I regularly shoot headshots and portraits for clients, for the local theatre and for models.   Let me take you through some of the steps involved in creating a great headshot.

The image above is the final head shot of model Katie.  I could have started with the set up that created this… and normally I would I do this often enough that I can easily start with everything set up for this.  However it is perhaps of more use to show you the steps involved in creating the image.

Step 1 – Beauty dish alone.

For this shot Katie is sat just in front of the pink background.  We have a single bowens head with a 70cm beauty dish on it up and to the left of Katie.  You can see the location of the light by looking at the catchlight in Katie’s eye.

Katie has angled her shoulders slightly so that she facing slightly towards the beauty dish.  It is always best to try to get that slight angle of the shoulders when photographing people.

Notice also that there are shadows under Katie’s chin.  We can deal with the shadows by adding a reflector below….



Step 2 – Add a reflector

As you can see from this version the shadows under Katie’s chin have been filled in by the use of the reflector

On a larger image you can just see the reflector in the catchlight of the eyes.

This image is an improvement and in my opinion it is much more flattering to Katie than the one with the harsher shadows.

The only problem with this image is that isn’t enough contrast between Katie’s skin tones and the pink of the background.

Let’s use the inverse square law to solve this problem…


Step 3 – Move subject away from the background

The inverse square law (and I’m not going to try to explain it in this tutorial) says that the light from a single light source illuminating a subject will drop off more if the distance between subject and background is much greater than the distance between the light source and the subject.

In real terms this means that moving Katie and light away from the background will make the background much darker.

We kept the reflector to fill in the shadows.

The image below shows how this set up looks in the studio….


On this occasion I was working without an assistant so I can’t show the shooting position in the image.

When taking the portraits I was stood directly in front of Katie with the beauty dish to my left, supporting the reflector in one hand while shooting with the other.

There was one last change made to the setup to create the final image…





Step 4 – Add rim lights

The last step in creating the image was to add two medium sized soft boxes either side and behind Katie to give a rim light to the image.

These two lights were metered to the same output as the main light and the effect is to give that final bit of separation of the subject from the background and to give a lovely healthy glow to katie’s hair.

For those in the North West of the UK – I will be covering techniques such as this in two forthcoming events and workshops…

Creative Headshots – Friday 14th October:


Introduction to Studio Photography – Saturday 29th October: