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Setting up the Background for Extraction Shoot

Lesson 26 from: The Business of Professional Headshots

Gary Hughes

Setting up the Background for Extraction Shoot

Lesson 26 from: The Business of Professional Headshots

Gary Hughes

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Lesson Info

26. Setting up the Background for Extraction Shoot


Class Trailer

Class Overview


Getting Headshot Clients


Headshot Pricing Models for Individuals


Headshot Pricing Models for Groups and Companies


Payment and Delivery for Groups


Six Styles of Business Headshots


Headshot Lighting Gear


Posing Basics for Headshots


Basic Standing Pose for Headshots


Basic Seated Pose for Headshots


Head Position for Headshots


Expression Sells the Image


One-Light High Key Headshot with Male Model


One-Light High Key Headshot with Female Model


Two-Light High Key Headshot with Male Model


Two-Light High Key Headshot with Female Model


Two-Light Standing Pose Headshot with Male Model


Two-Light Standing Pose Headshot with Female Model


One Light Low Key Headshot with Male Model


Two Light Low Key Headshot with Female Model


General Q&A


Constant Light: Low Key Classic Headshot with Male Model


Constant Light: Low Key Classic Headshot with Female Model


Constant Light: Standing Pose Headshot with Male Model


Constant Light: Standing Pose Headshot with Female Model


Setting up the Background for Extraction Shoot


Shooting for Extraction Headshot with Male Model


Shooting for Extraction Headshot with Female Model


Shooting Low Key Modern Headshots for Extraction


Basic Headshot Facial Retouching Techniques


Basic Headshot Eye Retouching Techniques


Basic Headshot Retouching Techniques: Dodge and Burn


Basic Headshot Retouching Q&A


Extracting a Single Subject


Creating a Headshot Composite


F-Type Headshot Lighting: Equipment and Principle


F-Type Headshot Lighting: Execution


Shooting Headshots in Volume


Lesson Info

Setting up the Background for Extraction Shoot

One of the reasons I really love these lights is because you can use them as a constant. Or you can just strap a strobe onto the back and then you're ready to go. What we're going to do now is talk about extraction. And for anybody whose just sorta tuning in I'm just gonna kind of recap that a little bit. And you guys are gonna smile and nod like you're hearing it for the first time okay? (laughs) Extraction is -- it's also called clipping, background removal. There's a ton of different ways. But essentially what we do is. We're going to take a single subject. And we're going to shoot them with the intent of removing them from the background later. And there are a couple of key things you'll need to remember to do that. Why do we want to do this? Well, because a lot of times when you're shooting for a large company. Or you're shooting for any other intended purpose. For example a billboard or something like that. Which happens a lot in professional headshots. I think there are 12 or 13...

billboards around my town that have my photos on it. And they've all been extracted. But because I've shot for the extraction, they look good. But if you're driving and you see a billboard and there's that weird, kinda jagged white line around the person. Anybody seen those, those really crappy cut-out from the billboard? That's because either: A. The digital artist who extracted it had no idea what they were doing. Or I also like to think too that the photographer didn't shoot with the intent for extraction. If you shoot it properly an extraction should take you about 3 or 4 minutes to do. With the modern tools that we have at our disposal. So, lets talk about lighting. Why am I going to use strobes instead of constant lights? Because with the strobes I am able to get a way deeper depth of field. I'm going to be shooting this at like F11. Just to make sure that I have the images sharp from front to back. And when I say sharp I mean it's gotta be sharp. Every hair all the way around the outside of the head has to be sharp. From the back of the ears to the tip of the nose. To the shoulders, the whole nine yards. So here's what we're going to do. Were actually going to be setting up the next segment. In this segment, I want to shoot both Oscar and Charny individually. And I'm going to shoot them with the specific purpose of extracting them. And then we're going to later, show you how to extract them. And then what's really cool what I do a lot is we actually build team photos. So let's say that you get a job shooting for a law firm. And you have to shoot 15 partners. But they're all jet-setting around the world at different times and you can't get them all in the same room at the same time. You can set it up so that you shoot each one individually. And then put them together in a shot later on. And that's something that I end up doing all the time. And to be able to offer that to a client. It can save you having to leave your studio sometimes. Cause then they can just come in whenever they feel like it. And you can shoot each person individually. Or, it can make it easier on designers. Cause let's say for example that if you have a little trouble figuring out how to pose large groups of people. So you can take 10 people and I can pose Oscar. One, two, three, four different ways. And then when it comes to putting the team photo together. I can pick from which one will look the best in the context of that team photo. So you can actually really cover your bases and do some really cool stuff. So, I'm going to show you all of that. Right now, okay here we go. Alright, so what I'm going to do is the first thing is to -- I'm going to switch off the constant lights. Where's my Apple box. Because, even though they're not nearly as powerful. I don't want to mess with color temperature. And also we're also using for our wireless triggers. We're going to be using these Pocket Wizard Plus III's. I have no particular allegiance, unless Pocket Wizard wants to send me some free stuff. Then -- send me some free stuff, okay. Then I will happily promote them. Because I've used Pocket Wizard for a long time. But I've also used a lots of other stuff. The important thing is, when you're using studio strobes. You need to be using good, reliable radio triggers. Alright, turning those on. Now, you also have modeling lamps with these. But I typically when I'm shooting something like this I don't really use the modeling lamps. Because all I'm really doing is shooting for the finished product. And the modeling lamps, in this situation. Aren't super-useful to me. Only because when the modeling lamps are not as bright. If you you're shooting in an office, or you're shooting outside. The modeling lamps are only about as bright as a household light bulb. So they're really not going to be much use to you. And they do generate because they are tungsten light bulbs typically or similar. They do generate heat. So you can really save yourself a little bit of sweat and trouble by not using those in a situation where they're not going to help you out. Now if you're in a studio, in a dark studio. Then you can use the modeling lamps to see where your light are gonna go just like the constant lights. But in this case, most of the time when I'm doing stuff like this it's not really gonna matter, okay? Alright, so let's make sure those are on. So with these again we're gonna start with the edge lighting. A lot of times when I'm shooting something for extraction. The one thing that you want to do is, you want to have a clean distance from the background. Because when you're shooting, people will often say you should shoot on a green screen or a blue screen or a pink screen or whatever the heck kinda screen. It honestly doesn't matter. The thing that matters is your subject has to be far enough away from the background so that whatever light you're using does not bounce off the background and hit the subject in the back. Cause what you're going to do is you're going to get a white, or green, or blue ring of color around the edges of your subject. That's gonna make it really difficult to extract them properly later. So that when you do drop them onto a new background. It's gonna look like you cut them out and put them on a new background. So depending on what you're doing, I know photographers. You know, you've got guys like: Joel Grimes and Richard Sturdevant and Ben Shirk and guys that they do these amazing composites. And they, just stuff you can't even imagine how, where they even thought of the idea. However, I'm just doing a simple business headshot extraction. So typically I'm really not going to use a lot of edge lighting I find, what works best in these situations, is an unlit white background. An unlit white background. So you will say: oooo, what about, why don't you just do an even white background. Because in most situations, I'm so close that I'm still gonna get spilloff. Off the background onto the back of my subject which I really don't want. I don't want anything around the edges. I want it to be light enough, to where I can clearly cut around the edges. Enough contrast where I can get the subject off the background. But not so much to where I'm taking any of it with me. So if you're looking at what your subject is wearing and what their hair color is are going to be two important considerations. So if you have someone that has gray or blonde hair. And you use an unlit white background. Sorry a fully-lit white background. You're going to have a really hard time discerning the edges of their hair from the background. Because so many of those tones are going to be really similar, it's going to end up being choppy. But I have two people today who are -- they have dark hair. And they have dark clothes. So I want that background to be light but I don't want it to be white. Okay, and that's going to keep the reflection, the haloing from around them. And it's going to give me enough contrast I'll be able to cut them out in just a second. Everybody cool with that so far? Alright, so I'm going to start out with no edge lights. And what's going to happen is. I'm going to look in the camera when I do my test shot. And I'm going to discern whether or not there is enough tonal contrast between the subject and the background. And if the background is a little too dark as an unlit background. That -- any white wall if you don't put enough light on it will look gray or black if you want it to. And any black -- if you put enough light on a black wall you can make it go white. So it all depends on how much light you're putting on the background. So what we want is a good contrast between the edge of the subject. And we want to be able to do that without using any edge lighting. This is going to be the easiest way to do an extraction for a business portrait. There are other ways to do this. There are plenty of other ways. The Gary way is going to be the way that's going to give you the least headache later on okay? And that's the Gary Promise. Alright, ready, here we go. So what I'm going to do is make sure my main strobe is on. And my Pocket Wizard is on and that they are on the same channel. Okay, it's on. Okay and is it plugged in is the question. We are plugged in. Is it on? It is on, good. Alright, so what I've got here is an Alienbee B1600. And so because of that I know roughly what the output is. This is equipment that I use in my studio. So I say, know your equipment very, very well. That's super important. I'm going to need to get to F11. And at a close range that I'm going to use it I'll probably be able to get to F11. I'm gonna guess, at about, between one-eighth and one-quarter power. Now whenever you adjust the power on a strobe. Always fire it once to empty the chamber. Cause it is charged up with the power to shoot whatever power it was just set at. So if you change the power and then take the shot you're not going to get an accurate reading. Change the power, dump it and then shoot. Cool, alright. We good so far? Now I'm going to use this a little more directional. Very broad, directional lighting is what I'm going to go for here. Now I'm going to get a little close to the background. Because I want it to be a little light falling off from my main light. Just enough to keep that background a little bright. Okay, and then I'm going to take my reflector. And this is going to be a good fill light. Again, depending on the effect that you want. This is a super silver. A white reflector would be fine. Or a medium-silver reflector. This happens to be just what we have right here today. I'm going to go ahead and turn that modeling light off.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

6 Styles of Headshots
Gear List

Ratings and Reviews

Melville McLean

Gary Hughes is possibly the best teacher I have seen here and that is a very high compliment. His business analysis is simple and to the point. His set ups and techniques are simple and straight forward, no easy task in itself. His interactions with his models/clients are finely developed and reduced into the fewest but most important key exchanges. He teaches by example how to interact and direct. If you are a high volume photography with brief time per sitter, you might especially appreciate his tips. It is extraordinarily difficult to keep a tight, well structured class going live for so long at a time. His intelligence, wit and personality are all in his favor but it is the content itself that is most impressive. I am not a portrait photographer but I have 30 years of commercial studio experience. He knows what is most important, leaves out the rest and has organized the material in anticipation of most difficulties that arise so that it rests in a seamless, smooth, coherent learning experience. All of his practical advice is excellent. Just understand that his work is about doing a relatively large number of shots in the most efficient way rather than a lot of time spent on a few clients for a completely different format [presentation like very large prints. In fact he is especially pragmatic. He emphasizes that you do not have to own the most expensive equipment but you absolutely do have to know how to use the equipment that you already have. And I am telling you this as someone he makes fun of in his course with fancy cameras and Profoto lighting gear. He is an advocate of all thought out approaches as well as relying on skills and knowledge. You will understand how and why to make all of his key, conventional light and posing set ups. He makes everything sound simple and doable -- and with his help -- it is. What you have to appreciate is that it is up to each individual to acquire the specialized skills to make our work compelling enough to be competitive. The unspoken truth that we all face is that talent plays a key role as well and that it takes time to become every accomplished. But I have also seen concentration, commitment and hard work result in developing innate talents that blossom in very successful careers. Mr Hughes reduces every step into the clearest, most essential components. He is self effacing both as a photographer and post process retoucher but he is very good indeed and does not waste time overdoing images that cannot benefit from a larger format presentation. Everything is appropriate and practical. He has already removed everything that does not matter for his purposes for us that would only interfere with the concise, clarity of his presentation.


I am so glad that I had the opportunity to watch this course. It has not only provided valuable lighting set-ups, but also great basics for posing.!. The Photoshop extraction technique Gary demonstrated was icing on the cake. Gary did a great job teaching and I greatly admired the technique in which he taught. Thanks for a great class!


This was an excellent class! The class covered so much information and great tips and ideas. Gary is funny and has an easy going approach, which makes the class that much more enjoyable. As a struggling pet photographer, I have been trying to find something to supplement my business with that does not involve children/babies, or shooting weddings again and headshots seemed to be a great option. After watching this class, I feel confident building up a headshot component to my business. Definitely recommend this class!

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