Behind the Scenes w/lighting explanation from Cosmic Beauty

Beauty Image
Beauty Image

As a beauty photographer, my lighting of preference is using clam shell/Paramount. This way, the main light (key light) is positioned above the model at a downward 45 degree angle,  and a second light source (reflector or strobe) is positioned below the model pointed upwards at a 45 degree angle. This setup can be utilized with any sort of lighting modifiers such as, soft boxes, beauty dishes, umbrella's or handheld reflectors; each yields a different and unique look based on your preference. The general rule of thumb is that if your model is older or has a lot of skin blemishes you opt for a softer light modifier (such as a softbox or umbrella) and if their skin is free of blemishes you could use either hard (beauty dish, open reflector) or soft modifier(s). Important note: rules are sometimes meant to be broken, and it could all be based on your preference and the overall look you are going for. For example there have been cases where I used a hard light source for a subject with heavy skin blemishes and (not to my surprise, but pleasantly so) the results are what I had hoped for, albeit a bit more post processing. Now for the fun part!! Let me walk you through the process I used.

Diagram A - Lighting setup for Cosmic beauty.

Diagram A - Lighting setup for Cosmic beauty.

For illustration purposes, refer to Diagram A, in order to show a lighting diagram of this shoot I used a white background, however for the shoot itself I used black Savage seamless background paper. Considering the theme was "Cosmic" I really wanted something dark so I knew right away that I would need a black background with some sort of separation between the model and the background. I chose two hair lights, strobes and bare bulb, one placed on each side of her. They were positioned high pointing towards her head/shoulder region at about 45 degrees and feathered slightly as not to overpower her with rim light. Here is where you take a test shot (with only the hair lights firing) to see what you are working with.  See Diagram B. 

Diagram B & C - Left hand side shows hair light coverage while the right hand side also shows fill light (from the handheld silver reflector).

Diagram B & C - Left hand side shows hair light coverage while the right hand side also shows fill light (from the handheld silver reflector).

I knew that I didn't want light to spill on my background but I also wanted a "crisp" or hard look, which is my personal favorite. In order to achieve this I used an Elinchrom softlite 27" beauty dish (white interior) with a grid. This allowed me to illuminate my model without worrying about light spilling onto the background. My next concern was reflected light. I usually perform beauty lighting with an additional handheld silver reflector. Using a grid on a beauty dish is an awesome way to prevent light spill, however, you then introduce another problem in that you can't get much light into the handheld reflector. Using a grid will give off a very directional look/light/etc and so I opted to use another bare bulb strobe. By doing this I was able to bounce light into the handheld reflector to achieve a touch of fill light that will soften-up the shadows a bit (no hard-rule on how much fill...adjust the light to taste). Diagram C shows the model being lit by only hair and the aforementioned fill light. 

I hope this sheds some "light" on how I approached my lighting setup during this particular shoot. If you have any questions feel free to comment. Thank you and happy shooting! 

Behind the Scenes

Studio setup

Distance from Eyes.................................................... 23"

Height above Eyes..................................................... 9"

Light Setting (f/stop)................................................... f/2.8 & f/13

Height of Light............................................................ 63"

Height of Model's Eyes off the Floor...................... 54"

Light Offset.................................................................. 16"

Camera settings

Exposure......................... 1/160

Aperture.......................... f/2.8 & f/13

Focal Length.................. 100mm

ISO................................... 100

Lens................................. Canon 100mm 2.8 

Equipment

  • Canon 5D MkII
  • Elinchrome 27" Beauty Dish
  • Hand held circular reflector (silver)

 

Cosmic Beauty Credits:

Model: Savannah Cornejo (visit her on Instagram and Facebook)

Bodywork: Anahy Nunez (visit her on Instagram and Facebook)

Makeup & Hair: Brenda Tarango (visit her on Instagram and Facebook)