Shooting Headshot in a Hotel Room

Shooting headshot in a hotel room is about having a compact system. We were in Phenix, Alabama over Christmas and my daughter needed a new headshot. Her hair color had changed and so I brought this small kit to get her some up to date photos.

I had two Flashpoint XPlor 600 HSS TTL lights that I controlled from my camera using the GODOX X1-N transmitter.

Chelle Leary [NIKON Z 6, 85.0 mm f/1.8, Mode = Manual, ISO 100, 1/800, ƒ/1.8, (35mm = 85)]

The main light is used as a butterfly light using a beauty dish. I am using the Godox Beauty Dish Reflector (White, 16.5″) which has a Bowens mount that works on the Flashpoint 600 lights.

As you can see I am also using one more Flashpoint light behind the subject. I forgot my 30º Grid, so I improvised and put a box around the 7″ reflector to act as a snoot. This kept the light off the background and creating a lens flair with my lens.

I use the Lastolite Triflector MKII Frame + Silver/White Panels under the models face and on the sides to kick light back into her face.

For the background I always carry a Savage Collapsible Stand Kit (60 x 72″, Black/White).

I prefer to shoot with the flashes in manual mode. I started with the main light at 1/128th power. and the same with the back light. This had me shooting on the Nikon Z6 with the 85.0 mm f/1.8, at ISO 100, 1/800, ƒ/1.8.

I got this reading using my ExpoDisc. I hold this over the 85mm lens while facing the light with the beauty dish. I am holding the camera right where the model’s face will be. I take exposures and using the histogram I adjust the exposure until I have a spike in the middle of the histogram.

Then I use the same ExpoDisc and do a custom white balance.

After shooting I decided to change the depth-of-field to a little more depth. So I went from ƒ/1.8 to ƒ/4. I then just raised the power of the flashes by approximately 2 stops. So, now the main light is 1/32 power and did the same for the background.

Chelle Leary [NIKON Z 6, 85.0 mm f/1.8, Mode = Manual, ISO 100, 1/800, ƒ/4, (35mm = 85)]

I shot a few shots using this setup.

Chelle Leary [NIKON Z 6, 85.0 mm f/1.8, Mode = Manual, ISO 100, 1/800, ƒ/4, (35mm = 85)]

There is no light but the fall off from the main light hitting the white background. This gives you the grey look. If you want it black just turn around the background and use the black side.

If you want it white then light the white side with at least the same amount of light hitting the subject. However, I always recommend to get a pure white, just give it one stop more.

Write me if you want to know anything about this setup that I didn’t answer in the blog.

Old Photos – New Workflow!

Maybe you have swabbed your cheek and gotten your DNA profile revealing your ancestors like I have done. My wife and I did the FamilyTreeDNA.

You can the see the family trees of those who have chosen to share that are related. promotes their product using photos like this ad here:

I have worked out a great workflow that works for me and my clients when I do photo shoots. However, when the photos are older and need to be cataloged, well that is what I am writing about today.

Workflow for Older or Existing Photos

First you need to digitize all these images. I wrote about copying images with my Nikon Z6 earlier here on my blog. To digitize slides I wrote about that process here.

I want to pick up with those photos that are digitized. I have been doing a few archiving projects and now have a pretty good process.

First thing I am doing is ingesting all the images into Adobe Lightroom Classic. Once ingested I then use shortcut in the Library Module “O”

Lightroom will now look for people’s faces. All of them will be unnamed and then you assign a name. Just click below the photo and write the name in.

You can then right click and ask it to find similar faces. I just select all those that are the same person and type the name in. Hold the Command key, ⌘, and click on all the photos and then only have to do this once.

Now depending on how many photos you imported and how many faces are in those photos will impact how long it takes to find all the photos. I have been importing about 3,000 images at a time and it takes a good hour or so to find all the faces.

Artificial Intelligence is great for a few reasons. First, if someone is looking for a photo of someone, most likely they want a photo where you can see them clearly. AI helps you by only finding the faces that are recognizable. Second, it is fast.

When you finish you can export all the images and it will put their names in keywords and the people field. You can also just write the metadata to the image. I do this since I am working mostly with JPEGs since they are older photos, rather than RAW images. Go to >Metadata>Save Metadata To File or you can just use the short cut ⌘S.

When Face Recognition was first introduced with Lightroom 6, I wrote a blog on it here.

Second I leave Lightroom and go to Photo Mechanic Plus.

Here I have a few shortcuts to help with speeding up Metadata.

Using the “Variables” I put those into the caption field. So what I am doing is moving the names created in Lightroom from the “Keyword” field to the “Description/Caption” field. I also move the location information.

With one client I also use {filenamebase} and {folderpath} variables. They had already tried to help in finding their photos by creating a folder system and filenames that helped with finding photos.

Their system worked like you walking into a Library and walked to a certain section and pulled a book because you know how the system was set up. However, if you are as old as I am, you may remember going to the library and they teaching you how to use the card catalog system.

I am taking that filing system and embedding it into each photo. This way if you search for topic that was a folder it will find all those photos. You can then narrow the search with more words.

Third I now will add keywords to every photo. I use a “Structured Keyword List”.

If you create taxonomy of keywords using the form of this outline about without the numbering this can be used in what Photo Mechanic refers to as a “Structured Keyword”. It will look like this below, minus the bullet points.

  • North America
    • United States
      • Alabama
    • Mexico
    • Canada

You can use Microsoft Excel and create your list as well. A column and indent would be the B column and so on. As long as you save as a TXT it can be used as a Structured Keyword list.

Click on the drop-down menu on the right of keywords in the IPTC screen. Pick the Structured Keywords.

This is the default that comes with Photo Mechanic. I have written my own for different clients.

This lets you quickly add keywords to a photo.

When you have done this just once the keywords will be under the Structured Keywords so you don’t have to recreate it if you want to use the same one or another one you created. It keeps those as another short cut.

My last tip is that you can apply any of the these to multiple images at once.

Select all the images or selects and then CMD+I to bring up the IPTC. You change anything in this and then tell it to apply to your selection.

You can do the same thing by selecting images and CMD+M to rename all the images you have selected.

On average going one image at a time it can take about 5 minutes an image to write a caption telling us the Who, What, Where, When & How, as well as adding Keywords. But by using code replacement, structured keywords and applying those to multiples when you can–will save you incredible amount of time.

The last tip. Do this enough and your speed will increase over time.

Recognizing Faces & Feelings to Improve Communication

Child is fascinated by my camera and watched me as I was working at the Hôpital Baptiste Biblique in Tsiko, Togo, West Africa. [NIKON Z 6, 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 1400, 1/200, ƒ/4, (35mm = 105)]

“You’ll never look at other people in quite the same way again. Emotions Revealed is a tour de force.”

– Malcolm Gladwell

Paul Ekman (born February 15, 1934) is an American psychologist who is a pioneer in the study of emotions and their relation to facial expressions. He has created an “atlas of emotions” with more than ten thousand facial expressions, and has gained a reputation as “the best human lie detector in the world”.

A little boy in a classroom in Honduras. I was there to help capture the work of a foundation in improving the lives of the people of Honduras. [NIKON D4, 28.0-300.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 7200, 1/250, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 122)]

If you are a professional communicator and haven’t studied body language, then I believe Emotions Revealed is a great place to learn about it. Specifically Ekman explores the face expressions of people around the world.

Even in the preface of the book Ekman warns that keen observation alone needs to be verified.

“… carefully using the information you acquire about how others are feeling. Sometimes that means asking the person about the emotion you have spotted, acknowledging how he or she is feeling, or re-calibrating your own reactions in light of what you have recognized.”

– Paul Ekman
London Bobby in a large selfie at Buckingham Palace before the Changing of the Guards [X-E2, XF55-200mmF3.5-4.8 R LM OIS, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 800, 1/100, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 300)]
Feeding the ducks, geese and pigeons at Kensington Palace Gardens [X-E2, XF55-200mmF3.5-4.8 R LM OIS, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 200, 1/180, ƒ/4.7, (35mm = 272)]

If you are a professional communicator and haven’t read any of Ekman’s work you are really missing out on what all research points to about human communication.

Dr. Mehrabian, in the 1960s, devised a formula to describe how the mind determines meaning. He concluded that the interpretation of a message is 7 percent verbal, 38 percent vocal and 55 percent visual. The conclusion was that 93 percent of communication is “nonverbal” in nature.

It would be almost 40 years before the research of Ekman helped us to understand some of that Visual Communication.

One of the best parts about the book is the photographic examples he uses throughout the book.

One of the examples is about Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald. The photo is in the book. He uses a few photojournalism moments in history to teach us about face expressions.

What Ekman is trying to teach us is a new kind of awareness that he calls attentiveness. I believe if you can master the skills of recognizing expressions, you can learn to anticipate them.

If you can anticipate these expressions then you can capture them with a camera and use them to tell the story.

If you just react with your camera, very rarely will you capture the tell-tale signs of the visual.

The work of Ekman was used in the TV Series Lie To Me.

What is your favorite ƒ-Stop?

Ocean Isle Peer on early morning walk on the beach in Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina. [NIKON Z 6, VR Zoom 24-105mm f/4G IF-ED, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 360, 1/250, ƒ/16, (35mm = 24)]

If you were to look at the EXIF data on all your photos would most of them be wide open or closed down aperture?

There is a really good chance you fall into one of two camps.

Wedding Day at Grand Cascades Lodge at Crystal Springs Resort [NIKON Z 6, 35.0 mm f/1.4, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 1/500, ƒ/1.4, (35mm = 35)]


If this word is part of your vocabulary and what you talk about when it comes to photography most of the time you most likely own some pretty expensive lenses with aperture of ƒ/1.4.

Labor Costs [NIKON Z 6, 35.0 mm f/1.4, Mode = Manual, ISO 50, 1/125, ƒ/1.4, (35mm = 35)]

You may be just like me when I love to isolate the subject and simplify the composition.

Walk on the the beach in Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina. [NIKON Z 6, AF-S Nikkor 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 1400, 1/1000, ƒ/16, (35mm = 28)]

Group ƒ/64

There was a group of photographers that shot mainly large format and would close down the aperture to get everything they could sharp as possible.

In 1930 Willard Van Dyke as well as Ansel Adams & Edward Weston formed the Group ƒ/64. They shared a common photographic style characterized by sharp-focused and carefully framed images seen through a particularly Western (U.S.) viewpoint. In part, they formed in opposition to the pictorialist photographic style that had dominated much of the early 20th century, but moreover they wanted to promote a new modernist aesthetic that was based on precisely exposed images of natural forms and found objects.

If you were part of the ƒ/64 style you had to really pay attention to everything in the frame, which if you are familiar with Ansel Adams and Edward Weston’s work you know they paid unbelievable attention to detail.

Form or Function?

Form follows function is a principle associated with late 19th and early 20th century architecture and industrial design in general, and it means the shape of a building or object should primarily relate to its intended function or purpose.

Here are some ideas where Form is more important than Function:

  1. Wood Floors in Bathrooms
  2. Carpet in Bathrooms
  3. Door-less Shower Enclosure

Sometimes, like with anything in life, one side is going to win a bit more over the other. When you’re faced with any situation, I recommend you do what I do: do your best to see both sides of the story, and then chart the best path forward for whatever situation you’re in. 

By the way here is a sampling of images in Lightroom and their aperture for me.


When I started shooting photos for a newspaper in 1982 I was often shooting wide open due to trying to shoot available light with Black & White Kodak Tri-X film shot at ISO 1600. That was for most of my first twenty years of shooting film the high ISO available. They did make a new film that went to 3200. So, you shot wide open to just get a photo.

BOKEH wasn’t really even talked about in my circles until we started shooting digital and the ISO 12800 or faster was a reality.

ƒ/64 Group wasn’t photographing people most of the time, so they could shoot really long exposures on tripods.

When ISO 12800 was possible for me on my Nikon D3, I for the first time realized I could close down the aperture inside for the first time shooting with available light. This really changed the possibilities.

You Stuck In A Rut?

Most likely in photography you are stuck in a rut. Most of my friends are due to how you learn to shoot. One of my friends teaches people to look for the moment. To do this he tells people just put the aperture on ƒ/2.8 and look for moments.

When I started I shot wide open because I didn’t have much of a choice, but after twenty years of programing I find it hard to shoot other than wide open inside.

Now when I am outside I might shoot at ƒ/5.6 to be sure things are in focus. This is true when I shoot sports. I don’t want the ball and the face out of focus.

If you started with Digital

Now if you started shooting with digital there is a very good chance that Form was more important than Function. You read all those articles about BOKEH and fell in love with the look. That is where Form is more important than Function.

The sad thing is that even Photojournalists and Communication photographers who should be more about Form following Function will find that they want a strong image more than just a storytelling image.

Seattle Skyline [NIKON D750, 70.0-200.0 mm f/2.8, ISO 100, ƒ/8, 2.5]

Often I will shoot what I call a beauty shot and while it is often a strong visual, the story isn’t really being told with the photo. I am using it to hook you to make you read the caption that will pull you into the photo.

Balloon Ride in North Georgia [NIKON D3, 24.0-120.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 640, 1/1000, ƒ/5.3, (35mm = 75)]

These are examples of my work that it is really just about how cool something looks.

Family vacation at Tybee Island [X-E2, XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 6400, 1/300, ƒ/3.6, (35mm = 32)]

Compare that to where I want to include everything I can in the frame to help tell the story. This is where Form follows Function.

Rose Nantonah the nurse is setting the IV with a small child patient at the Baptist Medical Center in Nalerigu, Ghana. (Photo by: Stanley Leary) [NIKON D2X, AF Zoom 18-50mm f/2.8G, ISO 800, ƒ/2.8, 1/80, Focal Length = 27]

If you haven’t thought about it, then you are most likely stuck in a rut.

Presentation Tips

Maybe you remember “The Kodak Carousel” and how you would take 35mm Slide Transparencies and project these onto a screen.

Since I can remember until around 2002 all the photography workshops used these and sometime many of them synced together with a sound track to tell stories.

I remember arriving early to see so often the photographer in the back of the room for the event with a stack of slides just putting them in the carousel to later project. Every time I saw this I knew that the presentation would be lacking. They hadn’t really put any time into their preparation.

Now many photographers could still impress with their images, but they really didn’t have a well thought out presentation.

One of the best prepared speakers I have heard in the past year was Darrell Goemaat at the FOCUS Zoom meetings I hold weekly with a group of communicators from all over the world.

The key to the success of his presentation was putting in the time to come up with points that all worked to communicate a purpose for his presentation.

  • Have a goal. What one thing should your audience know that you feel passionate about? If you don’t know then your audience will not know what you tried to tell them.
  • Use TED Talk Format. Plan for 20-minute presentation and then allow for questions if you have been given an hour. Don’t take questions as you present. You can have an audience member take you on a tangent and never finish your prepared presentation.
  • Make it personal.   Give us a short story about your point. Short story means you had a problem and then tell us how you overcame that problem. 
    • Maybe share one story you did and what you learned from this experience.
    • Maybe you have discovered you have a cheat sheet you work from for all your stories and you can share those.
    • Sometimes you discover something later in your career that you noticed most other people know, but you wish someone told you earlier about this.
  • Leave the audience wanting more Don’t make them wish you had stopped speaking a lot sooner.
    • I have seen only once in my career how someone took this to an extreme. We paid to fly a person out to speak and they got up and read from their notes and sat down in just 10 minutes.  
    • If you can point people to your website or blog to get more on your topic, then do that. 
  • Got a secret? If what you share isn’t like a secret and they already have seen your coverage then why are you speaking?  Share something they couldn’t have gotten from your website. Give us a peak behind the curtain. Let us know what you were thinking.
    • If you have a story on your website that you are really proud of and even won a Pulitzer, don’t just share the same thing we could have gotten from your website. Share something that they wouldn’t know by seeing the story alone. 
    • Maybe you were arrested and detained by the police. While covering the subject. Why did they stop you? 
    • Maybe there are stories about how you found the story.
  • Something new. The Chris Matthews show on NBC Sunday Mornings has a segment called “Tell Me Something I Don’t Know,” where the four panelists report to Matthews new information they have gleaned from their reporting. It is successful for a reason–it works. Remember the reason you were asked to speak is they saw your work and are familiar with it. Don’t tell the something they already know, tell them something they don’t know.
    • A lens that helped you
    • A camera that you used for this project
    • New App that you used to help make the project more successful
  • Short VideoMaybe you put together a short video with you narrating the story that you created. You could have a few of these prepared.
    • Once you share it follow it with some again, insights and stories about how you got the project or struggled to get the story.
  • Don’t Rely On An Internet Connection. If you are at a hotel and you are trying to stream a video you might make your audience wait. This happened this weekend.  
    • Put all your material on your computer.
    • If you are on a Zoom call, be sure your upload speed is faster than 5 Mbps. That is the minimum to share video.
  • Know your time limit. The conference planners have other speakers planned. Going over your time needs to be at the invitation of the group, not by you. We have a time keeper who stands up off to the side of the room at 5 minutes to go. They come onto the stage when your time is up. If you still haven’t stopped they take the microphone from you and will stop you. [Side note to those running the conference: It is perfectly OK for you to cut off a speaker going long, even if they are famous–everyone in the audience wants you to do so. You will not embarrass yourself by doing this, but might get a cheer as a hero from the audience.]
    • We have other speakers that the: audience; the speakers; and everyone wants to hear rather, than you drone on and on.
    • If you cannot meet the time frame you will only demonstrate how unprofessional you are and do damage to your brand.
    • Demonstrate to everyone you know how to communicate effectively in your time allotment and allowing for questions to clarify some of your points. 

If you are explaining your prices–Something is wrong

For years I have been to meeting after meeting like this one for Atlanta ASMP chapter and the main topic is usually business practices.

I have written extensively on the subject and realize that all this talk is really to help the artist and not the public. The public doesn’t care any more about how much it costs you to make photos or a video than they do about how sausage is made. If the quality is great and the service then they buy it. They even become repeat customers.

Most everything I see on justifying pricing really has more to do with educating a craftsman who has a skill, but no business sense.

There is always someone cheaper

However, one thing in business that many miss is that there are those who intentionally price their products as high as possible.

The goal is to create the perception that the products must have a higher value than competing products because the prices are higher.

You may think that is wrong, but yet on the flip side when you price low you diminish the value of your work just as much.

I am a strong proponent of premium pricing for service-based business owners. I think it is better for you as the business owner, and I know it allows you to provide the best possible service to your clients.

You need to understand not just your spread sheets of costs and your time, but the psychology of buying.

No matter what you are selling, buying is actually an emotional decision.

As the service provider you will make a much better living doing your best for your customer and giving them the best service as well as product.

When you do this you must learn to name your products properly to communicate their value. Just as a writer of a good fiction picks the names of their characters you should spend as much time with the name of your product.

Business is more than knowing the “Cost of Doing Business” it is the art and psychology of selling.

Now the biggest flaw to this plan is if your work is the same as others then you will appear to be a commodity and then it is a race to the bottom for pricing.

Learn to be a craftsman of your trade. Learn to be a “service provider” who thinks of everything for your customer.

Go the extra mile

If your product looks the same and your attitude is the same as others, then you will struggle for the rest of your life.