Shoot Breakdowns

Halloween Inspired Three Light Beauty Portrait

Shoot Breakdown

Today I have a Halloween-inspired three light beauty portrait tutorial for you, done with mixed light sources and with some cool orange gels for effect.

Like many of my shots, the real credit for this one goes to my makeup artist. Her incredible makeup and styling combined with an amazing set of eyes on a beautiful model…how could you go wrong?

Just to give you a point of reference, this is what my model looks like without the orange and black makeup.

model in natural makeup

BTW, this portrait is done with the same basic lighting as the beauty shot, minus the kicker light that you will see in a minute.


This shot is really about the makeup and the amazing amount of detail that was involved in it. We took a cheap Halloween wig, cut the bangs, and then added some sheer black material wrapped around the model’s head and shoulders.

model in orange wig with black fabric wrapped around her (unprocessed image)


The lighting setup in this beauty portrait tutorial is fairly simple. In front of the model, I have two of my DIY Fluorescent strip lights with the T8 bulbs set up in a sideways clamshell arrangement. These are placed equal distance on either side of her face. As you can see below, I have them placed a little lower than I usually do.

Digital rendering of lighting setup in this beauty portrait tutorial- softboxes equidistant from model, set lower than normal

Normally I would have my subject’s head in the bottom third of the softbox, but since this beauty portrait is Halloween-inspired, I wanted to mix it up and have a bit more light coming from below my subject. You can see that I am showing strip softboxes in the diagram above, since the software doesn’t include my custom-made lights. Although, a strip softbox does give you essentially the same light.

My model is seated on a posing stool and behind her I have a 150ws strobe with a 7’ reflector and a deep orange gel aimed right back at the camera.  This light creates the orange glow in the black material.

digital rendering of lighting setup in beauty portrait tutorial, bird's eye view with strobe behind model and two strip softboxes in front

The model is a few feet in front of a black background. There is no need to light the background; I want it to go completely black. Once we were ready to shoot, I realized that I didn’t want to see her neck and shoulder, so we added a piece of black velour material around her neck. As always, I shot several variations of this beauty shot in both horizontal and vertical formats before I settled on my preferred angle and composition.

The Gear

The shot in this beauty portrait tutorial was made with an 85mm f/1.8 lens set at f/6.3. The shutter speed was 1/125th of a second and the ISO was 200. The higher than base ISO was because the primary light for the shot was the continuous fluorescents, not a strobe.

The final image in this beauty portrait tutorial 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.

Halloween Inspired Three Light Beauty Portrait


You could of course also do this shot with three speedlights, plus this would look equally as cool if you did a traditional clamshell light with the softboxes stacked one on the top and one on the bottom. If you wanted more drama, a beauty dish would be the way to go.

You could also change the colored gels, but orange is your best bet for Halloween. If you wanted to get really crazy and you have two more lights sitting around, you could really build the orange light up by adding two rim lights with orange gels, one on either side of the subject and slightly behind her.

Watch the VIDEO…

I hope that gives you some ideas. Take this idea and run with it! And until next time, gang, 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 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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