Early in 2009 I was hired by a Swedish ad agency to take some photos for their client, Bosch. The idea was to portrait a photo model using their equipment which is all about hair styling so the focus was clearly on the models hair and how to use their products.
Before we could start the photo session I had to check the lighting so I asked the model to just stand in front of the lights for a quick test shot which you can se below. A bit grey and dull at the moment, but a good start.
I have been a long time fan of other photographers who take their time to explain the lighting, how they planned it and how the results came out. So I figured it was time for me to give something back.
Lighting setup – a smart thing
After doing this shot, I thought it was a good place to start with all this. So, I documented the setup, sketched out a rough diagram using the Photoshop-file from Kevin Kertz (download it here: www.kevinkertz.com) which is the best way to do it I think.
The file has a lot of layers with different equipment on each layer that you can position as you want. Just open it in Photoshop, rename it and save it before you start, and then move around the lights and modifiers so it corresponds to your setup. A very smart thing to do, and after a while you have an archive full of setups that you can go back to when the inspiration runs out.
The photo above is just a rough test of the studio lights, so only minor tweaks and adjustments has been made in Lightroom. No Photoshop magic yet. Usually, I tend to have a bit more contrast in my studio lighting portraits, but when doing a shot like this, a slightly softer lighting felt right.
Studio Lighting Diagram for Beauty Shot
I think the lighting setup diagram explains how I did it, but in short I used three studio flashes and some reflectors and fill screens to get it as soft as I wanted it.
Three flashes, and a couple of screens
The main light was a Profoto Compact 600R with a white Softlight Reflector (beauty dish) positioned camera left and a bit above the models face. No grids were used on the main light, so with a reflector below her waist it also acted as fill light from below to reduce shadows under her nose, eyes and chin.
To light the background and get light coming in from behind I used two Profoto Compact 300 in softboxes aimed at her back. They illuminated the white background paper and her hair/shoulders from behind. To make it even softer, I placed fill screens on both sides. Just white cardboard screens, nothing fancy.
For this shoot, I used a Nikon D700 with my favourite portrait lens, the 85mm/1.4. It works every time, even if it is quite old and feels very mechanical compared to newer lenses.
Post-processing in Lightroom and Photoshop
After the client had chosen the photos they wanted to use, I started with the retouching. When having the luxury of photographing a photo model with great skin, you don’t have to fix much. Most of the adjustment I made was to make the image pop a bit, and to enhance the contrast and color.
The difference between the test shot and the images I delivered are mostly made with different adjustment layers in Photoshop.