Pixel Peeping: The Headshot

Alright, let’s get into something interesting: the headshot.

Fr. John Galvan's formal headshot.

Fr. John Galvan's formal headshot.

Fr. John’s an interesting looking, stoic guy — let’s not get that wrong. Behind his looks, however, was a lot of technical work and design to make sure our headshots were powerful and brought the men we photographed to life.

If we were to look at this chronologically, it started with a test we ran with Fr. Fulco to get the project off the ground.

Fr. Fulco's test shot. 

Fr. Fulco's test shot. 

You’ll notice the lighting is similar, yet has several key differences. The lighting we ended up going with was punchier, and had more emphasis on the surface and detail of the face. The actual photos we shot for the book have more contrast, and pop off the screen (and paper) a little better.  We also shot it on a Canon 6D, rather than the Phase One we used for the final image, but that’s a minor detail. We were close with our tests, but we couldn’t get as good of a final set of images without this test.

It’s really hard to get a hypothetical brought to life, without giving it a try first. That’s precisely what we did.

It made all the difference in the world, knowing that we game-planned effectively. That’s my first note, and you’ll hear it throughout the blog posts. Plan, plan, plan. Yes, I’m boring.

The light we used was actually pretty simple. A hardened clamshell setup, with a light illuminating the background. This is the same setup we used for the test shots, but with the three lights having different distances. The beauty dish was farther for a harder light, and we brought the fill in closer. I shot in between the mods. It was definitely a tight squeeze.

And that leads me to my next note: Don’t overthink it. We ran through so many crazy light setups going into the production of this book, and ended up here for the sole reason that the light had to be repeatable over several days of shooting.

Yes, I’m super boring. Stop saying that.

I’ll end with a complaint. Autofocus with a Phase One camera is 120% terrible. Like wearing shorts while swimming in a frozen lake kind of terrible. It made shooting these headshots a little more time consuming because of its inaccuracy and slow speed. We had to shoot with a good amount of volume to make sure I hit my target, and I own and use this camera regularly. Yes, it gave us every miniscule detail the Jesuits’ faces could muster, and it definitely gave our retoucher a lot to work with, but man that autofocus is bad. I wouldn’t wish that experience on anyone.

Yes, I can be hard to please sometimes. I’m not sure if it’s super obvious yet.

-  Robert