#06: The Beauty Shot

This looks simple, but it’s a bit more complex than you think. When you are creating images that are intended for elaborate retouching, you need to pay particular attention to creating defined but actually relatively flat illumination.

Nikon D800, 85mm f1.8 @f9, ISO 100, 1/200s


A beauty shoot can sometimes be very simple; on other occasions, it’s more like product photography. This photo falls into the second category.

The main light is a beauty dish, which has been supplemented by a striplight for the hair. For the background there’s a very gentle light with a normal reflector. To lighten the shadows, there was a large parabolic umbrella.

The choice of light shapers is not really critical here; it’s more about creating clear and clean light-shadow transitions and not creating too-deep shadows in the image.

We want to have a definition everywhere: in the highlights and in the shadows.


  • Beauty dish white with diffuser on 1000Ws monoblock
  • Striplight with 1000Ws monoblock
  • Normal reflector with a 500Ws monoblock
  • 200cm parabolic umbrella on a 1000Ws monoblock

The individual light sources

The main light

The main light used here is a beauty dish, as it gives a relatively soft light but does not soften the shadows. You need to pay particular attention to the nasal shadow here as it should not protrude above the nasolabial fold and neither should it go up or over the lower lip.

The hair light

The hair light starts where the beauty dish ends. The model’s hair gets more shine and in combination with the beauty dish, the hair light creates a narrow strip of shadow on the cheek. If that strip of light is not visible on the cheek, the hair light is too far towards the camera.

The background

This is a gentle light that should complement your model’s skin tone. In this instance, the colour was selected in post-processing but you could just as easily use a gel and do it in-camera.

Fill light

If the shadows are too dark, for example under the chin and on the cheek, use a large, unobtrusive brightener. The parabolic umbrella is perfect; used subtly it doesn’t register as a new light source.


For the pictures in the article we used the light simulation “Set.A.Light 3D”. You can download the lighting setup and try everything for yourself.

If you’ve never worked with Set.a.Light before, you should give it a try!

There is also a free demo version on the website, which you can use to open our set.

all setups

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