy crazy! Oh God. I'm just kidding. (laughs) A full on laughing smile is rarely what you're gonna wanna go with in a situation like this, but it's in the moments coming up and coming down from that. The afterglow of a good laugh is a really killer expression a lot of the times. So keep that in mind. Some people, they get somebody to smile and then they grab it, and then you can, not you, somebody can look like a crazy person like, you know. So you want that when they're still kind of thinking the joke's just kind of receding, like the waves receding from the shore. Yeah and look. Look at the lightness in the eyes there. This is the aftermath of just having a good genuine laugh. And you can see genuine happiness and comfort in the eyes. It's a really, really cool time. So grab that immediately after you get a laugh is a really cool thing. And you don't have to be cheesy. I mean I am, that's just kind of my thing, but you don't have to. It's just having a conversation with somebody is often the best way to do that. I want you to tilt your head this way for me. Chin down a little bit. So we'll go a little more on the serious side. Turn your head this way just a little. I want you to separate those lips a little bit. OK, I want you to take a deep breath (inhales) let it go. (exhales) Yeah, good. And at the waist, just lean into me a little bit like that. Yeah, perfect. Bring that face close to the camera. Good. How's your eyebrow work? Can you just do a little, yeah there you go. Yeah, perfect! I like that a lot. Good, good, good. So you're gonna see again that difference between having the head tilted to the camera shoulder and the head tilted to the far shoulder and both work great for ladies, almost always across the board. But you're gonna get a little more assertiveness, a little more seriousness, or even a little more intrigue, mystery, that type of thing, to tilt the head and to lower the chin. But if you go back to the other side, please tilt with me this way, it's gonna become a totally different thing. And sometimes you want, a little less, you want like a two degree difference, can change the feeling of an image. Tiny smile at the corners of your mouth there for me. Yeah, lock in. There's one. And now tilt even a little more. OK can we put those last two up if possible. That's 7421 and 7422. I want just the difference of a little extra tilt. It's gonna give you something that's gonna go from open and approachable, still potentially professional, to a little overly friendly, a little overly familiar. So really you're gonna wanna think about the intent of the image, the position of the person that you're photographing. So we got those two up? 22 and 21 if we can. Alright I'm good with that. Excellent. So, I'm gonna have to change to the white and we'll do the same thing with high key and I'll show you that, so that might take me a minute if you happen to have any questions while I'm moving stuff around. Thank you, you're awesome. An RJ Carson says, "Excellent info regarding shooting smiles. Thanks Gary." Aww RJ. What a sweetheart. So, quick question from Madison Parker while you're setting all this up, "I've heard that constant light can get very hot. Do your clients feel uncomfortable under the heat of the lights?" Do they ever start to sweat? Or is it that you're moving pretty quickly? That's a really good question and I can't even believe I didn't think to say anything about it before. The constant lights, these are fluorescent so they do not get particularly hot, they stay very, very cool. In fact, some people do refer to them as cool lights. However, if you go back to the old-school days of Hollywood glamor photography, stuff like that, let's see I make the taco, then I fold it, ta da, those were like tungsten, hot lights. I mean, those would get hot, you could sweat, but these do not. You can't even feel any heat coming off them. There is a little bit obviously, there is electricity going in there, but they stay very, very cool. They don't raise the temperature. I have a very small studio and a very weak air conditioner, and they don't raise the temperature to an uncomfortable level. I don't even notice them there. Do we have any questions in the studio? Yeah if you wanna grab the mic please. Are these lights the same intensity? We came in, we didn't get to see the setup, so was that light you're standing right in front of the same as the lights in the strip. Absolutely great question. This is gonna be similar, but this is definitely gonna be more. Again, these strip lights, these are 10 by 36 strips, they have four 45 watt fluorescent bulbs in them. This has six 65 watt bulbs. And you can put whatever bulbs you want in them, both fit, but I really want this main light to be the most powerful thing I'm working with. You can actually figure out what the difference in power is, but basically I'm going for a one stop difference between those lights and my main light most of the time. Maybe even a little less dramatic. They are variable if you put in different types of bulbs. You can get more if you put the 65 watts in there, but I'm pretty cool with just using the 45s. However, they are, as intensity-wise, they're gonna be really, the constant part of these, because they can both do strobe and constant, are really gonna be mostly good for shooting in studio when you have control and you're able to lower and raise the lighting levels. If you take them into an office to do shoot and they have a really big window that's letting a lot of daylight in, the constant lights are not gonna be very good for you. You won't be able to see what you're doing and there will be too much a mix of what's going on. Now, the cool thing about these is, you pop a strobe on the back (snaps) then totally negates that. Is that cool? As you continue to set up, somebody had asked, so why, if these constant lights work so well, why would you go to strobes? Is that some of the reasoning? That's a really great question. You go to strobes if you, like right now I was shooting at F4 at 1250 ISO, which, these constant lights have become more relevant. They've been around a long time, but they've become more relevant as cameras are capable of doing those higher ISOs with less and less noise. If you were gonna shoot something that was intended for a really large format that you needed the bare minimum noise and something that you needed a really deep depth of field, like we're gonna cover extraction in one of the segments later today, shooting for that extraction, which means I'm gonna be shooting at F11 or F16. Something like that. And you couldn't get to F16 with these lights unless you got that ISO really really high. So you wanna make sure that you have those strobes available to you because you wanna be able to do that type of work because it can be really cool, but these won't get you there. They won't get you to those higher F stops. Makes sense? And I'm taking these grids off because I wanna use a broader light from these background lights. Just in case anybody asks that. Just like so. Magical Velcro. So what we're gonna do is I'm gonna use the constant lights to still continue to do high key, and if you point these lights at each other without those on, they're gonna have a much wider spread. So now I've got light, I'm just gonna use this brick wall because we're gonna do a high key that maybe we can even leave a little texture in the background that will look kind of cool. When you're shooting on a white background, edge lighting becomes less relevant. The reason is because, you can't see it as well because the background is the same level of brightness as the edge lighting on the subject. So you're not gonna be focused as much on creating that. You don't need that separation and you can't see it as well as you can in low key, so I'm gonna mostly use these to cast a little light on the background. And they're both set to the same intensity. And hopefully, if we do this right, the background will be nice and light, but you'll still get a little bit of the detail of that cool brick wall in there.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

6 Styles of Headshots
Gear List

Ratings and Reviews

Melville McLean

Gary Hughes is possibly the best teacher I have seen here and that is a very high compliment. His business analysis is simple and to the point. His set ups and techniques are simple and straight forward, no easy task in itself. His interactions with his models/clients are finely developed and reduced into the fewest but most important key exchanges. He teaches by example how to interact and direct. If you are a high volume photography with brief time per sitter, you might especially appreciate his tips. It is extraordinarily difficult to keep a tight, well structured class going live for so long at a time. His intelligence, wit and personality are all in his favor but it is the content itself that is most impressive. I am not a portrait photographer but I have 30 years of commercial studio experience. He knows what is most important, leaves out the rest and has organized the material in anticipation of most difficulties that arise so that it rests in a seamless, smooth, coherent learning experience. All of his practical advice is excellent. Just understand that his work is about doing a relatively large number of shots in the most efficient way rather than a lot of time spent on a few clients for a completely different format [presentation like very large prints. In fact he is especially pragmatic. He emphasizes that you do not have to own the most expensive equipment but you absolutely do have to know how to use the equipment that you already have. And I am telling you this as someone he makes fun of in his course with fancy cameras and Profoto lighting gear. He is an advocate of all thought out approaches as well as relying on skills and knowledge. You will understand how and why to make all of his key, conventional light and posing set ups. He makes everything sound simple and doable -- and with his help -- it is. What you have to appreciate is that it is up to each individual to acquire the specialized skills to make our work compelling enough to be competitive. The unspoken truth that we all face is that talent plays a key role as well and that it takes time to become every accomplished. But I have also seen concentration, commitment and hard work result in developing innate talents that blossom in very successful careers. Mr Hughes reduces every step into the clearest, most essential components. He is self effacing both as a photographer and post process retoucher but he is very good indeed and does not waste time overdoing images that cannot benefit from a larger format presentation. Everything is appropriate and practical. He has already removed everything that does not matter for his purposes for us that would only interfere with the concise, clarity of his presentation.


I am so glad that I had the opportunity to watch this course. It has not only provided valuable lighting set-ups, but also great basics for posing.!. The Photoshop extraction technique Gary demonstrated was icing on the cake. Gary did a great job teaching and I greatly admired the technique in which he taught. Thanks for a great class!


This was an excellent class! The class covered so much information and great tips and ideas. Gary is funny and has an easy going approach, which makes the class that much more enjoyable. As a struggling pet photographer, I have been trying to find something to supplement my business with that does not involve children/babies, or shooting weddings again and headshots seemed to be a great option. After watching this class, I feel confident building up a headshot component to my business. Definitely recommend this class!

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