Sunday, August 4, 2013

Head Shots: Dealing With Glasses

Photo #1
Headshot: I needed to make a head shot for the Fall 2013 Brochure. As you can see, my subject wears glasses. Glasses are nearly always a problem because, a) their lenses reflect light, and b) highly corrected lenses distort the appearance of the subject's eyes. During his Light Bus Tour,  David Hobby describes a photographer in China who keeps a box of 40 pairs of eyeglass frames with their lenses removed. Before making a group shot, his subjects are asked to pocket their own glasses and pick out a pair from the box. No glass to reflect the light. Problem solved. And as Mr. Hobby commented, that's a line you want to be in the front of. But I digress.

Photo #2
Photo #2 shows a typical photo made of a subject wearing classes. The reflection is obvious. This first "sketch shot" was made to verify the exposure settings. For this series of shots, My D7000 was set to 1/200, F 7.1, ISO 200, Flash White Balance. Lighting was provided by a single SB-900 speedlight shot through a Lastolite All-In-One umbrella, positioned in a "45/45 position, which is 45 degrees, camera left from the central axis, and 45 degrees above. In addition, a second speedlight, shot through a small softbox, was positioned behind the subject, pointed downward at a steep angle. The background is a Botero Collapsible. A Lastolite Circular Reflector, held in place by a reflector clamp, was placed at camera right to reflect light back into the shadow side of the face. 

Photo #3
Photo #3: Because of the heavy correction of my subjects glasses, I opted for a "straight on" pose. This would give me the least amount of of the eyes. My subject's new pose moved him away from the reflector, so I repositioned it.

While a strong contrast between light and shadow would make for a dramatic image, I wanted the viewer to see my subject as an interested, personable subject. Reducing the contrast between the highlights and the shadows helps to produce an image that is more easily reproduced, since it will usually pick up some contrast when published.

Photo #4
Photo #4: To get to this point, I lifted to paddles (side supports) of the glasses so that they no longer touched the subject's ears. The new, elevated position caused the lenses to tilt downward. This re-directed the glare towards the floor and away from the lens axis. As you can see, the glare is nearly gone.

During our conversation, my subject's hands naturally fell into this pose. His direct, friendly demeanor started to show in his face, so I decided to have the subject set the mood with his eyes and his smile, and leave the hands alone. I believed that the hands showed a willingness to listen, a gesture suggesting that he would wait until you had finished talking before offering an opinion of his own.

Photo #5
Photo #5: Still adjusting the reflector, I managed to balance the highlight and shadow sides of the face.You can see the the lower edge of his hands are a little dark, blending into the shadows of  his red polo shirt.

I wanted to reduce the contrast still further by adding some light from below. this would reduce the shadows under his hands and hopefully add a catchlight to his eyes. After an unsuccessful attempt to utilize a third speedlight, I placed a Lastolite Tri Grip reflector on the table in front of the subject. In point of fact, his elbows are actually resting on the reflector, holding it in place. Coming from below, the reflector did not add any glare of its own, but did a nice job in filling in the shadows.

Photo #6
Photo #6: This is the last shot. The smile was friendly and the lighting even. When I saw it, I knew that this was the photo I was looking for.

In post production, I cropped the image to an 8 X 10" aspect ratio, adjusted the levels very slightly, and burned in (darkened) the hands and the borders of the photo. As a final touch, I dodged the catchlights in the eyes to brighten them. The final photo, Photo #1, is at the top of the page.

Looking back, I'm still happy with the image, but would have liked to experiment with more directional lighting. This was really not an option because most of my efforts were centered on reducing the glare from his eyeglasses. Surely there are other ways to address this, but this turned out to be a very acceptable compromise.

If you look at this photo and believe this is somebody you'd like to share a cup of coffee with, I will consider my job properly done.