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Friday, September 25, 2015


This was a fun headshot to make for model/dancer/photographer Keoni, who is also a new assistant at Paul Bellinger Photography. Keoni has been helping out in the studio and frequently sits in to model for lighting tests so that everything is ready when clients arrive and they can be in and out quickly. Usually the night before a client shoot I will have Keoni come in to the studio and help me plan the shoot and set up the various lighting arrangements that I will use the next day. But sometimes we just like to experiment with new looks, such as this one, which was inspired from an actor headshot in Vanity Fair by photographer Cyrill Matter. This is a wonderful headshot look for people in creative professions, or anyone who wants a very soft and approachable look, and it works well with formal or informal clothing options. The lighting is crisp, yet the focus is soft, so it’s a very unique look that will stand out from the rest of the crowd. Visit www.portraits.paulbellinger.com to book a sitting in our downtown Billings Montana portrait studio.

Tips for photographers: The setup for this photo is inspired by a portrait of Gabriel-Kane Day-Lewis by Cyrill Matter in the September 2015 issue of Vanity Fair. Cyrill’s image is a crisp black and white with very shallow depth of field, big soft front lighting with quick falloff and a little bit of back lighting to highlight the edges of the actor’s face. I found the look to be very striking, and it was the most remarkable image in the issue to me, and so I bought a copy pretty much just for that one photo (the rest of the issue wasn’t that great in my opinion). The Day-Lewis portrait is the first image you see on Cyrill’s website here: www.cyrillmatter.com. The photo reminds me of a quote from David Bailey: “I just want very sophisticated passport pictures really - which are quite hard to do!" Mission accomplished Cyrill.

To replicate the look, my first thought was to use window light so that I could shoot at a wide aperture for shallow depth of field, and the catchlight in Cyrill’s portrait kind of looks like a window or a big soft box directly behind the photographer, slightly to the camera right to give just a touch of shadow on one side for added dimension. To create the edge light I used two silver reflectors behind Keoni out of frame on each side (I use the metallic side of the insulation Styrofoam you can get at a hardware store or lumber yard). The background is a 4x8 foot white reflector about two feet behind Keoni. I’ll post a bts setup selfie on instagram @PJBellinger if you’re curious to see. This photo was made with a Sony A7ii, Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 lens at f/2, 1/160th of a second and ISO 200.

Overall I like the look, it’s very clean and crisp, yet soft and unusual with the shallow depth of field that will certainly stand out of the corporate headshot crowd. It’s easy to setup and the shallow depth of field makes retouching a breeze. The one drawback is that shooting with such shallow depth of field makes getting the eyes sharp a little tricky, so you have to know how to focus your camera very accurately. For studio work I always use manual focus with the focus peeking feature and manual focus assist on the Sony A7ii, which essentially zooms in on the image in the electronic viewfinder so you can check focus very accurately, especially when the eyes light up with focus peeking. I really like this feature and it’s fun to shoot in manual and it’s also fun to nail the focus every time. These features are some of the main perks of having an electronic viewfinder.

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