I was recently invited to photograph Meaghan (a new model with Women360) and was pretty much given free reign to shoot her however I wanted! Such freedom is rewarding, but also can be a challenge. Where do I begin?
There are a million ways beauty can be captured — high key, dramatic, warm, soft, strong, colorful, and on and on! I love all of these styles, but recently I’ve seen a strong trend toward warm tones — nude on nude tones, if you will. This trend can be seen in skincare ads, fashion campaigns, editorials and more, so I decided to continue to explore this myself in a stylized portrait.
I loved the warmth of her skin and how her features were both soft and strong. My goal was to create a studio portrait with a warm color palette, a ‘natural light’ feel, and a presence that exuded strength, timelessness and elegance.
For this shoot I purchased a beautiful sheer dress from Diana Mahrach Couture with delicate gold detail throughout. I selected this dress because it was in the right color palette I required but also had enough intricate detail to create a more ‘expensive’ look to the shot.
Because I knew I wanted very soft, broad and even light (to simulate a more natural light feel), I chose my Westcott Scrim Jim. This 6×6 scrim was then light by a single strobe, 4-6 feet behind the scrim. When this strobe flash hits the diffusion material it spreads out, becomes softer, and gives a beautiful diffused result.
For this set I also used black V-flats on the left and right hand side of the subject. These V-flats are examples of ‘negative fill’. Their purpose is to prevent the bounce of light around the space, and actually ‘eat’ (absorb) the light on the sides of her face. This actually helps to give a bit more separation the edges of her frame and further emphasizes her already beautiful cheekbones and jawline.
You can see here in my camera settings that I also shot with a wider aperture than usual. Typically in the studio I shoot around F/11 to have everything crisp. Here (more important for the close up shots), I wanted to have a narrower aperture of F/2.2 so as to emphasize the eyes and also give more of that ‘natural light’ feel. In these particular images the use of a narrow aperture was barely visible, and therefore not particularly essential to the end results.
I tried some images with her hair down and no styling, but in the end MUCH preferred the shots with the gold dress and hair up. They were much more elegant and refined. With my poses I tried to convey strength and a bit of interest, and I was really drawn to the shot with her hands asymmetrical in the frame. I felt like she conveyed a mood of thoughtfulness and being engaged with the viewer.
Broad and soft lighting is very forgiving on the skin. I often work with very crisp, racking, hard light that requires more retouching. This was the opposite! While a tiny bit of cleanup was needed, for the most part it was just subtle blemish removal. In a far shot you’d barely be able to see the ‘imperfections’ to be removed. This, of course, is a benefit of soft light and why many skincare video ads use this exact approach to lighting… it looks flawless on camera already!