Marguerite was a referral to me from Ryan Brandle over at http://www.brandledesign.com She needed a headshot with a white background for her site that is currently under development. This one was a new one by me and given that I do nearly all available light photography or single flash (Speedlite) photography I knew this would be a challenge. An exciting challenge though.
I ended up with a few reflections on the cheeks and on the glasses but the diffusion of the umbrellas went a long way to helping this. If you'd like to read more about getting the shot please continue after the break.
I looked on the Internet high and low for help getting these white background photos. I couldn't find much and what I could find was way more complex than my budget and space constraints would allow. So...
First I went to my local camera store and bought some continuous lights. Two reflectors with 250W bulbs, light stands and umbrellas. This little setup only set me back $100, I figured with those two and the flash I'd be good. That was until the light bulb in one burnt out 30 minutes in to playing around with the lights. The next day I went and bought two bulbs, $7 a piece and went home to play some more. Well, another one went out pretty much immediately. This wouldn't do so I turned to craigslist.
After two days of browsing craigslist and diamond in the rough showed up (well at least a cubic zirconia). A pair of Promaster strobes with stands and umbrellas. This set new runs $300-350 from what I could tell and I picked it up for $100. Not an amazing setup but a functional one. I must say, plug in, studioesque strobes are awesome.
After playing around (with a Halloween skull on a barstool as my stand in) I found that placing the strobes with white shoot-through umbrellas at a 20-30 degree angle in front of the person gave some good light, it didn't make the features completely flat. Now I just needed a background. Simple as simple could be I bought the cheapest plain white queen sized sheet at Target and tacked it into the wall. Now I just needed to light up the background.
I used my Speedlite (Canon 580 EX II) with a remote trigger on a tripod for this. I put the tripod down low and lowered the wide angle flash diffuser. I have some of the cheapest remote triggers you can buy from DealExtreme.com although I've seen similar ones on Amazon now and am thinking of increasing my collection. Luckily for me the strobes I bought have a photo sensitive light trigger so me remotely triggering the Speedlite also triggered the strobes.
I sat on a stool about 10 feet away with my 5Dm2 and my 70-200 2.8 IS L. I had my ISO down at 250 and the flashes all at 1/8. I hope this all makes sense, if it doesn't I can give more info or some illustrations. Please feel free to tell me.