Basic Studio Lighting: The Headshot

Jerry WalchStarred Page By Jerry Walch, 15th Aug 2010 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Art>Photography

You need to learn the lighting setup for the "Head-shot," the "money shot." The Head-shot is the money shot because every aspiring actor, actress, model, and singer needs to have them made and will pay you to make them. Doing head-shots are a quick and easy way to turn your hobby into a second income. It is a basic two, light setup that is easy to learn.


Almost everyone needs professional head shots made-realtors, travel agents, editors, authors, entertainers, dancers, moguls, CEOs, rock stars, models, entrepreneurs, Internet marketers and even the occasional porn star, just to name a few. Photographers refer to the head shot as the "Money Shot" because they are an easy sale. Many photographers miss this moneymaking opportunity because they do not understand the head shot. It is all in the lighting and your clients will know this.

Setting up studio lights to make a head shot is one of the easiest setups to learn. All you need is a key light, a hair light, a backdrop light, and a reflector. You do not even need a studio to make headshots. You can take portable lighting and a portable backdrop right into the client's home, office, or place of business and shoot the head shots there.

Setting Up For The Classic Headshot

The hair light is the most significant light when making a head shot. Hair, especially dark hair, absorbs a vast amount of light and reflects little, leaving the hair looking dull, lifeless, and dead in the photograph. You use the hair light to bring out the hairs natural sheen.

The key light should be placed directly in front and high above the subject, angling downward on the subject's face. You should reflect the key light off an umbrella style reflector and on the subject's face.

Place the backdrop light as close to the backdrop and aim it almost straight up. Keep the backdrop light lower than your subject. I like to place my backdrop light 2 to 3 feet above the floor. I do not use a light modifier on the backdrop light, but use barn doors to control the light. I also set the level of the backdrop light one f-stop under my key light. This assures a pleasant gradient between the subject and the background.

The stand-mounted reflector reflects the light from the subject back up under the subject's chin and nose eliminating any shadows in those areas.

Practice Makes Perfect

Getting the light set up just right is the key to making headshots that pop with vitality. There is no one setup that works with every subject. The color of the subjects hair, the shape of the subjects face, the color of the subject's eyes, and the subject's skin tones all effect the way you set up the lights. When scheduling a sitting for headshots, allow ample time to play around with the lighting until you have it just right. Actors, dancers, singers depend on their headshots to further their careers. They know the importance of getting them right and are willing to work with you toward that objective.


Backdrop, Backdrop Lights, Backdrops, Hair Color, Hair Light, Head Shot, Headshot, Key Light, Light Modifiers, Light Shot, Lighting, Lighting Zone, Lights, Reflector, Studio, Studio Lighting, Umbrella Reflector

Meet the author

author avatar Jerry Walch
Jerry Walch is a 71 year old freelance writer for hire living in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He has been writing since the late 1970s, and writes for both the print and online media. He specializes in

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author avatar LOVERME
16th Aug 2010 (#)

i have taken quite a few picture postcards worthy snaps in new york and chicago would u like to see them also of montreal if so u may please visit

will be glad toknow of ur evaluation thanks

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author avatar Jerry Walch
16th Aug 2010 (#)

I'd love to see them and I'd be happy to critique them for you. You can send them to me in a compressed file at this email address

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author avatar leylucs
16th Aug 2010 (#)

Interesting share..

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