Lighting Masterclass, 28th July. Part 4

The last blog involved a beautiful model, lit with a fresnel spot, which is a very useful, but specialised lighting tool.

This week, the lighting tool of choice is a beauty dish, which is much cheaper and more versatile than a fresnel spot. I used the Lenstraw_9carta 70cm silver finish beauty dish for these shots, because my model, Illy, has a good enough complexion for use with a silver beauty dish – models who are older, or whose complexion/makeup isn’t as good, often photograph better with the white version.

In last week’s blog I mentioned that Dani was photographed with her lips parted and that this kind of pose draws attention to the size of the lips, and to the teeth. There are obvious sexual connotations here, and it’s usually good to have the lips parted, where possible. But a lot of models simply can’t do it well, and the shots look contrived and false.

And I asked the question “if the model doesn’t look right with her lips parted, how can you overcome that problem?”

Well, one way is to give her something to do that motivates the parted lips. Applying lipstick is an obvious method, but it’s been done to death. Glamour photographers often get the model eating a banana, but that’s maybe a bit too blatant…

So, for these shots, I got her to eat a strawberry – which required real commitment from Illy, because she hates strawberries! That suited me, I got myself a pot of double cream and ate them myself later, just to prove that diabetics can spoil themselves sometimes…

My starting point for this shot, as always, was to ask my model to change into any clothes she liked. A s a photographer, it then becomes my job to photograph her in the best way possible. She changed into a bright red dress, so I asked her to use bright red lipstick, and gave her a bright red strawberry as a prop.

Illy, like many West Indian models, has pronounced, high cheekbones, the objective here was to light her in a way that emphasised her looks, and a beauty dish is the perfect tool for this.DSC_2740

My starting point, as always, was to use 1 light, and I arranged it directly in front of her face, high up, to create a shadow under her cheekbones. And then I moved it to her left, to leave the right hand side of her face in deeper shadow and create a more pronounced effect.

Afro hair isn’t the easiest for a photographer, it tends to be very black, thick and often doesn’t have much natural sheen to it, so it needs its own light. Now, a hairlight is normally arranged to create just a hit of sheen, and is normally from a honeycombed reflector behind and to one side of the model – but I decided to do something different here, and I fitted the flash head, with a standard reflector and a 10 degree honeycomb, mounted on a backlight stand very low down and to her left, shining through her hair. I set the power pretty high, to create a dramatic effect. The hairlight also created some rimlighting/backlighting on the strawberrry and on Illy’s hand.

I then took a few shots, with her head tilted at different angles, and made some small adjustments to the position of the beauty dish. There was no fill light here, the beauty dish provided everything I wanted.


Because of lack of time, I just shot against a white wall. Relatively little light from the beauty dish, and none at all from the hair light, reached the background so it photographed pretty dark. Later, I changed the background on computer.

The next blog will be about semi silhouettes and strong shadows, two very different approaches.