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Hurley-Look Headshot Lighting

This is a three-light shoot, but it’s a really easy one. There are two lights on the subject: two 1x3’ strip banks, one on either side of him. The third light is on a short light stand directly behind him, aiming up at the background. I’m using flash, so I’m in manual mode on my camera. I’m using my go-to lens (the 70–200mm f/2.8) at 130mm, at my ideal studio f-stop (f/11), my lowest, cleanest ISO (100 ISO), and my standard shutter speed of 1/125 of a second. Headshot photographer Peter Hurley—who inspired this lighting look—uses continuous lights for his front lights, rather than strobes (he uses strobes on his background), but those are very expensive (strobes are a cheaper alternative). He places four lights to create a window, but here, I’m only using two lights. His trademark square-of-light look produces a nice, flat, flattering light, but at the same time it’s bright and punchy—a wonderful combination for headshots. But, what Peter is famous for isn’t just his simple lighting look, it’s how he works with his subjects to get natural expressions and flattering poses. Our lighting setup here is designed to get close to his look without spending a lot. If you want to learn more about Peter’s lighting setup and his tricks for getting the most out of his subjects, check out his book, The Headshot (published by Peachpit Press, and edited and produced by yours truly). Even though I was involved in producing the book, I can tell you without reservation, it rocks (and I learned a lot during the process. The guy’s a genius). For post-processing here, it’s just your standard portrait retouching stuff.

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