natural light headshots

Mary Dougherty

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I'm a fine art film photographer living in the mountains and traveling to tell beautiful stories

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Maura : 50mm f/2.2 1/400 ISO 200 ||| Zach : 135mm f/2.0 1/320 ISO 100

A head shot tells you more about the person than simply what they look like. What they look like would be a mug shot, and you only want one of those when you go to jail. Portraits, and head shots in particular, are one of those staple images that look effortless and are useful to have on hand. However, most people don’t immediately feel at ease in front of the camera. I know I don’t. It takes some coaching to feel comfortable and give natural expressions.

Every so often I’m able to practice the art of the head shot and refine my skills. Since I am a natural light photographer, I like to use available light to my advantage and am more comfortable doing so than setting up a studio on the go. I thought I’d share a few observations and a variety of head shots (I probably use that term loosely, but you can be the judge) captured in varying light situations, so you can see how I approached each. Feel free to leave questions if you like and hope someone found this helpful!

1. Find the right light. If you are shooting in midday sun, find a spot with shade. You may have to overexpose but meter for the correct exposure on your subject for the best result. (an example is the image above of Zach).

Christian : 50mm f/2.2 1/400 ISO100 ||| Kristen : 50mm f/2.0 1/200 ISO100

2. Catch lights give the eyes life. Light reveals the shape of things, and when reflected in the eyes there is an added dimension in a portrait – don’t Katie’s eyes looks amazing in the picture below? That image was taken inside, near a window.

Mary Claire : 135mm f/2.0 1/800 ISO100 ||| Katie : 24-70mm f/2.8 1/80 ISO800

3. Shoot wide open. Larger apertures (which are smaller numbers, f/2.0 for example) all less depth of field so the background and foreground are not in focus. I like shooting like this so the subject really is the focus, no pun intended.

Liz : 135mm f/2.0 1/2000 ISO100 ||| Leah : 50mm f/1.6 1/800 ISO100

 

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