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Monday, October 5, 2015


My brother in law Babu is awesome, so I thought it was only fitting to make him a badass headshot when he was in town this summer. A Badass Portrait (or Badass Headshot) is something new that I’ve been introducing to Billings Montana. One of Montana’s slogans is that “Montana is for Badasses,” so the badass portrait is one that made with an equal amount of badass as Montana itself. Really, it’s an editorial portrait that can take on many forms, whatever may be influencing me at the moment, or an idea that I come up with in response to a specific subject matter. This particular look for a headshot is inspired by Marco Grob, a renowned photographer who shoots a lot of magazine covers. So just think of your badass portrait as your very own cover photo. Book at www.portraits.paulbellinger.com

Tips for photographers: This is one of my favorite lighting techniques that I learned from studying the work of Marco Grob. I’ve written about the basics of the technique in the past here. The most important thing about this lighting technique is using a flag (black foam core in this case) to create a shadow on the same side of the face that the key light is coming from (camera right in this case). You can make the shadow hard or soft according to your taste, and you can make the shadow broad or narrow, but try to at least reduce the exposure on the ear. The key light in this case is a strip box very close to Babu, just out of the frame on the right. Two beauty dishes are behind Babu on 45 degree angles to create the kicker lighting. Other than that the set is closed off very tightly with black foam core to absorb any stray light and keep the shadows dark with very little light filling in the shadows.

I like shadowy portraits and I usually like short side Rembrandt lighting for that reason. And that’s fine, the flag doesn’t change much for short light Rembrandt lighting. But when the subject turns and broad lights themselves, the flag reigns them in by putting a shadow on the broad lit side of the face and obscuring the ear which could otherwise get brighter than the face depending on the lighting setup. Don't understand the difference between short light and broad light? Read about broad lighting here and short lighting here. This headshot of Babu is an example of broad lighting with the key light.

This was one of my favorite sessions because Babu is a great guy and part of my family, but he said something during the shoot that really stuck with me. Using flags on light stands makes a cluttered set and you have to constantly adjust them and the position of the subject to put the shadow right where you want it. It makes for a longer shoot than I’d normally prefer and would recommend using an assistant for that reason. But Babu said during the shoot that he thought it was really nice that I was fussing so much over the lighting and that “people must feel very important when they are photographed by you.” That was a great complement even from an obviously biased family member.

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