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How to shoot cinematic headshots on a budget

Why it matters to you

Proof that there is no need to spend a ton on gear for headshots. A basic camera-lens combo can get the job done and look great!

Headshot photography, thought by many as a mundane part of applying for a new job, has actually seen a bit of a renaissance in recent years. Now, businesses and professionals are looking for headshots with extra pop, flare, or feeling — anything to help their headshot stand out from the sea of other head-on-a-white-wall profile photos.

The cinematic headshot is one of those niches that has been steadily growing in popularity thanks to its more punchy look. For photographers looking to get into shooting cinematic headshots, one of the key aspects is the lighting. Levy Moroshan is a Portland, Oregon-based headshot photographer who recently posted this great video on setting up for cinematic headshots.

The setup you can see in the video is pretty standard. You have your key light with a beauty dish and a reflector just under the subject. Then to add just a bit of pop you have a kicker light behind and to the right of the subject. Moroshan likes to add a CTO (color gel) to the kicker light to give a bit of a warm look to the image to emulate the sun.

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If you want to shoot indoors and through a window to give the appearance of being outside, Moroshan has you covered there, too. The key to avoiding any glare and bad reflection on the window glass is to shoot into it from an angle. That way any light reflecting off of it is bounced away from the camera/lens and is not visible in the shot.

Finally, the biggest point Moroshan makes in the video is one that we always talk about — you don’t need the most expensive gear or locations to get great looking results. In this video, he was shooting with a Sony A6000 with a kit lens, and the results are great. So don’t get too caught up in the gear!