Get the best lighting for your headshots

Young Professionals
Heather Poltrock

I’ve been taking headshots for our staff at NewsChannel 7 for about 10 years. In that time ‘my recipe’ for lighting and editing has changed. Mostly because I’ve learned a lot along the way.

My preferred set up is in our studio, with a three-point light kit. I also turn our studio overhead lights on  half-power. However, the most important part is correctly lighting the face.

Here’s a pull back of my set up.

And another angle.

The light to the right of subject’s face, is medium softbox with a filter. It’s about 2 ½ feet away. Your light’s power will determine how close it should be. That’s something you’ll need to play with. My two other lights are lighting the right side of the face (25-30% power, 3700K for color temperature) and the backlight is lighting her hair at 100% and 3700K. I light using the ‘hair light’ to add dimension.

Here’s what this shot looks like straight out of the camera, or SOOC.

If you don’t have three lights to work with, you can still achieve a beautiful headshot with just one or two lights.

Here’s what the shot would look like if we were to turn off the fill light to our left. See, it really is adding a lot. However, to make this shot better, we could move our light from the right, more straight on to light her whole face.

Or, here’s what it would look like if we turned off the backlight.

And here we are only using the light to the left.

As you can see lighting makes a huge difference in the outcome of the photo.

Editing appropriately is also a big part of achieving a professional image. Personally, I like to smooth skin, brighten eyes, sharpen the image, and up the saturation or ‘bold’ my color. Above is my final image.

And here’s a side-by-side

As you can see, we’ve done just enough, but not too much editing.

Best of luck find your perfect lighting recipe!

Heather Poltrock, WSAW-TV, Wausau