I’ve never been afraid to photograph people. In fact, early in my ‘career’ as a photographer, I hit upon the genre of Street Photography. There is something special about capturing everyday people in everyday situations — “catching people being themselves.” However, there’s quite a difference between candid photography on the street in public places and capturing people in a controlled studio setting. That’s something I had not delved into — until now.
Catching the Studio Bug
A few weeks ago, a local photography group of which I’m a member hosted a training session on portrait photography. The class was put on by two members who are professional portrait photographers in Louisville. While my experience in the class did not turn out as I would have hoped, it did give me some ideas for ways that I could branch out in this area.
Of course, you don’t need photography studio equipment to take portraits and head shots. There are many photographers who specialize in portrait photography outdoors or using only the natural light that comes in through a window. Still, I was intrigued by the studio concept.
Research and Training
As everyone knows, the Internet is a fantastic resource for research and for training of almost any type. I belong to a group called KelbyOne which develops online training videos in virtually any area of photography. Since I began photography in earnest, I relied on KelbyOne more than any other resource. This was no exception.
As I reviewed the videos on portrait and headshot photography, I knew I was not ready to get into some of the more complex levels of portrait photography. However, taking head shots — those head and shoulders views that virtually everyone needs for their resume — seemed a possibility as an extension of what I was already doing.
Studio Light Kit
Coincidentally, I found a basic studio lighting kit on Amazon. The kit contained two soft boxes and two umbrella lights, along with a backdrop stand and three backdrops. The kit, produced by Neewer, which is a name I’ve come to trust, was only $149. After a short discussion with the photography CEO, also known as my wife Nancy, I ordered the kit.
All of the lights in the kit are designed for continuous lighting of the studio set. I have learned from KelbyOne videos that this ‘continuous lighting’ approach is best for new people like me who are learning about artificial lighting. I also have two strobe lights that I can bring to play as I need to.
So far, I’m very happy with the Neewer kit. It came with daylight (5600 K) florescent lights which do not generate much heat. While the light stands are not as sturdy as my tripod, they are sufficient for what they do if one is careful in handling them.
The only things I plan to change are the backdrop cloths. They are designed to not only be a backdrop but also a floor covering for full-length portraits. However, with headshots, I only need a backdrop since I’m not photographing below the chest level. Therefore, I have purchased two microfiber sheets — one in black and one in white — to use for headshots, since they are much lighter and easier to move. Of course, I’m keeping the larger backdrops should an occasion for more full-length portrait photography present itself.
The First Subject
Once I had everything set up, who was going to be the first subject of my headshots? The obvious choice — me. By taking advantage of the remote operation and downloading capabilities of my camera, I was able to position myself in front of the lights, take a picture, and then have that photo immediately downloaded to my iPhone so that I can check it without moving. In this way, I was able to adjust my seating and the lights to try various techniques.
Although the picture shown at the right is one of my first attempts at taking head shots of myself, I’m satisfied with the outcome at this stage.
My plan was to take some shots of my grandson for the next phase in my learning curve. He can be a bit of a ham in front of the camera and I already have several hundred ‘candid’ photos of him. However, I was quite surprised — and happily so — when my son Alec asked if I would take headshots of him. He is in the business of evaluating advertising and needs a headshot for some of his materials. I was pleased that he asked and am looking forward to that next step.
This doesn’t mean that I am ready to ‘hang out my shingle’ or start a headshot photography business. Right now, my ‘clients’ are limited to friends and family. And it may never progress beyond that.
However, it’s a new learning experience and one that I enjoy. Scientists say that continually learning and keeping your mind active as you grow older helps to stave off the aging processes. Whether that’s true or not, I’m having a good time with photography and I encourage others to try it. And I’m looking forward to exploring this new stage of my photography ‘career.’