Hi – My name is Dan St. Louis. I’m a San Francisco-based, corporate, headshot photographer. I’ve been shooting portraiture for the last five years, but just recently launched my studio, full-time, nine months ago.
Yes, I’m aware that corporate headshots are probably the most boring type of photography imaginable, but I personally love the clients who I get to work with, on a regular basis — consultants, CEOs, and top-notch salespeople.
They are my inspiration.
For me, business portraiture is all about making the subject feel as comfortable as possible, and focusing my energy on coaching them toward their most flattering and comfortable angle. These aren’t actors or musicians.
Generally, these aren’t people who thrive on getting their photos taken, so minimal gear means minimal intimidation.
I also don’t like burning time swapping out lenses or changing cameras during shoots, so I keep my bag as lean as possible.
I shoot exclusively on the Sony A7 III and Sony A7R III. For me, the combination of mobility and flexibility has been huge. Every shoot is different, and I’ll sometimes get hired to do corporate headshots and videography on the same day.
It’s an action-packed day to be sure, but the Sony A7III series are dynamite with HD video auto-focus. Dollar-for-dollar, assuming you don’t want to buy a bunch of different cameras, it’s hard to find a better camera for running a photography/videography business.
While I take many of my portraits outdoors, I’m also often dragged indoors due to rain. So, across the board, to avoid having to switch things up, I shoot on a Sony 50mm f/1.8 lens with an equivalent focal length of 35mm.
You have to be careful, because some lens distortion can happen when you get too close to subjects, but if you’re at least four feet away, you’ll be OK.
Tools for On-The-Spot Client Feedback
The DAETTI Unbreakable Hand Mirror fits perfectly in my bag, and I never have to worry about it cracking on-the-go. As a headshot photographer, one of the more important elements of subject preparation is making sure that the client’s hair is in place.
The Apple’s 6th-Generation iPad is perfect for giving my clients a preview of their photos during the shoot. You can also use the iPad during sales meetings to showcase your portfolio to clients. And, it just happens to fit perfectly in my AmazonBasics bag.
I know, I know — “AmazonBasics” isn’t the fanciest brand around, but I can guarantee you the client couldn’t care less about your camera bag brand.
Before you run off and grab an iPad, make sure to get an Apple Lightning-to-SD-card Reader, which allows me to take out my SD card and preview photos for subjects before we leave the shoot. You could use a tethering system, but when you’re on the move during an outdoor shoot, that can be burdensome.
This may be the most unique part of my outdoor portrait kit. Early on in my career, I knew I liked magazine-style diffuser shots that used full sunlight, but I didn’t know how to efficiently achieve those shots without an assistant on-site.
Also, when you’re starting out, your gigs don’t necessarily pay enough to justify an assistant.
The first part is a standard 5-in-1 reflector circle. For that, I use a Neewer 43inch 5-in-1 Reflector, but most 5-in-1 reflectors will do the job.
The second part is a Selens Reflector Holder Arm. I probably tried four different studio arms before finding a brand where: 1) the arm was sturdy enough for outdoor use and 2) the mechanism for attaching the diffuser to the studio arm could withstand some pressure from wind.
In the end, I like having the option to use the diffuser or the reflector when needed — and because the arm isn’t on a tripod, I can dynamically adjust the angle to flatter the subject’s face.
I’m also one of the few photographers who can offer diffuser shots for individuals, which is a differentiator in my market.
I use the Lightdow 12×12-inch White Balance 18% Gray Reference Card as a simple gray card that fits into my bag pockets. In my experience, while many outdoor portraiture photographers will trust auto white balance, in complex urban environments where reflections off glass buildings can significantly affect the color balance, using a gray card before every shoot is key.
At the end of the day, I carry the minimum gear required to do the job at hand. Because I only shoot business headshots, I get to focus almost entirely on coaching and subject prep, which I love.
I use different kits for videography and indoor shoots, but there’s nothing like jumping on a scooter with a lean bag, making some money, and taking great photos without the stress of a big kit.