How I Shot This Beauty Image With a Five-Foot Octa Softbox

Beauty photography can be a lot of fun to shoot, and that is what keeps me eager to keep progressing in my craft. But it does come with its own set of problems!
Every human face is flawed (except for the person reading this — you're perfect!). When an image is taken up close and personal in the way that most beauty photography is done, those flaws are magnified way more than anyone would ever want to be magnified. Big pores, baby hair, blackheads, and scars are suddenly all clear as day. The horrors! 

That's why it's so important for the model you choose to shoot for beauty to have incredibly good, healthy skin — because that will dramatically decrease the time you spend behind the computer editing. Also, your makeup artist and hair stylist play huge roles in making sure your model looks good. A great makeup artist will also help make sure your post work is less tedious. It really is a team and all-hands-on-deck effort. As is the case with most teams, the desired end result becomes that much harder if everyone isn't doing their part.

Pro Tip: whenever possible, fix everything in-camera. The two seconds it'll take to move the strand of hair off the front of the model's eyeball can equate to 30 minutes of editing work.

There are many different ways to light a beauty shot. This is one of them, and I hope to show you guys more in the future.

Equipment List

Lighting Setup

For this shoot, I used a Profoto 5-foot Octa Softbox to light my model. The light is wonderfully soft and incredibly flattering, and I also moved it to a more top-down position and then feathered it off to hit the model so the light is a little more even and soft.

I also had a silver reflector at the bottom to bounce the light back up to my model's face.

Here's a behind-the-scenes shot to help clarify:

ISO 125, f/8, 1/200 s

Post-Processing

Honestly, she had good skin. Of course there was still retouching involved, but mainly to clean up hair and skin. You can see the before-and-after below.

Closing

This beauty lighting is fairly straightforward so if you haven't done anything like it before, do give it a go. Let me know what you think and if you have any questions.

Photographer: Shavonne Wong | Model: Steele Tate/ Ave Management  | Makeup: Michelle | Hair: Kenneth Choi
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53 Comments

Derek Yarra's picture

Nice images and toning. Gotta love a 5ft octa!

Shavonne Wong's picture

Yes indeed! Once I get over the idea of setting it up, having it around is awesome haha

Robert Nurse's picture

I've got one of these octas and I know what you mean about set up. But, I've gotten better at it over time. I think I'll give this a try! I never thought of using one in this way!

Robert Nurse's picture

Hahaha, I know what you mean when it comes to setting these things up. I've got one and it was a bear to setup initially. But, over time I developed a system where now I have it up in stopwatch time instead of calendar time :). I never thought of using a 5' octa in this way. I think I'll give it a try! Did you use the inner diffuser or just the outer?

Shavonne Wong's picture

Hehe I always make dramatic sigh sounds as I set it up hah!
Yes do try! I used both diffusers for this.

Deleted Account's picture

"Every human face is flawed (except for the person reading this — you're perfect!)." :-)

Nice article but I liked her general coloring more in the "before" view. Is her skin really that reddish?

Shavonne Wong's picture

Hehe.
Yeah that's the SOOC with just a little contrast added in Capture One! (:

John W's picture

Gonna have to disagree on this one. If you look at most of the makeup campaigns out there, this look along with the editing is pretty standard. There are many, many more over-edited photos here on Fstoppers; this isn't one of them. This has just the right amount of post for a beauty shot.

Shavonne Wong's picture

Hey Bill! Thanks for your comment! Heh I quite like her blonde eyebrows to be honest! (:

Thank you John dor your thoughts too, appreciate it! (:

thomas Palmer's picture

I prefer the before

Johnny Rico's picture

For sure, should have just cleaned up the fly aways and she'd have a better image. Then again she left the fly away going through the eye lash. To each their own.

Daniel Shortt's picture

Yeah I agree, it's lacking a bit of humanity with the retouch.

Shavonne Wong's picture

Thanks for your thoughts guys! I personally quite like the slightly futuristic look with the edit and also the wind in hair look, which was why I had a guy with the hair dryer blowing it around hahaha.
But thank you for your feedback! (:

thomas Palmer's picture

Yeah whatever makes you happy, it's your picture :)

Alexander Petrenko's picture

That's why you never show your clients unfinished images. They will always find a way to complain for something they would otherwise enjoy or don't notice.

Shavonne Wong's picture

True, I never do that with clients. Unedited work is also not my full vision, therefore incomplete.
I did think it would be useful here though considering it's a learning platform haha!

Alexander Petrenko's picture

This is platform for flexing sarcasm and artistic superiority muscles :)

John W's picture

Very nicely done. I don't think I've seen the octa used pointed straight downward in that manner before but the results are very pleasing. The post processing is great too, clean and not overdone. I actually really like the color grading as it gives it a nice editorial feel. Your articles are really well done, keep up the great work!

Shavonne Wong's picture

Thank you very much John, I will continue doing my best (:

Anthony Mathon's picture

Love these images! How did you light the background? Can we see some with the background? Please!

Shavonne Wong's picture

Thank you Anthony! I wasn't really paying much attention to the background to be honest but it's a light grey in the end result. The studio isn't too big so some of the light from the octa was hitting the background too (:

Deleted Account's picture

I wish I could play with a large light again! They're so much fun.

Shavonne Wong's picture

They are... especially if someone else sets it up! Hahahaha. But yeah it's hard to fail with a nice large light!

Deleted Account's picture

Have you use a softlighter before? I don't think there's a huge difference but it adds a more fine art look IMO

Shavonne Wong's picture

Years and years ago! But yeah I do think it can be quite similar!

Jozef Povazan's picture

I like the one before and btw what is wrong with her lips that she got liquified surgery? Happy shooting guys.

Deleted Account's picture

It's a hard thing to critique someone's work without knowledge of the client or their expectations.

Shavonne Wong's picture

Hey Josef, thank you fro your comment. AS for the lips, I wanted to make the face a little more symmetrical for this image (:

Anonymous's picture

I appreciate how compresenshive this is. No matter what choice you make, you can't please everybody, but this was a very helpful tutorial

Shavonne Wong's picture

Thank you Trevor! Appreciate this (:

Bruce Allen's picture

Great article and editing. Half of these people are hating but would give their left nut to have this shoot in their instagram feed. brb going to look for a cheaper alternative octo softbox :D

Johnny Rico's picture

"instagram feed" lmmfao. Some of us play for money.

Bruce Allen's picture

You dont post paid gigs in your IG feed? Work like this will get you paid gigs.

Shavonne Wong's picture

Hey Bruce, thank you fro the compliment! Supper appreciate it!

And Johnny, haha I do a lot of personal work to keep the fire going plus I do get jobs based off them so no worries, I get paid too ;)

Andy Trieu's picture

I'm loving all the critiques from men who don't know anything about makeup or beauty

Shavonne Wong's picture

Hehe thanks for the support Andy!

Shavonne Wong's picture

I'm pretty sure Andy meant beauty as in the genre of photography where the focus is on faces and makeup (:

Emily Teague's picture

Excellent piece!! :)

Shavonne Wong's picture

Thanks Emily!! <3

supamann-barnes's picture

I think its amazing would you really need a 6 foot one because I got a 3 foot parapop octobox 3 foot and 2 inches would it be able to get the same result or is it that size makes it soft to do so?

Shavonne Wong's picture

The size does make it softer but I would recommend experimenting anyway!

alberto cabrera's picture

I with some of the commenters here. I personally like the warm tone of the unedited photo. I think we all get so complicated about how we do lighting, we forget how beautiful a simple clam shell lighting setup really is. It doesn't take a big budget either to pull off. Thank you for sharing this with everyone!

Shavonne Wong's picture

Thank you Alberto.
Haha I try not to use too many lights.. especially when I'm the only one packing up at the end of the shoot!

Patrick Hall's picture

How did you get that shimmer in the skin tone? Your team did a great job and I love the dewy look to this. I thought maybe most of it was done in post but as you can see in the b/a the highlights are pretty similar. Great post and images!

Shavonne Wong's picture

Hey Patrick! Haha I basically just told the MUA that I wanted dewy skin and she did her magic!

Justin Rosenberg's picture

Such a great post, Shavonne! Thank you for sharing :)
Side note: *I rarely shoot much studio stuff anymore, but when I do, I love me a big 5ft Octa too <3.

Shavonne Wong's picture

Thank you Justin! <3

Sergio Miranda's picture

Of course the un-retouched looks so much prettier. People overdo retouching these days, specially in this blog, that's all about retouching and a bit about photography

Alexander Petrenko's picture

People also overdo color grading, special effects, compositing, stitching and other weird stuff. And that's the fun part of today's photography :)

Shavonne Wong's picture

Thank you for your opinion Sergio. I wrote up this article to show how I got to my end image. If you prefer to unretouched version, I am glad to have been able to show you how I got there then and you may feel free to stop at that stage! (:

Thank you Alexander. Took awhile for people to stop hating on non film users too ;)

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