Beauty Lighting


One of the most flattering portrait lighting setups, called beauty lighting, was used in this image of Holly, a model I photographed recently.  With beauty lighting, the light is placed above the camera and aimed down at the face at about a 45 degree angle. 

One trick to figure out a lighting setup is to look at the catch lights in the eyes. You can see in this shot the catch lights just above the center of the eyes.  if you get in the habit of looking for the catch light, you can tell a lot about how an image was lit.


I tend to look for the catch light in every portrait – in magazines, on the web, even in the movies – to try to determine how the lighting was done. A large catch light means a large light. In the first image I used a big softbox light, 48 inches across.  A smaller light source might appear in the eye as a pinpoint of light.

But for a flattering look, a big light source is better. The light wraps around the face and provides a soft, smooth texture to the skin.  Holly has lovely skin to begin with, but the big light always helps the skin to look beautiful.


In the image to the left, I used a very different lighting setup.  Two lights were set, one on each side of Holly, coming in almost 90 degrees to the camera sightline.  The idea is a more high contrast, dramatic look. This approach can have a feeling of theatrical lighting.  In this image, there really aren’t any catch lights, but the whites of Holly’s eyes on the sides are highlighted.  The outside edges of her arms and hair are bright, which gives some depth to the image, especially with a dark background.

 To see more images from my shoot with Holly, click here.



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