How to take better front shots photography

When it comes to taking head shots, you’ll be pushed to find someone better than photographer Chris Bailey. Based in the town of Frome in Somerset, Chris has photographed many actors and celebrities including Samantha Womack, actor Alan Harris, David Warner and Jane Merrow to name a few. Chris conducts his practice from his independent studio, and invited AP along for the day so he could try out our Rotolight kit. For this photo shoot we armed Chris with three Rotolight lights: two powerful AEOS lights and a smaller NEO 2 as well as accessories.

Modelling for us was professional actor Theo Walker, who at the young just starting out in the industry. His aim from the shoot was to come away with approachable head shots that would reveal his likeable and easy to work with manner, as well as show his versatile look.

At the photo shoot, Chris used the Roto lights on the continuous light LED setting; they were plugged into the mains so we didn’t need to worry about battery life. However if we were out on location the AEOS on full blast is capable of lasting up to two hours, making it extremely versatile.

The AEOS and NEO 2 are both easy to use and have two simple dials on the back panel. One is to adjust the power output of the light that is measured on a percentage scale and the other alters the colour of the lights in degrees Kelvin. Depending on whether Chris wanted to have a cool, neutral look or a look to his images, he could creatively decide and also mixed the colour together.

With his camera as a starting point for each set-up, Chris would set the main key light to a daylight balance and then get Theo to hold a grey card to set a custom white balance on his camera. Chris shoots in manual mode with his shutter setting at 1/250sec, and his aperture varying f/4 and f/6.3 to ensure Theo’s main facial features remain sharp. Chris mostly has his set around 800-1000. In total we had three lighting set-ups that all portrayed Theo’s character and personality differently.

1. The key light

For the initial set-up Chris started with just one light which was positioned over to the left, just slightly higher than eye level but not too high else the brow bones would have cast shadows. This first light was Chris’s key light and he had attached the soft box over the top to spread the light more evenly.

2. The rim

To bring a touch of light into the shadows on the right of Theo’s face Chris placed the behind his head to create a glowing rim. This is called a rim or kicker light. He also set the colour to a tone to create an orange glow.

3. Background light

Chris then lit the backdrop to separate Theo from the background. He placed this light close to the background and to one side. Placing the light closer to the background created a strip effect. Had he moved it further away the light would have spread more evenly; however this wasn’t the effect he was after.

4. Final result

In the end, Chris altered the kicker or rim light to a cooler setting – playing around with these types of settings can be fun. He also experimented with the background colour changing it from cool, but in the end this was the final result.

Loop lighting

This is a very similar set-up to the clamshell; however Chris tweaked the key light’s position slightly over the left to create a small shadow loop next to Theo’s nose – hence the name ‘loop lighting’.

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