Rafal Wegiel’s 7 important elements of Headshot Photography

Team Capturing Wow
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Polish photographer Rafal Wegiel is internationally acclaimed for his work in fashion, portrait, and headshot photography. Based in Calgary, AB Canada, he is a master at creating images of beauty and capturing the nature of people. He started as a wedding photographer while the industry was still transitioning from film to digital. Later, he fell in love with headshots as he saw the work of Dylan Patrick. While looking back on his journey, he said that it took him 25 years to reach where he is right now. 

Speaking at Capturing WOW Dialogue, Rafal highlighted the 7 most important elements of headshot photography.

  1. Equipment

Equipment is undeniably important but it is not where you need to put 100 percent of your focus. Rafal uses a Nikon D 800 that is 7-8 years old, and yet he gets his desired results. 

The camera you select must have a high pixel count so that it will allow you to retouch the images smoothly, without damaging them. 

The importance of lenses cannot be overstated. He strongly advises using lenses with a focal length of 100 mm to 200 mm because those with a longer focal length can distinctly compress an image. This also enables you to compress the backdrop. Sigma f/1.8 DG HSM Art at 135 mm is one of his favourites.

  1. Lighting

There are so many options available today. However, Rafal uses two types of lighting techniques; Clamshell and Rembrandt.

He recommends people to work with de-lighting because according to him, one of the biggest mistakes photographers make these days is that they set up the lights, they set up the specific power and they just keep shooting. 

If you would just move the light back and forth, closer to the subject and away from the subject, you will experience a lot of different results. 

  1. Settings

He believes that one of the disadvantages of shooting with a speed light is the fact that you don’t have the modeling light. This makes your camera go crazy and as a result, you may get some unexpected readings. Hence, it is very important to adjust your setting manually.

The most common misconception about headshots is that if you have a 2.8 lens, you must shoot at F 2.8-3.2. Rafal contradicted this by saying that he is currently shooting at an F 3.5 to 4 minimum.

You should try relocating your subject away from the background to make the background hazier. You can also experiment with flowers or aluminum foil to keep your background creative.

  1.  Subject presence

When it comes to portraits and headshots, the subject’s presence is extremely important because if someone comes into you without any makeup on, without their hair done, wearing awful clothing, and having unhealthy skin, no matter how good your equipment is, all your efforts will go down the drain. 

First of all, you need to bring good make-up artists on board because they can do amazing face contouring. This is going to save you a lot of time when it comes to the lighting and retouching process. 

  1. Facial expression 

After setting up the shoot, your main focus must be to achieve amazing facial expressions. To do that, you have to communicate with your subjects. Rafal’s key is to not give their subject a time limit.

  1. Posing 

You will have to use body language to your advantage. Make sure the person seems engaged with you.

To do that, your subject must be leaning forward at all times. Also, if the shoot’s concept allows, let them use a chair. This will help them become more comfortable, adding to your photograph’s quality. 

  1. Retouching

It is a long process to learn but a fruitful one. Retouching is all about working on the skin, fixing the hair, the tones, and polishing the overall image to the level which makes the image look perfect.

If you don’t know how to retouch, you can even outsource the job. Many professionals will give you exactly what you are looking for.

However, learning how to retouch will help you become a better photographer. 

So, these are all the things you need to keep in mind for the next time you plan a headshot shoot. Study these points, analyze your work and see where you are struggling. This will help you understand what you need to work on. 

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