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Headshots on Location

Headshots can be tricky when shooting on location, near home or when you are traveling. The light can be all wrong. Lighting equipment can be bulky or heavy to carry. An “assistant” may be needed to help hold reflectors. There may not be a lot of time to “set up the shot”.

Using a Ringbox

A ringbox flash adapter similar to the Vello Ringbox is a convenient, easy to use lighting alternative to traditional soft boxes, reflectors, and umbrellas. It is also a good choice for photographers inexperienced with the nuances of photographic lighting and on-camera flashes. It’s moderately priced at $79.95. (See my complete review here).

A ringbox  is a circular softbox that attaches to an on-camera flash, when the flash is on the camera and the camera is on a tripod. It provides a soft light evenly around the whole face of the subject, similar to a ring light, reducing unwanted shadows and creating ring-shaped catchlights in the eye.

Setup Advice

When attaching a ringbox like the Vello Ringbox first position your on-camera flash into the top opening of the ringbox, through the velcro loop and tightened the loop. Use the provided velcro masking strip to cover any gap in the flash opening of the ring box. It is recommended to mask across the top of the gap for a flash with a short body and across the bottom for a flash with a long body. Insert your camera lens into the lower opening of the ringbox, pulling the cord tight around it. Always double-check to be certain the flash is securely fastened to the camera and the camera to the tripod. 

Now you are ready to go. If possible manually set the flash to 85 mm. Then take a few test shots of your subject, to set your exposure.

  1. The easiest way to set your exposure is to set your camera to the aperture preferred mode.
  2. When shooting a headshot on location I like a narrower depth of field to blur out the background. I typically set my aperture at f/5.6 to F/2. For men I may stay at f/5.6, and for women f/4 or f/2 (giving women a softer look).
  3. The camera will then determine the shutter speed.
  4. Set your flash to TTL, and increase the flash exposure compensation to +1 1/2 EV.

Take your first shot and check the exposure of your image by looking at the histogram. Increase your flash’s output until you have a good exposure (the histogram should flow from edge to edge, but not creep up either side of the graph).

  • If your subject is properly exposed, but you think the background is too dark when you look at the image on the LCD screen, put your camera on manual mode and try decreasing the shutter speed.
  • If the image is overexposed, decrease the flash compensation setting.

I suggest experimenting and see what works best with your flash and camera. Also consider increasing your ISO if you still need to add more light, but cannot increase the flash compensation setting any further.  I usually start with an ISO of 200, unless the day is dull and then I start at ISO 400.

Now comes the hard part. Making your subjects feel comfortable, and natural. I find that talking and getting them to laugh is a good way to start.  Use a remote shutter release so that you are not hidden behind the camera. Many times the shot after “the shot” tends to be the better image, because the subject doesn’t know you are still taking photos and is at greater ease.

Perfect for Traveling Photographer

A ringbox is very easy to carry, folds up small into a zippered case you can attach to your camera bag, and is simple to put together. It is a perfect tool for a traveling photographer, whether you are steps from home or far, far away.

You can get more specs and check the price here.

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