Improving Complexion In-Camera

July 26, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

As a beauty and fashion photographer, my clients count on me to make their products look good. Whether I am working with a jewelry or cosmetics company, a new product release or a corporate head shot, I need to deliver high quality results every time.

My clients are often working with a strict deadline so it's important that I always deliver images on time. One of the best tricks I have learned to save time and impress clients is to improve complexion in-camera using strategic lighting. The less I have to retouch after the shoot, the faster I can deliver files and maintain image fidelity. It's important to keep in mind that the more you retouch, the more you lose detail and clarity.

I often have clients on-set with me previewing my images as they are being captured. With that in mind, I want each exposure to be as close to the final product as possible. To minimize blemishes, fine lines, wrinkles and texture, I use reflectors to bounce more light onto the subject's face. As light bounces away from my subject's face, it minimizes imperfections and creates a brighter overall appearance.

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For maximum effect, I place the reflector directly in front of my subject, laying flat. In terms of height, I place it between the subject's waist and rib cage. This technique works best with clam shell lighting where the key light is directly in front of the subject but will also work with an off-set key light.

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In the before/after examples below you can see that adding a matte silver reflector softens shadows, minimizes under-eye circles and improves overall texture and brightness.

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You can substitute a white reflector in place of matte silver but the effect is not as dramatic. In the example below you can see the effects of a white reflector on the left vs. a matte silver reflector on the right. The matte silver brightens the complexion a bit more while the white reflector is more subtle and understated. What you prefer comes down to personal preference but in general this technique works the best using mate silver.

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There's another big advantage to this easy technique. In addition to brightening complexion, adding a reflector adds a second catch light in the eyes. This adds more sparkle and enhances your subject's eye color. This effect is more dramatic when using a silver reflector as you can see in the close-up below.

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I like to use collapsible cloth reflectors as they are easy to transport but there are lots of materials that can be used for reflecting light. One of my favorite reflectors is a simple white foam core board. Foam core is affordable and easy to find at craft supply stores. For a matte silver surface, I purchase a few feet of bubble foil insulation at my local hardware store and use Gaffer's tape to secure it to the foam core board. It's inexpensive, lightweight and easy to use.

I hope this tutorial inspires you to give this technique a try. Leave a comment on how this goes for you if you give it a spin. Thanks for reading!

 


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