Yesterday, my friend and colleague Rolf asked me to take a portrait of him that he could use in his drivers license. I've done it tons of times before, so of course I said yes. Now I'd like to share with you how I made the shot of Rolf, or more accuratley, how I always do it. (Note: this is the way I do it and not necessarily the right way to do it.)

Because of certain regulations, shooting a driver's license photo is a bit different from your standard portrait shoot. For example: the face has to be evenly lit. No shadows, no light ratios.

First, some of the requirements (in Sweden, as of 2015-09-30):

  • The photo should be a proper presentation of what the person actually looks like.
  • Straight on, showing the entire head.
  • Eyes to the camera, pupils showing, pin sharp.
  • No hats, no sunglasses.
  • Even lighting on the face.
  • White, blown out background. No shadows allowed.
  • Print size 35x45 mm, 14-17 mm between the bottom of the chin to the pupils.

The gear I use:

  • Canon EOS 5D Mark II
  • EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II USM
  • Three Yongnuo YN560-III:s on Manfrotto 1004BAC stands.
  • Four Pocketwizard Plus III:s to trigger the flashes.
  • Two Elinchrome 33" white bounce umbrellas
  • Sekonic L-758DR for metering.
  • Lastolite white backdrop

With rules and regulations in mind, this is the lighting setup that I use. Again, had this been a standard portrait shoot, things would have looked a bit different.

Some settings to go with the setup:

  • Camera set to 1/200s, f/13 at ISO100. RAW.
  • Lens zoomed in to about 135mm.
  • Flashes lighting the face set at nose level, metered at f/13.
  • Flash lighting the background metered at f/18 (a full stop brighter than the face).

Gear and settings combined, the rest is simple. I simply click the shutter. Add a simble black and white conversion and there you go. I'm quite pleased with my latest result, shown below.