Splash the Flash

If you saw my earlier Blog on Commercial Headshots, “Headshots 101”, you will recall that it covered Basic Composition and key things to consider when using light at home or in the office. It was really focused on helping you to grab basic images with basic equipment so that you could get an image suitable for your profile. Now we are going to look at Simple flash and to see how that can make a difference.

We know that commercial headshots are important and are a great way to portray professionalism and so the images that use need to reflect the image that you want, not simply what you can quickly grab from your phone

So, in this blog, we’ll go a little beyond the basic and explore the use of very simple lighting and the difference that a background can make – we’ll also touch on the question of what to wear to work with your background

Simple Flash (Studio Lighting using Off-Camera Flash)

This is a solution that works very well when you have a lot of people to photograph and don’t have the opportunity to set lights up for each individual. I’ve used this to photograph more than 200 people at events but as a formula for success it works every time.

Commercial Headshot Oxon Bucks

I’d recommend a simple white background, which can be a plain white wall but for more versatility, I’d suggest a portable backdrop to escape from the confines of very specific locations.

With the backdrop in place or white wall location identified, set up your lights:

  • One to the right of the camera pointing down 45 degrees
  • One to the left of the camera, at roughly the height of your subject

The main light (to the right) needs to be brighter, with the light on your left acting as a “fill” light to address unsightly shadows and basically “fill” in the gaps.

This image gives a good even lighting that flatters, doesn’t have unwanted shadows and can be used over and over with positive results. If you want to completely white out your background, then you’ll need to add a further flash unit to point directly at the background and turn up the power


We talked about not having a busy background for your images, and I mentioned in the section above about “white” or “complete white out” for your commercial headshot, a simple colour change can make a big difference. These examples demonstrate the impact that you can have by changing this.

Commercial Headshot Backgrounds Oxon Bucks

Backdrop colour for simple flash

The top two images are taken against a white backdrop, one with an additional flash unit to brighten the background, the bottom two are taken against a black background, which is less easy to find than a white office wall but can deliver a more sober corporate feel to your commercial headshots. Note that with a dark suit on the dark background care must be taken to lift the subject off the background by adding some light to the subject.

In the next blog, I’ll be looking at a different lighting set up sharing some thoughts on expression – to smile or not to smile.

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