Tip – Meet the Team Lighting Setup

The old showbiz adage is that you’re only as good as your last gig. Same for any creative professional, especially photographers. The idea being that you always bring the experience and techniques you’ve learned over your career to every shoot. Your last shoot should reflect that being as good as if not better than anything you’ve ever done. Most people assume that Fundy Software is a small company, and they’d be right. But many people are surprised to find out that it’s more than just Fundy and a developer. There are actually 14 incredibly talented people that make up the Fundy Software team. So when we added a “Meet the Team” page to our website, I was asked to do the headshots.

As the Director of Education, my goal is to educate, inspire and learn. I’ve photographed corporate headshots for decades and can easily go into robot mode with tried and true lighting. Given our audience, I decided this was an opportune time to challenge myself with something different and share that experience with you.

There’s no shortage of talented photographers. We work with the best in the industry and are fortunate to share their amazing work, insights and tips every week on our blog. Given that audience, I will admit that I was more than a little daunted, but that’s where experience kicks in. It’s having the tenacity and fortitude to stick it out and continue to grow.

Corporate headshots are generally straightforward. It’s hard to change it up too much without failing your clients needs. They are used in communication, marketing and social media. Being a software company whose end users are professional photographers, there is room for something more creative, but it still needs to work as it does for any business.

The original concept for this shoot was to expand on a basic lighting setup and come up with a creative twist that didn’t compromise the need for a headshot that works across multiple uses. We are hard-working, creative and fun. It was important to capture that spirit in these headshots. To do that, I set up the camera on a tripod and used a Pocket Wizard to remotely fire the camera and strobes. This allowed me to interact directly with my subjects and capture genuine expressions, by not hiding behind the camera.

My basic corporate headshot lighting is a 3-light setup. A main light (octabank with grid), a background light (8-inch reflector with a 30 degree spot grid) and a hair light (strip bank). Throw in a reflector and I can shoot all day long. I like shooting with a 70-200 toward the long end of the lens. The compression is very flattering for portraits and lends a cinematic feel to the headshots. My exposure for my main light is usually f/11 and I set the background and hair light to f/8. For the Fundy Software team photos, I pre-visualized a 5-light setup.

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The background light and both kicker lights were 8″ reflectors with 30-degree spot grids. The main light was a 48″ Octabox with grid and the fill light was a ring flash. Exposure for the main and background light: f/8. The ring flash and (2) kicker lights: f/5.6. Two black “v-flats” were used for subtractive lighting to add dimension to the sides of the face and prevent flare from the kicker lights. The background was a simple thunder gray paper seamless. Photographed using a Canon 5D-Mark III with a Canon 70-200, f/4.

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Final thoughts. Overall, I was very happy with the way these turned out, but it was a lot more work than I anticipated. This is not something you’d want to do every week unless you can leave it set up in your studio. For the post production, I decided to keep the retouching light and style it with some color grading. I added a warm color layer (set to soft light blending mode) and then added an opposite blue tone to the shadows and finished it with a simple vignette.

Since the original shoot, we added some people so I had to recreate my original lighting for the new photos. Our shooting space is limited in the office, so this is where I started cursing myself for trying to be clever. Fundy and I had just finished shooting and posting a review on a new product (Westcott Eyelighter for Headshots) and I decided that I could create just as effective a headshot (some say better) with a simpler setup.

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These last two photos were shot with the new setup, which is a Westcott 45″ Round Halo and the Westcott Eyelighter reflector (designed to work together), a background light and a Speedlite with a MagMod grid for the hair light. A killer headshot setup using only three lights, that I feel is every bit as compelling as my original 5-light setup. Certainly much easier to set up on location when time and space are important considerations.

The bottom line: take risks. Don’t be scared of failure. Shoot and keep shooting. There’s always the next gig and the only way you really lose is if you stop shooting. So, what do you think? Share your thoughts and inspire a conversation!