Beautiful Portraits With Whatever You Have To Hand | Keeping It Simple And Creative! | Paul Wilkinson | Skillshare

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Beautiful Portraits With Whatever You Have To Hand | Keeping It Simple And Creative!

teacher avatar Paul Wilkinson, Portrait Photographer

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.

      What we'll cover


    • 2.

      Eye contact, orientation and subject/photographer confidence


    • 3.

      Setting up for high key studio headshots


    • 4.

      One light studio headshot: Changing the tone of the background by adjusting the angle of the studio


    • 5.

      One light studio headshot: Changing the tone of the background by moving the studio light


    • 6.

      One light studio headshot: Characterful headshot with shadow


    • 7.

      One light studio headshot: High key headshot with pure white background


    • 8.

      Two light studio headshot: Headshot with kiss light


    • 9.

      Headshot with bare bulb speedlite


    • 10.

      Headshot with speedlite and umbrella


    • 11.

      Headshot with speedlight and softbox


    • 12.

      High key headshot: Two speedlights, one softbox


    • 13.

      Low key headshot: Two speedlights, one softbox


    • 14.

      Windowlit headshot (no artificial lights)


    • 15.

      Your turn, next steps and outtakes!


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About This Class

Want to create corporate headshots but not sure how? Scared of studio or location lighting? Wondering how to work with windowlight? This video shows how you can create striking, flattering and professional-looking headshots no matter what your lighting set-up is.

First, multi-award winning international portrait photographer and judge Paul Wilkinson (from talks about the importance of eye contact in corporate headshots. He explains what to consider when planning what orientation to use (upright or landscape format), and talks about how the confidence of both photographer and subject develops over the course of a shoot.

Then, starting with his ‘safety’ three-light studio set-up, Paul talks you through where he positions his lights and why. Then, he strips it down to a basic one-light set-up and demonstrates why the height of the light is so important (hint: it’s to do with flattering light on the face and beautiful catchlights in the eyes!). In the same segment, you’ll learn how you can turn your plain white background dark or mid grey with a simple lighting adjustment.

Staying with one light, Paul shows how you how to incorporate background shadows for a characterful portrait. Then he adjusts his light and subject to quickly and easily turn the background pure white. Lastly, see what a subtle difference a second light creates, with a soft ‘kiss light’ on the subject’s cheek.

Next it’s time to experiment with the kind of set-up you’d use if you were creating headshots on location. Paul shows you how to get beautiful results whether you’re using a single bare-bulb speed light, a portable umbrella or a pop-up soft box. If you’ve got two speedlights, you’ll learn how to use the second one to create a bright white background or a pool of light on a dark background.

No lighting kit? No problem? Paul explains what he looks for when using windowlight, and shows how he created a beautiful headshot in a hallway of his studio.

At each stage, you’ll see Paul’s images straight-out-of-the-camera, with exposure settings and the final edit, too.

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Paul Wilkinson

Portrait Photographer


Paul is one of the UK's most sought-after portrait and wedding photographers - not just for his eye for an image but for the manner in which they are created (mostly laughing, always relaxed!)

His images have adorned numerous publications from the BBC to the Times and have won countless awards as well as giving him the accolade of Fellowship of the Master Photographers Association.

He and his team are based near Oxford in the UK though often you'll find him clutching his passport and his cameras as he creates images for people across the globe!

This class is brought to you by the Mastering Portrait Photography team!

See full profile

Level: Intermediate

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1. What we'll cover: So what do you do when the team around you challenge you to take some head shots in a variety of lighting patterns ranging from studio based with expensive kit to daylight, Which is the cheapest of all in this video, I'll show you how I'm Paul Wilkinson, a full time, fairly passionate professional portrait photographer. This is the job I so love to do. I'm also the co author, along with Syrup later of Mastering Portrait photography, a very successful book on from it. A team including Sarah Myself have built the website Mastering portrait photography dot com , where if you head over to there, you'll see a ton of videos just like this one. There's forums, there's the podcasts. There are questions and answers, their top tips and articles, anything to do with this great business of ours, which is the business of taking people's portrays. I'm Paul Wilkinson, and this is mastering port. Take photography 2. Eye contact, orientation and subject/photographer confidence: so before we start just a few general guidelines. But these are general toe all portraiture, but in particular headshots for nearly all head shot or personal branding or corporate portraiture. Work your viewer, Your sitter. Rather is gonna be looking straight at you. Why? Because when the view of the Web site or the view of the brochure or the view of the TV program, whatever is looks at that picture, they want eye contact. They want to feel trust. Almost always. It's about trust and engagement. They want to feel like I know I could work with that person, or I know I could employ that person as an actor. Well, I know I could date that person. It's all about eye contact. To do that, you've got to interact the whole of this set up. I know Sarah, who's arrived to be our model, is a little bit nervous about it. But I know that as we talk and as we explore and as we chat about things and generally laugh was we put together this video, you watch a layer, bet she starts nervous, but by the time she's finished, she's the most confident person in the room. And that's about you, the photographer. You, you, the creative you to guide you the director. You have to take control of it, and you have to lead them on a little journey that starts with them being probably a little bit nervous. But in the end, willing to get in front of a great screen with a nice ball gown on and take some flamboyant portrait labor. Bet that's what's gonna happen, the training and cropping these days. If you're going to put shots on something like Spotlight, which is where all the actors headshots go, you're probably gonna have to shoot upright pictures. OK, that's just what they ask for. But today, in this day and age, landscape orientation is so effective because websites Lovett access a great banner on the top of website. So we're gonna shoot a lot of today in landscape. But be aware that some websites will ask you to shoot in portrait. If your job is your job, is the photographer to know which, Okay, if your clients not certain do both, it takes no more than a breath to take your camera on. Pitch it from Landscape Inter Portrait Do both, and in this session we're going to do precisely that. This video is not going to cover too much opposing and too much of positioning, because what I want to illustrate here is how easy is to use different light sources in different locations to create really simple headshots, headshots in their purest sense, which is to say, just the picture of someone's face. 3. Setting up for high key studio headshots: Hey, we are with shot number one. The reason I'm using this particular set up I'm going to use this particular set up is because this is a well known lighting part for me in each of you. Each photographer should have a scenario where the completely it ease. It doesn't matter whether it's one light to like three light for like daylight. It's just a way of putting your client ease and just getting everything moving. Because, as you all know, the creative process isn't just a technical thing. You can't just walk into a room, and it'll kind of happens. You have to be creative. For May. The way I found that works for me to do that is I walk someone in and I'm gonna like them in a way that I know is reasonably reliable. Now. If I was lighting Loki fires, lighting dark, then this would be a one light set up. But because unlike Ting Hai ke, it's a three light set up. But don't be fooled by that. It's not complicated effectively when you're doing a high key on by high key. In this context, I simply mean on a white background, okay, there lots of variations. It could be on a smooth cream background. It could be a blonde lady with pale skin against the sky. But in this instance, when I'm talking high key, I mean a white wall or white backdrop lit so it punches us out almost pure white. And then whoever's in front of the camera, looking beautiful and well lit, it could be you. But this is effectively a one light set up on all of the to the other two lights in that of the three lights. All they're doing is light in the back wall. Okay, so this is how you do it. First of all, I bring the lights in pretty close to my client that you have to have a reasonably confident client to do that because it can feel a little bit weird to visit. Where doesn't when you're encroached in. But the reason I'm doing as I know that these two black soft boxes will absorb a little bit of light. Why do I do that in here rather than using subtracted boards or blackboards is because our studio isn't very big, and so to bring in boards and then light round. It is a lot of hassle, and I don't tend to do that. I have got the board here. I can do it if I'm really looking for a very specific look. But I don't need to. Why Don't want share those around the edge where we're lighting a light colored top on lighting skin against the white background. And if I can add those shadows, there's little Dark ages round. It just creates a little bit more character to the lighting. So we popped those both on. Now these are both set to seven, and I got so fed up with videos saying We should have this, that this and this and that and you should set these up. That's not that useful because it'll dependent on things like the distance between these and the wall. The distance between my key light on the subject and the ratio of that's the background on , of course, the settings on the camera. So here's how you do it. First thing I said 22 lights up. They set here notice that they're back behind the client a little bit behind my subjects a little bit, because if I do it any other way. If I bring them forward, see how yellow the skin goes? You don't want that. Don't want these lights to be lighting the subject there, just creating a smooth transition on the back wall. But if I take a photograph of that, I'm not gonna turn my key light on my main light. I'm just gonna use the two back lights. Beautiful. What you should see on the camera. Is that okay? So I've got my camera set notice in the history. Graham, It hasn't gone to pure white. It's gone to white. Very bright, but not pure white. Why we, like gives me a little bit of control later is very quick, but a photo shopping or use of light room to create a clean white. But it means I've got no hailing. All of these tiny hairs around the edge are all still there. I haven't blown them out. And there's always a clue. And some was over letters. You get little funny halos on the hair has disappeared. Looks very blocky. Skin goes a little bit funny around the edges. So I've controlled my lighting. Then I'm gonna take it. If I turn these back off, but I'm gonna keep the same setting on my camera. I'm not gonna change that now. In the light, Sarah. Independently night. Okay, Peaceful. Right. So now what I'm doing with the same setting on the camera that just gave me the perfect effect a minute ago, I'm gonna set my main light. I know, because I already set it. That's going to give me about the right field. Now, As it happens, this light is set to exactly the same as the other two. Because the ratios of what I'm looking for, broadly speaking work that might not work for you. But don't be put off by that. Set your lights all the same. If it doesn't work, think, think is the background to Bright, in which case try again, Not them down a little bit. Or is the face too dark? In which case, bring this one up a little bit? All I'm doing is balancing out the light. But don't be fooled. Just because I've got three lights here. Effectively, this is a one light set up, but I'm using two lights to create my background. That's all. I'm not happy. Note. That's quite some pictures 4. One light studio headshot: Changing the tone of the background by adjusting the angle of the studio : So I've done three lights set up on all that three light set. It was a key light and two lights light in the background. So now I'm gonna do is just bear that down and we're gonna start doing some stuff with just one light. One, like photography is always, in my opinion, the most effective. So even when I'm using three lights toe lighter, back wall in my head, a single light light in the client's face and then I've got to supporting likes that just controlling my background. So now let's just do some simple shots with one light and what we're going to do is photograph far away from the wall and I'm gonna go gradually closer and closer to the wall and ultimately have Sarah leaning against the wall all with one light on all, giving a slightly different feel to the background. Let's have a look and see how it goes. The question. How do you know how high to set your key light? Broadly speaking, there's a line between the pupils of the eyes in your subject. If they tilt their head either way, that line moves. You want your key light, the light that's lighting the eyes in the face to be above that line, the center line of the light to be above that line If your client tips their head that way , the line now moves. You have to bring the light up on over because ideally, you want a cat slight above the people in the eye. And if they tilt their head and the light is here, the cat site in the eyes now gonna be below the pupil, and that just isn't very flattering. Okay, so that's why the lightest set to this height. I set it wide because I want quite a linear cats light in the I am actually controlling the shape of the cats, like in Sarah's eyes, by manipulating the light with the angle where we can do for the different things with the angle. If I take the light back, I'm now lighting the background a little bit more. If I bring the light around, it changes the light on Sarah's face a little bit, but it certainly changes the light on the background. So let's take a couple of shots and see what they look like. So if I take this picture with the light angled that way. Let's have a look at this picture, So notice the darkness of the background. Now, if I spin the light around a little bit, put it this way. Now look at how dark the background school different, both effective, both beautiful. You have to make some decisions about kind of like you want. But remember, all I'm doing is I'm lighting or changing the angle of the light at the front here, with Sarah on their lead in the background change just by virtue of the light that's spilling around. 5. One light studio headshot: Changing the tone of the background by moving the studio light: we've illustrated neatly how effective one line is to create a headshot. What we're not gonna do is push everything back towards the wall to create a little bit more light in the background. Because, of course, as I slight as this light gets closer to the wall so the war will get lighter. So if I have the distance between Sarah and the wall very much on, move the light accordingly and this time we should still have a beautiful shot. But there should be a little bit more light on that background. Lightning it and bringing it to life. Let's have a look. That's what happens when you you decrease the distance, the wall and increased amount of light on the wall and now happens if I push the light books around a little bit spinning around on the wall of further. There we go. And now you have nice like but Grant. So we've demonstrated how effective it could be simply to move your distance to the war, making it that little bit brighter now we're gonna do is take this to its logical conclusion and make Sarah lean against the wall. And then I'm gonna like her on the wall together. Let's see how we go 6. One light studio headshot: Characterful headshot with shadow: I've moved the light to do a handful of things. And, of course, I'm balancing all of these considerations round at the same time. So primarily has to be good light on Sarah's face. If I've screwed the light upon someone's face. No photo shopping, no fancy backgrounds. Nothing's going to correct that. So always the priority is to light your subject well. But you can like many things with on light just by moving it right. So if I let it like this, you see the shadows crept into the wall. That's probably a bit close that the light on Sarah's face is beautiful as I rotate it away . You see, I've now got hot spot here. That hot spot is essentially the mid band of the light, where it's pointing down slightly on that band, actually comes all the way around the room. But because there's nothing here tonight and see its light in my hand, then it doesn't matter. But create a hot spot here, which is OK, but what it also does is create this beautiful shadow here. That's a really, really soft shadow. Why is it a soft shadow? Because that's a pretty big light source, and it's fairly close to the wall. So the shadows are going to be soft. They're going to be really sumptuous. They're gonna be beautiful. A couple of other bits that we've noticed because it's now darker on this side. The lightness reflected off Sarah's top is creating a beautiful kiss light on her cheek, which is also really loving. You could do that with a reflector, but someone's wearing a white top. It does that on its own. We also do have some reflected light. I have white walls in the studio, so there's in fact, a little bit of like washing back. So the contrast ratios aren't a strong is. There would be either in a dark studio or, if I had subtracted boards appear all in all, a very simple thing to create a beautiful portrait that has character. It has depth, and it's all done with just one light 7. One light studio headshot: High key headshot with pure white background: But what happens if you want a very clean, high key, Very simple image, almost as if you had the three light set up earlier. Well, it's really, really straightforward. As you might expect, What I'm gonna do is bring Sarah away from a little bit. That way, there's no shadows comports on a spinner like this way. I've got just enough room to get my camera in underneath. And then Bob's your uncle. You are simple portrait with a lip background, very simple, very clean waved in. 8. Two light studio headshot: Headshot with kiss light: We've done some really beautiful three lights and some really beautiful one light setups. What about two lights? Well, this is a really simple shot, a really simple way of creating character in the image. And all I'm doing is I'm using a second light strip box in this case. But it could be pretty much anything. It could even be a bear. Bold flash. It will still work as long as you get the power down low enough to create a really gentle kiss. Like along this part of the cheek in this part of the arm, I'm liking the main of Sarah's faces in my normal key light. So effectively, that is a one light set up with a second light, just creating a little bit of character to the image. And, as you can see, that just at a really beautiful touch of character. Nice, huh? 9. Headshot with bare bulb speedlite: So what you do if you're asked to create business or corporate headshots, an environment where you're gonna be traveling to it, You don't know what the background is going to be, but it's highly likely they've got a white wall at least a light colored war on. Most importantly, you're not gonna carry studio lighting with you. You're going to carry speed lights. If you're in that situation, this is how to do it. So I've got one of our speed lights. This is just a very old Nick on SB something, but you can get Speed likes like this for a couple £100 from Amazon. Now I'm using a trigger on our camera but not using radio. So I'm using an old school infrared trigger. These days, digital triggers wife Wireless triggers are much more prevalent on their cheap. You do not need to use old fashioned kits, but this is the kit I have in the studio just to show how straightforward this convict and I pointed the light down a 3/4 view onto our subjects Seller he wants corporate headshots. On order to do is very simply lighted thes flash heads as most flash heads Do no have a variable zoom on them. So I zoom this in at its full biggest zoom, and all that's doing has given me a much tighter beam of light to work with. I want some control, and if I have a wide beam of light, it flashed around the studio, and I don't really want that. I want control of my lighting, so I zoomed it all the way it on. Nearly every flash when you can buy has this function, some of them automatic, like these guns, some of them. You just pull the head and it tightens the beam in few. If you don't, you can buy for a few pounds. A very simple grid fits on the front on, just tightens your beam and gives you some control. So with all of that set up, let's take some pictures and see what it looks like. And it's a simple is that 10. Headshot with speedlite and umbrella: So we've shown how you can use just a bear speed light to create really beautiful lighting , very simply, while have done, is treated exactly the same way as I would any other lighting in the studio. I have angled the strobe to create the best looking rendition of the face. However, you don't always want hard lighting. So how do you soften a speed like? Well, the easiest of all of the methods is to simply at on umbrella. Nothing very complicated about this. It really is Justin umbrella. Now you can see from configuration this this isn't perfect. The speed, like, ideally, would be in the middle of the umbrella. But you can never get a bracket that works like that. So this umbrella is a little bit low. I don't think you don't have to note is that with so much surface area being lit and then reflected and bounce around the room, of course, the amount of light striking my subject is gonna be somewhat lower. So to compensate for that, I'm gonna have to increase the amount of power coming out of the flash gun, which I'll do on the remote control. Then all I've done is exactly the same as ever. Find an angle was gonna bring that brother out. Just a smidge. I can predict pretty well that light is gonna ping around the studio. So instead of having that really dramatic dark background I had a minute ago, now it's gonna be significantly brighter. But let's have a look. Just look at me and you go simple is, um 11. Headshot with speedlight and softbox: Okay, so we've shown how something as simple as a small umbrella can significantly soften your light. But what if you want a really kind of studio, square edge, soft box, kind of look? Well, the answer is something like this. This is our last delight Pop up soft box. It comes together exactly the same as all their other reflectors just pops out of a bag assembles really quickly. You put your flash, understand using a normal type odd, just for ease of use. And I put a hinge on the top because one thing this particular model doesn't do it doesn't end well. But like, this is perfect. Very cheap. I think about £100 But watch Look at the difference. This light makes. When I take a portrait with it, they lit with a simple speed like 12. High key headshot: Two speedlights, one softbox: But what happens if actually what you need is something as simple as I really need? Ah, White background says the boss. Okay, this is how you do it with two speed lights. You grab your speed light by the scruff of the neck. You move it. You pointed out the said wall. That way you aim it so that the angle of the B is right in the middle of the background behind your subject. You are lying it So you're not lighting your subject. You take your camera, you re set from everywhere. So I'm gonna set the power on the second light to be broadly speaking, the same power as the key light, as we did with Steve Delights. That's it. I'm in. My took my shirt with it. Maker. Hi. Key portrait with to speed lines 13. Low key headshot: Two speedlights, one softbox: Okay, so we've assumed that what you're after is a high key picture, and you go white wall in office. But and I have plenty of clients like this. What? If you want something a little bit more theatrical, we've switched to a dark background. Now, most offices won't have a strong dark backgrounds, but you may find they have something like a blue wall or dark green wall. Lots of interesting businesses now have interesting decor, and this is a simple technique for making the best of it. I've got the same lighting set up for a minute. I've got a soft box in a single speed line, but what I'm gonna try and do is create a pool of light on the wall behind Sarah. I can do that from here. What's he gonna do is I'm just gonna pop the light behind her. I'm gonna aim it at the spot on the wall where I want the disc of light to be just a little bit on the key light stays exactly the same as you'd expect. It's just the 3/4 view into her face lighting her eyes. I think cheeks and all that stuff the second light now is just doing nothing but creating an interesting pool of light in the background Quick shot and it's a simple is that. 14. Windowlit headshot (no artificial lights): you don't always have the opportunity to set up lights. You don't always have the space or necessarily the kit or the time. So what you do if your client wants beautiful headshots, beautiful portrait shots, and yet you're a little bit stuff. Well, always you prioritize looking for light. In fact, if you get good light, you can get away with most things. So this is the back end of our studio. I sit here, which is why this end of the studio looks a little bit messy, but I've got these windows here now. This is the first time I shot here when it came up to do this part of the filming. I was looking around the studio trying to find a nice bit of window light, and it's no obvious here. These windows a little bit low in the frame to make an effective light if you stood in some positions and the downstairs lighting just didn't work. But I came upstairs and had a look around and thought there might just be a pool of light here. And so I think it is proving to be positioned. Sarah, who's beautiful from any angle. But you're still trying to make the absolute best of someone here in this particular position, because the wash of life in the window is very directional is very gentle. There's a lot of it washing around. It's also slightly higher kept her on the lowest step. So it's slightly higher above her eye line so that it's washing down on. Also, there's what you can't see it as a light source up above the camera, another window and there's a light feels here yet another window, which just adds a little bit of extra character in a little bit of shape. So as long as I could get the cat sites in the eyes, right, as long as I could get the shape and modeling off Sarah's face on the upper part of her body, right? I think I've got the opportunity of a really beautiful window. Let I am portrait. Thank you 15. Your turn, next steps and outtakes!: really, really hope you've enjoyed this video and, more importantly, that it's been useful. And it's shown just how easy is to create very effective, really beautifully lit headshots. Personal branding shots portrays for business use all using simple equipment, simple techniques, simple locations. If you have enjoyed it, of course, please leave us a review down below. We love to read them and also grab your camera, go out, find someone in a business contacts or commercial contacts. There may be a musician or actor. Take some photographs and then upload them into the your projects tab down below. We would love to see them. We always review them. We always have a look on. We're always always enthralled by what you do. If you've enjoyed this video, why don't you hop across to mastering portrait photography dot com, which is the home of us on all of the work we're doing there? You'll find a whole host of more videos like this. You'll find forums you find Q and A's, and you might just find a community that you'd love to be a part off until next time. Take care, Boof. Boof, Right? Okay. Could have been camper no sure could have been made. I could tie. Thank you. Thank you. Really invented. Depend a pot on. Ask Sarah to lean against the wall. We're gonna ask there to walk through the wall, because ever see why wouldn't you try that again? Cup Cup Cup To lead them on a little journey that starts with them being probably a little bit nervous, but in the end, willing to get in front of a great screen with a nice ball gown on and take some flamboyant portrait labor. Bet that's what's gonna happen.