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Tips & Tricks

Striking Corporate Head Shots In Cramped & Boring Spaces

By Chad DiBlasio on April 17th 2016

“Yeah, we can do that!” I heard myself say it out loud. Then immediately thought, ” But HOW?” This is the predicament I found myself in with a corporate client a few years ago regarding professional ‘studio-style’ head-shots for staff.

I was working out of a 130 sqft office at the time with just about enough room for a spare chair before being crowded, so I knew that I needed to figure out another option and quickly. When it comes to making things work and doing more with less, it’s something most photographers have to be able to do. Most never had the ability to just go buy everything for every situation right away.  The choice is either do without, complain, or figure it out, and the ability to adapt serves photographers well. You’ll always be facing adversity and problems in different situations from clothing choice, location, client demands, weather, etcetera.

So, with a client on the books for studio shots, I tried to adapt and I started making my plan for shooting in small spaces that would work for me, and this is by no means a rare occurrence; this kind of thing is often done on location in poorly lit office rooms or, quite literally, in storage rooms. It is where they have room, so we make it work.

Creative Head Shots - DiBlasio Photo-7746

Getting set up

When you’re shooting portraits on location, setup and travel both need to stay light. I usually take the following list of items:
My camera roller bag which contains:
2 Bodies – Canon 5d ii and Canon 5d iii
3 Lenses – Canon 50mm 1.2, Canon 100L 2.8, and a Sigma 24-70 2.8
4 Speedlights – Yongnuo 568ex ii
4 Wireless Triggers – Yongnuo 622c
1 Trigger Remote – Yongnuo 622c-tx

My light bag which contains the following:

3 Light Stands – 10ft air cushion light stands
1 Reflector – 43″ 5-in-1 reflector
1 Collapsible Background Kit – 5×6.5 twist pop-out photo backdrop
1 Large Softbox – Wescott Recessed Mega JS Apollo

I am able to roll my bag in and carry my light bag, reflector and backdrop all in a single trip while still being able to open doors by myself. This quick and easy setup also allows me to get myself in and out of the building quickly, as well as work within a decently small area. Here is a shot of a two light setup with the background and reflector.Small Space Headshots - DiBlasio Photo-2

During this shoot, I needed a black flag for the light that was off to the rear as a hair light. I didn’t have anything with me in my bag, so I grabbed the gaff tape and my reflector carrying bag to make a makeshift half snoot flag for this flash.

Small Space Headshots - DiBlasio Photo-3

It wasn’t ideal or the ‘right’ piece of equipment, but it worked. This next photo was actually taken in the space/setup shown above with the black back modifier for the hair flash:

Creative Head Shots - DiBlasio Photo-7746

This photo was done in an empty storage area with the exact same setup but the second light was fired into the background for a brighter feel.

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And the final result:

Creative Head Shots - DiBlasio Photo-9067

[rewind : ONE LIGHT shooting SETUP FOR UNDER $300]

In a small studio

My personal experience of trying to remain smaller and boutique has led to accepting and learning how to shoot successfully and predictably in small spaces.  Now, when it’s your own and it’s a constant this situation does allow a lot more control as well as a permanent roller backdrop system, but it is still confined quarters, and push’s your creativity.

Granville Creative Co-Op Shooting Space - DiBlasio Photo - 1

Our backdrop system in the new office

Gravnille Creative Co-Op - DiBlasio Photo-6

These next shots were all taken in a space that is less than 12×10′. We do have relatively tall ceilings now, but we only recently moved and used to shoot on in 9ft ceiling office where we also moved the conference table out and lights out of the way to shoot (we eventually moved all the lights in that smaller office because it was such a pain!).

DiBlasio Photo-Office-5

Our old office and shooting space.

Creative Head Shots - DiBlasio Photo-7921 Creative Head Shots - DiBlasio Photo-9766 Creative Head Shots - DiBlasio Photo-6377 Creative Head Shots - DiBlasio Photo-06233 Creative Head Shots - DiBlasio Photo-12

Professionals of all walks need great head shots; Shots that are technically well executed and highlight a bit of their individuality and personality. Learning to love working with what you’ve got and the challenge presented by limitations is laborious but worth it. It will make you better and allow you to capture images in locations you might think unimaginable.

[learn : advanced lighting techniques with lighting 201]

Don’t forget you can now “go Premium” with education materials and webinars from the SLR Lounge! It’s an excellent way to invest in yourself and your business by always seeking to learn from best and brightest in our industry!

And I’ll leave you with one of our most fun sessions with a photographer/artist from recently.

Creative Head Shots - DiBlasio Photo-

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Chad is a central Ohio based wedding/portrait photographer and educator. When he isn’t busy with his 4 kiddos, watching Gray’s Anatomy (with his wife…) or making things, he spends his time pinning home improvement wishes and learning about essential oils – he’s actually a hippie in hiding. He thoroughly enjoys laughing, riding motorcycles and a nicely edged yard. He’s been shooting for a shade over a decade and loves to talk tech and business.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Rob Kirkland

    Great article.

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  2. Joseph Thomas

    @Chad DiBlasio

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  3. Joseph Thomas

    Hey Chad DiBlasio can you post the link to those boom arms that are using in this set up to hold the reflectors and the softbox thanks

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  4. Andy & Amii Kauth

    Thanks for sharing your set up with the community, Chad. Always fun & interesting to see how others set up for shoots!

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  5. Lee Hawkins

    Hello from The Land up I-71! Great article, gives me some new ideas on doing these much more easily than I have been. My setup is a bit overkill for a single headshot, but I think I need to just go get a collapsible backdrop and it’ll be much easier! Those Westcott Apollo softboxes are pure awesome, I have two and I use them for wedding formals as well as group shots and headshots. They are great tools!!! Thanks for sharing this!

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    • Chad DiBlasio

      thanks Lee! I feel like sometimes we get so amped up about what gear to use rather than just shaping light and interacting with people! I LOVE those umbrella style boxes!!

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  6. Maykell Araica

    Awesome Stuff Chad! I’ll have to stop by some time soon to get me some headshots ;)

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  7. Vangelis Medina

    He used a black flag to control light bounce but did not remove the piece of plastic on the head of flash, wich porpouse is to bounce light!
    And no, i does not make light softer.

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    • Chad DiBlasio

      I used it to stop the spill on that one side. I still did want it spread across the rest of the room :)

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    • Matt McClosky

      On the contrary, the frosted bounce dome diffusers will soften light. They get you out of more binds in a pinch than a speedlight without.

      At 2 feet with a straight on shot the diffusion is hardly noticeable, I will give you that, The more you back off and run comparisons it is evident.

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  8. Bruce Haggie

    Great article, I found myself in this exact predicament last week. If it’s not too cheeky , what do you charge for headshots on location like this ? I was doing mine for a local youth charity so was a freebie.

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    • Chad DiBlasio

      No worries Bruce! We charge a standard charge for setup of $150 and then we do our standard rate of $100 per person with downloading of their choice image.

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