- Between origami, flowers, and the beauty of the land of the rising sun.
- Cinema lighting for beauty photography tutorial
- Model Mayhem article on finding your signature with digital images by Neil Snape
- “How did you do that?” number 3 Series on Beauty Photography by Neil Snape daylight and tungsten
- “How did you do that?” number 2 Series on Beauty Photography by Neil Snape
At first look, this picture seems easy and complicated at the same time.
Make up is the key to the picture, it is about cosmetics, light only highlights this.
To make a dramatic image and one that lives well on many supports including rather flat paper printed on rotary (helio) press, a hint of hard light keeps the contrast believable, and adds a dimension.
Since the last time I was at Publicis, the agency that does most of the beauty/cosmetics advertising in Paris, the chief art buyer told me you must make your pictures appear that they could be shot with daylight rather than dark studio style pictures.
Every time I shoot I remind myself of this, and have since shot more with daylight than studio clinical flash pictures.
Last time in New York, most agents mentioned that the clients ( hint hint) appreciate photographers that can shoot both stills and video. This too is something I will work on, hence the raison d’être for this picture.
Details first. This is shot hand held although it shouldn’t be. Why? Even when shooting with flash there is always some motion blur. Also learning to do video insists on more rigour, and a fluid head is the key to making smooth video, short of using a steady cam.
It was shot on a Canon 5DMKII 200 ISO, wide open at f2.8 on a 100mm Macro non IS.
Distance from camera to subject about 1.5 m. Now handheld is already hard enough, but I also had to wave the aqua azure filter (Rosco sample filter pack) in front of the lens to try to find a pretty blue reflection with a reflection of the window behind me on the filter. The filter was close to the lens but not so close that it obstructed the window reflection behind.
The girl was laying on the couch arms folded and elbows in the couch, making it fairly easy to maintain a comfortable pose. She did however have a hard time with the lights pointed in the eyes, making it difficult for me to get pictures without squinting pictures.
This is a case where the main light is not necessarily the brightest light. It is a mix of lights, and contrary to “best practises” there is no true main light priority.
The closest and most directional light is a spot Fresnel using the 150 W modeling light, an 80B blue correction filter and a 2X Neutral density. The Fresnel was open to allow a large circle of area, so the model could move without drastic light changes. For still photography sometimes the light can be more precise, but that requires models that don’t move about. It is about 0.5m slightly to the right of camera and just above the horizon as seen in the nose shadow.
There is a light more to the right, higher and outside the windows 80B filter. That was to add ambience to the background, yet is turned to add just a hint to the face..
To the left of the camera is a P65 ( large bowl reflector) filtered 80B and 4 leaf barn doors. The doors are closed in a lot to restrict the light to the face more than the arm.
Behind the camera is a huge window southwest overcast skies. That is what makes the eyes so clear and the fill light creating very gentle wrap around light.
Behind the couch are two lights, and two reflectors or mirrors.
The first is one for effect and drama, a snoot on a Pulso head with an 80B filter. Normally I’d remove the handle on the flash, the edge of the filter in Photoshop. Yet I left it in for now, thus you can clearly see it. It is adding a bit of flare, and I shot without a lens shade on purpose to allow the flare in the pictures.
The second light is a Pulso head on a boom ( you can see the boom stand) but not filtered. It is in fact this light that is making most of the flare, and the rim lighting.
All modeling lights were turned to full, all 650W tungsten yet the filter reduces the light by 2 stops. Ambient light was just under the continuous light f2.8 ISO 200 1/125th s).
There is a mirror to the left and behind and a metallic fabric on a polystyrene board to the right which gives ambience. We tried to find the right angle for the board, and the right small folds to breakup a large reflection.
That is about all there was as I can remember.
Not much retouch needed, just some settings in LightRoom.
Here is a simple image , easier to do than most others.
I want to show you that with very little equipment you can produce excellent results.
This setting is nothing more than large window light coming from behind the camera in a medium sized room with white walls. The light that day was grey, overcast, yet not raining. The windows were a walk through double door, and windows on both sides of the doors.
The other light to add a sparkle and volume I set a large bowl on a flash head ( P65) with barn doors to be able to limit the lights coverage. The tungsten halogen bulb is 650w max although I adjusted down to what made for a WYSIWYG balance. The light is slightly high and to the left of camera but directly beside the camera . Distance not more than 1m or 3-4′.That is the joy of continuous and ambient light.
The trick to this is filter the light , which is tungsten to become daylight. For this we use what we call full carat, or full correction blue filters often labelled as 80B. It has to be on the continuous light as the other light is daylight already. As expected a grey day, the colour of light will be variable and a lot more blue than if it was sunny.
When shooting with cloudy skies and mixing filtered tungsten, it’s best to use a tripod to reduce the number of rejects due to camera movement. To keep the notions of softness you can then shoot at the chosen aperture, and raise the ISO a little to avoid long exposures.
There is a Polystyrene board with the white side turned towards the shadow side of her face to the camera right at around the same distance as the girl is to the camera adjusted to fill but not destroy nor create double shadows.
Shot at ISO 200 1/45th at f4.0 with a 100mm f2.8 Macro on a 5DMKII.
It could have been at ISO 400 too at 1/90th with little difference.
Let’s see how it was developed and processed.
First off the raw file CR2 is a little underexposed. I’m finding the Canon files when shooting to a white are better underexposed as when correctly exposed there are problems in the light tones that are not easily changed or corrected. I think this is because when near the brightest points of capture, the differences in skin tone then become too hard to have separation , hence colour banding or coloration a problem. I’ve seen this on others files, so I assume it’s a question for hardware limitation.
Once entered , actually shot tethered into LightRoom, my base metadata template adds copyright information, keywords, renames files. I always do a couple of test shots and find a preset that looks good, then tweak that and save it out as a new preset. Then it is very easy to set the development settings to this for making the previews of all incoming images set to this preview. It is not permanent, only a set of controls you chose to create a look from the untouched raw files.
Adding the preset to make the raws lighter by 0.55 + exposure, a bit of magenta tint +7 to the grey blue daylight, some fill +0.7, reduce blacks from the default of 5 to 3, lots of clarity +23, some added vibrance +7, saturation -2.
Tone curve +9 highlights, +5 lights, -3 darks, and +19 shadows. Some corrections in colour are also needed, see screen captures.
All are recorded in the screen captures and preset in the zip at the end of the tutorial.
Then off to Photoshop for pixel level clean up. There was very little, just some spotting with the spot healing brush, a quick mask around the eyes to brighten and increase contrast. I also say there was too much yellow in the skin tones so a curves adjustment layer with the blue channel targeted to reduce the yellow slightly.
There is just a quick dodge and burn done on a soft light layer with light and dark greys but this could be done just as easily in LR before or after editing.
Save out and return to LightRoom. Make a virtual copy. You can rename the copy in the metadata section of the Library module if you want to keep track of which is which.
Apply some further edits on this virtual copy of the file. I save out as PSD , but some say layered TIFFs would be a safer bet. However I have confidence in Adobe being around for a long time!
The advantage of making a virtual copy of a file is that if you further edit the original, a choice you have if you re-export or edit, you can work on the original and not a copy including the LR adjustments. When you save this original again , the edits are reflected in all virtual copies thereafter. Hence, your further tweaks in LR development adjustments are preserved meanwhile if you change say some hair or the clothes, these changes are updated on all virtual copies!
After returning to LR, the control set added are visual tweaks for a pleasing result. No right or wrong , simply pleasing visual results. I added +1 blacks, a small change, but added a huge change in the tone controls.
+7 highlights, 0 lights, +31 darks, and -94 shadows. The region sliders were also changed to affect with a bias the selected sliders. Those are the triangles under the curve graph which you can move to enlarge or reduce the region width and the middle slider gamma.
For a more pronounced effect, I also played with a high contrast almost silhouetted image.
Here the settings are quite whacked: temp +11, tint +34, exposure -0.10, recovery 22, fill light +73, blacks +59.
Clarity +41 vibrance -27, saturation -46. Tone controls, highlights +13, lights -25, darks -35, shadows -43.
Colour blue H -44 S +13 L -60 purple H +77 S -92 L -27 magenta H +35 S 0 L +46
There are no limits. Make as many virtual copies as you like and play until you find your magic.
On Mac the presets are saved in your home pictures folder ~Pictures/LightRoom/Lightroom Settings/User Presets
The files in the zip if placed there will be in your presets after relaunching LR.
Click here for the zip with the presets.
A fun picture revisited. Originally thought to be better in colour, yet is splendid in B&W. The carbon tones are all LightRoom settings on top of Canon CR2 raw files.
This one involves two lights for the subject, and two lights for the background and two large poly boards between the background and subject.
There is a main light is a Picolite Fresnel, about 1 metre from the subject high and to the right pointed down. This can clearly be seen in the screen capture for the relative placement, and height which is about 50º from the horizon.
The second and fill , a bit mixed with the main light is a P65 (22cm bowl) with 4 way barn door and a Tough Rolux scrim mounted in the barn doors frame. It is just above centre and pretty much straight, also seen in the eyes. The mix of light in this case is really two main lights doing different things. Yet, one has to always consider one light to be “the sun” , so it is biased towards the hard light on the face.
Background lights are my trusty huge strip lights 150x40cm both turned towards each other to make for an even light.
Two large poly boards painted black on one side both close to the subject to do two things, 1) avoid background light striking the subject directly, 2) stop light from reflecting, bouncing around to maintain decent shadow depth.
See pictures for settings.
The process is basically as follows:
Convert from colour to B&W, add some dodge and burn with the brush in the develop tool.
Send to Photoshop to fix things like the crack in the wall, any other small problems.
Back in Lightroom, make a virtual copy, and tone it , add some final dodge and burn. Also some changes in exposure, brightness are fun to play with at this time on a finished PSD. The reason you don’t want to work on a toned BW in Photoshop is any clone stamping and curves etc. are all based on a colour model that will make holes in the image where you’re not expecting it to happen. If in a neutral grey (rgb) image you avoid a lot of errors by editing first in grey , then toning only the final image.
As drab as it may seem the original was intentionally shot this way. Leaving headroom in the highlights avoids clipping the channels when you do extreme conversions from raw, and betters your chances for banding free edits in Photoshop or for production.
Light: start off with a beauty dish. You can see by the shadows it was about 40º high and to her right. It was turned towards the camera as seen by the trailing shadow on her nose, and turned downwards to avoid a hot spot on her head.
The reflection in the eye reveals the BD ( beauty dish) had two barn doors and a lot of black cinefoil around it.
As soon as you angle a BD down or towards the camera you’ll need to remove or reduce the changed centre of light. To reduce the light on the forehead is usually the easiest, just clip a barn door on the top and closest edge.
Then for the rest you need to watch to see where the light is strongest, and try to cut that too. In this case black cinefoil crimped onto the BD extended to approx. 4” from the edge made the difference. Then it was a matter of moving the light back and forth to find the sweet spot. That was about 3’ from the nose at 40º.
There is a strip light with a Peacock (Lee) filter taped to the strip light turned to her shadow side. It is relatively close approx. 5’ and not spilling on the background, nor too much towards the subject highlight side. The goal is just fill the shadows with colour.
One 2×3’ mat silver reflector card from centre and below pointing up to fill in the eye brows with a little accent on the make up . It is placed at an angle that doesn’t kill the chin shadows, so be careful to preserve the direction of the main light!
Background.: to define the edges it is always best to add a second light. Or two. Being lazy I just turned a strip light 155x40cm Broncolor on the right and behind the subject towards the opposite wall. I also backed up a BD but pointed that at the shadow side wall with a reduced power. I liked the returning jaw edge light with the higher powered right strip so left it there. IF the hair is down this wouldn’t make sense, and you could reverse the graduation with the face shadowed side being the wall / background lighter side.
I could have used a normal or gridded BD above the hair and straight down with a gel to add a bit more coloration. I didn’t this time but often do.
See attached jpg.
After editing out bumps etc in Photoshop a virtual copy of the psd was made and the following settings other than a crop, were made: Basic
+2 Tint, exposure +0.10, Clarity +9, Vibrance +2, Saturation -5;
Tone Curve: Hl +33, L +11, Darks -3, Shadows -3
Some dodge and burn inside LightRoom too on the raw, then on the virtual copy.
That is a while back. Looking at that I still see the image quality with the 5D superior than the 5DMKII. Since it was done, the improved process engine in LR would have made it better.
The settings in LR are Temp 4447 K
+ 19 orange
The sepia is done after retouching in LR on a virtual copy of the psd or tiff.
Set to H 30 6 saturation highlight and H30 Saturation 14 shadow balance 0 , just use the saturation until it looks good.
This one is so simple. There is almost no retouching, other than a few bumps on the skin, and a quick mask painted selection and an adjustment layer curve. You can do this with a DB layer too, whatever you like and whatever works. In any case be careful to apply any curves or D&B with luminosity mode as if it were sepia toned you’d color cast the image.
At first I thought it was a P70 close to the ceiling, what I often use but upon further inspection I see it is the big octa with the diffusion peeled back half way. It is used in the “douche” position like a giant shower head. All you have to do when doing this is angle the light towards and away from the camera to see where the light on the eyes is correct. It is high, about 1 metres above, it has the edge closest to her with the diffuser still Velcro’d and a black cinefoil to prevent background spill. The close edge diffusion scrim ( camera side) is undone, and rolled towards the middle of the octa. This gives a silver specular highlight on the hair, skin much more lively than the flatness of the diffuser would have otherwise.
The light is about 1m in front of the centre of the models head.
There probably was a gobo /black cardboard parallel to the floor to stop light spilling onto the charcoal grey background ( seamless paper)
Second light. A large strip light on the right painted to give some graduation on the background from right to left, and to slightly edge light the subject especially the eye when in profile.
So to start off, this was a magazine series, being quite retro . Since it had smoke in it, yes luckily the girl is a heavy smoker, I had to ensure a hefty side or side back light. At the same time I didn’t want to kill the volume on here face and really needed the eyes ( beauty series).
The previous shots were done with more or less the same lights yet quite differently placed.
Since the original set up was for less contrast you can see that here in the eyes where the lights were.
The main light is my Octa close , high and feathered for short light. It is above her head pointing down, pointing towards the camera. There is likely a black cardboard strip on the edge closest to her to stop her from being overexposed and to avoid spill onto the background.
There is a normal bowl on a lamp pointed into the wall behind me the camera which is the easiest way to make a fill without cross shadows. Usually at around the same height as the main light, again don’t kill volume with reflectors too low.
There is a silver card below in this example but removed for the smoke picture.
There is an all important black card cutting the light to her cheek on the bright side.
I would have preferred the light to be higher but it can’t for her eyes. I could have had her leaning forward which then would have left the neck in shade, yet the eyes the same!
Here is the original set up, then a close up of the second set up.
One of my timeless classics that stays that way due to the simplicity in light.
It is a large Octa from above centre but not extremely high maybe 30º. It is also turned down, and towards the camera. It is quite close , the only way to keep the shadow under the neck. Too many pictures are lit with way too much light on the neck, or half way which is generally worse.You can see this as the light on the charcoal grey background has it’s ritual dark on light , light on dark. Also the light on the close edge of the back of Martha is partially graduated , a sure sign of the light being turned towards the camera. I also use black cinefoil to shade if it is still too bright. Sometimes it’s best to leave the light close and have a hot edge (too much light) and shade that with gobos, cinefoil etc so you maintain that special light graduation which makes the volume interesting.
Next there is a second light , a small strip light called a LightBar 60 with barn doors. It is at camera lens height redirecting some of the light back in the eyes and the upper lip. It was very close to the girl and below pointing up. It is quite visible in the close up screen capture. I usually close the barn doors enough so that it doesn’t kill the under chin shadow, yet lights the lips and eye lides. The upper lip is your area to watch for beauty that it doesn’t become excessively shadowed. Of course this depends on the volume of the girls lips>
Next there is a black poly board to keep the shadow side dark, a 120cm Broncolor LightBar with barn doors and a Rosco Peacock filter on the shadow side. That is about it. simple but extremely effective light for classic painterly beauty.
Post prod: make multiple copies in LightRoom, turn up the red brightness for one virtual copy . This one is the one used to make the skin light. Open in layers in Photoshop , mask out what you don’t want.
The easiest and fastest way to light beauty is place the light slightly above centre directly forward say 30º downwards, and add a reflector below centre angled to pick up light and redirect light from the main source to fill in shadows, yet at a reduced intensity.
By doing so you have a very safe way of ensuring a catchlight in the eyes, enough light to fill shadows , and avoid creating too much shape or volume.
That said, it’s time to avoid this boring old technique and pass on to a more personalised style.
First thing to do is raise the light higher. High enough to create depth under the nose, lips, and cheeks. Keep going until either the nose shadows starts to cross over the lips, or the catchlights in the eyes start to disappear. Now you are getting somewhere but it’s log from being finished. By raising the light you may have noticed you’re going to have more light on the top and decreasing (fall off) at or before the chine.
Two ways to fix this. One is to gobo the top edge of the light. Fast and efficient but sometimes impractical as the space is limited, weight if on a boom, or some other reason like the stand interfering.
The better way is to angle the light downwards,. This may not solve the hot spot , but will if you move the light away from the subject after.
Look again for the catchlights in the eyes, the shape of the shadow and where it falls.
You are almost there if you want front lighting. Just put a little fill reflector back in , as before but as not to kill the shadows move it higher and watch that it is not filling as much under the chin.
If what you are see is missing the volume you see in today’s best beauty photography , it’s because you need to have a direction to the light that creates volume , a unique and flattering volume for each person you shoot.
Move the same light off to both sides and keep it pointed towards the subject. For now this is still broad lighting as the light strikes the subject from the broad side and the shadows follow behind the light in the same direction ( away from the viewer).
When you find the best shadow, best jaw line, best cheek shape on which side it works the best you now have the most flattering side to shoot. As we haven’t yet turned the light towards the camera, this shape is something to watch for the pure form as it will change volume with the angle of the light creating a shadow not yet visible.
You’ll want to move the light far enough to create shape but not so far as to loose the shadow side catchlight! Nor do you want to fully shade the area under the ye, especially on women or you’ll have an excessively dramatic and masculine image.
Make sure you have the catchlights , not too much nose shadow ( really depends on nose shape), then move the light closer then farther away from the subject. You’ll instantly see huge differences in volume with the changes in light source size vs. relative distance to subject.
Last thing is to turn the light inwards, towards the camera until you feather the light away from the closest “hottest” spot or the brightest edge if you will.
Sometimes you’ll have to pull the light back towards the camera position to maintain the catchlights and not have excessive nose shadows when turning the light towards the camera for a somewhat short light.
This is the time to add or take away light. On a bright background to increase shadow strength you can add a black velvet on a board or a polystyrene black painted board. I find two or more 2” 4×8’ boards one side painted black with gaffers tape all around the edges the best compromise for studio photography. When I really want to take away light I pin a large black velvet onto the poly board. With a dark background you’ll want to maintain some detail in the darks areas. So the white side of a poly board will do, or a white boards like gator board, or even a flash onto a wall if you have large surfaces behind the camera.. One thing to be careful is when filling light, always remember the primary source direction and where your secondary light is . Avoid cross shadows and filling in all the volume you just worked hared on creating.
Another favourite is to add a small Fresnel just in front of the main light to create a sharp specular light but low enough power that it only defines the shadows and specular highlights without killing the main light’s volume and transitions.
The rest is just experimentation. I suggest starting out simple. When you know how to do the simplest way well, then start adding a light. Turning off a light, adding a kicker light from behind at an oblique angle, adding a strip light etc.