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The Business of Professional Headshots

Lesson 28 of 38

Shooting for Extraction Headshot with Female Model


The Business of Professional Headshots

Lesson 28 of 38

Shooting for Extraction Headshot with Female Model


Lesson Info

Shooting for Extraction Headshot with Female Model

Okay, so let's analyze just that 7462, just the image on Shawnee there. I just wanna really look at this and make sure that we're gonna be able to cut this out of the background really easily. Okay. Cool. Now we do have something to think about here. She has on a gray dress which has pockets, by the way. That's a relatively new thing, right girls? Dresses having pockets. Isn't that awesome? My wife loves that. I don't have to hold her chapstick ever again. Ever again. Alright. Now you're looking all the way around the edges. There's a great difference between her skin tone, her bare arms and the wall. Her hair. Very easy. Everything's all in focus. We are getting in the same sort of color family when we get to her dress and the wall. What I would really look at this and I would go, there is enough contrast there to where this isn't gonna be hard for me to cut this out. Do you understand? Okay, so you've really gotta think about that. If, in the case where, let's say, she was wearing a ...

lighter gray dress and it was a lot closer, in that case I would have to do something to discern her dress more from the background. Any idea what that might be? You wanna grab a mic? You would light the back wall? I would light the back wall, absolutely. And even though I am shooting the same people for the same group shot composite extraction that I'm gonna put together in the next segment, I would add a little bit of light just to make that wall right behind her... I would spot it. In fact, we can do it. We've got the technology. Can we not do that? I'll show you what I would do. Alright. Alright. Let's do this guy. Lacey, do we have... Oh, is she here? No. I need one of the metal cones that's right there on the edge of that table. Please. See how easy that is? You just take it off the back. That is amazing, thank you. Alright. (mumbles) That's it, I'm good. Okay, I'm gonna need to grab Megan. Megan, the light stand; not Megan, the person. Here we go. (sighs) There we go. We were searching high and low for a light stand small enough to do what I want it to do. One of the amazing crew members here came up with this contraption and it's been working awesome all day. So, Megan's out of a job now. Okay. So, I am not... I am using this cone because I don't want it to hit the whole light, I want to focus it just a little bit. But I'm gonna put this on a real low power, just to start with. I just need a few shades of difference. I don't need to blow this out of the box, okay? Let me hook this on here. I'm serious about these lights, you guys. There are more expensive lights out there but I haven't found anything that these can't do quite yet. Alright. So I'm gonna make sure that's on and that I don't need a modeling light. If I'm gonna use a modeling light, I'm gonna kinda see where that light's gonna fall a little bit but I won't leave it on. But you can kinda see the spread you're gonna get. I'm putting on a pretty low power. And remember, I am shooting at F-11, so low power may not actually even register. So we're gonna put that probably on 1/16 power which is not quite the lowest power setting. And I can see with that modeling light where that light's gonna go. Okay. Now what we've got is too much light. I'm gonna pop it. Clear it. (mumbles) (camera clicks) There we go. Aww, there we have it. 64. Now do you see what happens the way that I angled that just at the wall below her? But now if we put together along with 7462, we will be able to see the difference between the two images. 64 and will be great. So what we're gonna see is that I have taken the background and I've put a few more degrees of separation of tone between the gray dress around the waist and the white wall. However, I really think that without the light, it's enough. But I did want to make the point, that you add that light if you're in a situation, you can more a little bit of light but not too much to cause a little more separation. If you run into a situation where you need more, then always have those extra lights on hand. But in this case, I don't think we need it. But you will run into situations where you're going to. So always take a look at the image. Look at what the person's wearing. What color is their hair. And what color background are you using. You can do this a hundred different ways, the main point is you have to have enough separation to grab those pixels in Photoshop and also to not get so much bouncing off that wall, that the color tone, whether it's white, green, blue, or whatever, bounces back onto the subject causing a halo. So, Gary, we did have a number of questions about wardrobe as you're talking about. Do you actually give guidelines Absolutely To people and whether that's also... Not just by color but make sure you're clothes aren't wrinkled like all those types of things Absolutely What are the guidelines you give? When we do team photos, especially that we know we're gonna extract in this situation. We actually have Pinterest boards put together which are an easy way to share with somebody. And you can show them examples of other team photos you've done. You want to encourage people to dress in the same color tone. I encourage... So if somebody's not in a navy blue and somebody's in a light gray and then somebody's in a white suit and then somebody's in a black suit, that doesn't work. If somebody's got a polka dot tie and somebody's got a striped tie and somebody's got a Spongebob Squarepants tie, you wanna make sure that they look like a team. You don't necessarily want it to be a uniform but they are gonna have to decide what works. I always encourage people, medium gray is just the easiest. You can go different shades of gray all go good together. You could go charcoal to whatever else is out there. But we do create style guides on the Pinterest board and we have a huge FAQ section that has multiple different parts and one of those parts is, what do I wear for my headshot session. How do we dress as a team, stuff like that. It is important also to make sure that, as a side note, everybody should wear a jacket or nobody should wear a jacket. That's gonna be tantamount to making everybody look good. That's fantastic. So, Pinterest and a FAQ. Oh yeah and you have to gather as much information as possible. And even be ready to let them take pictures of what they're planning on wearing and text it to you or whatever. We do that all the time with clients. Great. Now, we're talking about trying to not get white and necessarily, in this scenario, what everyone's wearing. What about doctors and their offices where they're all wearing the white coats, what do you do in that scenario? Excellent point. We do have stuff with lab coats. Then I will use a darker background and I will use a little separation lighting on the subject. If you have something to wear, everbody's gonna be in a white lab coat, that's a totally different scenario but I will probably still shoot on a gray background. The ultimate background will still look gray. I want it to be as neutral as possible. It's how light of a gray am I gonna use. Because, when you shoot gray, you're gonna find it very easy for most hair color to really get it off the background. And I would probably use a slightly darker gray if I was doing a bunch of doctors in lab coats. I've had that happen before, for sure. If I was shooting to composite which is what we're talking about. Cool. Alright. So, let's start... We're gonna go ahead and go without the light and I wanna start creating some of the poses which we're gonna use for Shawnee for the extraction. You ready? Okay cool. Turn your body this way just a little bit. That's perfect. Point that toe at me. Good. I want you to just relax your hands at your sides, like this. And then I want you to turn your head into the light. Tilt a little. Drop the chin. That's perfect. Okay. Remember, we're real estate agents, so we wanna look very happy, please. One, two, three, ready. (camera clicks) Okay that was miserable. (laughs) (camera clicks) Okay good. Tilt a little more. Good. Okay. (camera clicks) I love that. Oh man, we're having some pocket wizard problems. Here we go. (camera clicks) Might be a battery issue with the pocket wizard. (camera clicks) Oh there we go. We'll just power through it. That's perfect, Shawnee. Okay. Turn a little bit more to that light. There we go. (camera clicks) And I want you to drop the chin just a little bit more. That's awesome. Good. Now, here's a move that works really good when it compositing those team photos. Just go ahead and take your right hand and put it on your hip, like so. Cool. This gives you a really cool way, you can slide the man behind the woman and have her arm go across the body. And if you cut it out really well, you'll obviously be able to see him clearly through the arm. Alright. That's pretty cool. We're closing. Shoot to close. Perfect. You look like you're ready to sell a house. Perfect. Good. Alright. Nailed that. Now, I want you to go ahead and give me the closer stance. Yeah. That's perfect. Turn your head a little that way. Alright. Good. One. (camera clicks) And two. (camera clicks) Very cool. Now we'll go ahead and turn into the light this way. Perfect. Just so. And we're closing. We're gonna tilt your head this way a little bit. There we go. Turn your head just so. Yeah. I think I like this angle a lot. It's really good. And two. Good. And now crazy insane person smile. (chuckles) I'm just kidding. That's too much. (chuckles) (camera clicks) You did good. Tilt a little this way, Shawnee. Perfect. Alright. Now just a small smile touches the corners of your mouth. Great. Okay. Perfect. Now put your right hand, drop it. And, left hand is gonna go on your hip. Boy, that's perfect. One and... (camera clicks) Two. Cool. And tilt your head this way. Got one. (camera clicks) Good. And two. (camera clicks) Alright, now relax both hands at your sides. I want you to just bring the elbows back a little bit. Yeah, there you go. Perfect. Turn this way a little. And one. (camera clicks) And, tilt your head this way some. Drop that chin. Turn your head a little bit. And two. (camera clicks) Boom. Okay. Absolutely, couldn't be any easier. Now we've got about ten different options to work with for each person. And, so, we're gonna go through the images, later in the next segment. We're gonna pick those ones that are best and then we're gonna be able to cut them out and put them together. Okay. Cool. Alright. So, now we're gonna change the lighting set up just a little bit. And, I'm gonna go a little bit flat and we're gonna go a little tighter in. I'm gonna raise this up a little bit. (exhales) Hold your breath. Here we go. (groans) We got caught on the leg here. Hold on one second. There we go. Alright, I think we're good there. Perfect. (mumbles) And reflector underneath. Alright. You can kinda start to see the pattern, sort of the basic lighting technique. It's either open directional or straight on for me for most stuff like this. (mumbles) And because I moved the light and it's a little more direct, we might have to adjust our exposure just a little bit. So let me do a quick test shot, see where we're at. Okay. Yeah, it's a little on the bright side, so I'm gonna lower my ISO. About 250. See, the thing is, if I'm controlling the exposure... (mumbles) If I'm controlling the exposure with the ISO, instead of... I think it's my mirror that's getting caught. Time for a replacement. There we go. Alright. If I'm controlling the exposure with the ISO, instead of adjusting the light, the power on the light, I don't have to waste a bunch of shots on the light. Like, okay now I've gotta dump it 'cause I changed the power. I don't have to get up there and change it every single time. Now there are plenty of studio strobe systems, Einsteins and, I think, Pro Photo has them, and Phottix, plenty of others, where you can actually adjust the power from a control unit on your camera, which is great. I think those are really awesome and in a perfect world, everybody would have those. But if you're starting out your photography business, you're not necessarily gonna wanna spend $1200 a light to get something like that. So, where you can get an Alien Bee, like Bee-800, for around $300, as opposed to $1200. So, this is making my life easier, getting up and getting down, changing the lights. So, I know the settings are locked; my aperture, my shutter speed, and I'm controlling the exposure with the ISO.

Class Description

Short on time? This class is available HERE as a Fast Class, exclusively for Creator Pass subscribers.

Professional headshots are in demand! Learn how to break into this lucrative genre of photography in The Business of Professional Headshots with Gary Hughes.

Professional headshots are an easy addition to nearly every photographer’s list of services and in this class, you’ll get up-to-speed on everything you need to know to launch a headshot business. 

You’ll learn:

  • 6 Primary styles of corporate headshots
  • The gear that gets the job done
  • Basic posing theory
  • How to get clients and manage inquiries
  • Retouching, organizing, and delivery tips and techniques

You’ll also get to watch Gary in action as he demonstrates shooting and retouching a variety of headshot styles.

If you want to bring home more money and book more business during your slow times, don’t miss this comprehensive guide to running a lucrative headshot business from Gary Hughes.


  1. Class Overview
  2. Getting Headshot Clients
  3. Headshot Pricing Models for Individuals
  4. Headshot Pricing Models for Groups and Companies
  5. Payment and Delivery for Groups
  6. Six Styles of Business Headshots
  7. Headshot Lighting Gear
  8. Posing Basics for Headshots
  9. Basic Standing Pose for Headshots
  10. Basic Seated Pose for Headshots
  11. Head Position for Headshots
  12. Expression Sells the Image
  13. One-Light High Key Headshot with Male Model
  14. One-Light High Key Headshot with Female Model
  15. Two-Light High Key Headshot with Male Model
  16. Two-Light High Key Headshot with Female Model
  17. Two-Light Standing Pose Headshot with Male Model
  18. Two-Light Standing Pose Headshot with Female Model
  19. One Light Low Key Headshot with Male Model
  20. Two Light Low Key Headshot with Female Model
  21. General Q&A
  22. Constant Light: Low Key Classic Headshot with Male Model
  23. Constant Light: Low Key Classic Headshot with Female Model
  24. Constant Light: Standing Pose Headshot with Male Model
  25. Constant Light: Standing Pose Headshot with Female Model
  26. Setting up the Background for Extraction Shoot
  27. Shooting for Extraction Headshot with Male Model
  28. Shooting for Extraction Headshot with Female Model
  29. Shooting Low Key Modern Headshots for Extraction
  30. Basic Headshot Facial Retouching Techniques
  31. Basic Headshot Eye Retouching Techniques
  32. Basic Headshot Retouching Techniques: Dodge and Burn
  33. Basic Headshot Retouching Q&A
  34. Extracting a Single Subject
  35. Creating a Headshot Composite
  36. F-Type Headshot Lighting: Equipment and Principle
  37. F-Type Headshot Lighting: Execution
  38. Shooting Headshots in Volume


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!