Photography Lighting Techniques

EASY Portrait Lighting that can also be used for a Beauty Shot

3 Light Set-up

A few years ago, I did a simple beauty shot with a three-light portrait lighting setup to help a young makeup artist build her portfolio as well as to help a young model add to her book.

The Backstory

I am frequently contacted by makeup artists and hair stylists as well as young models who would like to shoot with me, but can’t afford my rates. As a rule, I will always look at their portfolios and if I feel that there is some talent there, I will tell them to come up with some great ideas that I just can’t resist. If they do, I will set aside a day of studio time to do a shoot with them.

They put together the team, they come up with 3 – 5 ideas for the day and I show up and shoot.

The fun part about these shoots for me, other than the fact that I didn’t have to do any of the prep work, is that I go into the shoot with no idea what’s going to happen, so it is a total creative challenge.

The only thing I know is that my client is the makeup or hair stylist, so my task is to make their work look great.

The Shoot

On the day of this shoot, we started off with a simple headshot of our model and then began to build on the hair and makeup throughout the day.

The last shot of the day was this hair and makeup combination:

model in front of teal background wearing furry boa

As the hair and makeup were coming together, I decided that I wanted to go with a low camera angle to add some more drama to the bold hair style. The low angle also allows me to shoot up and into the space above the eyelids where the makeup artist has placed all her color.  I also realized that I needed to have the model’s head turned so that I could see more of the detail in the hairstyle.

Remember: the goal of this shot is to show off the hair and makeup.

Whenever this much work goes into hair and makeup, I will always ask the stylist which side they are happier with. As long as there isn’t a compelling reason to shoot the other side – like the model has one eye that is dramatically bigger than the other – I will shoot they side that they are most happy with their work.  That usually insures that the stylist will be happy and I will have less retouching to do.

Portrait lighting setup

I decided to light this with my DIY Fluorescent Kinoflos that I first showed you in this video. As you can see in this 3-D rendering of my portrait lighting setup, I have two of the lights placed on camera right. The model is about 4 feet from a gray background.

digital rendering of Kinoflo portrait lighting setup

The software doesn’t have my DIY Kinoflos in it, so I am using strip soft boxes to create the same kind of light.  You could do the same if you wanted to recreate this portrait lighting setup in real life.

I also have a third light placed slightly behind my model on camera left to create a bit of rim light on the model’s jaw and a white Walmart reflector on camera left to provide just a bit more fill on the model’s face.

This shot was done with a Nikon D700 and a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens.  The lens was set at about 135mm and f/5.6. My shutter speed was 1/125th of a second at ISO 200 which was the base ISO of the D700.

Just to give you a quick example – here is what I am able to achieve if I switch from the two strip lights on camera right to one monolight with a medium sized softbox. It’s almost identical portrait lighting. There is no right or wrong – just lots of options depending on the tools that you have available and what you are trying to accomplish with them.

Shooting tips

Now in reality, the model was simply wearing a white tube top. We took a white faux fur jacket and draped it over her shoulders. The finishing touch was to fluff up the fur to make it a little unruly.

I was very careful to keep the pupils of the model’s eyes near center to get maximum impact from her eyes. I didn’t want to have her face turned and then see the pupils shoved into the corners of the eyes. If you’re not sure what I am referring to – be sure to watch this video.

Also having the model push her chin forward just a bit helps to bring out the definition in her jawline.

Post processing was pretty simple. The usual healing tool work to remove any skin blemishes. The green/cyan cast on the background was achieved simply by adjusting the hue and saturation levels on the gray backdrop. The blur tool was then used pretty aggressively to soften the edges of the fur.

And there you have it.  The shot was added to both the makeup artist’s portfolio to show off both her hair and makeup skills and it added a nice creative touch to the model’s book as well.

So until next time, gang, go pick up that camera and shoot something because your BEST shot is your NEXT shot!

Watch the VIDEO…

Joe Edelman

Joe Edelman is an award winning Photographer, Author, and 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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