Photo Shoot Tips

Beauty Portrait with a Beauty Dish, 4 lights & Red Gels

Studio Lighting Tutorial

Today I’m going to show you a beauty shot I did with four lights, some red gels and a beauty dish. I will also show you a few awesome variations that I got by working the shot.

Watch the VIDEO…

This is a beauty shot that I did with a young model that I had been building a portfolio for.

model with red tulle surrounding her and messy hair and silver makeup

This shot was being done at the end of a workshop that I was teaching so time was of the essence; I didn’t have a lot of time to waste with my usual routine because I was teaching. This is a great example of how preparation and knowing your gear pays off in a shoot.

In addition to being beautiful, this model has a very calm personality and a wonderful olive skin tone, so my makeup artist decided on some subtle silvers and cyans for the makeup with just a touch of red above the eyes. Because of the model’s beautiful dark eyes and skin tone, I decided to work with red as the color I would build the shot with. I wanted a contrast between the very elegant and upscale and the very messy. So we decided to create a kind of medusa-like hair style.

Once the model was done in makeup, we brought her on the set and began the process of wrapping the red tulle and black vinyl around her. I knew that I was probably going to shoot her straight on because her face is well balanced and I love her eyes, so we were going for an almost symmetrical feel with the materials and the hair.

The Lighting- 4 lights, red gels and a beauty dish

She is lit primarily with a 21″ white beauty dish on a 320ws Paul C. Buff AlienBee 800 that is placed directly in front of her and above.  You can see in this shot below that I have a white sock on the beauty dish for a bit more diffusion.

Joe shooting model with beauty dish above her head and reflector below

From there I added a zebra gold California Sunbounce Micro-Mini reflector for a little warm fill and to add a little more pop to her pupils. This essentially creates a clamshell lighting setup with just one light.

Digital rendering of setup with just beauty dish, reflector and red strobe behind model aimed at background

As you can see above, with the beauty dish and reflector, this is where the shot is. So it’s time to add the remaining three lights which are the color accents. The first is the background light which is placed between the model and the black background at a height just below the model’s shoulders, since I am planning on shooting at just about eye level.

With the red gel and the power dialed up, you can see how the red creates a glow with a beautiful gradient to black.

Then I am going to add strobe number two, also with a red gel and place it directly behind the model aimed straight at the camera.

Digital rendering of setup with just beauty dish, reflector and red strobe behind model aimed at background and stobe behind model aimed at camera

This is the light that will create the red glow in the model’s hair. I don’t have the ability to create big messy hair with the set.a.light 3D software so you can see the light here.

In the real life version, the hair, red tulle and black vinyl hide this light.

Last but not least – and because you can never have enough red – I added a rim light, also with a red gel, on camera right, above and slightly behind the model.

Digital rendering of setup with just beauty dish, reflector and red strobe behind model aimed at background and stobe behind model aimed at camera and rimlight on camera right

Realistically, this light could have been left out of the equation and you could do this shot just as well with three lights. By the way, all three of the additional strobes were 320ws Paul C Buff Alien Bees.

The Gear

This shot was made with a 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom set at 85mm and f/8. The shutter speed was 1/200th of a second and the ISO was 100.

As I mentioned before, this young lady has a very calm personality so my instructions to her were to simply stay relaxed and I began with my intended shot – straight on, shot only slightly below eye level and framed symmetrically with the model’s nose in the dead center of the frame.

model with red tulle surrounding her and messy hair and silver makeup

See… I wasn’t struck by lighting because I ignored the rule of thirds!

Work the Shot

Next it was time to work the shot. As I mentioned before, this series was done as a demo at a workshop I was teaching, so I started with a vertical magazine cover kind of crop, still just slightly below eye level.

close up of model with red tulle below chin

Notice how this tight crop ignores all of the red accent lighting and essentially turns it into a completely different photograph. I also realized while I was shooting this one that it would look awesome if converted to black and white.

close up of model with red tulle below chin in black and white

Then I went back to horizontal, turned the model slightly, and moved her gaze to camera right. We adjusted the red tulle and I let the red rim light show through it. The important piece of this shot is the eye placement. If you want to learn more – be sure to watch this video. This version was my second favorite of the series.

Horizontal crop with model's hands up to her face

For one last version, I had the model bring her hand up and softly hold the tulle near her face and I went in for a very tight crop.

closeup of model holding tulle against her right cheek

I’m glad I tried the shot, but it was definitely my least favorite of the series.

The final image required very little post production beyond the usual color, contrast, sharpening, and, of course, removing of blemishes. I say this just as reminder of the importance of great hair and makeup.

Other Options

As is the case with most of my shots, you could also do this with speedlights. If you don’t have a beauty dish, you could create very similar lighting with a white shoot-through umbrella on the top or even two soft boxes in a clamshell lighting setup.

And like many of the arrangements that I have shown you, this would work with a blue gel, pink gel, or pretty much any color. You can tweak this arrangement based the color of the model’s outfit.

Okay gang, take this idea and run with it! Go pick up that camera and shoot something because your BEST shot is your NEXT shot!

Joe Edelman

Joe Edelman is an award winning Photographer, Author, and "No Bull" Photo Educator.  Follow this link to learn more about Joe or view his portfolio. Please be sure to connect on the social media platforms below.
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