Before and After


This is a photo of a beautiful woman. One of my mentors, Jay Maisel (, states  the components of a great photograph are light, color, and gesture. I would add DETAIL to the components. Jay would probably comment that detail goes without saying. I am certainly not going to argue with him but will make several points.

Do as much as you can in the camera, cropping, exposure, bokeh, etc. When photographing people, good hairstyling and makeup before the shoot make post-editing a lot easier. Unfortunately, the time for or availability of a hairstylist and makeup artist is not always there. That is where post-shoot editing comes into play. I use Lightroom® and Photoshop® but admit my skills with the latter are limited. The “automatic” software for editing portraits usually gives a Barbie Doll® look that is not my preference.

I have chosen to seek out someone with the knowledge and experience I do not have for editing. Peter Bergeron ( has the skills and talent to meet my needs for “serious” editing. Peter has a Master’s Degree from SCAD and has been editing and printing photos for many years. The following are BEFORE and AFTER closeups of the above photo, thanks to Peter.




Copyright Dan Biggerstaff Photography. All rights reserved © 2016









Get the Flash Off of the Camera

Yesterday afternoon, I was walking along The Bluff near my home. The Bluff is a half-mile stretch of narrow street that runs along The Intercoastal Waterway with the water and docks on one side and homes on the other – old oaks with moss create a mystical canopy over the road, one of the most beautiful settings in Savannah. Now that you get the picture, a photographer was taking informal portraits of a couple before their prom – with an on-camera, pop-up flash for fill.

Unfortunately, on-camera flash of people frequently results in a “deer in the headlights” look – not the most appealing. There are exceptions to this including the use of a ring light for fill or using an on-camera speed-light bounced off of a reflecting surface such as a wall. Taking great outdoors photos of people requires finesse. The camera is first set with ISO, speed, and aperture  for the background and surroundings, best done in manual mode. Frequently, bokeh is used to bring attention to the main subject. Bokeh is the aesthetic quality of blur produced in the out-of-focus parts of an image. See my post on January 4, 2016 for an explanation of High-speed Sync Flash. This photo seen in my post is a good example of bokeh.

 Portrait of a Beautiful Lady

Portrait of a Beautiful Lady

Lets assume the camera is set for the background – frequently underexposed, again to help bring attention to the main subject(s). The classic position for the main light is 45 degrees to one side or the other and 45 degrees angled down on the subject. This results in the classic Rembrandt look with the shadow of the nose not quite touching the upper lip. Additional lights may be used for fill or to separate the subject from the background. Various reflectors may be used in addition to or in place of strobes. My favorite main light source when photographing people is to bounce a Profoto head (D1 or B1) into a silver 42″ umbrella and back through a 7′ diffusing umbrella. This set-up can be challenging if there is any wind. This is an example of a recent headshot using only this set-up on a black backdrop.








Copyright Dan Biggerstaff Photography. All rights reserved © 2016


Headshot Winners

Those of us who took the recent on-line Peter Hurley headshot workshop had a critique this morning, comparing photos taken before the course and those taken as we were finishing the workshop. Peter usually prefers photographs of adults, since much of his work is with adult actors. The following were his favorites, and he did not even comment (negatively) about the fact that they were both children. He said the lighting was ideal and the expressions and poses great. For those interested, the technicals were: Nikon D800 camera, Nikon f1.4 85 mm lens, ISO 200, f9 at 1/160th; Bogen 15000 studio strobe shot into a 42″ silver umbrella and back through a 7′ diffusion umbrella. This is one of my favorite light sources for portraits and headshots. Nikon speed lights were used to light the white backdrop.




Lighting for HeadShots

Talk with a hundred photographers, and you will get a hundred different recommendations how best to light the same subject.  My current go-to setup for lighting head shots is a studio light (Bogen 15000 – yes it is ancient but still works) shot into a 45″ silver umbrella. The light comes back through a 7′ diffusing umbrella before it hits the subject. A 7 foot umbrella is big and bulky but gives a soft light with a nice catch light for the eyes. My studio has a 10 foot ceiling, so the umbrella is off of the floor by a couple of feet. I usually stand in front of the umbrella when shooting head shots, which can be seen if you look carefully at the catch lights.  Currently, I am using two Nikon SB 910’s  to light the white backdrop.

Peter Hurley, the instructor for the head shot workshop I just finished, uses Kino Flo’s which are four bulb fluorescent continuous lights on the subject and Porfoto strobes on the background. Westcott just came out with a continuous LED daylight balanced light source which sounds like a good alternative to using strobe. I will keep you posted on my preferred lighting as time goes on. These are several examples of recent head shots.

Headshots-001 Headshots-002 Headshots-003