Beauty Lighting for Stills and Video


Trying New Things

I definitely fall into the category of photographers who get bored doing the same thing over and over again. Although I am often hired to shoot a style that my clients see on my website or portfolio, or shoot images for a repeat client the same way I shot the last assignment, I find it so important to have other tricks in my bag. At the NY Photo Expo show, I saw a nice opportunity to test drive two products from Photoflex.

One of my regular hair and makeup artists, Laura Dee Shelley, wanted to do another shoot with me for her portfolio, as well as a short video for her own social media promotion. This would be a great opportunity to try out the new NorthStar Lite, Photoflex’s 1000-watt equivalent LED light for the video, and the new SunLite Reflector 39x72” fabric for their LitePanel for the still shoot. I enlisted the video skills of Cam Camarena and we were fortunate to not only get a great location at one of Laura’s friend’s apartment, but also an amazing model.

Lighting for Video
Setting up the NorthStars for the video could not have been easier. Using the NorthStar Lite inside a Medium LiteDome as our key light serves as a nice soft light to the side of Laura. For a highlight/backlight accent, I added the second NorthStar Lite with just a reflector. The dimmer control on the NorthStar Lite is a great feature and allows for the lights to be set in place and controlled with one simple motion. Being someone who works a lot with portable lights, it was nice to be able to see the light as I was setting up as opposed to my usual educated guess.

I snapped a few shots of Laura as a still image. The NorthStar Lite has a really clean quality of light. Although it doesn't provide the same level of power as a strobe light and requires somewhat higher ISO settings for stills work, it's ideal for video, especially when you need to mix and balance with natural daylight.

As a bonus, we moved the NorthStar Lite and Medium LiteDome over when our model arrived and Laura was able to use it as her lighting for the makeup application.

Using the LitePanel as the Key Light
Always up for a challenge, I thought it would be interesting to bounce light into the panel and make use of the SunLite reflection, much in the way I would use it if I was outside and bouncing the sun into my subject on a location shoot. The only big difference is that I would rarely use a LitePanel as the key light. With so many options with the various OctoDomes and LiteDomes, this would not generally be my choice. However, with smaller wattage lights, power can get eaten up with the modifier’s baffles. Would this create a soft light similar to an OctoDome or LiteDome? I wanted a clean light, and wanted the feel of an overcast sky that would have a little punch to it.

Initially, I went for about a 45 degree angle with the LitePanel and placed two TritonFlashes with reflectors a few feet from the panel. I didn’t love the effect, it felt almost “too flashy” (if that makes sense), so for the next frame I flattened out the LitePanel to be more like a 20 degree pitch. This also didn’t work, so I went back to the 45 degree pitch with the LitePanel and tried aiming the TritonFlash heads toward the outside of the LitePanel. Fail. Next, I tried pointing both TritonFlashes toward the center of the LitePanel and again was not happy.

Now, I’m well aware that it would have been so easy to just take my Photoflex 7’ OctoDome and set it at a high angle above my subject as I have done so many times before. But again, I didn’t want to do the same old thing again. Fortunately, I did not have a client breathing down my neck and our subject was not ready yet, so I still had time. For my final attempt, I moved the TritonFlash heads away from the LitePanel and aimed back at even parts of the LitePanel fabric. One final test shot of Cam and… SUCCESS! As a bonus, we pointed the other NorthStar into the LitePanel as a modeling light. Emily stepped on set and you have to love when the first frame is a winner.

While we were shooting, the sun poked around the building and we started to get shadows on the wall and subject. It was actually nice light, but a problem for our purposes. We turned the TritonFlash heads up two stops and the nice clean light coming from the LitePanel eliminated the shadows.

What we do with artificial light is essentially recreating what the sun does naturally, whether through a cloud, directly or indirectly hitting a subject, and every other variation. Always keeping an eye on that opens up more and more ideas about how to manipulate all the wonderful lighting tools that are out there today.


Written and photographed by Ian Spanier.

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