The Boss – A Self Portrait

They say practice makes perfect.  I’m attempting to do a 52-week photo challenge and the first assignment was a self portrait.  I would normally do a standard head shot on a white backdrop, but that’s not the point of doing this type of challenge.  It’s about learning and self discovery, so I wanted to do something a bit more dramatic and have a bit of fun.

For this setup I have a softbox with a Canon 430EXII flash inside.  The box is positioned so my face is just on the inside; when the flash is fired the light clips my face and body giving a nice dramatic shadows but just barley lighting me up.  The camera is positioned at waist level angled upwards with a small reflector at it’s right – I found without the reflector my left arm got lost in the shadow so it needed something to cast just a bit more light onto the coat.

Now for the black background – it’s actually my white backdrop that I always use.  Now I bet you’re thinking I used Photoshop to get it black, but I didn’t.  Knowing a bit about the inverse square law and how it affects light helped me to get the background really dark.  There’s a good write up of the concept at Digital Photography School, however you don’t really need to know the math to do this successfully.  All you need to know is when you are using a flash its power falls off dramatically the further away it is from the subject – faster than you think.  For this photo I’m standing 6 feet from the background; when the flash fires it is pointed 45 degrees away from the backdrop.  Even though there is light spillage from the softbox the background almost comes out totally black.

Potrait Lighting to Slim or Expand the face

Lately I’ve been experimenting with lighting and how it falls on the face.  When I don’t have a model, doing “selfies” and trying to pose myself is an interesting challenge.  I wanted to try creating a photo with my head slightly cut off – doing a selfie allowed me to play around with composition and how close I needed to be the the camera to make it look intentional.

The photo below is what I came up with.  My key light, an umbrella used as a bounce, is in the classic 45 degrees up from my face.    I have a backlight at a stop lower behind me to make sure the background doesn’t go totally grey.  Effective focal length is 80mm.

A selfie. Lighting the far side of the face to make my face look slimmer
A selfie. Lighting the far side of the face to make my face look slimmer

I lit the side of my face that was the furthest away from the camera to cast a slight shadow on the closest side to create slimming effect; this can be used with someone with a wider face / rounder face like myself for a more flattering photo.  You can go the opposite route and light the side closest to the camera to give the opposite effect so those with narrow faces can look more full vs. looking skinny.  The portrait I took on the weekend is an example lighting the opposite way.


Hope you enjoyed this quick example of how lighting the side closest or farthest away can affect your portraits.




15 Minute Headshot

On the weekend had a request for a corporate headshot for a friend.  Nothing fancy – plain background and keep the pose simple.   The goal was to get a shot she could use for any RFP responses / corporate literature so customers can get a sense of who she is.  So taking a page out of Peter Hurley’s playbook I decided to go landscape which would allow cropping of just the head if it needed to be a traditional headshot; otherwise there’s room to play wish if the company wanted to do something more creative.

The shot below is the one we went with.

Cheryl Taylor - Landscape - Front

Here are some other shots that we took in a span of 15 minutes.


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