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Lessons:15Length:1.8 hours
Headshot photography
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3.1 Equipment

In headshot photography you can achieve amazing results with pretty much a minimum of camera and lighting equipment. In this lesson you will learn what lenses and lighting equipment will give you the best results for your headshots.

3.1 Equipment

Hi, I'm Scott Chanson. Welcome back to headshot photography. In this lesson, we're gonna be talking about the equipment that you need to create great headshots. The good news is that you can probably get started in headshot photography with just the equipment that you already have. First, let's start off with the camera. I would say that you need to have a quality DSLR or one of the new mirrorless cameras at a bare minimum. Canon and Nikon are a safe bet, as they have huge followings. Which means there's a lot of people to help you online when you run into problems. It also means that there's more accessories in the after market. Some other companies that work really well are Sony,Olympus, and Fuji film. And they have great cameras and there's even some other ones I haven't mentioned. Whatever brand of camera you choose, you don't need the top of the line camera to get started in headshot photography. In fact, I bet about 90% of you couldn't tell the difference between a head shot I took with a $500 Canon Rebel versus a $2,500 Canon 5D. If you're on a budget, I would say go with a cheaper camera body and save your money for better lenses and lighting gear. Because I guarantee that you can tell the difference between a well lit photo taken with a good lens versus a badly lit photo taken with a kit lens. Which leads us to our next point. What lenses should you use? When it comes to headshot photography, the most important aspect of the lens you're gonna use is the focal length of that lens. In order to get a photo that is flattering and reveals your subject in the most natural way, you wanna use a lens that is at least 85 millimeters and probably closer to 100 millimeters. The reason for this is that lenses that are less than around 70 millimeters will cause some distortion in your client's face if you get too close, and they'll not look like themselves in their headshot. Here's what this looks like in real life. Here's an image taken at 24 millimeters, pretty close to the subject. And as you can see, it makes the central parts of your client's face look larger, And the periphery looks smaller. This is not a flattering look. So here's the same photo, shot at 200 millimeters. As you can see, focal length makes a huge difference in your headshots. And because of this, my favorite lens for headshot photography is the Canon 70-200 2.8L. I love this lens. It gives me tack sharp images, great [INAUDIBLE] and it has a constant aperture of 2.8 throughout the zoom range, which means I don't have to worry about my settings changing if I'm zooming in and out. Another couple lenses that I love from the Canon lineup are the 135mm 2.0L prime and the Canon 100mm macro. The images from these lenses are simply stunning, with tons of contrast and great sharpness. If these lenses are still a little bit out of your budget right now, you can still get great results out of the Canon 85mm 1.8, or the 100mm 2.8. If you're a Nikon shooter, you have very similar lenses to choose from. Nikon also makes a great 70-200mm 2.8 lens that would work great for headshots, and everyone that I've talked to who's shot the 85mm 1.4, says that it's the best lens out there for headshots. Nikon also makes a strange lens called the 135mm f/2 DC. The DC stands for defocuse control, and while I don't have any experience with it, it seems that some people swear by it and think it's the best lens that Nikon ever made. There are a few other things you want to consider when choosing a lens for headshots. The first of those is working distance. You want to make sure that the lens that you choose allows you to frame your subject properly and to be a comfortable distance away from your subject. For example, if you use a 400 mm lens to get a standard frame headshot, you'd have to stand pretty far away from your subject. This would make it pretty difficult to interact with them and to give directions to your subject. On the other hand, you don't want a lens that requires you to be too close to your subject and make them uncomfortable in that way. Another reason I love the 70-200mm lens, is that the zoom gives me some flexibility with how far away I can be from my subject. Finally, you want to take into account the size of the censor on your camera and how that effects the equivalent focal length of your lens. For some cameras like the Canon 7D, it has an APS-C sized sensor, which means that the crop size of that sensor is 1.6. And that means that your 200mm lens will you give you something like a field of view of a 320mm lens. So that's just something to kind of keep in mind as you're picking out focal lengths to go with your different camera sensor sizes. So, once you have a decent camera and a good telephoto lens, you're pretty much ready to go. All you have to do at this point is go find some good natural light to light up your subject. I know several headshot photographers who make a decent living with nothing more than a camera, a telephoto lens, and a small reflector to control all the natural light around them. In fact, that's the way that I got started in headshot photography. One of the biggest leaps forward in the quality of my natural light photography, was when I bought and learned how to use a five in one reflector. I could probably teach an entire course on how to get the most out of a reflector. But for the purpose of headshots, the reflector use is really quite simple. I usually just use the white side of my reflector to bounce nice, soft, flattering light into my subject. The best news is that you can pick up a decent five-in-one reflector for less than $20 online, and that is some great bang for your buck. Where I live in Southern California, we have pretty much perfect weather 360 days of the year, so shooting outside in good, natural light usually works out pretty well. But if you live somewhere else in the world where it actually gets cold in the winter or it rains more than just a few days a year, you may have a problem. You don't really want to constantly be at the mercy of the weather and the seasons when you're trying to schedule clients. You may be able to get away with this when you first start out, but trust me, you don't want to stay that way long, it is such a bummer to have to reschedule shoots, especially if you get really busy and then you have to find spaces to fit reschedules after five days straight of rain. That is not a fun thing to do. The obvious answer to this problem is to move the operation in doors and if you're lucky, you have a nice big north facing window and you're all set to keep using natural light. In a later lesson, I'll show you exactly how I use Window Lite to create beautiful headshots right in the comfort of my own living room. Of course like all photography eventually someone's gonna ask you to create a headshot in a place that has really horrible light. And you will be stuck unless you have a good understanding of off camera flash. And you have the equipment to accomplish it. If you are like many other photographers out there and you're intimidated by the idea of off-camera flash and artificial light, you don't need to be. I've created two courses that will show you exactly how to get going with off-camera flash. The first course that I created was called introduction to flash photography. And it covers the basic equipment and the technical aspects of getting your flash off of your camera, including a basic off-camera flash setup that costs you around $100. The second course, Intermediate Flash Photography, goes into more depth, covering how to use your flashes and get great portraits, and how to use multiple flashes at the same time. The most common time when I need to use artificial light for headshots is when shooting corporate headshots, since you usually have to come to their place of business and shoot in less than perfect conditions. Artificial light will also help with keeping images looking consistent. Since natural light can change so much during the course of the day. And flashes look the same all day long and even into the night. When I'm given the task of creating headshots in less than ideal conditions, I have a go to setup that has always worked great for me. It's my portable mini studio. This setup consists of one light stand, one 42-inch umbrella and an umbrella holder, one off-camera speed light and the means to trigger it, a roll of 53 inch wide seamless paper in a color of your choice, you need two background support stands, which are really just beefier light stands. And make sure they're tall enough to go up at least nine feet. You'll need one background cross bar, and I just use a strong curtain rod and two super clamps to hold that all together. I absolutely love this set up. One because everything packs up so compact that I can usually carry all of it and my camera bag in one trip. Saving me the time of going back and forth while I'm loading gear. And I also love it because I can have it set up and ready to go in about 10 to 15 minutes. And it takes even less time to tear down after the shoot. It's also fairly inexpensive. The whole studio set up without the flashes can be easily assembled for around $150. Believe it or not, this is pretty much all the equipment that you need to start a headshot photography business. You can get a decent camera and a great lens for around $1000. Add to that an off-camera flash setup for another $100, and $150 for the mobile studio setup, and you've got the equipment to shoot anywhere and anytime for less than $1500. Of course, all of that equipment is pretty much useless without the skills to go along with it. In the next few lessons, we're going to go over some of the basic skills that you need to master in order to become a successful headshot photographer.

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