People often assume that a lot is needed to create great close-up beauty shots; if you successfully cast your model and can evoke the audience by showing emotion through the styling and mood often this is all you need to create successful shots. Of course great light is needed, but it’s simpler than you think. To get the best our of your beauty shots it’s important to consider many factors before starting your shoot.
For many of my beauty shoots I use the same lighting formula as my portraiture and editorial studio work. Why? Because it works for me, but don’t let this trick you into believing this is the only way to shoot beauty. There are lots of ways to light so it’s important to experiment first! Let’s start from the bottom – for this particular shoot I worked with the Broncolor Senso 22 kit in the studio teamed with my Octa 150 (5ft Octabox), which was 2-3 feet away from the model, and facing straight towards her. On a few images I added catch light in the eyes by using reflector placed flat on the gold side under the models chin. A white v-flat was placed on the right side of the model to reflect light and fill in the shadows.
Whilst I favor diffused accessories such as the Octabox and Softbox for soft beauty stories like this, the lighting treatment will always depend on the client or end result. For example – if I was shooting for a skin care brand who wanted simple lighting and detail in the skin I might consider using a beauty dish with a diffuser sock because of the depth and contrast it gives. I would also consider lighting the backdrop or background to add detail and give a more commercial approach.
For a moodier beauty story, I may consider raising one light above my model to create a more dramatic approach and if I wanted to take it further, I would use v-flats on the black side on either side of my model (so that my model is boxed in) and this would create shadows on either side of the face.
We’ve talked about lighting – but have you considered the creative team and how their role is important in beauty styling? You should always choose your team based on their skill. An editorial make up artist who is great at creative eye make up may not be the best fit for a simple clean beauty shot and it may not be in their best interest to be working on a job or test where they can’t use the images. You should also think about styling – is this shoot going to be cropped to see hair/make up and nails only or do you think styling would benefit the story? When I work with the creative team on set I often ask them in advance what their ideas are and have their input the casting of the model because it’s all about mutual benefit and everyone being happy with the results. One key factor that is always beneficial on beauty and portrait shoots is to make the team (especially make up) aware of what lighting is being used so they know what products to use to get the best results.
1. Keep the client in mind Even if it’s not a commissioned shoot consider what audience you are aiming towards – you may even want to shoot with a potential client in mind.
2. Successful casting – beauty models are not the same as editorial models. Models who succeed in beauty often have a commercial look. Casting should based on the theme of the shoot. Clear, healthy skin and hair is a must.
3. Test the lighting in advance – beauty shoots can be slower because you are shooting to get detail. Prepare your lighting with an assistant or a friend in advance and figure out your formula so that on the day you don’t need to make too many adjustments.
4. Consistency is key – you always want to keep something consistent throughout the story. If the hair and make up changes throughout the shoot keep the background and lighting the same and/or poses similar. If you choose to change the lighting slightly keep the styling similar. You don’t have to tell a story, often it’s about showing key trends and looks.
5. Don’t rely on retouching – Retouching should enhance the final idea and not overtake it. Retouching beauty is often all about cleaning the image rather than adding crazy colors or overlays. It’s important to get as much detail as possible in camera for retouching to be easier later on. If you are using a professional retoucher, make sure they understand industry standard techniques – blurring skin is a no no, clients want to see pores!
Broncolor Senso 22 kit
Broncolor 150 Octa
Circual Gold Reflector
Model – Li Wei at Fusion Models NYC
Styling – Anna Katsanis
Hair – Damian Monzillo
Make Up – Deborah Altizio
Retoucher – Ashlee Gray Retouch
Manicurist - Julie Kandalec