My favorite genre of photography is beauty photography and many of my clients fall into that category as jewelers, cosmetics brands, hair care companies, etc. I have a lot of fun leading up to Valentine's Day as the holiday is a great excuse to do some romantic themed portraits.
For this shoot I wanted to create a soft and flattering look that would compliment the subject but still separate them from the backdrop, all using just one light. I was shooting in-studio but didn't want to use a plain white background so I picked the Lobby backdrop from Serendipity Backgrounds. The vintage look was perfect for this portrait and I love how Serendipity drops are lightweight and easy to transport.
I started by placing the key light in front of the backdrop and angled down at about a 45-degree angle. To sculpt the light I chose to use a LiteDome: Large soft box because of it's rectangular shape and the wide light spread. The rectangular shape insures that the backdrop is lit as well as the subject and the overhead angle minimizes shadows, both on the subject's face and on the backdrop.
You can see the set-up a bit better in this behind-the-scenes image. The large size of the LiteDome allowed the subject to move from side to side without moving the key light. Due to the sharp overhead angle, shadows are falling behind and below the subject and not onto the backdrop. If I had moved the key light significantly to one side we would start to see shadows on the backdrop where the subject's body is no longer blocking them from view.
If you take a look at the result images below, you can see that the shadows are flattering and help to accentuate the subject's bone structure and create a soft but dynamic portrait. Cheek bones are enhanced and the shadows beneath the brow give the eyes more 'pop'. This image was captured at f6.3 with a shutter speed of 1/125 at ISO 100.
I was happy with this lighting look but I wanted to take it a step further. One of my favorite portraits techniques is to add a reflector beneath the subject's face to bounce more light and brighten the exposure. Most often I use a white surface for this but I also love to experiment with matte silver and the wonderful reflective surface from Photoflex called SunLite. It's an equal mix of white, gold and silver and is flattering for almost all complexions.
In the comparison below, you can see the differences when a SunLite reflector is used. Shadows beneath the chin are softened, the complexion is brightened and the additional catch light adds sparkle to the eyes. Which look you prefer comes down to your personal preferences and the needs of the subject/client.
In the example below a white reflector was used for a softer look. You can see that the highlights are less hot and the overall exposure is more even. This image was also captured at f6.3 with a shutter speed of 1/125 at ISO 100.
In the end I decided that I liked the images using the SunLite reflector and these final images show the soft and flattering look this lighting setup creates.
I hope that this lesson inspires you to try your own bridal portraits. With a great soft box and excellent reflector, the sky is the limit!
Written and photographed by Laura Tillinghast.