Head & Shoulder Portraits


Maria, showing signs of impatience, starts to goof off at the end of our hour-long shoot. See the other pictures below.

The scene –Available Light

hello_beautiful2Hello Beautiful hair stylists in Corona, needed 5 pictures for a contest–part of a group effort for their salon.

Let’s take a look at the scene and its challenges.

I’m including two pictures and a diagram to help you visualize.

The area was about 15′ wide and maybe 25′ deep.

There was a skylight which provided illumination from overhead.

Problem: Colored Walls

The  left wall is green, right wall a brown or warm beige tone.

Taking note of wall colors is important especially when a white background is needed and the space is small.

hello_beautiful1My backlights with umbrellas had to be placed closer than I liked.

Using umbrellas with opaque or silver is very necessary.

The light from my flash can’t penetrate the fabric.

It prevents the light from becoming tainted with green or brown to bounce back onto my white backdrop.

Problem: Multiple colored light sources


Mostly the sources of illumination were incandescent or tungsten about 3,000K.

No, I don’t own a colormeter but when I set my white balance to Incandescent, I got very good skin tones.

Anytime you’re indoors with large windows expect there is a mixture of lighting. It’s hard to avoid.

You can try and correct it when shooting but if it’s really important, you probably need to light it  or gel your flash to match the dominant light’s color temperature.

The exposure on my subject was f8, the white background was 1½ to 2 times more between f16 and f11. 3 White Lightning 800Watt sec heads. The reflector was placed underneath and to the side depending on the positioning of my subjects. The overhead skylight in the diagram may be misleading. It wasn’t a factor at all because my flashes overpowered the ambient light from the skylight.

hb_white_bal1Sound like Greek? Let’s see if I can confuse you some more.

In a typical office building, chances are there is florescent lights.

If it’s very bright, you would want to set your White Balance to the icon that looks like the long florescent light bulb.

Better cameras may have 2 settings for “florescent.”

If you notice heavy shadows under your subject’s eyes, you would might want to use a flash to “fill” in the shadows.

When you take the picture with your flash, you’ll notice the color is off or are a mismatch.That’s because flash puts out a color temperature close to 5500 Kelvin and since your camera is set to Florescent, you get weird colors.

Weird Colors–The picture above was taken with Automatic White Balance. The one below with the White Balance set to “Incandescent.” Instant improvement with minimal fuss.

To correct this, you’ll need to put a  florescent green gel over your flash so that now all the light sources are putting out the same color temperature.

In extreme cases where you want absolutely everything to match, you might even have to put that green gel over windows.



Hair stylist Dianna Bautista works her magic during our photo session.

2 thoughts on “Head & Shoulder Portraits”

  1. Dianna,
    How nice of you to write a comment! I thought this was an interesting “self-assignment” because what you guys needed was very specific “white background” and there is more to it than just showing up with all the gear.

    Glad you got the pictures in on time. Good luck with that. My fingers are crossed. Please share this post with all your friends and anyone else you can think of in your address book.

  2. Interesting to see it from the photographer’s perspective. I never would have thought of any of that! I’m excited to share this with my friends at the shop. I sent out the photos just in the nick of time! We’ll know by May if we are finalists. Cross your fingers!! Thanks again, Peter! You have been so great!

Comments are closed.