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Commercial headshot tips: professional portrait photography with a single light

Watch the video: Commercial headshot tips

In this project, we’ll show you how you can take professional headshots even if you just have a small space and only one studio light and softbox! 

We know that people can be put off by using lights, as they can seem expensive and complex to use, but it’s not as complicated as you may think – you have full control of your lighting conditions and, therefore, your photos. We’re also going to prove  that you only need one lighting head for great professional headshots, which are ideal for websites like LinkedIn.

We’re using a large softbox, because the larger the light source the softer the light is – and the more flattering it is for portraits. Softboxes also produce square catchlights in the eyes, bringing portraits to life. We’re using a small yet powerful Elinchrom D-Lite RX 4 head, which is reliable and simple to control.

We’ve shot at an aperture around f/13 for good depth of field so that the whole subject is sharp. For a shallower depth of field, use an aperture of around f/5.6, and reduce lighting power accordingly for a good exposure. 

01 Small studio setup

(Image credit: Future)

For our white backdrop, we simply used a Lastolite Super White paper backdrop on stands in our small kitchen. We’re using just one Elinchrom D-Lite RX 4 flash head with a Rotalux 90x110cm softbox to the right, with patio window light to the left.

02 Camera & lens setup

(Image credit: Future)

We’re using a full-frame Canon EOS 6D Mark II, and our versatile Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L lens. We’re using this so that we can capture tighter head-and-shoulders compositions with the twist of the zoom, all without crowding our subject. 

03 Manual camera control

(Image credit: Future)

When using studio lights, you’ll need to use manual mode to control your aperture and shutter speed. For enough depth of field for close-up headshots, we suggest shooting at an aperture around f/11 to f/13, with a shutter between 1/125 to 1/160 sec and an ISO of 100. 

04 Wireless trigger

(Image credit: Future)

We’re using an Elinchrom EL-Skyport wireless trigger attached to the top of our 6D Mark II’s hotshoe, which will fire our Elinchrom studio light remotely. If we had more studio lights, we could trigger them all together as necessary.

05 Lights, camera, action

(Image credit: Future)

Now it’s just a case of adjusting the light power on the head for a balanced exposure. We factored in the window light to the left and therefore, with our exposure set, we set the flash head power to 2.6 for our headshots.

06 Professional poses

(Image credit: Future)

You don’t want people smiling or laughing too much in headshots, as it can look unprofessional. Instead aim for more a engaged look, with a gentle smile. Capture a variety of expressions, and from a slightly raised position for more flattering results.

More videos: 

Photography tips and techniques videos
Studio portrait lighting: essential tips and setups explained
Headshot photography tips: shoot the perfect head-and-shoulders portrait