Get lit in 2021! And by “get lit,” I’m not suggesting you tie one on this New Year’s Eve 🥂. No, I’m strongly recommending that for your next headshots, you use a professional photographer who knows how to light you.
Friends don’t let friends use amateur photos. You may as well have “unprofessional” stamped across your underlit forehead.
The Best Lighting for Headshots
Generally speaking, if you want a primary headshot to use across multiple channels, the best lighting is diffused, whether it’s natural (outside but not in direct sun) or manipulated (indoor or outdoor with the strategic use of lights, windows and reflectors). Diffused lighting erases or minimizes imperfections. It emphasizes your eyes without drawing attention to wrinkles, lines, or puffiness, and gives you a nice, soft radiance.
How We Light You in Our Studio
We love shooting indoors and out. At our Chelsea studio, we control the weather (big advantage!). And in addition to professional studio lights, we have good old-fashioned window lighting. We use the windows strategically in sync with studio lights and reflectors to create a wide variety of looks, ranging from natural to staged, simple to dramatic.
Here’s a headshot we photographed in the studio:
How We Light You on Location
But for a variety of reasons, many of our indoor shoots aren’t at our studio. Instead, they’re shot on location — in offices, homes or special venues. Indoor lighting in these locations tends to be orange/yellow (think, dingy apartment building corridor) or gray/green (think, scary hospital hallways). And the direction of the lighting is usually all wrong. Ceiling lighting rarely works unless you prefer the look of bags under your eyes so large that they wouldn’t fit into an overhead bin. Some photographers try to counteract that with a camera flash. Big mistake, unless you want to look like a deer about to be struck down in the prime of life. That’s why we bring studio lights and color-correcting gels. They bring a sparkle to your eyes and eliminate any possibility of making you look like a vampire.
We also love shooting outside if Mother Nature cooperates. Direct sunlight rarely is flattering, but shade, clouds or bounced light provides the beautiful diffused light we prefer.
More Examples of Headshots & Portraits
Peruse our galleries to see headshots shot in the studio, in office spaces, or outside. You’ll quickly see how we optimize the element of light.
Can you tell that bad lighting is one of our pet peeves? Sorry for ranting. On the other hand, if you want to learn more, here’s a great illustrated blog post on Photofeeler.
May the light be with you in 2021!
Co-owner of Headshots NYC, Deutsch Photography & Gotham Family Photos. Lover of images & the stories they tell. Fanatic about words, numbers & patterns. Entrepreneur & adventurer w/keen wanderlust. Life/love/business partner of my husband, photographer Brett Deutsch. Eternal love affair with NYC, where I landed by way of GA, TX & CA.