Lighting is the Secret to Beautiful Fashion Models

Lighting is the difference between striking and strikeout

My long time friend, David Howe, film director, screen writer, and photographer, gave me the best advice for taking photos of fashion models: lighting. He said:

“It doesn’t really matter what type of camera you have as long as you’re good at properly lighting the scene and the model.”

When I started a women’s graphics t-shirt business, I had David do the photo shoot for my catalog and website. The models were all friends of mine and I got to watch how he worked with light direction and posing positions. Dave then pulled out a blank sheet of paper and drew a diagram of a basic 3-point lighting setup: model, key (main) light, fill light, hair (rim) light.

He also said, “the best light is dawn and sunset, as well as sunlight coming through a large window (while your model is standing in the shaded part of the building, near the window). But if you’re outside in the middle of the day, find a shaded spot and either bounce sunlight off of a reflector onto the model, or use a soft flash to “fill.”

Model Mayhem has a great article of fashion model lighting, including the 3-point lighting setup: How to Build Your First Lighting Setup

There are 2 types of 3-point lighting (that I ended up using a lot when I started shooting for myself): 3rd light as a hair light, and 3rd light as a background light.

Candace Eddy | Shakti behind-the-scenes | Lisa Madura behind-the-scenes (Images on Flickr)

Candace (Flickr pics show all Kodak “point and shoot” camera settings, No flash, ISO 140)

Photo tip 1: How to fix “short leg” in your pictures

All of my photos came out with the model’s legs looking short. But the torso and head looked great. So I asked David. He said, “Show me one of your photos.” And he immediately said, “You’re standing way too close to the model. You need to be back 10 feet or more, and zoom in your camera.” It worked like a charm. David said that when you’re standing too close to the model, and your camera is pointing at their face/chin, it makes sense why their legs look so short.

Photo tip 2: Seamless backdrop

A hard line, where the wall and the floor meet, looks tacky. A roll of 15 foot-wide white seamless paper is the answer to a “seamless” background.

Photo tip 3: Be professional and friendly

I’ve hired David Howe to do a couple of fashion photo shoots over the years, and one thing he lead by example with was being professional, supportive and friendly with both the models and clients.

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