In the past it was the corporate headshot. Today it's the LinkedIn profile picture. Photographers must produce a professional headshot as accurately, as easily, and as quickly as ever before. Here’s a shoot I did recently and I would like to break down how I shot it. This is for a realtor’s business page and business cards, so what she wanted was a simple, waist-up professional portrtait. She brought four changes of clothing and we shot against both black and white backgrounds. All told this took an hour and a half.
First, we divided up her outfits so that we could shoot black background images first and white second. Dividing the changes this way allowed us to change backgrounds only once. When I started with the black background I used a 40” octabox to light my subject and a gridded flash as a hair light. With a main light source this large I have found I don't need a fill flash. This way when I changed to a white background all I had to do was turn on a third light, a 24” softbox and use that to light the background. My main and hair lights were perfect for both backgrounds.
The flash system was TTL and the camera set to manual with metering set to center weighted. ISO 100, 1/125, F/5.6 with a Sony A7 and a 70-200 f/4. Then I controlled the groups. Group A was my subject and I left that at neutral.This made group B my background, which I was set to +1 EV, and the hair light was set to -2 EV.
A white background should always be lit a stop brighter than the subject. Simply take the softbox and place it near the subject (as close as you can get without the box being in the shot) and point it at the background. Here compression is your friend. Place the background further away, while you stand further from the subject, and you’ll minimize the amount of the background you’re actually photographing. That makes evenly lit backgrounds easier. I was working in a small space so I got small variations.