Building Light for a Beauty Headshot


In the studio, it’s easy to control and manipulate the light. In this blog post, I’m going to show how I build up the light for a beauty shot, step by step. I have two Barbie dolls I use for  lighting tests – a brunette and a blonde, pictured here.  (Still hoping for good names for them – any ideas?)

Click on any of the images in this post to see them in LARGER size.

In the first shot above, I used one beauty dish, above the camera, aimed down at the model. This provides a very soft and flattering light for women. (This is normally not a lighting setup I would use for men.)


Here you can see the beauty dish above the camera, with a silk “sock” on it to further soften the light, and a black foamcore background behind the Barbie.

I liked the lighting in the first shot, but perhaps the shadows underneath the chin were too dark. So –


For this second image, I put a white foamcore board right under the frame, to bounce a bit of light back into her face. Notice how much softer the look is. Still using just one light.

Next step – the background looked too dark, so I put a small light hidden behind the Barbie, aimed back at the black background. Pretty subtle, but you can see the difference –


The background light helps to separate the figure from the background.

Then, to further soften the light even more, I put two vertical foamcoare boards on either side, just outside the visible frame. This give a very glowing look to the skin, but some detail and contrast are lost.


There were no Photoshop adjustments made to any of the images – they’re right out of the camera.

Whether I’m shooting a beauty portrait or a business headshot, the process is the same. I start with one light, gradually add lights and reflectors such as the foamcore, until I get just the right look.

Are you ready for your portrait? We can light it to get just the right look for you!

Working both in the studio and on location, photographer Blake Robinson serves the Connecticut communities of Darien, New Canaan, Stamford, Norwalk, Westport and Greenwich.

“Individual, Indelible, Iconic Images”


2 Responses

  1. Michael Ehringhaus says:

    I found this straight-forward and very informative. Thanks for this one, Bubba . . .


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