Glamour Head Shot Techniques

May 16, 2009 by  
Filed under Articles

The difference between shooting a typical head shot an creating a glamour portrait are really obvious.

The lighting must be flattering, the filters soft and the make-up truly professional. It’s the execution of these principles that will set your work apart.

Our studio technique involves a few simple steps that give us the “Hollywood” look, as demonstrated in the accompanying photo.

For the primary light , we used a Photogenic MonoLight that has been placed into a Halo Light Modifier. The halo gives a soft, low contrast lighting and a quality that sets the mood. The main light is placed on a boom approximately four feet in front of and above the subject. This is the butterfly lighting style frequently used for glamour work.

A silver reflector is placed in front of the model and just out of the camera’s view. The reflector bounces additional light back into the underside of the eyes and chin, filling in the shadow areas. In the photographs in this article you can see a small catchlight in the lower half of the eyes as a result of the reflector.

The next step in the set-up is the background light. By using a background light and various color gels it is possible to change the color of the background without physically changing the seamless paper. In this photograph I used color gels over the light source to coordinate the color of the light with the clothing color and the mood desired.

The background light used in the photographs accompanying this article was a Photogenic Powerlight fitted with a 7 inch parabolic reflector, covered with a gel and adjusted to emit equal power as the main light (metered just above shoulder level). This allows the light to fall-off at the edges of the photograph. By changing color gels, the feeling of the photograph can be changed in seconds, and you will be able to give the customer a variety of looks to choose from.

To determining what color various gels will produce at different ratios to the main light, you will need to shoot a test roll and record the settings so they can be reproduced easily. Then, experiment with a combination of different colors.

In this lighting set-up make sure none of the main light spills onto the background and contaminates it. The subject was placed approximately eight feet from the background and the main light was feathered down to prevent spill over light onto the background.

To create a more dramatic look in each of the portraits, a hair light was placed directly behind the model’s head adding light to the hair. The hair light is a Photogenic Powerlight fitted with a four inch parabolic reflector. The reflector must be small enough to hide behind the subject’s head without being seen. When metering for the hair, I hold the meter at the back of the head and point it toward the light. Depending on the model’s hair color, I adjust the hair light to main light as follows:

Black + 1/2 to + 1 stop

Brown – equal to main

Medium to dark blond hair – 1/2 to 1 stop less

Blonds – -1 stop to 1 1/2 stop

Occasionally I will add different color gels to the hair light to create an entirely different mood and feeling.

Another vital key in glamour photography is make-up, and yes, a professional stylist is essential for top results. In my studio, I never do a glamour session without a professional stylist. The stylist is crucial because everyday make-up is very different from photographic make-up. Since lighting used on the set is relatively flat, the make-up must be applied so it doesn’t look flat. Therefore, the make-up used is heavier and more contrasting than everyday wear.

To flatter the face still more, use soft or very soft, focus filters. You may even want to combine several soft focus filters for an even softer effect. These filters are a must in glamour work and they also help keep the retouching costs to a minimum. My clients love them. Although, now with digital we typically add this effect afterwards in Photoshop.

And yours will, too. With soft focus, soft light, a soft touch and just the right make-up, they’ll look better than they really do.

Which is what we all want anyway, isn’t it.


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