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How I Got The Shot: Lace And Beaded Headpiece

How I Got The Shot: Lace and Beaded Headpiece

Concept & Styling

I love working with other creatives because I can feed off of their creations. At times I’ll ask a makeup artist to give me colorful, creative makeup… then I’ll take it all in and light and pose in a way that I feel flatters their creation. Other times I’ll look at a designer’s piece, and let it inspire the direction of the shoot. Not all shoots begin with a very scripted mood board, but instead loose ideas to explore with my team. This is often the case on ‘play days’ (also known as test shots), where the shoot is purely intended to explore my creativity, test new techniques, or create images meant to attract my dream clients.

For this shoot, the idea began with a striking headpiece. I wasn’t involved in the creation or the concept of the headpiece in any way. My good friend and talented designer Lory Sun, created this lace and beaded headpiece and brought it to the studio for one of our play days.

I loved the lace details paired with the delicate beads, and wanted to light it in a way that would emphasize these elements. The challenge? To light in a way that created drama, mystery and elegance with the headpiece being lost in shadow.

Typically in lighting, drama is directly paired with shadow… so it took me several iterations to figure out just the right way to help this piece shine. I tried many different lighting options but finally I found a solution that I feel in LOVE with. I started with high key, then tried high key with dramatic light, but in the end I went a totally different direction that really channeled the mood of the headpiece.

My model, Jillian from Women 360 Management had the beautiful and timeless features required for me to help channel some of the vintage imagery I have been inspired by recently.


Lighting Diagram

I began by illuminating the subject’s face using the Profoto Spot Small (one of my favorite ‘unusual’ modifiers). This may not be your typical, every day modifier, but it offers me creative control like no other modifier can.

The Profoto Spot Small allows me to project tight circles or patterns of light on the face with crisp edges. While a grid or snoot may appear to ‘focus’ the light, the edges are never razor sharp like I get with a fresnel or this specialty modifier. With this modifier, you have the ability to use any ‘gobo’ (go between) or pattern you want to project on the face. For this shot I used none. Instead, I just used the hard edge of the light to cut the model’s face in half. Half of the face in bright, contrasty light and the other half in shadow. I find this modifier enchanting and use it often in my more creative lighting shoots.

I began with this as the main light, illuminating the right side of the face while the left side of the face fell to dark shadow because of the intense contrast of the light. I completely lost all detail on her face in the shadow areas. To remedy this I decided to use a beauty dish with a grid on VERY low power. I wanted to kick in just enough light in to create a bit of detail and a catchlight in the eye. You can just barely see detail, and that is on purpose! I wanted just a hint of detail without distracting from the drama of the image.

Finally, I wanted to be sure to showcase the headpiece. Using such dramatic light and shadow meant I was completely losing the headpiece against the dark background. To provide separation on the background, I added a third and final light using a 20 degree grid. I was extremely careful to place this light so that it glowed almost like a halo just behind the headpiece.

Also, I used two black v flats on either side of the subject to help block any unwanted spill of light around the room and be sure I could maintain control of the light/shadow ratios in the shot. Did I use a meter to determine ratios? Nope. I shot tethered, watched my histograms, and adjusted my lights to give me the right ‘feel’ for this creative shot.

As I shot tethered into Lightroom, I was able to automatically apply a preset that was an approximation of the toning of the final image. This was so I could see if I was getting the right ratios of light and detail throughout. This really helps me to get a feel for the final shot and make changes in-camera on the day without having to adjust too much in post.

(side note: the little bit of illumination in the lower right of the frame is extra light spill from the main light—the spot projector)




Some pieces of clothing or styling invite themselves to become moving images. Cinemagraphs (living photos) are still frames where part of the images are moving on a loop. Cinemagraphs have become an important element of my commercial and fashion photography business in the last year because of their increased engagement on social media.

I used a fan to blow the beads on the headpiece while recording video in slow motion so I could later turn this into a living photograph. In the end I decided to animate the movement of the beads to give me a bit more control. I kept it subtle, just to catch your attention and enchant the eye without becoming the overpowering feature of the shot.

Here are a few more bts posts:  How I Got the Shot – Holiday Cinemagraph How I Got the Shot – Golden Hollywood TutorialBring your Images to Life with Cinemagraphs

Creative Team:
Photographer: Lindsay Adler
Hair and Makeup: James Milligan
Model: Jillian Jaymes at Women 360 Management
Stylist, Designer: Lory Sun


The main element of retouching in this image was to clean up some texture on the background and to smooth the lines of her top in the image. Any wrinkles or bunches I found distracting to the overall clean lines of the shot. I applied a high contrast black and white conversion, using some localized adjustments applied to the shadows for subtle detail. The shot has a bit of a film noir feel, and I’m really pleased with the fact that the image feels both modern and timeless, exactly what I’ve been trying to channel in several of my recent shoots!

Film noir inspired model with custom designed lace and beaded headpiece by Lory Sun - before post processing

Film noir inspired model with custom designed lace and beaded headpiece by Lory Sun




This Post Has 4 Comments
  1. gorgeous photo and excellent post. I have never seen the small spot used before (or at least I have never seen it demonstrated), and I would like to try it now.
    Thank you for all the extra work that you do to share your knowledge.

  2. The frame was amazing. One doubt about the beauty dish. It exposes the left phase of the model and how come you make it shadowish. Whether it’s handled on retouching part?. Just a curiosity to ask, that’s it

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