Essentials: The Environmental Headshot Photographer

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Essentials The Mobile Headshot photographer (1 of 6)ISO 2001-250 sec at f - 4.0

Essentials is a brand new series where we round up specially curated kits for different photographers in different situations. Other items could surely be substituted, but these are what we personally recommend. 

After taking a short break, we’ve decided to head right back into the Essentials for what we think an environmental headshot photographer would use. So what exactly do we mean by this? Well, here in NYC, lots of photographers like using a combination of natural/ambient light and blending it with flash. And due to the fact that they’re on location and sometimes without assistants, they tend to try to pack as lightly as possible.

While we often recommend using monolights, they aren’t as portable as a couple of hot shoe flashes placed in the absolute right positions to give the right amount of kick.

And for that, we recommend the following.


Canon 5D Mk II/III

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Essentials The Mobile Headshot photographer (2 of 6)ISO 2001-250 sec at f - 4.0

To be very honest with you, any full frame DSLR will do, but for this guide we’re choosing to go with some tried and true Canon gear. While the 5D Mk III has more autofocus points, the 5D Mk II has focus points in all the right places to work perfectly according to the rule of thirds.

The Canon 5D series have been known as a staple to many shooters due to its great file versatility, excellent build quality, and the fact that it gives users all the features that they possibly need. Plus, the RAW files won’t drive you to constantly buy new hard drives every month.

Buy NowAmazon | B&H Photo | Adorama

Zeiss 135mm f2

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Essentials The Mobile Headshot photographer (3 of 6)ISO 2001-250 sec at f - 4.0

This is the lens that we just awarded and Editor’s Choice award to. Yes, we know it’s pricey–but you’re seriously never going to find a better 135mm lens currently on the market. Not only is it sharp, contrasty, and have some of the best bokeh that we’ve seen, but it is also built like a tank. We recommend this lens for only the most patient of photographers though due to its manual focus action. Additionally, we recommend that you have some sort of vision set before you even begin shooting with it so that your session can go the smoothest it possibly can.

In other words–have a vision and experience.

Buy NowAmazon | B&H Photo | Adorama

Pro Tip: We recommend that you communicate with the person that you're photographing first to get insight as to what they want. Some headshots are more corporate oriented while others are for comp cards, actor profiles, and dating websites.

Pro Tip: We recommend that you communicate with the person that you’re photographing first to get insight as to what they want. Some headshots are more corporate oriented while others are for comp cards, actor profiles, and dating websites.

Phottix Odin

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Essentials The Mobile Headshot photographer (4 of 6)ISO 2001-30 sec at f - 6.3

By far, Phottix’s Odin TTL transmitter is the simplest TTL transmitter/radio trigger to work with on the market right now. With a full digital display and direct button access to the most important controls, you’ll be hooked from your first shoot.

The Odin is available for Canon, Nikon and Sony DSLRs. They work in conjunction with the receivers to do TTL metering and transmission with flashes that have the according pins/contacts on the hot shoe foot. When using those flashes, it can trigger them in TTL mode or manually control their output.

Buy NowAmazon | Adorama

Pro Tip: You can get this look with two hot shoe flashes, a white background, and two surfaces to bounce the light off of.

Pro Tip: You can get this look with two hot shoe flashes, a white background, and two surfaces to bounce the light off of.

Phottix Mitros+ Flashes

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Essentials The Mobile Headshot photographer (5 of 6)ISO 2001-40 sec at f - 5.0

We’ve been testing the Mitros+ flashes for a couple of shoots now, and we can’t tell you how liberating it is to have TTL transmission in a flash built in. The Mitros+ flashes work in conjunction with the Odin transmitter to be fired off-camera. They have totally twistable and turnable heads, a relatively simple interface, a really nice build quality, and enough punch to place just the right amount of light in the right places.

Now before we end this section, we need to really suggest that going for the multiple hot shoe flash route can be expensive, but simpler unless you really know how to be efficient with one super powerful light.

Westcott Transparent White 7 Foot Parabolic Umbrella

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So why the heck would you tote around a 7 foot umbrella?

Well, there are a huge number of reasons why we’re recommending this umbrella over others. For starters, if you don’t want to use flash light and instead want to diffuse oncoming sunlight, this is a perfect solution since it is so massive. Logistically, you’ll just need to make sure someone can hold it.

However, you can also place your hot shoe flashes in there to give off a softbox look. If you want to use the umbrella for its reflective properties though, you’ll need to crank your flashes up one extra stop. In that case, bring along some extra batteries.

Buy Now: B&HPhoto | Adorama

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