Shoot Breakdowns

Lighting Setup for the Sci-FI Geisha Girl Shoot

Shoot Breakdown

Sci-fi Geisha Girl! That’s the name that my makeup artist gave to her latest creation. Let’s take a peek behind the scenes at my lighting setup and I will show you how we did this beauty shot.

Let me start out by saying that this is one of those pictures that an honest photographer will admit – most of the credit goes to the makeup artist.

I had the easy job. I used a basic two light clamshell set-up and a simple white background lit by two additional lights. Throw in two Walmart reflectors and one simple photoshop trick along with just a little bit of advanced retouching skills and viola.. the Sci-Fi Geisha Girl.

So let’s break this shot down… my model, Jamie – is an up and comer from West Virginia who is making the move to New York later this year. Jamie traveled to my studio in Pennsylvania for a few days to shoot her portfolio. When I am doing full day shoots for a models portfolio I try to finish my day with a fun beauty shot. You can’t do these at the beginning of the day – there is too much makeup that would have to be removed to shoot a headshot or lifestyles photo afterwards.

Natalia, my makeup artist from New York had this idea for a shot using lots of yellow and pastels. Based on her description I originally imagined the shot possibly being square and not including any background. Since you never know exactly how things will look when the makeup artist is done, I decided to set-up a white background, so that all the color would be on my subject.

As I saw the makeup coming together I really liked the use of blue around Jamies beautiful blue eyes, so I wanted to use a lighting arrangement that would really make the eyes pop.

You might notice that I don’t do a lot of shots of models looking away from the camera. I am all about the eyes.

Lighting setup

Remember, the clamshell lighting arrangement is two lights – one just above the subject and one just below the subject. Generally when you use this setup you place the two lights at equal distances from your subjects face and the subject will look straight through them. Clamshell lighting is very flattering because it fills the wrinkles and creates a soft even light.

Lighting Diagram for the Sci-Fi Geisha Girl

For this shot I decided to have my subject lean forward and tilt her face down towards the bottom soft box. By tilting her head down towards the light, I am using the bottom soft box to do most of the work and the top one as a fill. If you look at the catchlights in her eyes you can see the bottom one is brighter than the top one.

Because my model is very close to the lights, the brightness falls off quickly, which can make the sides of her face and shoulders darker than the face. That’s not necessarily bad – but in this case – I wanted to keep everything evenly lit… so I added two Walmart Reflectors – one on each side to bounce light back onto the shoulders and the sides of my models face.

So when it was time to shoot – I had my model lean forward and push her chin out and down. I shot from an angle slightly above her so that she had to look up with her eyes… this gives the effect of making the eyes look bigger. You know – like all the girls doing their Facebook and Instagram selfies with the camera held above their head.

I instructed the model to simply stare at the camera lens and breath through her mouth to keep the mouth relaxed – I didn’t want the lips pressed tight.

I shot with a 70 – 200mm f/2.8 zoom at approximately 120mm. My exposure was 1/200th of a second at f/9 with my Nikon D800 set at ISO 100. The strobes were AlienBee’s, and the sofboxes were the Photoflex Medium multidomes.

I shot tethered using Capture One Pro software and a MacBookPro Retina – I captured approximately 50 frames – with slight composition variations but mainly to get just the right version of expression with the eyes and mouth.
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

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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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