Photo Shoot & Technique: Female Model Head Shots

Written by: Glyn Dewis

Published: November 22, 2010

Category: General

To start the week off I thought I’d share with you some images from a recent studio shoot with ‘first time’ model Claire Gladman:

As well as a selection of some of the images from the shoot I’ve also included a ‘walk through’ giving you a breakdown of the lighting used and then finishing off by going through some of the editing involved to take the ‘out of camera’ images through to their final ‘print ready’ state.

As this was Claire’s first time in front of the camera we decided to concentrate solely on ‘head shots’ with a view to progressing towards full length shots at a later stage.

Standing in front of the camera and modelling for the first time can understandably be quite a daunting experience. When working with a ‘first time’ model as a rule I’ll always start with a ‘head shot’ session, then once the subject becomes more relaxed into the whole process and the confidence builds we’ll move onto full length shots.

Lighting Set Up
To emphasise Claire’s strong eyes and great bone structure I opted to use the Profoto Beauty Dish fitted with the honeycomb grid and positioned above and to the front of Claire on a boom. In addition to that a medium sized soft box was positioned below and to the front of Claire angled up slightly to create the classic ‘Clamshell’ lighting set up.

For the majority of the shoot the set up was as shown in the diagram below but only using using the one softbox to the rear for rim light and no white seamless used this time…just the white walls of the studio as we were only working on ‘head shots’:

Editing in Lightroom & Photoshop
As is always the case when in the studio I was shooting tethered directly into Lightroom 3. When importing the photos directly from the camera Lighroom was applying a preset that reduced the red channel by 25%. Nikon’s do tend to run a little hot in the ‘Red’ Channel and I’ve found that a reduction of around 25% is about all that’s needed to give a more accurate interpretation of what I’m seeing.

To take the images from their ‘out of camera’ state to being fully edited, print ready versions there were a number of editing stages I went through and I guess on average roughly half an hour was spent on each. The majority of the editing was done in Photoshop using Lightroom to only check White Balance and exposure.

Apart from a few extra tweeks like lengthening Claire’ neck slightly the editing was pretty much the same throughout and you can find all of the techniques I used in my Beauty Retouch Series 1 – 5 either here on the blog or by visiting my YouTube Page [Link]

I pretty much follow the same workflow stages in Photoshop when I’m editing a portrait and the running order is something like this:

  • Remove Dust Spots
  • Working on Eyes
  • Remove Blemishes
  • Tidy up hair
  • Body Sculpting
  • Soften Skin
  • Add Skin Contrast
  • Dodging and Burning
  • Hair Highlights/Lowlights
  • Adding Details

By this stage the images are generally complete and it’s then that I may go on to add a few more little enhancements like the fake spotlight and coloured background, Black and White conversions etc…

Talking of Dust spots: Shooting at f/8 – f/11 showed up quite a few dust spots on my D3’s sensor so first job was to remove them. There’s a technique I picked up from Scott Kelby that is an absolute killer for doing this and I’m going to be posting a tutorial showing it in the very near future.

Last Friday I posted a video tutorial called ‘Colouring the Background‘ and this is the technique I used to add the spotlight behind Claire as well as the blue colouring. The Black & White conversions were done using the only Plug In I use these days…Nik Silver Efex Pro. The default settings are generally spot on but for Claire’s photographs I added a little more Contrast and Structure…not much, only about 10-15% on each.

As always any feedback or questions/comments are always welcome so please feel free to make use of the comments section below.

In the mean time,
Enjoy 🙂

BIG thanks to first time model Claire who I’m really looking forward to working with again in the near future.
Oxygen Hair & Beauty Salon, Beaconsfield and in particular stylist ‘Daisy’ for doing a ‘fab’ job with Claire’s hair especially with such short notice.
Make Up Artist Syn

… and of course my Buddy, Assistant & All Round Good Guy Neal Hibbert for helping out with the shoot

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  1. Claudio von grubens

    Hi Glyn,

    pretty great shots! it seams that you one of the few Europeans who have the modern American and light photo style. I’m in photography now for about 3 years and starting with scott kelby and the rest of the ps guys I also got into some European photographer because of their blogs. what I can say from now is that there is a difference between the continents because in europe the photographs are some kind of heavy and romantic where the us shots are more light and clear. I really can’t figure out why but for me it is…

    Anyway really great shots mate! thx for your setup tips!

    • Glyn

      Hi Claudio, thanks for stopping by and commenting.
      Yeah I tend to agree with you about the difference between photography in the US and Europe. I’m very much drawn to the US way of doings, always have been so to read that you feel my style is kind of like that is very pleasing indeed 🙂

      To be honest there’s only a couple or so photographers in the UK that I look to for inspiration and that’s people like Tim Wallace of Ambient Life ( and Drew Gardner ( … both incredible photographers but with completely different areas of expertise and speciality.

      It is as you say very hard to explain the difference between the US and Europe but there is definitely a difference and the US is without doubt where I’m drawn to.

      Thanks again for dropping by and for your kind words; I really do appreciate it.

      All the best to you,

  2. Denis

    Hi, Glyn.

    I translated for myself your article into Russian and posted on my blog.
    Links to the original saved. Thanks for interesting lessons.

    Best wishes.

    • Glyn

      Hey Denis.
      That’s great, thank so much for doing that and for the kind words.

      All the very best to you,

  3. Rick Wenner

    Great job here Glyn. Claire is a stunning model and I’m sure you two will create more beautiful photos in the future. I’m really loving the second color photo. She’s got some killer eyes!

    • Glyn

      @Rick…Thanks buddy. Considering Claire was nervous she did a great job and yeah cant wait to work with her again 🙂

  4. Tim Skipper


    Images look great. I think you would like shooting in what I call a light box. Its a modified version of what Kelby uses for solid white backgrounds.

    Soft box behind model with beauty dish and reflector in front. I just added a reflector to each side of the model (hope they like small spaces) it gives a real nice light.

    • Glyn

      @Tim…Funny you should mention that but that’s exactly the set up I used at a Beauty Salon shoot a while back which I have on YouTube. Used it just after seeing Scott Kelby do it and yeah I agree, works a treat 🙂

      Cheers Mate.

  5. Tim Wallace

    Great post as ever mate, your lighting is spot on and really highlights what can be achieved. Also thanks very much for the kind words regarding my own work.

    • Glyn

      @Tim…Thanks for the kind words mate and re your work…what else is there to say??? 🙂


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