When shooting a celebrity portrait, you will find that you are not given a lot of time, you will probably get maybe about one hour if you’re lucky. My advice is to get to the location and set up before your client is due to be onset, also know what lighting setup you are going to use. Do some research on the look of the client and work out what would be the best lighting for that client and what they will expect from you. It could be PR photos, book cover or an image that they might use at a signing for fans. If you have been commissioned you have free range to set up your lighting the way you see the celebrity, just make sure it’s something they would also like as well if you have never shot with them before. You do run the risk that they might not like your look for them which will translate into not liking you.
One of the things I like to do if I can, is to use some of the natural light in the shot if I am on location, or I just make it about my lighting to just look like it’s a studio shot. Now for these set of images of TV Sci-Fi star Claudia Christian of Babylon 5, I was asked to her home in LA. I was able to look around and I found a great spot in her living room that had a tapestry on the wall with a fabulous chandelier hanging from the ceiling. I thought it was low enough for me to include in the background of the shots, it would be out of focus but still make for an interesting background. I set up one light as the main light and there was sunlight coming into the room that I could also use as my fill light. I also had a reflector placed under her face to bounce light up and fill my shadows, that would be made by my one light pointed down lighting her face. This one light was on a boom so I could get under it, for the shot I was going for. I had made the light just low enough to be seen in her eyes, which is something you need to do, so that there is a light in the eyes. This help will bring the eyes to life. The exposure and f stop were set so I could get the chandelier light and the fill in the room. I think you can see that I got the shot and that it looks very flattering.