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Looking for some advice regarding headshots
  • One of my buddies who's an actor asked me if I can take some headshots for him because he's short on money and can't afford professional headshots atm. I really want to help him but I don't know if I have the necessary gear/skill. I have a gh2 and I'm planning on using the Sigma 60mm f2.8 lens. I am debating whether I should shoot inside or outside. I have quite a bit of indoor lighting equipment but it's all pretty amateur gear that has it's limits. I researched quite a bit and for what I understand it is important that acting headshots come with a shallow DOF. What settings would you suggest to create a shallow DOF? And is it even possible to shoot acting headshots with a f2.8 lens(I know it's possible to a certain extent but is it sufficient to reach industry standards?)

    I'll appreciate any help from you guys.

  • 8 Replies sorted by
  • Technically you should be able to get some decent photos. While I'm not a huge fan of the GH2's sensor for photos, given adequate light, you should be okay. 60mm f2.8 with MFT is a good range to be in for headshots, some might say it's going to be a little on the long side but for this situation I'd imagine you'd be able to make something work.

    The real challenge with headshots is capturing the right looks for your subject. Proper posing and coaching is going to be very important in order to get the kind of images your friend needs. F-stoppers did a tutorial series with Peter Hurley a couple years ago that's pretty good if you've never done headshot work before.

    Shallow depth of field is nice and you should be able to get that look with your gear (given enough room) but I actually prefer headshots on a solid, neutral background. Then you're not as concerned with shallow depth of field and there is less distracting from your subject's face.

    While your gear might not be "perfect" for the job, there's always a way to make it work and get the technicals lined up. Just make sure you're prepared for giving direction and capturing the right looks.

  • Best and cheapest lighting is outdoors on an overcast day. Most critical part? Make sure the eyes are in focus.

  • keep the background plain or have the backdrop deep enough outdoors to get good DOF/bokeh. simple dramatic shot is to stand him next to a window and shoot him parallel to it for some nice lighting.

    casting agents won't care what f-stop you shoot at. they are more concerned about whether this person has that particular look that they want to cast. Its a game of chance =)

  • Rembrandt lighting with some Xmas tree lights for eye sparkles and a nice background. GH2 takes excellent portraits, esp if raw developed with DxO. 60/2.8 is OK but an Olly 45mm even better if you want shallow DOF, or you can by a 50mm legacy prime for $25 on eBay, which will add a sort of soft filter effect wide open if you want that.

  • Thanks for all the good advice. I took some decent indoor test shots but I'm still not satisfied. I am not a super skilled photographer though so I'm not going to blame anything on the equipment. I don't want to spend all the money for the oly lens right now but I went ahead and ordered the Fotasy M3517 35MM F1.7 together with the 50mm Fotasy plus Adapter Kit. These two lenses should be a lot of fun to play with. They'll be here tomorrow and I'm really looking forward to experimenting with it. I read that both are nice for bokeh.

    As far lighting goes I have a couple of umbrellas(two shoot through and two black/silver ones) already and a soft box mount on the way. I have black, withe and green muslin as back ground. I think I'm going to use the white for commercial / comedy headshots and the black one for drama. I have some LED bulbs but I'm thinking about getting a strobe that seems a bit more effective. Is there a specific strobe you would suggest to go with?

  • I want to say thank you to everyone who kindly supported me with good advice. It is really great if you come to this site as a newbie and people actually take the time to help you. I feel blessed and I'm excited to show you the result.

    800 x 534 - 170K
  • @skjToday not a bad effort but the shot is missing one critical element. There are no highlights in the eyes and the eye sockets are too shaded. The result is his eyes appear somewhat dead. Have you ever heard the term... "The eyes are the windows to the soul"?

    Also IMO the lighting is too symmetrical. With that in mind I'd have another shot at it.

    Maybe look at sitting him next to a large window (avoid direct sunlight) and use some white foam core board to bounce some light back on the shaded side. Concentrate on capturing the highlights in the eyes and you will see a massive improvement.

  • Faculty Portrait

    This shot used a gh2 with a 50mm Nikon series e, two floor standing office lamps were the lights with a wool blanket hung on the wall in the background.