Barnet Workshops » Sharing Experience, Information, Inspiration

Behind the Image… Head shots

Along with our great weddings, we’ve done some different and interesting assignments.  We recently photographed the talented Crystal Price for her new CD.  She’s a vocalist who writes and sings her own material.  We chose Kevin Break’s Studio in Los Angeles at the Brewery Artists enclave for the shoot and made use of many of the wonderfully unique shooting areas he has created.  Who would think a bright red-orange wall could look so fabulous!  We also loved the light blue & red wall that Kevin painted.  There was so much to use there!  As always, we brought our own lighting gear but the studio comes equipped with much of the lighting equipment one would need, including a Norman strobe system.

Seeing these photos, you might think Crystal is a pro, but this was her first time!   We think it’s very important that our clients feel relaxed and have fun.  Crystal put all worries aside and just went for it.  She did a fabulous job and made it look easy.

Here are some of our favorites from the shoot, along with a little behind the scenes info…

This orange-red cement wall made a great background, even better after helping the color out in Photoshop and a little vignetting.  You can see the set up in the next image.  It was lit with only one light.  A Dyna-lite strobe head off of a 1ooo w Pack in a medium Chimera Super Pro Plus box with an egg crate inside the baffle.  This gives a soft but directional light.  Softer than a beauty dish, but more edgy and directional than a plain soft box.  The box is silver lined for a more specular look.   Soft boxes are great, but the light can be too soft for my taste, especially for fashion and commercial work.  The box was placed above and behind the camera for a Paramount lighting effect.  Notice the small shadow right under the nose.   We used a fan on low setting to give the hair a little movement.

A large white reflector and a smaller gold one closer to the subject were used to even and warm the light a little and soften shadow edges.  All the images were taken with Nikon D3’s.  For this one I used a 105 macro (great portrait lens) at about f 5.6 @ 1/250.  ISO 200.  The 3rd image is right out of the camera before Mirta did her magic.  She likes to make our subjects look fabulous, as though they just spent a week at a 5 star spa.




The image below was obviously enhanced in Photoshop for a posterized look.  We did others very similar with a more natural look, (scroll down) but we think this one’s pretty cool.  The background is hand painted canvas.  As you can see in the next image the subject is about 6 or 7 feet from the background to let it go dark.  The main light is a Dyna-lite head from a 1000 w Pack in a 22″ Mola Demi beauty dish, I love this reflector!!  I use it on a boom with wheels when I can so it can move it in or out easily.  There is a white card for fill, and a silver Larson reflector in front.   I added 2 Dyna-lite heads with amber gels for  kickers and the one on the right is spilling onto the background a little.  The barn doors on the left kicker kept the amber light off the face.  Also the 105 macro, f 8 @ 1/250 ISO 200.  We use Pocket Wizard Plus II Transceivers to trigger the main light and the kicker packs were on optical slave mode.  This is a very nice, controlled studio set and by adding or changing lights, gels, etc. you can create lots of different moods.  It’s a lot of fun to get in the studio once in a while, I sure miss it…




Next shot below is the Lightroom view of the RAW file.  We use Lightroom to edit and correct our images.  We always shoot RAW, even in controlled situations.  It allows us to take advantage of all the pixels, the dynamic range, and the extra margin of safety.  Plus, it’s nice having just one type of workflow for everything.   With Lightroom, post production takes virtually the same time with RAW as with JPEGS… I’m sure JPEG shooters will vehemently disagree, but that’s just how we roll.  🙂



The images below were mainly lit with the best indoor light there is… Window light!  And it’s pretty cheap!  As you’ll see in the behind the scenes shot, we used a gold card from below and a Larson silver reflector on the left.  Further to the left (off frame) there’s a Dyna-lite head with a red gel into an umbrella on very low power just to  add that warm color to the hair.  Also on the left there’s a large (4’x6′) Chimera box with a Dyna-lite head.  I set up this box before the shoot but never used it, here I just had the modeling light on at full power for a little fill AND warmth.  I often use a soft box with the modeling light only to help the ambient light, it’s  a very nice warm light.  This is a very expensive way to “fill”, but if you got the stuff handy, what the heck…

The window light images on the blue wall below were done with an 85 mm 1.4 @ f 2.5 and around 1/250 @ 400 ISO on shutter preferred + 1/3.  With the D3’s I don’t have to worry about cranking up the ISO a little.  It’s a great low light camera!  For the high key image by the window I used a 70-200 2.8 VR Nikor.  Probably my favorite lens.  I don’t like to use a tripod if I don’t have to.  If I’m getting a decent shutter speed I’ll hand hold.  The VR does a great job.  I use the tripod only to lean on, keeps me steady, I can move it around, and I get much more flexibility than if the camera was attached to the tripod.  Sometimes on outdoor locations I use a homemade “chain-pod”.  If anyone wants to know what that is and how to make one email me.



For the image below left we placed Crystal right on the window (to the right of the blue wall on the shot above).  We filled her with silver and gold panels, but the backlight is still tricky.  For these situations I usually go manual, start out @ + 1 stop and chimp away till I’m in the ball park, looking at the histogram helps, (and impresses the Client :-).   We had a blast working with Crystal.  She was a great sport and even smiled at my corny jokes.   We’re looking forward to seeing her new album at the stores!

Stay tuned for a “Behind the Scenes” post on a bridal gown shoot we just did for next year’s Ceremony Magazine at the Ebell Club of Los Angeles.  Great location, great models and great crew…

If you found this post interesting or helpful in any way, please let me know by leaving me a comment below.  I’d love to hear from you!  ~  Joe

10c-Crystal 2 up

  • September 3, 2009 - 9:27 pm

    Antoinette Ryun - wow! great post…so informative and you make it all look so easy! lol! will be back to see what other tips you have. thanks!ReplyCancel

  • September 3, 2009 - 9:32 pm

    Amy Clifton - Thanks for the “behind the scenes” look! Enjoyed it. I’d love to hear about your photoshop magic sometime. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • September 8, 2009 - 7:28 pm

    michelle cunningham - these are awesome! i really need to explore alternatives to the softbox. step out of the comfort zone…ReplyCancel

  • November 20, 2009 - 9:42 pm

    johnna brynn bockover - i just discovered this blog and am thrilled to learn so much in just a few posts! THANKS!ReplyCancel

  • December 8, 2009 - 1:42 pm

    Adan Gutierrez - Great Post! Great Work! Love all the information details, they help understand how it is done,

    Thanks Joe and Mirta,


  • May 19, 2010 - 11:41 am

    Tamara Young - This is still one my favorite posts ever! I refer back to it sometimes when I get “stuck”.

    A beauty dish is on my Christmas List!ReplyCancel

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