Back about ten months ago, I posted a tutorial on how to achieve three different looks from one headshot lighting grid. This past week, Emily came over to update her headshot portfolio to submit to her agent for occasional work. Based on Emily's requirements, I decided that the same basic approach would work well for her, with a little tweak. In May, with Halley, I decided to warm things up just a bit, and to render the white background significantly below clipping, but still apparently white, or nearly so. For Emily, I wanted just a touch under "blow out" white, so there would be no question as to the color of the background. As always, I flagged the two speed lights lighting the background, to prevent any kind of blowback from robbing the subject of contrast. And in keeping with that decision, I wanted to open things up a bit more, and cool things down just a bit, and present Emily in a bright, snappy light, perfect for her skin tone and choice of wardrobe. So this is about 1/3 stop brighter than Halley, and the same 1/3 stop over my Sekonic meter reading of the beauty dish-mounted Qflash.
Although we started out with a portrait orientation, I also showed Emily and her mom what a landscape orientation could do for her. In this particular frame, however, I manufactured the 10x8 aspect ratio by adding "canvas" to the right of the edited, retouched photo above, matching color, and recropping.
From there, Emily changed her shirt and we moved on.
This look, achieved by having Emily simply cross her arms across her chest, has the natural effect of causing her to lean back a bit and drop her right shoulder. Normally, I wouldn't recommend anyone leaning back for a portrait. Rather, you want the subject to project the face forward, by leaning forward over the belt, actually more than the subject would normally find comfortable. In a photo, however, it projects strength and accentuates the jawline. Here, with Emily leaning back, it's a more relaxed look, and her classic facial structure, lit carefully with the beauty dish, takes care of the jawline just fine.
Next, we simply switched off the backdrop lights, letting the white backdrop go gray. I love the flexibility of using a white backdrop, whether muslin (as here) or seamless paper. I also like it when the client sees how simply turning off the backdrop lights creates a totally different look. No other changes to the key light or camera settings were made.
And finally, we turn the white backdrop around to the black side, take it off the stand, and move it to Emily's right side. I move my position to Emily's left side, leaving the light just as it is. The look is now radically different, but just as beautiful.
At this point, it's all about expression and mood, and minor facial changes and orientation toward or away from the light make all the difference.
Emily and her mom came in with the expectation of getting something akin to the first look above. In the end, they chose all of these.