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Location Headshots

5 Practical Tips – Preparing for Location Headshots

By | Corporate Headshots, For Photographers, General Photography, Location Headshots, Uncategorized | No Comments

I love location headshot jobs because of how much I can accomplish in one day. Typically these clients really value time efficiency which means you often only have one afternoon or a just a few hours to load in, setup, shoot the entire office and load out.  Typically I run into a few similar challenges over and over- so here are some tips that I have come to rely on.

Packed uppacked

Essentially my entire studio brought on location. Packed and unpacked.

1.) Make a gear checklist

This seems obvious but it’s really so critical. Forgetting even a single critical item can be a show stopper on a shoot so I do everything I can to make sure that doesn’t happen! My list has 32 items on it. Not every job requires every item but having everything down in a checklist ensures that nothing is forgotten. I use a simple checklist app on my iphone- Checklist+.

2.)Pack your gear property

When I started doing corporate headshots on location in Washington DC I didn’t really have the proper gear to transport my studio. Most of my work was in my studio but I didn’t want to turn down location requests so I essentially packed my lights and softboxes into two suitcases and wrapped everything in blankets! Needless to say this solution is less than ideal and let’s be honest- not safe for your gear and doesn’t give a ‘professional’ vibe. I now use a pelican case for my strobes, a Lightware Rolling Stand Bag case that holds my foldable softboxes, light stands, and reflectors and Lowepro Pro Runner 450 AW DSLR Backpack bag for my camera, and lenses. With these cases I can bring all of my equipment up to the ofice myself in two trips. I’m currently looking for a nice folding cart to cut that down to one trip.

Bags on location

These three bags safely hold the majority of what needs to come with me on location.

3.)Bring Backup Gear

Bring backups of ANY critical component. When shooting on location you only have one chance to get it right and if anything fails you need to have a plan b. I always bring a backup camera bodie, additional strobe, multiple lenses, modifiers, additional CF cards, cables, batteries and power cords.

4.)Prepare for less than ideal contingencies

Limited space

I require an unobstructed space of at least 10×20 feet but sometimes the clients either don’t really measure the space, or the meeting room slated for headshots becomes occupied and we have to use a smaller room.  Have a wider lens in your bag for cases like this- you might not have the shooting distance you would ideally like.  The other lifesavers in this situation is the Paul Buff Shovel Reflector. I always bring it but generally only use it when space is tight. This reflector allows you to get a decent gradient or white backdrop with just a few feet of space.

Bad outlet location

Don’t count on abundant outlet locations. I always bring an extension cord and power strip so I can plug into a central location if needed. I also always bring masking tape to tape down any power cables that might be in the path of a client. You definitely don’t want any clients tripping or lights getting pulled to the ground!

5.)Parking and load in

This is important- a bad parking strategy will make you late for the job and cause much unneeded stress! This is especially true in urban areas. In Washington DC it’s common for office buildings to have underground parking. Inquire ahead of time and see what the parking situations is, often you can call the garage directly(google maps is your friend here). Do you need a pass? Is there a service elevator, or elevator that will take you to the floor you need to go to? Is there a loading dock area you need to use? My priority is convenient load in. I want a spot in the most convenient parking lot nearest to the elevator that will take me directly to the floor I’m going to.  As a general rule I don’t park on the street(asking for trouble!) and I don’t charge the client for my parking cost(it’s nickle and dimey and slows down the contracting process)- it’s worth it for me to pay to be as close as possible to ensure a fast load in.

Fortune/People Magazine Shoot- Behind the Scenes

By | For Photographers, Location Headshots, Uncategorized | No Comments


The Assignment

I was contacted on a Friday for this assignment which was to take place the following Tuesday. The shoot had to take place in the morning and be delivered to the contacts at People and Fortune by 12 noon. To meet the delivery time, I suggested we start shooting at 8am and I made plans to edit and deliver the photos on site. I arrived on site with an assistant an hour and a half early to scout the location and setup lighting. Because time was so tight, my goal was to come up with one pose and lighting setup that could be shot with different lenses to achieve at least two different looks in a short amount of time. I knew I wanted to mix strobes and ambient light, but without knowing the exact setup going in, I brought extra strobes, reflectors and light stands just in case.

This shoot features Arnold Harvey, a driver for Waste Management . In 2007, Arnold founded God’s Transition Connection, a non profit charity that helps over 5000 families a month through food donations. Because of this, Arnold was selected as one of 50 people to be featured in Fortune’s ‘Heroes of the 500” series. His story was also picked up by People Magazine. Arnold was fantastic to work with. Take a look at his features here and here.

Gear List

The gear list is purely for reference. None of this specific gear would absolutely make or break the shoot. Substitutions of similar quality gear of course, will result is a very similar image.

The Setup

My contact at Waste Management requested we use one of their trucks as a backdrop, which I thought was perfect. The magazine requested a landscape portrait and Waste Management wanted their logo in the shot along with possibly some items from Arnold’s charity. Because we were mixing natural and studio lighting, everything needed to be planned around the position of the sun. I had the truck positioned so the sun was backlighting our subject and slightly to Arnold’s left. This would allow the sun to act as a rim light. I set up a 40 inch octobox as a fill light centered in front of the subject. To further fill and enhance the lighting on the subject, I placed a small reflector right under the octobox. Another Strobe with a 12 inch reflector was used to brighten the backdrop and also acted as a secondary rim light coming from the subject’s left side. With the same lighting, I was able to get two different compositions, one fairly standard medium shot with a telephoto(my preferred shot) and another slightly more dramatic wide angle shot from a low camera position that included the entire truck.


This setup was used for all shots. I had an assistant on set to help setup and test poses and exposures.

Setup and testing poses and exposure.

Setup and testing poses and exposure.


Exposure and Blending Light Sources

I chose an aperture of 8.0 to separate my subject slightly without blurring the WM logo too much(even shooting at 8.0 with a telephoto lens at close range will allow a good amount of bokeh to separate the subject from the backdrop). I chose my camera exposure based on the ambient light(via setting ISO and shutter speed) with a particular eye to get the rim light at the right levels.  When using strobes outside, the sun is the constant variable. The ambient exposure achieved a good rim and kicker effect on the subject, and the two flashes filled in the rest of the scene. Keep in mind when shooting with flash, you are often limited by your flash sync speed- which in my case maxes out at 200.  I metered the key light to be the same as my aperture(8.0) and adjusted the backdrop light by sight to a level that looked good on my tethered screen.

Camera Settings

  • F8.0
  • 1/200sec
  • ISO 100
  • 90mm

Exposure with and without flash

I took a shot without triggering the flash just for comparison purposes. Take a look at the rim lighting in the first photo- the exposure is essentially built around that and the shadow areas of the subject and backdrop are filled in with strobes and modifier. Getting the balance exactly right keeps things looking natural.

before after

Controlling Perspective

Different focal lengths allow the photographer to control the perspective and what appears in the backdrop.  A telephoto lens has a tighter perspective and will compress what is in the background(showing less of the background) and a wide angle will show more of the background. This remains true even if you change your distance from the subject to make the subject appear the same size via both lenses(ie: walking up close to the subject with a wide angle or shooting from a distance with a telephoto). I used two lenses for this shoot. The canon 70-200 for the medium shots, and Canon 16-35 for the alternate take. In the studio I’m a real fanatic for prime lenses but on location with an environmental backdrop and a tight time schedule, a zoom lens allows you to change perspective very quickly and try a few different options without wasting time changing lenses. I preferred the tighter half length portraits but I wanted some wide shots to offer as an alternate option for the client. Because of the position of the sun, I got a good bit of flair in the wider angle shots- but I like the effect it gives here.


Tight and wide perspectives shot at 90mm and 29mm respectively.


Other Details

I always shoot portraits with the camera on tripod. Cameras are heavy- and slightly shifting compositions bug me! For the strobes, I used a wireless trigger and controller to adjust the lighting as needed. I had a battery pack on hand in case we didn’t have access to power for the strobes- luckily we did have convenient access to power. As with every location shoot I do, I was tethered to my Mac Air. Tethering save times and allows me to instantly spot errors as I’m shooting.

Editing and Delivery

Editing on site

Editing on site

Immediately after the shoot I sat down with Arnold and another representative from Waste Management. We selected the 10 best shots out of the 200 or so we shot. After color correction I sent compressed versions of these ten images for approval and final selection by the marketing team(based in Houston). They quickly narrowed this down to their top 3 images and I did some light retouching(removed a few distracting elements and enhanced the contrast on the logo slightly) before delivering the final full resolution images.

Final Usage

Fortune ended up using the tighter image as the cover image for the entire ‘Heroes of the 500’ feature online and the wider shot next to Arnold’s Profile. People used an alternate tighter image.

Final image on the front pages of Fortune.com

Final image on the front pages of Fortune.com


Learn More

I’ve finally gotten around to categorizing my blog posts. Click here for more tutorials and general thoughts on photography techniques. Email me if you have any topics that you might want to see covered in the blog!

Thanks Arnold!


Thanks Arnold!

Time Efficient Workflow for Corporate Headshots on Location

By | Corporate Headshots, For Photographers, Location Headshots, Uncategorized | No Comments

More often then not- when shooting corporate headshots on location, time is tight. I’ve developed a workflow that allows me to take and select the best shots in a very short amount of time. Sometimes I will have as little as 5 minutes per person but it’s important that I do everything I can so I’m not fiddling with equipment, the subject is at ease and able to get a great final product.

Know what the client needs and plan the setup in advance

Corporate Headshots on Location

Testing lighting on a corporate location shoot

Planning is key- everything must be setup and working smoothly in advance of the subject stepping into the room. It’s important to know EXACTLY what look your client needs and how to achieve it(lighting, backdrop, pose etc). I always try to setup in such a way that the client has a clear path to his mark(in most cases for me the client is seated) and not tripping over wires or dodging light stands. Bring masking tape if need to both tape down wires and mark exactly where you need the subjects to be. Allow enough time to test lighting and make adjustments if needed. There is almost never time to make adjustments on the fly- so don’t plan on it!

Have a time sheet

When possible have the client prepare a time sheet of when each person will arrive for their headshots. Having a loose time sheet ensures that I know who is walking in the door next but also avoids empty periods where no one is ready to shoot or the opposite- 5 people walk in the room all at once and end up waiting around for their photo. But it’s also important to remain flexible. Inevitably someones schedule might change and it’s important to be able to adapt quickly.

Tether capture

This is a must. I never review images on the back of my camera- it’s just not a good experience for anyone. Tether capture allows you to spot mistakes and areas for improvement and fix them instantly. I typically capture directly into Lightroom during any headshot shoot whether in the studio or on location. Sometimes it makes more sense to use an iPad especially in a fast moving environmental shoot where the client might be moving to a few locations. When tethering to an iPad I have a second wifi enabled SD card that can broadcast directly to the iPad. I almost always try to have the clients select their images on site because it’s easier to compare and select them with the proper software(like Lightroom) and also it cuts down greatly on the back and both emailing and waiting after the session for each subject to make their final pick. Ultimately this allows me to deliver the retouched images much sooner.