Many photographers, such as myself, are always in search of the perfect light. After all, photography means painting with light. This is true whether we specialize in portraiture, fashion, commercial, headshot, nature or landscape photography. The quality of the image is the interplay between the artist, his or her equipment and mother nature.
The easiest and most flexible lighting situation in my opinion is indoors where you can control the lighting with all kinds of artificial lighting equipment whether it be strobes or continuous lights. If you can’t figure it out, there are actually companies out there you can hire to help solve a lighting situation for a fee of course. For example, I use Dynalite strobes for shooting sports such as basketball, swimming and volleyball but I have now grown fond of using continuous lights such as Kino Flo for headshot photography.
Despite all that fancy gear, however, my favorite lighting is still provided by Mother Nature. Not only is it free, you have a lot less equipment to haul around which brings me to the important part of this post. Several days ago, I had to photograph a couple of sisters, Char and Gab, whose family I have photograph throughout their teen years during major milestones such as sporting events, proms and birthday parties. Now that they are young adults and ready to embark on their professional careers, it was time for me to take their headshots as well.
There was a torrential downpour that day so I packed my Dynalite Uni400s and backdrop expecting to be shooting inside. However, I was greeted by cloudy skies upon my arrival to their home and it seemed the rain was not coming back soon. Perfect! I jumped out of my car with just a small camera bag containing my Leica M9 and a couple of lenses as well as a light stand and a piece of 20″x30″ white foam core. My main light was sunlight diffused through heavy clouds. I could not ask for a better situation. With the sun as my main, I placed the white foam core directly below my subjects’ face about chest high and I shot away using a Leica M9 with a 75/1.4 Summilux at ISO 200, 1/180th of a second at f/4.5.
If it turned out to be a sunny day, I would’ve still shot outside, but I would’ve searched for a shady spot to do the session. Many amateurs immediately place their subjects in harsh light or have them face the sun so they end up all too squinty. Don’t get me wrong. I do ask my subjects to squint on purpose so they do not have that psychotic look, but there is a difference between wanting to squint and the sun bothering you. Also, there are situations best shot in direct sun but a headshot is not one of them.