Actor's Headshots

I recently shot some stills photography at the production of the feature film “Narcissists” for my friends at Kormorant Pictures. There I met Stanley J Browne, one of the main actors. While he was preparing backstage for his scenes, I thought I would like to shoot a quick portrait of him. He was already in his role as a tough gangster, so I actually was a bit intimidated, but he was very friendly and willing to give me a few minutes of his time.

I just used one off camera flash handheld with a small softbox, holding it as high as I could, to make a more dramatic portrait.

A few weeks later Stanley asked me if I could do some headshots for him. That was a great opportunity to try out some new things I learnt from Peter Hurley’s “Mastering Headshot Photography” on Kelby One. I usually rent a small studio in the old Biscuit Factory in Bermondsey, which is perfect for that kind of shoot. It is big enough to take portraits, but also small enough to be intimate and more comfortable for the subjects. Furthermore all the Elinchrom lights, softboxes and the white seamless background are already setup, you just need to put the remote trigger on your camera and are ready to go.

For the most part, I used two lights for the white background, and one main and one fill light on Stanley. For some variation I also switched off the background lights to get a darker background. Also Stanley brought some change of clothes and even shaved in between, so that we got a good selection of different shots.


The main thing though was to work on the expressions. As Peter Hurley explains, confidence comes from the eyes, approachability comes from the mouth. Some of his tricks I was able to try out, especially asking the subject to do impressions of various words like “sneaky, charming, cocky, inquisitive, hopeful, etc”. The list goes on and you can get very creative with the words. It also makes a more fun experience for the subject and is great for the interaction between the photographer and the subject. I also shot tethered, so Stanley could see the progress we were making and how well certain expressions worked.

If you want to find out more about Stanley, check out his website.

By the way, Matt LeBlanc also shared some tricks for expressions on the Graham Norton Show, for example “smell the fart acting” or “thinking of long divisions”. Check it out here! Definitely something I want to try out at another portrait shoot :-)