How to Light Dynamic Beauty Shots When You Don't Have a Beauty Dish [RF Video of the Week]

April 22, 2016

By Laura Brauer

Wayne Johns, a London-based photographer specializing in fashion, beauty and commercial photography, calls the beauty dish an “industry standard,” and that may be true; all three of these beauty setups broken down by photographer Daryna Barykina used beauty dishes, and Lindsay Adler called on them for these high-drama shoots as well. In this video, however, Johns shows us how to get creative with lighting when you might not have one on-hand.

He uses a Bowens Gemini 500R head and a Bowens Gemini 400Rx 2 head with Lumiair 60-80 Softboxes to demonstrate a few different lighting scenarios, showing the differences between using one light overhead and what he terms the “clam shell” lighting technique, which lifts the shadows cast lower in the frame and around the chin by the single softbox and gives more detail to the clothes and accessories.

Johns also throws in a reflector as fill, demonstrating the variation of results achieved when you use a white, silver or gold finish: while the white reflector gives a gentler bounce back, the silver restores more highlights and lifts more shadows, giving more dimensionality. The gold reflector, as you might imagine, gives the skin tone a hint of a warmer glow.

All said and done, the important thing to remember is the output ratios of the lights—similar outputs for the key and fill light could result in a flatter-looking image, he says. “If you were to just reduce the power of your fill light a little bit,” Johns explains, “it gives you a nice, soft, gradual tonal range down across the body in terms of light fall-off. Just be careful not to use too much power on your fill light, because it can make the shot look a little bit unsightly.”

Check out more Videos of the Week, and email Libby Peterson with submissions.

Related Links

Lighting a Dramatic, Simple Film Noir-Style Portrait with Erik Valind

How to Create Cross Lighting in Your Portrait

Miguel Quiles Goes Behind the Scenes on His Lighting Setup for Beauty Shoots