Sony A7R II with Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM @ f/1.4, ISO100, 1/1600 (HSS Off-Camera Flash)
Sony A7R II with Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM @ f/1.4, ISO100, 1/1600 (HSS Off-Camera Flash)

Headshot Photography with HSS

Equipment Used

Introduction

Headshot photography is something I have only dabbled with in the past. I’ve never marketed myself as a headshot photographer, however it is something I have been on the edge of starting for a long time!

I remember a few years back I saw a tutorial advertised by the F-Stoppers on YouTube call “The Art Behind The Headshot” by Peter Hurley.

I was impressed by Peter Hurley and once I checked out his portfolio, I was inspired to start doing headshots, however my excuses at the time were that I do not have a studio, I don’t have the flashes/strobes, I don’t have the correct lenses etc…

So I never did pursue this avenue of photography.

Over the years however, I did accumulate more and more gear and then stumbled upon “The Cinematic Headshot” by Dylan Patrick. Once again, produced by the F-Stoppers!

So now with more gear accumulated and a tutorial proving you don’t need a studio, I was once again, fired up to start doing headshots!

I never did purchase this tutorial, however judging by the trailers for both Peter Hurley and Dylan Patrick’s work, there were a few nuggets of info I took away and that being headshots need to be correctly lit to shape the face and ensure a good expression. Sounds obvious when I repeated it just now, but the biggest nugget of info was with regards to the lighting using HSS.

I did always assume outdoor portraits required strobes to compete with the sun. I have shot with 0ff-camera lighting before, but I had only ever used it direct flash with no modification and close up for max power and to illuminate my subjects (Click Here to read through an example).

After years of procrastination, I have decided that this year I will make a push for headshots to buffer up my portfolio and to start with, who better than my beautiful girlfriend Sophia.

The Shoot

We headed down to Richmond Park as I do generally like this location for photography as it’s got tonnes of land, so although it can get busy at times, you generally can find good spots where you can have some privacy and clear enough backgrounds where there are not too many random pedestrians walking around.

I positioned Sophia facing toward the sun, but in a shaded area. This is so that the sunlight will illuminate the background, but not her. I kept her in shade so that I could control the light on her face to how I would like it.

lighting-diagram-1468195719

I was only working with one light, which I placed at a 45* angle to her on camera left. The light I used was a Godox AD600BM and had that set to 1/128 power with a 38″ Photo-R Octabox.

Shooting on the Sony A7R II and Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM at f/1.4 for maximum Bokeh, ISO100 to minimise ambient and have cleanest file, with a shutter speed of 1/1600sec to manage the ambient lighting.

Shooting at 1/1600 does require you to enter into HSS mode for flash and this was accomplished by using the Godox X1T-S which triggered the Godox AD600BM.

I used the Continuous Eye-AF to keep focus on her eyes and then let the camera fire a few shots as I kept up the conversation in hopes I could capture lovely smiles.

Sony A7R II with Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM @ f/1.4, ISO100, 1/1600 (HSS Off-Camera Flash)

Sony A7R II with Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM @ f/1.4, ISO100, 1/1600 (HSS Off-Camera Flash)

The Sony A7R II max flash sync speed is 1/200sec, so without HSS I would have had to close my aperture down by 3stops to f/4 to get the same ambient exposure, however at 85mm the Bokeh separation would look completely different between f/1.4 to f/4.

I unfortunately did do this shoot without the intention of doing a write up for it, so I did fail to take example pictures of how the photos would look with different apertures. However I will look to write up that as a separate specific blog article and update a link here, until then, check out Dylan Patrick’s tutorial advertisment and at 4min he does briefly explain the difference for him shooting at 200mm between f/3.2 and f/7.1.

Conclusion

Headshot photography is more than lighting a subject correctly, it’s about posing and expression also. Being able to see the subtle differences between expressions, for me is pretty simple, but to direct and engage with your models to evoke specific looks is a lot trickier.

Through my wedding photography I’ve developed my way of evoking the happy emotion to get people smiling for photos, however I am still new to getting subjects to convey the more deeper intense expressions.

I am happy with what I was able to do today with Sophia, however we will be working on more headshots over time with varying expressions and backgrounds until I can find my style and look for headshots.

I may eventually have to purchase the F-Stoppers tutorials and give them a try. For the moment, I do want to see if I am able to find my own look/style without being too heavily influenced from the works of Peter Hurley and Dylan Patrick.

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