16 Feb 2016

A few words about beauty shots: A photo shoot with Alexandra Lech

No Comments Basics, Photo sessions
 The photo shoot with Alexandra was rather spontaneous, like most photo shoots I take. While browsing through MaxModels.pl, a portal gathering models, photographers and all other people from the industry in Poland, I found her profile and immediately thought, “This is it”. I rarely find someone so interesting – and from my vicinity, too. The girl was short, but she was only 14, so she still had time to grow. I was planning to take beauty shots, so the height wasnít important; what counted was the face and the silhouette (don’t tell me that the silhouette doesn’t matter in beauty shots: one may only ignore it if just the face and no more than a small fragment of the neck are going to be visible in the photo).

In case some of you are not familiar with the concept of beauty shots, let me explain first what they are. I take a lot of them, so I’m going to mention them often. They originate from both glamour shots (which show the model in the most attractive way possible) and fashion shots. They are often used to advertize jewelry, glasses as well as make-up and hair cosmetics, or simply show the face in such a way that one can see the make-up and the hairstyle well (hence, many of those shots advertize brands like Dior). The face is always shown in close-up: it can be just the face in a big close-up or a wider frame, even with the bust, but these are not fashion shots because the face is in the center of attention here. People keep confusing beauty shots with portraits though they are completely unrelated (only the frames are similar). Portraits show people the way they are, while beauty shots – the way we want them to be at a given moment. A totally changed hairstyle and a make-up better suited for a carnival party than a visit at the cinema are perfectly normal in beauty shots, but inadmissible in portraits.

I did not take beauty shots of Alexandra in the glamour-like style; instead, I tried to show her like I had shown Beata Maj in a photo shoot you read about in my post on beauty dishes. Thus, we focused more on the fashion element of beauty shots and, as Ola was able to pose the way I like it the most (i.a. she can show real anger), I did my best to make use of it. I rarely happen to work with a girl who can do this; I have met just a few of them thus far.

I finally chose shots with milder expressions anyway because I reckoned that they matched the styling better.

The first shot featured a smooth hairstyle reaching just above the eyebrows. The hairstyle and the make-up were prepared by Karolina Zientek, who has styled models for most of my photo shoots. Test photos showed that we needed to arrange the fringe a bit differently for the shot in three-quarter profile. During the adjustments it fell and slightly covered the eye, and I understood that such an arrangement was perfect. Thus, unlike the remaining photos, the first shot depicts a significantly messed fringe:


Nikon D700 | Nikkor 135mm 2D DC | F/5,0, 1/200s, ISO 200


For the second shoot (my favorite) the lighting stayed the same; we only changed the hairstyle and the direction that the model faced:


Nikon D700 | Nikkor 135mm 2D DC | F/14, 1/200s, ISO 400

I set the aperture value so as to have both the hair and the eye in the depth of field. And here is the last shot with identical styling and lighting:


Nikon D700 | Nikkor 135mm 2D DC | F/14, 1/200s, ISO 400

I wouldn’t choose this shot again today, but it seemed all right back then.

The light in this shot is distributed as if the light was placed lower than for the previous shots; this is so because the head is turned upwards. If the light really was placed low with such head position, one would risk obtaining shadows directed upwards instead of downwards. As a result, I would create a character more suited for horrors than beauty shots.


It made no sense taking more shots with the same styling, so we changed it. Karolina had wanted to use a white pillbox hat in beauty shots for a long time, but it had never matched any of my visions before. This time, the opportunity finally appeared:


Nikon D700 | Nikkor 135mm 2D DC | F/7,1, 1/200s, ISO 200

As you see, the setup was significantly different. The key light was still the 70 cm BD with a grid, but I added two hair lights behind umbrellas and a light to fill the shadows from the bottom (also behind an umbrella); moreover, the background became lighter (I simply replaced the back reflector with a white one). I didn’t change the color using just the light because the model was too close to the background (the room was small) and she would have reflected the light. I decreased the aperture value, too, in order to make the mesh a bit fuzzy and prevent it from attracting the whole attention. You can see the setup below:



As we took my favorite type of beauty shots (see styling 1), it would be hard for me not to be satisfied. My assistant was Mateusz Matt “Pro” Prociak and everything went quite smoothly. I had taken a few photo shoots without an assistant before and this involves running from the light to the camera every few minutes. That time I managed to avoid doing so.

PS. You can read more about the make-up and the model’s preparation here (in Polish only).

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I have taken beauty and fashion shots for a few years. I publish the results of my work on this blog together with photo shoot descriptions, setups, backstage photos and everything that is significant while photographing. I try to diversify the equipment I use during my photo shoots.
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