One Light Beauty Shots: Exploring Photography with Mark Wallace


In this video we’re gonna find out that we can use fewer lights to get better results. Hi everybody, welcome to another episode of Exploring Photography right here on AdoramaTV. I’m Mark Wallace and joining me today is Nadia, you might recognize her from a video we did a couple years ago about using grids in the studio. It’s so good to have you back with us today, well today we’re gonna be taking on a different challenge, and that is how can we simplify our lighting setup. So I want to get a really stunning image of Nadia, something that is a beauty shot, maybe a horizontal, or a vertical shot, and something that could be used in a portfolio image, on a website, something like that. So that’s what we’re going to start with. First we’re gonna do it the way that you shouldn’t do it! So Nadia, we’re gonna have you go back here. I’ve already set things up in a way that is pretty standard, but it’s the way that you probably shouldn’t be lighting your subject. So let me just show you really quickly how all of this is set up. This is just a normal shallow white medium umbrella by ProFoto, and it is just off axis, from where the camera will be located, to give us a nice soft light on Nadia’s face, and this is illuminating just this side of Nadia’s face, but because it’s really nice soft light, we’re not gonna get a lot of shadows, which means it might be a little bit bland. So I have the option of using this Godox strip light right here, this is about a 5 foot tall strip light, and that’ll add just a little bit of light to this side of Nadia’s cheek, and that’ll be pretty cool, but we might need to bounce a little bit of light in, to fill in the shadows, and so I’ve got just this little foam core board over here we might bring in, but once we do all of that, we might see that this isn’t so exciting. So let’s start shooting and I’ll show you the results. Okay to begin with, we’re only gonna use the umbrella and so we’re going to shoot this. I’ve already metered this at f/8 so we’re gonna do just a horizontal shot here, we’re going to take a look… right at me! Beautiful… and it’s… it’s sort of a bland image, we’re gonna do a vertical shot here, and okay, alright, well when I look at these images, they’re just well, they’re not bad, they’re just not exciting. There’s just nothing to them, there’s just no contrast, blah! So what I’m gonna do here is, I’m gonna try to fix this by adding this strip light, so I’ve already metered this, and set it up. All I’m doing here is, I’m turning it on, this has an optical slave, and so this light will fire that light. So let’s try shooting now with a kicker light to see if that spices things up. So again Nadia, look straight at me. Just like that, gorgeous, take that image.. yeah it’s a little bit better, mmm.. okay, this is just all going wonky, so we have just a boring image. Even with the kicker light.. with this nice soft light… there’s just nothing going on here. There’s nothing to draw the eye into the image, it’s just something that you would look at, and pass right by. So we need to do something better, so sometimes more is not better, and less is more. So we’re gonna do less.. next. Well Nadia.. you know trying too hard to set up too many lights, sometimes it doesn’t work out, and the easiest solution is the easiest solution, and so that’s what we’re going to do, we’re going to use one single source of light, and one of my favorite light modifiers. This is a ProFoto magnum reflector. Now that seems sort of counterintuitive because we want really soft beautiful light, but we’re using a hard light reflector, but you can use hard light to do beauty portraits. it just depends on where you put that light, and how you get that, how close you get that to your subject. So what we’re gonna do here is Nadia… we’re gonna have you go back just to the edge of the seamless, like we had you before… Now this magnum reflector… let me just show you this really quickly. It is a large source of light, and we have it set just off-axis of where I’m going to be standing, and so what that’s going to do is, it’s going to give a little bit of shadow to this side of Nadia’s face, and on this side of her neck, and let this side of her fall into darkness, but the other side is going to be perfectly exposed. So the first thing I need to do is a meter this, and so I want this to be at f/8, that is my go to Beauty lighting setup. Because it gives me a nice depth of field with a 50mm lens, which is what I’m shooting. So I want this to meter at f/8. So let’s meter this, first so I’m gonna point this straight to where my camera is going to be. Take my meter reading, and that meters right at 8. So I sort of got lucky right there, that’s perfect, the other thing I’m going to do is, I’m going to shoot a vertical portrait, and that’s going to help eliminate the shadow that’s going to be on the background. So first I’ll do a horizontal, and then we’ll do a vertical. So let’s do that, really fast. This is the first, this is the horizontal shot, this is really not how this should be shot, but it looks pretty good. The next shot is the vertical, this is really how this is set up. Nadia you look right at me, beautiful. Chin down, just a hair, there you go. Look right at me again, this is great. Wow, I could shoot this all day long just look at these images, they are beautiful, and it’s really, really simple. So once we have this set up, we can shoot lots, what we’re gonna do right now, and then I’ll show you the results. Okay I just said not to do a horizontal shot. I don’t know what I was thinking, because the horizontal shots look spectacular, and so we’re going to shoot some horizontals as well as some verticals. Why not! That will allow me to have some choices when I’m doing my post-production, to do either a sixteen by nine horizontal shot, or some verticals. You know really shoot everything, and then in post you can get rid of this stuff you don’t like. Don’t limit yourself on your shooting in the studio, that was bad advice that I just gave you! Shoot some horizontals, that’s what we’re gonna do! Let’s do it right now. Well I think these images turned out really spectacularly well, and we did it with just one light! You don’t have to overcomplicate things to get great results, well thank you so much for joining me. Make sure you check out Nadia’s Instagram profile. Here it is.. Nadia Boulif, and she’s got some really amazing portraits. Check me out on Instagram as well here is my link @JMarkWallace. Make sure you subscribe to AdoramaTV because it’s free and it’s got tons of stuff and turn on the bell, so you get notifications and you won’t miss a single thing. Thanks again. I will see you again next time.

63 Replies to “One Light Beauty Shots: Exploring Photography with Mark Wallace”

  1. Much harder retouching needed using such a hard light on someone who does not have great skin. All the texture and flaws will be much more noticeable with such a hard light.

  2. So Mark says point the light meter at the camera location, a Gavin H video I watched yesterday said point it at the light, I've seen other such disagreements – is it really personal taste, are both right based on the desired results, or is a light meter created to work one way the best?

  3. Great shots but I have to admit, the background had a lot to do with how she looks. The first sets all had a much lighter background. (she stood more in the center of the background sheet. Check out how far into the background sheet she was standing. Maybe 3-4 FEET back?)
    The second set of shots, she stood farther away from the background – literally standing on the front edge of the BG sheet- and it made the BG substantially darker. This darker BG sure complimented her skin and hair color.
    Still, I love the results!

  4. Here we go round the mulberry bush 🙄
    After a couple of years of 'soft light, soft light, soft light'….
    Hard light's now the way to go!

  5. Hola Mark!
    She looks beautiful and I think it is a simple and effective light setup. But I can see two levels of shadows under her chin and nose (one softer than he other) Is that an effect from the Magnum modifier? Not sure if I like it…
    Enjoy Madrid 🙂

  6. It did help that you also appeared to have moved the model further from the background and the light nearer the model, hence getting the darker background which helps greatly. Also as mentioned a the harder light does work a lot better with a model who has good skin.

  7. You must use the OCF Magnum on the D1 and all Profoto moonlight, the original Magnum gives double shadows, and it shows in this pictures…

  8. Mark, you stacked the deck to make a point. Of course that worked with Nadia, she's so stunning you could have lit her with a handheld flashlight. Next time try shooting Aunt Gertrude, instead. I bet you'd move back to the first setup, and instead of calling it "boring" you would say it was "flattering" and provides a good canvas for further post-production as necessary.

  9. Very nice. I will try this setup, too. May I ask you to speak a little bit slowlier? Not easy to follow you for a non-native english speaker 🙂 🙂 But great videos. Thanks for sharing your tips! Keep up!

  10. Was already liking the first shots. Continued to like the posterior shots too; they all are great despite his rejections and his calling them wonky; nah they were cool all of them

  11. you don't tell the trick… If we use a long exposure time the background gets dark with a flashlight … and with a short exposure time we get everything lighten up

  12. A stupid question. Did you not change the background in post processing? White to dark colour to make it look even more beautiful

  13. Watching Mark for years now. It's like having your best buddy in your back pocket whenever you need him. If I'm ever on a shoot and I forget a technique I look it up on YouTube and refresh myself.

  14. A bit confused; could you explain how the background looks “flat white “ in the video then appears grey in the stills? Thank you

  15. 5:25 It looks softer than I would expect from that small reflector. It may be large for a reflector but it’s tiny compared to a 26” softbox or 42” umbrella

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