Shoot Breakdowns

Use an Accessory as the Creative Spark for a Creative Beauty Portrait

Studio Shoot Breakdown


The Creative Beauty Portrait Concept

Sometimes, the concept for a creative beauty portrait starts with an accessory, which was the case for this shot featuring an old-school cloche-style hat.

📸 Did you know?
Cloche hats (also called “Bucket Hats”) are named after their bell shape. The design is meant to hug and sit lower on the head than other brimmed hats like a fedora or safari style.

Janie is a local model that I work with frequently to test lighting ideas and techniques, so whenever she picks up a cool new outfit or accessory, she will make sure that I see it in person or at least by a quick snap from her phone.

I loved this hat and the dark red color she brought to one of our practice sessions, but it is based on a style from the early 1900s. 

I don’t do many costume shots and have never been excited by the concept of re-creating images from the past, but I really loved how this hat framed Janie’s face with her strong jawline.

I made it my challenge to combine my modern styling with this antique-styled hat for a fresh, contemporary, and very colorful look.

The Creative Choices

Since this shot was done spur of the moment and was not planned out as I would usually plan a shot, I didn’t have a complete outfit or background overlays pre-selected when I set up the shot.

A creatively styled woman wearing sunglasses and a beanie, captured in a beauty portrait.

While I would not want to work this way all the time, it is a fun challenge from time to time when a creative spark ignites.

I knew I would use the hat to frame her face, and since I didn’t want to do a historical recreation, I decided to shoot pretty tight and make it all about her face. I also turned the bow to the front to create a bit of symmetry which is a regular feature in my work. Normally the bow would be worn slightly to one side.

I didn’t have a top that matched the color of the hat, but after a bit of digging, I found the scarf I used in the photo to the right. While shiny on one side, it was a regular burgundy-colored scarf on the other. This would become the outfit in the photo.

To style it, I just had Janie wear a simple black tube top and then wrapped the scarf around her to cover her shoulders and neck. 

📸 Pro Tip
Tube Tops can be purchased inexpensively. I keep black, white, and beige colored tops in my studio. Obviously, they are beneficial from a modesty standpoint for the model, but functionally, they create a snug base on the model’s body that you can use to clip material to and hold it in place for a photo.

The last styling decision was what to do with Janie’s hair. In the early 1900s, this hat style was worn with shorter hair, and Janie had long hair. Since I also hadn’t planned on doing this type of photo, I didn’t have Janie do anything special with her hair before the shoot, so when in doubt, pull out the fan!

I placed the fan below her face, at her feet, and aimed straight up so that the hair would blow out and back – keeping it off her face and saving me a lot of additional retouching work.

Check out this video, Blowing Hair for Glamour Portraits & Best Fans For Your Photo Studio, to learn more about working with fans and blowing hair.

The Background

A woman wearing a blue hat poses gracefully in front of vibrant blue lights, creating a captivating and colorful beauty portrait.

In a previous shoot with Janie, I created a bokeh background using a .png overlay image like the blue image you see here.

I decided to do something similar for this shoot since I didn’t have time to pre-select the background overlay, but I knew that I had a large selection of bokeh options.

A black background with the words "do not copy" in colorful.

I found a bokeh light image with a warm red color to it, which I knew would complement the burgundy colors of the har and scarf.

In this case I allowed Photoshop to select the subject and created a new layer on top with the selected subject.

Then, I just placed the overlay between the two layers, set the blending mode to Screen, and lowered the opacity slightly. Time required: less than five minutes.

The Portrait Lighting Setup

This was a three-light setup using Godox AD200 strobes. (See diagram below)

[Fig.1] With my subject placed five feet in front of a #20 Black Seamless Paper Background from Savage Universal, I had one AD200 on a DIY Baby Pin stand directly behind my subject and aimed up at shoulder level on the background. I used the fresnel head on the AD200 modified with a Red MagMod gel.

[Fig.2] I placed an AD200 with the fresnel head and modified it with an Amber MagMod Gel above and slightly behind Janie to create a hair light that would literally light up the blowing hair.

[Fig.3] Finally, my key light is a Phottix Rani II 33in (84cm) Folding Beauty Dish used as a softbox with the baffle and front diffuser in place. I had an AD200 with the barebulb head mounted in the softbox.

A creative silhouette portrait of a beautiful woman on a vibrant red background.
Fig. 1
A creative beauty portrait features a woman's face beautifully showcased in the dark.
Fig. 2
A creative 3D beauty portrait model of a woman with stunning red hair.
Fig. 3
A creative beauty portrait of a woman with red hair posing on a red background.
Fig. 4
A creatively beautiful woman wearing a red hat and scarf poses for a portrait.
SOOC Image

Lighting Diagram

Click to enlarge

Camera Gear

For this shot, I used my Sony A7RIV with Tamron 70-180mm F/2.8 Di III VC VXD at a focal length of 156mm.

Settings: 1/250sec | F8 | ISO 100

I mounted the camera on a Cheetah Stand Pistol Stand with an Acratech Ball head and a Tether Tools TETHER Block.

I shot tethered to my MacBook Pro using a 15ft (4.5m) USB-C Dual Right-Angle Cable from TetherTools and Smart Shooter 5 software to manage the data transfer.

Poses and Angles

A creative woman is sitting in front of a camera in a studio, capturing her beauty through a captivating portrait.

My camera was placed just below her nose and pointed upward toward her eyes.

I had Janie sitting in a relaxed posture, facing straight at the camera with a slight head tilt to the camera’s left (her right).

The essential touch was to have her lift her head slightly. This highlighted her awesome jawline, but more importantly, it allowed more light to sneak in under the brim of the hat so that the shadow was softer and less defined.

Little details like that will make a massive difference in your photos, so pay attention to the details when working in the studio.

The Final Frame

A woman in a red hat is posing creatively in front of lights, showcasing her beauty.

There, you have a fun result from quick thinking and willingness to take advantage of a creative opportunity without planning. The result is an engaging and unique beauty portrait.

I hope you found this information useful. Now go pick up that camera and shoot something! Because – “Your BEST shot is your NEXT shot!” — Joe Edelman

Have more questions about beauty portraits or lighting? Would you like to continue the conversation? Join my TOGKnowledge Photographic Community, where you will find photographers from over 30 countries passionate about learning and sharing their photography as they develop their craft.

Curious about the gear I use?

Joe Edelman

Joe Edelman is an award winning Photographer, Photo Educator and the host of The The LAST FRAME LIVE, which is viewed by photographers in over 100 countries.  Follow this link to learn more about Joe or view his portfolio.
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