Tips + Techniques

Daniel Norton's Quick and Easy Trick to Shooting Headshots with Optimal Shadows [RF Video of the Week]

June 19, 2015

By RF Staff

When taking the Adorama staff's headshots for their newly launched site,, photographer Daniel Norton took the opportunity to shoot a behind-the-scenes video of himself at work, providing some useful tips along the way—one of which is a very interesting lighting technique.

In describing his studio setup, he mentions a ring flash on his camera that will flatten the shadows around his subject. Rather than shooting for the deep shadows, he does this instead and uses Capture One to bring them back, which ultimately provides a wider range of tonal options. This is a pretty simple trick that can make a huge difference in the quality of the images.

We asked Norton for some other quick and easy tips when shooting headshots, and this is what he had to say:

1. Talk to your subject. Let them know you care about making them look great! Sometimes once we start clicking the shutter, we forget to keep the conversation going. This can lead to stiff subjects and fake smiles.

2. Don't hide behind your camera for the whole shoot. Use a tripod. With your camera on a tripod, you can poke your head out and talk with your subject and still be able to grab a well-framed and sharp shot when your subject lets their guard down.

3. Show your subject some images, but only some. Whether you are shooting tethered or not, it's great to show the subject a few of the images at the beginning of the session so they know you are making them look great, but once you have started, don't look at the images as you shoot—this throws off your timing and breaks the connection you are building with your subject.

4. Plan your lighting ahead so it complements the most difficult subject to photograph if you are shooting a variety of different people throughout the day. Typically larger, softer sources are best for older subjects.

5. Keep your fill light on axis to prevent crossed shadows. The temptation, when you place your key light at 45 degrees, is to place the fill 45 degrees on the opposite side. This can quickly lead to unflattering cross shadows on the face. To avoid this, keep your fill near the camera.

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