Walter van Dusen: Timeless Headshots with Sony, Lastolite, and Continuous Lighting

Updated: Aug 22

Speedliter's Blog is honored to feature timeless headshots by Lexington, Massachusetts based photographer Walter van Dusen. Walter combines years of experience with the latest technology in mirrorless cameras and continuous lighting to perfect a staple photographic genre: the headshot.



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What was on your mind as you planned and executed these shoots?

I wanted to capture interesting portraits of people looking directly at the camera with a calm and confident almost powerful expression. For people that always smile, it took a little encouragement to relax them and their expressions. I like to see the color of their eyes so no squinting, looking down, etc.


What challenges did you encounter during this shoot and how did you navigate them?

It was fun to come up with unique lighting strategies with the modifiers in the Manfrotto booth. Only one softbox was on hand. I worked it out to use Lastolite by Manfrotto reflectors as filler lights, one as a shoot through and the other to bounce into.


Why do you prefer to use continuous lighting? 

I like using three to four Nanlite Forza 300 & 200, Nanlite Compac 200 & 100 or Light & Motion CLx10 continuous lighting with my Sony A7R IV because I can see the results live. “What you see is what you get” when you use continuous lights. I notice all of the details and distractions before I capture the first image. With continuous lights you can focus on addressing those details and distractions and getting the light perfect. I want the viewer to see the color of the subjects eyes without any shadow from the eyebrow. Once I see the subject's eyes like this, I start capturing their portrait.


GEAR: See booth photo below


I have admired Joe McNally for years so having the honor of capturing Joe’s portrait was exciting and scary at the same time. Joe has a natural big smile so I had to convey what look I was going for with these portraits. I noticed Joe looking around as people started to gather around the booth to watch what was happening. I mentioned to Joe, only focus on this ginger beard photographer and Joe started to laugh. First I positioned the main light so Joe’s big blue eyes were popping, then I set-up the two kicker lights, Light & Motion CLx10’s, and adjusted the power with the remote control. It took me a few moments but once everything was set I asked Joe to look slightly above the lens, breath through his mouth and turn his face slightly and 'click, click, click' I was all done.

Photo by Anne Cahill


Another shot in the Lastolite by Manfrotto booth using the same setup with only minor adjustments. Lily Chou and her husband Chris, known for their epic party dance photos, are the team behind Wild About You Photography based in Berkeley, California.

GEAR: See booth photo below


Walter in the Lastolite by Manfrotto booth.

What gear did you use for the photos above?

CAMERA: Sony A7R IV

LENS: Sony 55mm 1.8

LIGHT: Light & Motion CLx10 (3)

MODIFIERS: Lastolite Ezybox Pro Strip Softbox 10x59", Lastolite Halo Compact Reflector 32" (Silver), Lastolite Compact Diffuser 32"

STANDS: Manfrotto 231CS Steel Column Light Stand (2), Manfrotto 244N Variable Friction Magic Arm, Manfrotto 1004BAC Master Stand, Manfrotto 1051BAC Mini Compact Stand (2),

BACKGROUND: Lastolite Magnetic Support Background Kit, Lastolite Collapsible Reversible Smoke/Concrete

STRAP: Holdfast Solo Leather Harness Strap


The final image below was captured during B&H’s Depth of Field Conference in the Lastolite by Manfrotto booth. I used one Light & Motion CLx8 light in a beauty dish above, Lastolite's Trilite Reflector below, and Lastolite's Ezy Frame Vintage Olive Background 6.5 x 7.5. Rich Cox was present while I was capturing portraits and the first thing I thought when I saw Rich was "seasoned Viking warrior." Rich has a lifetime of experiences embedded on his amazing face along with gorgeous blue eyes.

GEAR: Sony A7R IV, Sony 55mm 1.8, Light & Motion CLx8, Profoto OCF Beauty Dish 24", Manfrotto 1004BAC Master Stand, Lastolite TriLite Reflector Kit, Lastolite Magnetic Support Background Kit, Lastolite Vintage Collapsible Reversible Background Tobacco/Olive, Holdfast Solo Leather Harness Strap


What software and tools/processes did you use for post-production & retouching?

I use Capture One for import and culling, Adobe Photoshop for enhancing, and Nik Silver FX Pro B&W as needed.


Check out more of Walter's work on Instagram @waltervandusen.

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