In this ultimate guide to taking headshots, we explain how to shoot passport photos, profile pictures for social media and dating sites, and other types of informal portrait photography.
First impressions count, and the headshot that accompanies an online profile can be as important as the words. A blurred shot taken on a night out won’t create the right impression for many sites, so we’re going to show you how you can produce headshots for a variety of uses.
Taking control of the lighting is the key to taking really effective portraits. This control also enables you to produce shots in a similar style time after time. We’ll demonstrate how to use a basic flashgun plus some simple accessories.
Once you’ve mastered the basics of taking headshots, we’ll use backgrounds and a second flash to give your headshots extra impact. Finally we’ll run through how to shoot passport photos that can be used for many types of documentation.
Remember that you should use a pose and style of lighting that suits the type of site, medium and purpose that the portrait photograph is going to be used for.
How to set up your home studio to shoot headshots
You don’t need all this kit to shoot the most basic headshots, but with it you have more versatility
01 Radio trigger
A radio trigger is the most convenient and reliable way to fire your flashgun off-camera. It gives you complete freedom to move around without having to worry about the length of cables.
A softbox is an easy way to soften the light from your flashgun without losing too much light. Even with the softbox attached, you need to position the flash as close as possible to the subject.
A silver or white reflector is useful for lightening the shadows on your subject. Position one on the opposite side of the subject to the flash. If necessary you can get the subject to hold one under their face.
A coloured wall is perfectly okay as a background, but you can also use card or cloth for brighter-coloured backgrounds. Stick these to the wall or use a tripod or lighting stand to hold them in place.
Your subject will probably be more comfortable sitting down than standing up. When seated they are also much less likely to change position, making it easier to get consistent lighting.
06 Tripod or stand
Most radio triggers have a socket underneath to allow you to attach an off-camera flash to a standard tripod. If you are using an umbrella attachment bracket you’ll need to use a lighting stand.
07 Get close
When firing a flash directly at the subject, the light gets softer the closer the flash is to the subject and harsher the further it is away from them. For the most flattering results, position the flash as close as possible to the model.
PAGE 1: How to set up your home studio to shoot headshots
PAGE 2: How to set up your flash to shoot headshots
PAGE 3: Shooting headshots with a one flash setup
PAGE 4: Shooting headshots with two flashguns
PAGE 5: How to shoot passport photos
PAGE 6: Capturing informal looks for social media profile pictures
Studio Lighting: 4 seriously simple lighting techniques to try at home
6 simple simple lighting setups for shooting portraits at home (plus free cheat sheet)
14 portrait photography tips you’ll never want to forget