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Six Styles of Business Headshots

Lesson 6 from: The Business of Professional Headshots

Gary Hughes

Six Styles of Business Headshots

Lesson 6 from: The Business of Professional Headshots

Gary Hughes

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Lesson Info

6. Six Styles of Business Headshots


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

Six Styles of Business Headshots

Because one of the biggest barriers I see isn't necessarily, people, photographers that I know are already getting inquiries for jobs like this and having the opportunity to shoot these jobs. But sometimes, if you don't have experience doing it or working with studio lighting setups, or doing poses and lighting for professional folks and corporate business-y business people, it can be a little intimidating to sort of get that barrier past, well, I'm used to shooting weddings and I mostly manage with a speed light here or window light and reflectors. Aren't corporate headshots so much more complicated than that? And they can be, they very much can be. The thing I know about lighting, the one really true thing I know about lighting, is that I have no idea how to do most of it. You know what I mean? There are photographers out there, some of these old masters, there's an amazing photographer from Texas named Frank Cricchio who was one of my very first teachers in my very first studio ligh...

ting course I ever attended. And I saw him do a lighting set up for a single-person business portrait that had 22 lights in it. (audience chuckling) But it looked like one, it was just perfect lighting. There's so many intricacies to it. I am more of a hack and slash lighting type of person. I make it look good, but anybody who really knows what they're doing would be horrified to see how I do it. But my point is this, when it comes to lighting, when it comes to equipment, when it comes to what you're doing, you can't just have the best equipment all of a sudden. My whole philosophy is to get it done with the least amount of stuff possible because when I started, I didn't have anything, I didn't own any equipment. For some of us, there's no option just to go out and take out a $50,000 business loan and buy all the stuff we need. I still use some of the stuff that I started with. To this day I own three studio lights, three Alien Bees, that's all I have in the studio. When I have a job where I need more, I rent or borrow them because most of the time I don't need them because I'm used to using the least amount of stuff possible. Anybody who really starts to understand lighting and how to make it work, you can make one light look like 10, and you can make 10 lights look like one. It's not about the gear. If you have the eye for it and you understand light and you understand photography, you're gonna be able to take a shoebox with a pinhole in it and go out and get a really great image. So I want to get away from just being so crazy about the gear because it's about your ability to make it. So we're gonna do everything today and tomorrow, from shooting with one speedlight and all the way to shooting with four or five studio lights, is that cool? Are you guys hip with that? So what we're going to cover right now is six styles of business headshots. It is not the six styles of business headshots, these are the six most common that I get asked to do all the time. Now there are so many ways to do this. You can do it however you want, I know photographers that just use, they have a natural light studio and that's how they do stuff, and the work looks great. I know photographers that just go super intricate and that looks great too. You're gonna take this and you're gonna make your own style out of it. You're gonna make it your own. I'm gonna teach you the six most common things I do. And you will be able to take what I give you and apply it and immediately, with a little practice, go out and actually start doing it. I'm trying to lower the barrier of entry so that you can go and do this stuff, is that cool? All right, here we go. Yeah, it's cool, all right. Starting one, high key classic. Now, I know that on the interweb somewhere, there's a guy who just pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose, goes, (snorting) "Technically, that's not high key, high key is (muttering)." I know that, sounds better than girl on white background to say high key, it's a cooler sounding thing. But basically what I mean by high key is a white background. So be sure to note, guy who is going to correct me on Twitter right now, that yes, technically, it's not a classic high key image, But I call it high key classic. This is the thing I do the most. This is the thing that you will find yourself doing a lot. Any guesses why you do this a lot? Shoot. I'm gonna say because it's easy to extract. It's easy to extract and it's easy to replicate. How many different shades of blue are there? 50 billion, I don't know, more than the human eye can see, right? How many shades of pure white are there really? Like if you were to take the little dropper tool in Photoshop and boom, make that white, if you can make something pure white, then that's it. So no matter what size company, a lot of times, they'll want that pure white, just because they know that the next photographer can do it, its really easy to match, so it's really common. Also really easy to extract, very common. So this is the thing I do the most. So let's break it down. An evenly lit white background, that's the number one feature. That's pretty obvious, right? (chuckling) It's important that it's evenly lit, that you have white all the way around, and that can be difficult to do in the studio. It's one of the things shooting with a high key background is hard for a lot of people to get into because sometimes, especially if you're doing full length, you need four or five lights just to make a big, white background evenly lit. That can be tough. When you're shooting a headshot, you just got this little bit of white that you got to make pure white. Everything else, who gives a crap, right? So that's how I feel about it. So I'm not gonna bring out six lights to light a background that's not gonna be in the photo. I'm gonna light right behind their head and make sure that's evenly lit. So how many lights do I need to do that? [Male Audience Member] Two. Two? One, you can do that with one light. And I'm gonna show you how to do that with one light. Today, I'm gonna show you how to do that with one light. But I want you to realize that we're talking about how to do this as simply as possible. Deep depth of field, this is important for a couple of reasons. One, in your traditional business portrait, you have to have sharpness from the edge of the nose to the back of the head and the shoulders, all of it has to be crisp, sharply in focus. Has anybody ever had the experience where somebody wanted an extraction but you shot it at f/2? You ever try to extract an image with really blurry ears and shoulders and stuff? It is really dang-near impossible to get it right. So knowing that there's a high likelihood that this will be extracted, and in fact, you may be the one having to do the extraction, sharp edges are key. So most of the time I find myself shooting at around f/8, or higher even, f/ because you really, on a headshot with a long lens, you want it to be sharp. Brings me to lens compression. What that basically means is that I see a lot of people using all different kinds of lenses to great effect but when you're shooting in these, by classic, I typically mean it's in focus from back to front, the lighting is typically directional and it's used, you use a longer lens. Anything 85 or longer is gonna give you the right amount of compression for a headshot. And so, typically, most of the time I'm using a 70 to 200. If you don't have it, an 85 is fine, a 100 is fine. But most of the time shooting at about to 200 millimeters is where I live for these type of shots. That's how you get that classic look. If you shoot too close with too wide of a lens, you know, you get that, you get somebody with a giant forehead. Hey you guys! You get a giant forehead. It doesn't look right, you know, it's all stretched out. That's called barrel distortion, lens distortion, you don't want that in a classic headshot. You want to look normal and proportionate. Especially if you're shooting en masse because you're gonna get people of all different body types, different heights, different races, different hairstyles, and you want them to look normal and proportionate. We with that? Cool. Open directional light. This is gonna be key to the sort of quote, unquote, classic look. If you look at some of photography textbooks you'll see Rembrandt lighting, anybody heard that term before? Closed-loop lighting? This one goes way back to the old masters of painting and you see that a lot. So basically, the object is to try to create a triangle under the eye on the opposite side of the main light. And the way that triangle is made is by joining the shadow from the nose to the shadow side of the face. And when those shadows touch, that's called a closed loop. Right? That's the photography term, or Rembrandt lighting. When that shadow is broken from the side of the face, that's called open loop. So we want a directional light that is open because Rembrandt lighting, depending on the shape of somebody's face, is kinda hard to do. And it's precise. And when you're shooting 10, 12 people in a row, you don't always have the time to be precise. So over time that's developed into a particular style of open directional light. You want the light to be directional, but you want that loop to be open because you don't wanna have to sit there and try to get Rembrandt lighting on 100 people in a row. You with me on that? And some people's faces are weird and they're not conducive to that type of lighting, so this will pretty much work for everybody. Smooth transition to the shadow. You don't want the shadows to start really abruptly, you want like a nice, soft fall off from the lit area of the face to the shadow side of the face. You with me on that? The harder the edges, the less flattering it can be for large groups of people. You're gonna have all different skin types, some people are gonna have perfect skin, like me. And some people are gonna have not-so-perfect skin, like Sheldon, so there's all different skin types, I'm just kidding buddy. There's all types of different skin out there. And so if you make sure that the light is soft and the shadows aren't too harsh, then it's gonna be more pleasing to the eye. Does that make sense? You know when you do like glamour lighting, that flat, straight-on light, why everybody looks good? 'Cause it hides a lot of imperfections in the skin. So when you're using directional lighting, you have to use certain techniques that are gonna make it softer. And then one or two stop shadow difference between the light side and the shadow side of the face. That's gonna be typical. What we call that is like a two-to-one ratio or a three-to-one ratio. Essentially what that means is on the shadow side of the face, you want it to be about one stop darker than the lit side of the face. So what would that mean? If this is f/8, this measures f/8 with a life meter, light meter. Life meter? The shadow side of the face would measure f 5/6. Does that make sense? You don't have to be that precise, I eyeball it. I can't even tell you the last time I used a light meter. I just, you know, you're gonna get used to that look, where you can see all the detail in the shadows and, roughly, you're gonna get kind of a one stop difference, okay? And I'm gonna show you how to do all this. Understand the idea and then we're actually gonna show you how to actually, physically do it, okay? Usually cropped vertical. Classic, professional headshots are almost always cropped vertically. You don't have to, you can do it any way you want, but I'm telling you this is what I do a lot, this is what I get asked for all the time. Okay. Ah! High key modern, the new hotness. This is what I get asked for a lot also. This is really something that you can, something that you can pull off really easy with the exact same equipment that you do with classic high key but there are a few differences, fundamentally. So now that that we've sort of spent, on that first image, talking a lot about lenses and lighting ratios and stuff like that, we're going to assume knowledge on the following images as we move. So we'll move through these a little more quickly all right? Here's a breakdown of your high key modern look. You wanna have a light to white background. Perfectly even isn't necessarily as important, in fact, you don't even necessarily need white, it could be just like a window or it could be a softbox creating a light background. The idea is that it's sort of bright and clean looking and however you achieve that background is gonna be totally up to you. I still mostly use seamless paper because I'm too lazy to take it down, it's been hanging in my studio for like three years, but, you know, maybe I'll go outside. I'm in Florida, it's like 105 degrees there right now, I really like shooting in the studio. Shallow depth of field. Now it's a little harder to tell sometimes on a computer monitor, but I shoot these at, typically, like f/4, f 5/6. And you're gonna see a fall off, like the buttons on his shirt aren't sharply in focus. His ears are more out of focus than his nose, you don't have sharpness from the front to the back. Because the difference is I'm shooting this for what it is, I'm not looking to extract this or change anything about it. I like it to look just like it looks. But you do want certain things to be in focus. This is a professional portrait, okay? It's not a conceptual art piece, necessarily. So you want to make sure that the mask of the face is in focus. The mask of the face is from the hairline to the chin and from the outside of each eye, everything in that oval that is the mask of the face should be in focus. The nose, the eyes, the lips, the forehead, the chin and then it falls of gently from there. You can do whatever you want, this is just how I do it. I highly recommend that the eyes, nose and mouth are in focus, so just keep that in mind. Variable lens compression. Sometimes I'm up close with an 85 and it gives it a little bit of a distortion. Sometimes I use a longer lens, I've seen people do this with at 24 to 70, it's not traditional, so you don't necessarily have to push, you can be a little more creative with this, but I do this a lot. Soft, flat light. People like it, especially, it makes most people's skin look really, really good. Olan Mills has been doing this for like three decades. It's called beauty lighting. It's just big, flat, soft lighting that makes everybody look really good. It hides flaws, it hides wrinkles. Makes everybody look a little younger and prettier. There is a drawback. What if someone has a really wide face? Directional lighting can make a face look slimmer. You can slim somebody down and we'll look at that in the next couple images. So, although this lighting works on most people, and it flatters skin tones and it flatters, you know, anything that might be problematic there, it can also make somebody look artificially wide. So this guy is very slender and fit, so it was perfect for him. Minimal shadows, you wanna make sure that the image is pretty evenly lit from top to bottom. Sometimes there's a little fall off from the mask of the face, depending on the size of the light source and the distance from the subject. Portrait or landscape, I do both, all the time. Use your creativity, there's no set rule. This is modern, so play with it a little bit. Moving on. Classic muslin. This is the thing that, traditionally, every photographer who does professional business headshots, professional business portrait corporate headshots... (audience member chuckling) Does this 10,000 times. All right. Lana, I'm gonna say you gotta do it and you're gonna say, "I don't wanna." Are you ready? (audience chuckling) Lana, you gotta do it. I don't wanna. Lana, you gotta do it. I don't wanna. You gotta do it! Okay. (chuckling) As run of the mill and bread and butter as this might seem, this is gonna be the thing that you can really use to make a lot of money. Have you ever been to the courthouse or been to a Chamber of Commerce or been to the Bar Association? This is, you'll do this all day long. Classic muslin backdrop. The muslin is sort of the material the background's made out of and they look like a really cheap impressionist painting, that's typical, but that's what's been done in these things forever. And you get these very large companies that this is what they come and ask you for. Here's the thing about it, there is no magic wand where if you but this one lighting set up and learn this one technique that's gonna work all the time. And anybody who tries to sell you that is selling you something. Do you understand what I mean? You have to be able to do lots of things. Think of every photographic skill you know how to do as adding something to a Rolodex. Anybody not know what a Rolodex is? It's very possible. It's a little thing with all people's phone numbers on it. Every time you learn a new skill, you add a skill to that Rolodex. And so when you come to a particular situation, let's say harsh lighting outdoors, and you pull and you go, "Oh, I've got five things "I know how to do to deal with this." Right? You pull one out, the one that you use becomes, over time, your style. But not knowing how to do things does not make you a better photographer. Choosing to be ignorant of the way things have been done in the past is not gonna make you a better photographer. Saying that I don't wanna learn anything 'cause I'm happy with the way I'm doing things is not gonna make you a better photographer and it's certainly not gonna make you any more money. You can't turn something away just because it's not super exciting in this business. And I get asked to do this for attorneys, accountants. I've done this set up thousands of times. And, you know what? I'll do it 10,000 more before I die as long as the checks clear, no problem. So let's keep that in mind, and I'm gonna show you how to do this with one light, which is really cool. All right. Evenly lit canvas/muslin, we don't want a lot of gradient and stuff like that. You pretty much just want it to look even from end to end. You want that deep depth of field, front to back. You want the greater lens compression. Again, you're gonna be using that longer lens. Any time it's classic, you're gonna see some of these same things coming up. Directional lighting, you got that open loop. About a one to two stop difference, smooth shadow transition. One or two stop on the shadows. And separation lighting is optional, depending on the background. If you've got a little darker background or somebody with darker hair, you might wanna add a little bit of kicker to separate from the background. You'll find that if using something sort of ubiquitous like a medium gray or a medium blue like this, you don't actually need it all the time. As long as you're making sure there's detail in the shadows you should be okay. Because the thing to consider when you're gonna decide whether to add another light for separation from the background is how dark is the hair of the person I'm photographing and is it gonna be a problem? But in this case, you know, he's got, like, the hair that four billion people on the planet have, that color brown I think, I have that same color hair. That is gonna work almost all the time with one light. And maybe a reflector here and there. Low key classic. This is something that I don't do, it's probably, out of the six, it's probably like number four down on the list. But this is something that you do get a lot. Just as much as some people, they like that clean white background, I get asked for black sometimes. Now black is not key for extraction, it can usually be problematic, but this has its similarities to the other types of classic looks, but there are a couple of key differences. So, as again, you want a dark or black background. A deep depth of field, front to back this thing's gotta be in focus. You want that lens compression, just like the others. Directional light. Soft transitions. One to three stop ratio. When you go to low key, you can play a little bit more with the shadows but stay in that same range, depending on whether you're doing it en masse or for an individual. And then that separation lighting is not negotiable for this look. You have to have light that is gonna separate your subject from the background. Let me talk to you a little bit about this. People use kicker lights or edge lights or separation lights in so many different ways. There are lots of different styles. And I'm not gonna tell you how to use it, I'm gonna tell you how I use it to get this particular look. Some people wanna see a hot highlight around the edges. Some people like that halo look, they just really like to show those kickers off, and that's cool. I think that looks great. But for me, when I'm doing one of these classic business portraits, the light needs to be there to the point where you are like, "Is there one?" That's, you wanna think of it almost like, almost like wearing makeup, right? Like if you're, for you, I know, Sheldon, you probably wear makeup all the time, right? When you're wearing makeup, right, isn't the object to look like you don't need any a lot of the time, on a day-to-day basis? You know, you don't wanna look like the person that has to wear a ton of makeup, that would be a great compliment, wouldn't it? "You look like you could use some more makeup." You wanna look natural. It's like believable. And so the idea of this edge light isn't to go, "Bam, I'm an edge light." The idea of the edge light is to provide detail in the shadow areas, so you can see the hair and so it will separate it from that dark background. That's why it's there. And it's a little hard to see from this angle but there's a little tiny hair light, or edge light, along her shoulder too. She's got a dark suit on a dark background. You don't want those to bleed together. So just enough, a little (grunts). You know, just a (murmuring). (chuckling) Not like a boom, just like a huh! You want a little bit of edge light. (chuckling) You don't wanna go nuts here because I want it, there's edge light on both sides of this image, but I could probably convince you that there isn't if you really wanted to argue about it. But the detail is there and the separation is there and that's what I'm going for. With these low key looks in a classic mode you have to have it. And I'm gonna show you a couple of different ways that I do it as we move forward. Low key modern. This is one of my absolute favorites because I do this in the studio and I like to make it look like it's not in the studio. But it's a little more moody, it's a little more casual. You know? Sometimes I'll do photographs for a start up and maybe they design apps and whatever and they're not gonna want something classic. So sometimes I get requests to do something that feels a little more editorial that's a little more personal, that's a little less serious. And that's, I'll go to this as my go to a lot for that. Because when you look at a picture like this and you look at that guy and you go, "Yeah, he looks kinda like a nice guy "and he's leaning towards me, "he's interested in what I have to say." There are all these casual things about this image that could give it a certain feel. So we want a dark or black background. This could be an actual background, this could be a wall, this could be just about anything you want but you wanna keep it low and you wanna keep it moody. Shallow depth of field. You'll notice in this image that his eyes, nose, mouth are in sharp, his ears are soft and the zipper and the collar, all that stuff sort of falls off. It's almost a little bit of a floating head technique but this is a much more modern look, that shallow depth of field. Sometimes what you can quantify as style, nine times out of 10, somebody's using depth of field because it's such a powerful tool to create a more natural feel. If you look at the way you see things, your eyes operate very similarly to the lens of a camera. Now if you look at my face and focus on the edge of my nose, is the wall in focus? No, that's because we see things, most of the time, in a shallow depth of field. That's why it has that sort of powerful effect on us when we look at it in a photo. It has a more realistic feel. Because that's how we see the world a lot of the time. Our eyes work very similarly in that fashion. So you're gonna really use that to leverage a really natural feel. Lens compression, again, variable. This is gonna be up to you. I am such a sucker for the long lenses though, I really like to get in there and get tight on a headshot, especially when I'm doing something that's a little more editorial. Directional or flat light, it doesn't matter. You can use one or the other. I typically like a little bit of direction just because I was sort of, that's how I was trained in photography and so getting to flat lighting, if you're a photographer who grew up photographing portraits, like in the film days, flat lighting was pretty much just reserved for Olan Mills. I mean, it was like photographers, studio portrait photographers looked down on it. And it has become a totally different world now to where it's great and people love it and I do it all the time. But I always kind of fall back on what I first learned. It gives me sort of interest, if you look at somebody's face, it's a little more visual interest, you can see more lines in his face. Sometimes it tells a story. If that's the type of image that you're wanting to make, then you can use that. But you can do whatever you want, that's just how I do it, and I may be a complete idiot. Smooth shadow transition still. There are really very few situations where I want a hard shadow. Sometimes, I had a guy who's an author, I photographed the cover for his book jacket, or like his photo on the back. And he's a mystery writer, suspense. And so I created a real dark and moody portrait with hard shadows. But most of the time I'm going for smooth. And shadow detail is important. So you want it to be moody, in this case maybe, but I also have detail in every pixel. You don't wanna lose it. Digital blocks up. Have you heard that before? Artifacting, blocking up, where the blacks sort of get muddy? It's where our reflectors come in really handy, which we'll come into. And, again, your separation lighting is optional but here you get a kind of really natural feel. Adding a kicker light to something like this can give you more of a cinematic look, and by that I mean like they would light somebody if they were in a movie. Every show you've ever seen, from Full House to The West Wing to The X-Files, people are lit from the front and the back. There's lighting on the face and lighting on the hair, edge lighting, key lighting, everywhere. So when you add that into your images, they have a more filmic kind of a feel. You can create a more cinematic look but this is optional, that's gonna be a personal taste, but the overall look we're going for is more natural. And then you want the feel to be more casual and editorial. I pull this one out all the time. I photographed this in studio with constant lights from SweetLight and I have a fake background that I printed. That I went to a place where I like to shoot a lot in downtown Orlando and I took a photograph of it and I printed it on sweatshirt material and made it into an eight foot by 10 foot background that looks like a kind of street scene. And I'm shooting it so out of focus most of the time, but it doesn't look like a studio background, you know? So that's a cool way to still be in studio and get an editorial feel. So that's just an idea. I know you're all thinking, "Genius." (chuckling) No, lazy, I don't like to go outside. Look how pale I am, I don't like to go outside. I live in Florida, I have to go to like New Jersey in the summer to visit my wife's family and hang out by the pool to get a tan. I don't go outside in Florida. All right, and then the last one we're gonna talk about and we're gonna break down is the F-type. It's effing awesome. (laughing) Now, did you say you tried to look this up? Like the F-type lighting? This is named after my friend James Ferraro, who's a terrific photographer from New York. This is kind of a modified version of something that I learned from him and I called it the F-type in his honor and it also sounds fancy. So it's a really cool style of lighting and I use it largely for my high-volume corporate events because it makes people look really good and it's really interesting, it's something different that you don't see a lot. So the way that it works is pretty different but it's got some cool characteristics to it, it's a mixture of the classic and the modern. And we're gonna actually do, on the last segment on the last day, I'm gonna set that up and show it to you, it'll be my grand finale. So Jim, if you're watching, it's for you, buddy. I gave you credit like I promised I would. And I think he is watching, that's pretty cool. Hi Jim! All right. (laughing) So let's break it down. I use a gradient gray background all the time. And how I create this is I use a black background and I just put a bare-bulb light on it, actually with a little cone or whatever, and it just hits the background in the middle and it just falls off naturally. And it creates kind of a gradient. 'Cause I don't want a flat background, I want a separation between, I don't use any edge lighting for this. So this is gonna be two fold, it creates visual interest by making a natural vignette around the image and it also lights behind the person's head so that it separates them from the background no matter what color hair they have. You with that? Cool. Medium depth of field. I'm shooting probably like a 5/6 or a 6/3, so I'm not super shallow but I am shallow enough to where it doesn't look sharp from the nose to the back. You can see that back shoulder's a little out of focus. I want it to kind of fall off naturally. It's got slightly warped compression. Most of the time when I do this, I'm about two and a half feet from the subject. Three feet, maybe. With like an 85 millimeter lens on a full-frame camera. So when you have, even an 85 can create a little barrel distortion, a little lens distortion, when you're close enough to the subject. And so I really like to get in there and mix it up with this one. Because I use it because it looks a little bit non traditional, it looks a little bit unusual. And it's soft, flat light. I use an 86-inch parabolic umbrella with a soft cover on it, and we're gonna do this tomorrow, and I sit right in front of it. It's right, like, my back is on it, that's how close I am to the thing. And it creates this really just big, soft light. Because if you want to know anything about the characteristics of light, one of the things that happens with your light source is the larger your light source is, the softer the light is gonna be. Now that's relative. If I have a eight-foot softbox and it's 20 feet away from the subject, it's relatively quite a bit smaller than it would be if it was three feet from the subject. So if you have a very small light source very far away, it's gonna create very hard shadows, it would be very hard, specular light. When you bring it really close to the subject, like, look at my hand. Okay, I'm gonna step off the carpet for a second. Look at my hand, it's getting bigger. It's getting bigger, it's getting bigger, it's getting bigger, right? Lights are the same way. So relative is to distance, the size of the light. But I use a massive light source really, really close and that's where you get this really soft light that looks, this is actually straight out of the camera. It has not been touched, it's been converted from raw to .jpg and that's it. Because, most of the time when I'm doing this, the person is seeing the image right away and picking their image right away. Because I'm doing this for large-scale corporate headshots, so they're seeing it right away. This is a really flattering light to see yourself, you go, "Oh!" My number one response that people get is, "Oh, yeah, that looks really good, like, that's me?" Because they're not used to seeing themselves that way. When do you get to see yourselves in light that pretty? Like never. Most of the time we're in Applebee's with like a light above our head and there's just, you know. We want to show people their best. But this gets really cool now. Minimum shadows, just as before. Unusual catchlights. Now this is really cool. So I had the conversation with said photographer, Mr. Ferraro of the F-type, if you look in the catchlights, I am in the pupils, because I'm in front of the light, and so the whole light, the whole iris is lit by this gigantic softbox. And right there in the middle is me. It's my little signature on every picture. I've actually had a guy email me and he goes, "Did you mean to be in every picture?" I go, "Actually, kinda, yeah." (laughing) It's pretty cool. So I always thought it was kind of a cool thing and Jim and I share that philosophy, he's the one who taught me this, but I kind of dig it. So you get an unusual catchlight. Eyes, no matter how dark, no matter how bright, everybody's eyes look spectacular in this and that's the thing that grabs people a lot about this lighting, is their eyes are gonna look amazing. And I'll be in there, like this. Actually, every picture I'm like this. You know, it's just me with my elbow up. That's my silhouette of me doing this in every picture. But I dig it because there are rules, hard and fast, kind of. But you have to know them to be able to break them. So somebody would say, I've heard somebody say, "You can't have a studio portrait with more than one "catchlight, that's just not how it's done." And then I go, "Yeah you can, you can do anything you want." This is an art, this is subjective. You can learn the rules and then you can break them off and do whatever you want. So this is a really cool departure from traditional which is why I like it so much and why we're saving it 'til last. But think about how much you can use this to make almost everybody look good, and I'm gonna show you. And I shoot this, I did this picture, three frames, she sat down for 15 seconds. And that's what I do 99 times out of when I use this lighting, is I have about a maximum of 30 seconds with each person. All right, let's talk about, we have any questions on that stuff? You wanna break and do a couple of questions before I move on to gear? Do we have any questions in the studio audience? Yeah, grab a mic please. I noticed that the crop, the way the head was cropped, does that determine classic versus modern? I would think the modern-- That's a great question. Classic headshot cropping is gonna be for the 8x10 format. Where your camera shoots 2x3, which is taller, 8x10 is like (whistling), like that. So you wanna leave headroom, never cut off the top of the head in a classic mode. And for a business portrait, I would recommend leaving one shoulder completely un-cut-out. I always chop in the one shoulder, not the other, just leave a little bit of lead room all the way around the one side and the top. That's gonna be my go-to. If I'm shooting for the final image instead of shooting for an image that I'm gonna crop later, I will cut the head right off. I will get right in there, I don't care. Especially if you've got a guy who's got the bald spot on top, he really appreciates it when I cut in a little bit. It's gonna be a personal choice, but think about the final intended use. You cannot hurt yourself by leaving room. You can crop later. So if you wanna default on anything, give yourself more room. That make sense, that answer your question? I noticed in a lot of, they're not smiling like big, toothy grins. Yes! Is that your theory, their theory? Because people look insane when they smile their biggest smile. No, that's a really good question, I've actually had that asked before. I do take images of people that smile, I really, I promise you I do. But for business portraits, it's a mix. I consider the person's position, consider their job. What if you do a photograph for a divorce lawyer? You don't want a big billboard with a guy going divorce! (laughing) Because it's a terrible thing. So, well, sometimes. But, you know, I like moodier stuff, that's sort of what I gravitate towards. And so, from a perspective of editing, when someone does a great big smile, it tends to make, I shoot so many different people back to back. I'll shoot a 20-year-old girl who looks like a supermodel, I'll shoot a 400-pound guy with bad skin, I'll shoot a woman who's six foot three, you know? And it's just bam, bam, bam, I have no idea what's coming and so I want to default to what's going to make everybody's lives easier. But there's another thing, which we're going to talk about later is, I ask everybody what they want. I say, "Do you like pictures of yourself smiling?" When people say no, I don't make them smile. And they appreciate that. I always ask, it's like, "Do you prefer smiling or not smiling?" That's a fair question. Because if they prefer not to smile I'm not gonna sit there and tell dumb jokes like an idiot and try to make them, and then they're gonna hate the picture because they've got one tooth that goes this way or maybe they just got adult braces and they're really insecure about it, you know? So I always ask, if that makes sense. Do you have a list of dumb jokes in your back pocket? (laughing) I actually have one that I was thinking about using, because I always hear open with a joke. This is an old one but good one. If you know the joke, please don't step on it, okay? Let everybody else enjoy it, all right? What is a pirate's favorite letter of the alphabet? Is it R? You'd think so, but it's the C. Right, right? (chuckling) I don't tell... I'd like to thank my friend Johnny for that joke. Fantastic. Now I do have a serious question. And that is, how do you decide which of these styles that you're gonna use for particular clients? Is there an art director that you're working with at a company? Sometimes, yeah. Or are you showing them options? How do you decide what to use? That's a great question. Yes, we give them options. Sometimes they know exactly what they want. They'll say, "Can you match this?" And I'll say, "Yes, I can match it." And then I do it. And then the only thing left after that is to decide what equipment I'm gonna use to achieve that goal. Sometimes they have no idea what they want. I get a company that hasn't had their headshots done before or they just hired a bunch of new people and everybody's gonna get redone. Sometimes they like what was done for them before by somebody else and sometimes they want something completely different. So we will send them an email with some samples like, okay, we could do this, this or this, you choose which you like. Because if the client picks that stuff and they know what they're getting, there's gonna be no, "Well, that's not what I wanted." Or, "I'm not happy with that." It's like, you picked it. You said you wanted that. I don't have any disputes because I ask a lot of questions. There are photographers sometimes that view themselves a lot more as artists. And come to me and I will give you my magic, you know, like that sort of thing. I want to give them what they want. This is a different world. If you were photographing portraits of babies or families or shooting weddings, your personal style is gonna be one of the things that the client is going to want from you. In the corporate world, nine times out of for the stuff that I do, they want competence more than they want style. Does that make sense? So I'm going for, a lot of times, something that might be less exciting or interesting and I'm just replicating something that they've got. But I do often let them choose, I do have samples that I send. Well, you can do this or this or this or this. I'll send them the six images or I'll send them some more editorial stuff like location photography, I charge extra for that, so if it's a nice time of year and I feel like taking my fat, white body outside into the sun, I will do that and I will charge extra for that because sometimes you wanna shake it up a little bit. But yeah. One more thing before we go on to gear, and that is that Jim, who is calling himself JimmyCam. JimmyCam, hi Jim! Is saying, "By the way, thanks for giving me credit "for the F-type lighting, although I think "The Jimmy Style would be a better way to go." Jimmy Style doesn't sound right, you guys like F-type better? (laughing) You wanna vote? It's not Jimmy Style.

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!

Student Work