The photographer and Photoshop wizard Scott Kelby has written a very informative book called Light It, Shoot It, Retouch It (or how to go from empty studio to finished image) which takes you through 12 studio lighting set ups and how to shoot them as well as giving hints on retouching.
Armed with Scott’s book, a studio (SS Creative Photography in Birmingham), a makeup artist (Megan Hewitt) and two models I decided to try out a couple of the lighting styles and some of his retouching tips.
The first lighting style, which I’m going to go through in the post, is the classic 3-light beauty or clamshell setup. Normally this would involve the model looking between two lights, one above pointing down and the another below pointing up (hence the clamshell) with the final light at the back of the model, low down and pointing up at the background to create a solid white effect. You then point your camera between the two lights as shown in the first lighting diagram below.
This is a great setup however I only own two studio lights at present (an Elinchrom D-Lite RX 2 and an RX 4) and one softbox (an Elinchrom Rotalux 135). For this shoot I had to compromise therefore and rather than using a light for the bottom half of the clamshell use a reflector as shown in this diagram*.
Settings on the two D-Lite’s were as follows:
- RX 4 (the one on the Rotalux softbox) – 3.0
- RX 2 (the one pointing up at the background) – 4.0
For the camera (an Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mk I with a Panasonic 35-100mm f2.8 LUMIX attached) I was shooting at 1/125s at f/9.0 and ISO 200. Here’s the contact sheet for the set of images I made for this part of the shoot (see here for how to make a contact sheet in Adobe Lightroom).
Devonia is relatively new to modelling so it took a while to get her relaxed. The image I like most from this set was PB200116, shown unedited here.
I like Devonia’s look on this and the fact her head is turned slightly away from camera giving a more interesting angle. There are a few things to do in post-processing however.
Step 1 – Crop and Exposure Adjustment
In Lightroom I do a slight crop just to even up the sides a little. I also underexpose by 0.2 just to pull back a bit of detail in her top and darken her skin ever so slightly.I know this also darkens the background background but we’ll fix that in Photoshop later.
Step 2 – Skin Smoothing
Devonia’s skin is pretty good so only needs a light bit of smoothing. For details on how to do this see here.
Step 3 – Lighten Background
To lighten the background I use one of the selection tools to just select the outline of the model and then change the brightness of the background by selecting the Image/Adjustments/Brightness/Contrast option from the menu. Details of how to do this step can be found here.
Step 4 – Tidy Up Hair
Whilst I have Devonia’s outline selected it’s fairly easy to just deselect the bits of hair that are sticking out around the edges, use the ‘Eyedropper Tool’ (‘I’ on the keyboard) to select a background colour close to the hair I want to remove then the ‘Brush Tool’ (‘B’ on the keyboard) to brush over the offending hair.
Step 5 – Brighten Eyes
Next step is to brighten Devonia’s eyes a little. This can easily look a bit spooky and unnatural if you overdo the brightening. Details of how to do this step can be found here.
That’s all I’m doing in Photoshop so flatten all the layers and save back to Lightroom.
Step 6 – Convert to Black and White
The final step is to do a black and white conversion back in Lightroom.
And that’s it! Here’s the final image.
* This is a new set of diagrams I have developed to illustrate different lighting setups. For simplicity I only generally show the position of the light heads and softboxes and don’t include the stands, booms etc. Rest assured they are there in reality.