Natural Spotlight

The Wild Fig Restaurant

Photo taken at Susan & Jacob’s wedding in August.

What’s the best lens to use for headshots?

There is no “correct” way to take a headshot, and preferences for how a headshot should look will always vary from client to client.

When it comes to lens selection however, you can pretty much use these two general criteria to help guide you (assuming you’ve already got your lighting and location all figured out):

  1. How compressed do you want the scene/subject to look?
  2. How creamy do you want the overall image to be?

If you really like the compressed look (where the background looks super pressed up against the subject), I would choose a telephoto lens, somewhere in the range of 100mm to 200mm. The thing to keep in mind is that the greater the focal length, the “wider” and more two-dimensional your subject will look.

If you’re in love with creamy looking images or images that have a lot of blur to them, opt for a lens that will give you shallower depth of field. Anything f/2.8 and below is great. f/4 means that most of the subject’s body will still be in focus (if you were standing right in front of them and shooting straight ahead).

To get the best of both worlds, my lens of choice for a headshot would either be an Sigma 85mm f/1.4 or a 105mm f/2.8 Macro lens. The above image was taken with a Sigma 105mm Macro lens at f/2.8. Keep in mind that because it’s a Macro, the blurriness is intensified at f/2.8 compared to non-macro lenses.

What’s your preferred lens to use for headshots? Leave a comment below :)


Happy Mother’s Day

Habitat Island Shoot

This is a couples portrait session I did on Valentine’s Day—my very first! Because the weather had been cloudy with showers that day, by the time magic hour hit we had really awesome looking clouds to work with.

This series was shot on Habitat Island in the False Creek area in Vancouver.

Family Portraits at a Pumpkin Patch with my Niece

Vancouver Family Portrait Photographer

Yesterday I had the opportunity to visit a pumpkin patch in Richmond with my sister, niece, and brother-in-law. I had wanted to take pictures of them for a while now, and luckily it was an overcast day! Maddy, my niece, was her happy self as usual. She was getting a little tired toward the end (it was time for her nap), so we only stayed for a short while. Here is a selection of my favourites from the shoot!

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11th annual Renfrew Ravine Moon Festival

All photos © 2013 Jenn Lin Photography; please contact me for permission to use or display any photos. If I photographed your art display, feel free to contact me so I can credit your work. Thanks!

And thanks to my two wonderful assistants for their help: Emily Man and Doris Young. Read More

What You Can Do with a 115cm-wide Reflector

A photo of Melody Tymm taken during the 11th annual Renfrew Ravine Moon Festival at Slocan Park, Vancouver, BC.

Shown here in costume is Melody. One of the entertainers I met at the Renfrew Ravine Moon Festival last month, she agreed to let me do a little experiment! Below is a comparison I made to illustrate the difference between natural light portraiture (without any modifiers) and natural light portraiture using a modifier (a 115cm-wide silver-sided reflector to be exact).

Melody Tymm at the 11th annual Renfrew Ravine Moon Festival © 2013 Jenn Lin Photography

Natural light alone vs. natural light with a silver-sided reflector

With the sun shining to the west at around 5:30pm, I had my assistant for the day stand south-east of Melody and hold the reflector in the direction of the sun, tilting it until the light was bounced onto Melody. Had we had spent more time playing with the angle, we probably could have eliminated the shadow which is appearing between Melody’s right cheek and nose. Yet it’s the shadow which gives her so much dimension. IMO, the silver side of the reflector gave Melody a nice glow and made her really pop out from the background. (I would advise using the golden side unless you want to give your subject an orange tan.)

Reflectors are relatively cheap, they’re effective, they keep working until the sun sets, and they can make your photos/subjects look more interesting. (See “Working with Thomas” and “Darren’s Headshots” for more examples of photos I’ve created with a reflector.) The only thing is that they take a bit of work to get them back into the little circular pouch they come in—but other than that, they’re an awesome tool to use (if you’re not in a hurry).

Hope you enjoyed reading! Until next time,


Your Back-up Light: the Screen Blend Mode in Photoshop

"Bride's Wedding Bouquet", © 2013 Jenn Lin Photography

Pictured here is a before and after shot of an image of mine. Although I like the first image just as well, the second image provides a clear illustration of what you can do in photoshop with a few adjustments; the second image looks as if I had more than one light source (the window).

© 2013 Jenn Lin Photography

The photo was taken at my cousin’s house on the morning of her wedding. I placed the bouquet on the window seat knowing that the window would provide a nice side light. Since I didn’t quite like how short the ledge was, I extended it in post-production using the Patch tool, then I quickly used the Dodge tool to lighten the areas that were noticeably darker than the rest of the ledge.

Next, I added a new curves adjustment layer and selected “screen” for the blend mode. You’ll notice that it’s a bit overpowering at 100% opacity, but you can scale this down to your liking. In this photo, because of the difference of light and dark areas, I also used a Mask to hide the areas I didn’t want to be affected by the Screen adjustment layer. Using the colour black at 50% opacity, I painted over the left side of the image while leaving the right side affected by the Screen.

I then added another adjustment layer to increase the overall highlights a tiny bit, as well as an “S” curve adjustment layer at 50% opacity to quickly add some contrast back into the image.

Finally, since I wanted the eye to focus on the bouquet and not other parts of the image, I created a new layer, which merged all my visible work up to that point, and added a Smart Sharpen filter, using the Masking tool to make it apply only to the bouquet. I was careful not to exceed 0.3 pixels so as to avoid over-sharpening this particular image, but if you ever overdo it you can always scale down the effect by adjusting the layer’s opacity, or, just simply undo the effect and do it again.

The key to pulling off this technique is being careful not to overexpose the image; this means leaving detail in the areas with the strongest highlights; this prevents the image from looking excessively photoshopped. One thing to also keep in mind is that this technique will not work for images with shadow areas that are too extreme in comparison to the highlights you’re trying to bring them up to.

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Until next time,



© 2013 Jenn Lin Photography

Some exciting news! Yesterday I decided to set up a little studio in my parents’ empty basement suite. It’s got white walls, three windows, and a door which brings in a lot of light. I can’t believe I didn’t think of this sooner—it’s pretty much the perfect set-up at no cost! Then, I invited my good friend Darren over and we practised shooting headshots! I didn’t have an assistant handy, but I managed to prop up my giant silver reflector against a spare tripod. And here’s the result!

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