One of my favorite types of portrait photography is taking creative beauty shots or what we know as headshots. Beauty shots are close-up portraits that are typically done in a controlled environment like a studio. Headshots can be used for several purposes like the portfolio of an actor, to showcase the makeup or hair styling the subject or for jewelry advertisements.
I started taking beauty shots to help out makeup artist friends with their portfolios. I find it interesting that the simple task of taking a photo of just the head and shoulders can be such a complicated thing. So, I will be sharing a simple guide to make your foray into shooting creative beauty shots a lot more enjoyable.
Work with a team
Most photographers who have experience taking beauty shots work with a team. As a guy, it would be impossible for me to do the makeup for photoshoots. So I work with a team composed of a makeup artist, hairstylist and clothing stylist. It could be just one other person who can do all those things but the important thing is getting the help. I can tell good hair and makeup but can’t correct it or fix it so having a team is very important for me.
If the model knows a lot about makeup and styling then I can just work with the model.
Use a proper lens for portraits
Since beauty shots are closeup photos it is really important to use the right lens for the shoot. I would recommend using a telephoto lens longer than 50mm. I personally use a 90mm lens for my portraits. The reason behind this is that telephoto lenses do not have the distortion associated with wide angle lenses. Some say that the camera adds ten pounds to the model, which is because of the barrel distortion of lenses below the telephoto range.
Since you are working with telephoto lenses, you can use a tripod to get rid of the lens shake. Just hand holding a camera for a long period of time, especially with a heavy telephoto, would surely cause severe handshake as the shoot progresses.
Beauty lighting is the key
In headshot photography, it is important to use soft diffused light. I use two 4x5ft softboxes with my speedlights. Soft light evens out the imperfections in the skin and makes the shots more flattering. You can use several other diffusers to soften the light from your flashgun or modeling light. Shoot through umbrellas and a beauty dish works just as well as a softbox for beauty lighting.
Before starting the shoot, you can take several test shots to adjust lighting. You can ask the model to just sit infront of the camera just so you can dial in your settings before really going about the shoot. I tend to give ample time for the test shots to get everything right. I also do not change my settings as much as possible after I get it right.
There are other ways to illuminate your subject for creative beauty shots but the main idea is to first try something simple and manageable like a softbox. Eventually, you can use other ways to diffuse light like bouncing it off walls or reflectors.
Communicate with your model
Good communication is very important to get good model photos. I tend to shoot a few frames then explain to my model what I see and what I think would work. Directing model poses is easier when you are in the same page about the output. It would also be good to complement your model from time to time during the shoot as it boosts morale and gets them to work with you more. Have the mindset that the model is a part of your team.
Get it right in the camera
It is very important to have the mindset of getting everything right when shooting rather than thinking you can correct things in post processing. Get the beauty lighting, poses, makeup and everything else while shooting so that you do not need to do much later. It is harder to correct things during post processing than while on set. It takes me a longer time to remove stray hair using Photoshop than it while shooting. Getting it right the first time will save you more time.
It takes time to get to the level that you can shoot creative beauty shots. Take it slow and practice a lot. In time, you will eventually get the process down and start to get really creative. Learn, understand and find your own style.
If you are looking for an awesome site where you can share your beauty shots to your clients privately then Slickpic.com is perfect for you. You can create an album that you can share only to specific people with the privacy control features of the site. Clients can then “Like” photos, rate them and send feedback. If you still do not have a Slickpic.com account, sign up for one now!