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Tips & Tricks

Getting a Simple Headshot In One Hour With One Light & One Reflector

By Hanssie on August 13th 2015

simple-headshot-tutorial-1I’ve taken a small hiatus from the grueling pace of the wedding photography world and have been focused more on portrait work. In the last two weeks, I’ve done two vastly different headshot sessions – one session was actually a 5-in-1 session with 5 girls in one family that needed headshots for their modeling agency. The other session was for a bodybuilding competitor building his lifestyle brand who had an 8-pack (and counting) of abs. Both of these session were simple, fun and required minimal gear.

The ease of a headshot session is demonstrated in the quick video tutorial below from Jay P. Morgan and The Slanted Lens. Jay P. had one hour to shoot a simple headshot session for his real estate agent friend who needed new photos. The 3.5-minute video gives you a look at how he goes through the process to create the portraits. The first thing he does (which I believe is a very important part of the process), is knowing how the image is going to be used. Before the session, Jay P. researched his subject’s competitors so that he could produce something different to help his friend stand out.


When I am discussing with my client what the images will be used for, we almost always discuss the person’s personal brand and the image they want to be perceived as before I make any suggestions about location, wardrobe, time of day, etc.. We grab some mood board pictures (sometimes, they are DO NOT DO THIS images) and once we start the shoot, I know exactly what the objective is. Another thing Jay P. does during this shoot, which I feel is important to do as well, is show the headshot client some of the images from the back of the camera. This is a good time to coach them a little on how their jaw is a bit clenched or show them some minor posing adjustments, some of which are more helpful to see visually. Also, some people have their “good sides” and features they want to minimize. Showing your client the images also gives them confidence that you are getting some great shots that they will love.


Jay P. uses his Canon 5D Mark III with the Tamron 70-200mm for the shallow depth of field as they are shooting in the client’s yard without many interesting elements. The hour photo shoot turned out to be an hour and 15 minutes and the one light became two Baja B4’s- but even so, Jay P. was able to keep the session as short and simple as possible.

Watch the video below for some more insights from Jay P. and check out his website here.

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Hanssie is a Southern California-based writer and sometimes portrait and wedding photographer. In her free time, she homeschools, works out, rescues dogs and works in marketing for SLR Lounge. She also blogs about her adventures and about fitness when she’s not sick of writing so much. Check out her work and her blog at Follow her on Instagram

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Peter Nord

    Just received Peter Hurley’s new book, The Headshot. After reading a number of pages decided I can’t just read this one time. He’s saying a good headshot is not about the gear.

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    • Ian Johns

      “Own your lights, PEOPLE!”

      – Yes, I got the book also and have ripped through the first two chapters already.

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