Photo Shoot Tips

Three light Portrait, Headshot and Beauty Lighting

With No Lighting Modifiers

I want to show you some beauty lighting and a series of headshots done with three lights and a reflector – and NO modifiers on the lights. The modifier was the room that I shot in.

In this series of headshots and beauty shots, I was working in my home studio which is only 23 feet by 12 feet with a ceiling that is just shy of 8 feet tall. And the good news is that this beauty lighting setup works even better in a smaller space. So if you are shooting in your living room or in a spare bedroom, this will work out well for you.

Beauty Lighting setup

This shot was made with an 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom lens set at 135mm. The aperture was f/5 The shutter speed was 1/200th of a second and the ISO was 100.

I lit the shot with three Paul C Buff AlienBee B800’s which are 320WS strobes. All three strobes are set just above half power.

Two of the strobes are set behind my model on either side of the white wall background and the third is just behind the camera. It’s not aimed at the model, but instead aimed high in the opposite direction towards the corner of the wall and the ceiling.

Beauty Lighting setup with two lights behind model and one in front aimed at wall accross from model

You can see in this 3D rendering of the beauty lighting setup that I am using the white wall and ceiling as a huge reflector.

Beauty lighting light aimed at wall as huge reflector

I have my model seated near the midpoint of the room so that I am getting a reasonable amount of fill from the wall that she is facing.

beauty lighting setup with model in middle of room

I am using a camera angle that is just below her eyes so that I can put her in a confident position.

The Shots (and working them!)

The intended purpose of this set-up was a clean and pretty headshot – like this:

Clean headshot done with beauty lighting setup model on white background

…but, as I say often, I always make it a point to work my shot to see where it might lead.

In this case, after I felt comfortable with my color headshot, I switched to black and white and had my makeup artist tussle the model’s hair to give it a more casual feel. I also moved in for a tighter crop.

Beauty lighting shot with model with messy hair in black an white

Then I had my model begin to play with her hair and worked on a version that had a bit more of a boudoir feel to it.

Beauty Lighting boudoir shot in black and white

Then I went back to color and added in a fan:

portrait with beauty lighting setup with model with messy hair in front of white background

And I finally decided to add the red tulle material and that lead me to this frame, which required very little post production beyond the usual color, contrast, sharpening, and, of course, removing of blemishes.

Model in red tulle with white background and beauty lighting

Important Notes

Now there are a few things I want to point out about my process here. First of all – please notice – I am not shooting ridiculously wide and then figuring out my composition in post. Here are the images, straight out of the camera.

My final shots have very little cropping to them.

If you watch my live shows here on YouTube, I am constantly pushing photographers to fill the frame and not waste all of those pixels that they paid for. I want you to see that I practice what I preach and I assure you that is the best path to fine-tuning your skills and ensuring that you do consistently top-notch work.

Also, I wanted to point out that when I am in the studio shooting – if I have an idea for a shot in black and white – I switch my camera over to Monochrome mode and boost the contrast on the monochrome setting to +3 so that I am seeing the previews in black and white and looking very much like black and white film. I do this simply because back in the film days – you would make very different lighting and exposure choices if you were shooting color transparency film compared to shooting black and white film. I do my black and white conversions using Nik Silver Efex Pro

Other Beauty Lighting Options

Now what about speedlights? Of course, this beauty lighting setup will work with speedlights. If you are on a budget and in a tighter space, you could get away with using two strobes, one in front and one in back. Plus, you could use different colored backgrounds.

The moral here is if you are photographing people, hopefully your subject is much more important than your gear. Beyond that, remember that all great photography is the process of solving a series of problems.

Watch the VIDEO…

As always, the possibilities are only limited by your own imagination. I hope that sparks some ideas for you. 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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