Mary Catherine in the Studio

Shutter: 1/125, Aperture: ƒ/5.6, ISO: 100, Lens: 24-70mm

You may recognize Mary Catherine from my Auto Show guerilla shoot, or the nighttime city shoot in DC. Now we wanted to get some proper headshots in a studio. Plus, I have tons of experience shooting outdoors with natural light, and concerts with stage lighting, but I have very little experience with studio lighting, and I need to learn. My colleague Paul opened up the doors at Studiowerks DC and showed me a few different effects we could get from different equipment. Click below for more.

Shutter: 1/125, Aperture: ƒ/4.5, ISO: 100, Lens: 24-70mm

This evening we had a gray backdrop, one or two lights aimed at that, then one light to my left, and a reflector to my right. For the images with the gray background, we closed the barndoors down to just a slit to allow a thin flat beam to streak across the back. For the full white photos, like this one immediately above, we had both rear lights on, which gave us the clean white background. In it all, I prefered the gray, to get just a little bit of depth, but there is certainly a time and place for all white, like theater headshots.

Shutter: 1/125, Aperture: ƒ/4.5, ISO: 100, Lens: 50mm

For the first batch of shots we had a large 5 foot wide Profoto Octa box. This presents a whole even wave of light over our entire subject. We positioned a reflector to my right to spread some light to the other side of Mary Catherine’s face. I like how rich and vibrant the light is. I had Mary Catherine lean a little bit and flip her hair, as I was trying to add some motion to the image. I like how her hair cascades down her shoulder, and I love the catch light in her eyes.

Busy night at #StudiowerksDC. Having a blast teaching and shooting.

A photo posted by Paul Wood (@paulwoodstudio) on

A photo posted by Paul Wood (@paulwoodstudio) on

After playing with Octobox for a bit, we switched to the beauty dish. Studiowerks has a silver and a white beauty dish. We also popped a grid on the beauty dish just to see how it looked. (The pink leopard shirt was shot with the grid) and I really liked the richness you get from the focused light. The studio has two Profoto Air Sync units that plug into your hot shoe.

Shutter: 1/125, Aperture: ƒ/4.5 ISO: 100, Lens: 24-70mm

Paul was pulling off a great look with the grid, where the light “dropped off” rapidly. This gives the face a bit more attention, but to me, also demonstrates more control of the light rather than just lighting up everything at once. This was photo was my attempt. And while I love when Mary Catherine is looking right at me (the lens), there is something to be said about the personality that comes through when she looks up and out of frame. It’s a bit more playful, and definitely good to mix into the set, so it’s not 100% straight ahead looks. Mary Catherine has a very natural presence that makes her a joy to work with, but it doesn’t hurt how great she makes my pics look.

Shutter: 1/125, Aperture: ƒ/4.5 ISO: 100, Lens: 24-70mm

Here was another attempt at getting some motion. I love how studio lighting gives her hair a lot of richness. The profile against the gray background is also pleasing. Mary Catherine is very comfortable taking direction, and knows when she’s flashing that power smile.

Shutter: 1/125, Aperture: ƒ/4.5 ISO: 100, Lens: 24-70mm

One last pic, I love how the hair is framing her face. I really like portraits that naturally include a hand or two. If I had to choose just one portrait, it would not be this one, as I don’t like her arm cutting off at the wrist. I also do not like that famous picture of Steve Jobs with his finger on his chin. I think it looks unnatural, and a bit smug. Maybe that was the point. Anyway, browse the photos below to see some more of the stuff we got. This was a great practice session for me to get an idea of which types of modifiers give which type of effect. And to get more hands-on experience with studio gear. The downside is that all this wonderful gear comes at a cost, so if I want to do this on my own, it’s not free. Like the sun is. I will probably start with getting an umbrella and stand that I can use in conjunction with my strobe, and then move up from there to getting a dedicated light. THAT’s why having a great studio available is perfect for limited budgets (or space, I have no indoor space). If you’re in the DC area, check out StudiowerksDC.

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