Creating a Professional Headshot Lighting

January 07, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

2021 January 4  023 idp2021 January 4 023 idp Photography lighting could be as simple as using natural light, or as complicated as staging a multiple light set up.  Either way, you get beautiful results when the conditions are ideal and the shot is properly executed.  But for those less-than ideal conditions, it takes a lot of behind the scenes work to get the result that you want.

People often ask me to do a "quick" headshot, and they are surprised by the amount of gear I show up with.  I guess it is a bit more than what they use at the DMV, but I do what it takes to get you a high-quality, professional headshot.

Today, I want to share the process I did to set up my lights at a recent headshot session.  

Side note: different sessions can require a different set up based on a variety of factors.

Josi was assisting me, and was kind enough to be my model before the clients were ready.  Can you see the difference? 


First, I want to make sure that there are not any ambient lights in the picture so that I can control the intensity and direction of light myself. 

I set my camera settings so that those less-than-ideal office lights are not visible. 

Once the camera is set, then it's time to add lights back into the picture.

no lightno light


Positioning the key light is important to get a good result.  I like to get the brightness and direction of the key light first before anything else.

1 key light1 key light


Next, I noticed that the background is a little dark.  Most of the time I like the look of a bright subject and a dark background, but in this case I will be shooting my client in a black/dark suit, so I want to create separation between him and the background.

1 background light1 background light


This shot is taken once I like the way the background looks compared to the subject.  Notice how the background is now more visible.

2 lights2 lights


Finally, I added rim/hair lighting to create depth and more separation between the subject and the background.

Notice the lights on both sides of her hair and down to her shoulders and arms.

4 lights4 lights


Once everything is set, it's time to have fun! 

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