Recently I did a little series of simple black and white headshot portraits of myself and some friends. I wasn't giving them too much thought at the time but looking at them now I really enjoyed being able to do something simple. Usually I've been trying to make my personal shoots more and more stylized and produced but these were literally just one light with a small umbrella, a grey paper background, and the people in front of the camera.
The first photo I did was the one of myself in the middle of that face compilation at the top of this post. I haven't done many photos in black in white recently so I thought I would practice on myself. I ended up liking the style with that kind of light and high contrast retouching so I tried to keep it relatively consistent with the rest of them.
In the photos below you can see some examples of the photos before and after retouching:
As you can see, there is a pretty dramatic difference between the original photos simply desaturated and the final images that I detail retouch. Soft black and white photos like the plain desaturated ones don't really work for me. Usually if the photo is going to be black and white I also make it pretty high contrast with exaggerated shadows and highlights. I feel that it keeps the photos interesting and makes them more graphic. Since I usually use soft light, I always shoot with the intention to play a lot with the contrast in post to make sure the photos don't look washed out.
One of the things I like about them the most is that they are actually kind of personally significant since these people are all good friends of mine. I guess my personal work isn't usually this personal. On top of that, some of these people hadn't really let me take their photo before so that was fun. Technically I didn't take every photo. One or two were actually taken by my friend Alison after I had set everything up. I still mostly consider these my photos since I did all the retouching and set up but credit where credit is due, the photos of Sarah and I think Monica were shot by Alison.
I'd love to do some more of these kinds of photos with a bigger studio space. It would be fun to take the same concept but photograph the people from farther away to play with posing. It would be great like to get a client that wants these kinds of portraits some day so I can explore it further but of course until then I'll probably keep doing them as personal work now and again.
Here are most of the finished portraits. I'm writing this on my laptop on which I don't have all of them saved so a few are missing: