Jade Hannah: Working with Color on Location


Recently, I shot a spec shoot for a makeup company to show both natural and crazy makeup and hair. I shot on location with simple, painted 6x8-foot wooden boards to lend some color to the backgrounds.

The main challenge with not shooting in a controlled environment like a studio is that you're constantly dealing with off colors and lights coming from different directions, even if you think you're only dealing with white walls. To cut down on the ambient light for this shoot, I used two black LiteDisc reflectors, which also provided a negative fill and boosted the contrast a little.


In this bird's eye view diagram, you can see my lighting setup. Behind me, I had my large OctoDome (front face: 7 feet in diameter) powered by a TritonFlash set to full power. I like to shoot with small apertures to ensure sharp focus throughout, which requires more light output than if I were to use a wider aperture.


I didn't necessarily need the Large OctoDome for these beauty shots, but it provided a great diffused front light, which worked very well for these portraits. To separate the model from the background, I set up another TritonFlash with an extra small OctoDome (front face: 1.5 feet in diameter) attached, set it to about 1/8th power, and positioned it off to the side.

One of the challenges in photographing girls who have totally different looks is that their skin gets rendered differently. The shades can range from pink to yellow and ivory-toned skin types can blow out very easily. It not unusual to be adjusting both the white balance setting in the camera, as well as the exposure setting. A lot of this also depends on what kind of background I'm using. A black background will suck up a lot of light, whereas a yellow background which will reflect it.

It's good to be mindful of how the color that your lighting projects affects elements of the shot, particularly the makeup and the background.

One way to tone down yellow is to use a silver reflector, like a LiteDisc or LitePanel, which will provide a relatively cool color, as well as a little more contrast. The type of reflector you choose is largely determined by the look you're after. A lot of glamour photographers use gold or soft gold reflectors to give their models that tanned look. I also use that for some of my beauty images where you can see hints of gold.


For this first is first Kahlo-esque shot, I lined the large OctoDome with all silver panels. Since my model had very light-toned skin, I had to turn all the lights down a stop and place a silver reflector below as a bounce light, which gave her an all-around glow. I use this type of lighting quite often because I like the sharp effect it has on the face, even in my fashion shoots. In post, the only thing I did to this image was sharpen the jewelry and add highlights and shadows to different areas of her face to make them pop.

My next model was Nina Strauss from Swedish Top Model, and I loved her crazy hair! It was very loud and I thought a yellow background would make it pop even more. This model had very fair skin but with a pink tint, so I adjusted the white balance a bit in camera to ensure she wasn't as yellow as the background.

This shot was lit a little differently than the first. The large OctoDome again served as a front light, slightly angled down from a hight position, but this time the accent light was raised higher to create an extra kick to the hair. It also highlighted her lips and eyebrows perfectly. I was going for a "rocker from the 90's" look, but with a modern spin. I wanted a really edgy expression, which was very different from what Nina was used to, but in the end she pulled it off really well!

My last model was Margarita Maiseyenka, also from Swedish Top Model. Working with Margarita was wonderful. Having modeled all over the world for a few years, she could pull into just about any look within seconds, and often without any need for direction. For this shot, I wanted a simple cover girl type of look.


For any model wearing natural makeup really has to has to come through with her expressions and can't hide behind smoky eyes. For this shot, I had the large OctoDome positioned as before, but this time with two of the panels flipped to gold and with both diffusion faces attached. I also used a gold reflector to bounce light from underneath to lend more of a tanned look. 

The challenge here was that I was shooting with a yellow background with gold lights and a gold reflector, but didn't want the gold to take over the shadows. By placing the black panels on either side of her, that resolved the problem. black panels minimize that problem.


To learn more about the products used in this post, check out the links below:

TritonFlash™ Lithium Battery Powered Strobe Kit
OctoDome®: large
LiteDisc 42 inch Silver/Black


To see more of Jade Hannah's work, check out her Pro Showcase page.

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