How I Shot These Studio Beauty Images

How I Shot These Studio Beauty Images

I’ve always loved the color red and the emotions it invokes. I suppose that's the fun thing about backgrounds, props, and general settings in that a color theme can evoke so many different thoughts and emotions. Needless to say the power of a model is critical but what you can create around the model can go a long way in conveying the feel you’re aiming for. For this test shoot, I knew I wanted to create a set of images featuring a strong red lipped model.When it came to choosing the models, Ombeline was an easy choice due to her strong features. How fortunate are we as photographers when the models we get to work with do so much of the heavy lifting on their own? We all have a part to play in getting something from ideation to final product but if you can work with strong models to get there then all the better! She also had gorgeous lips that I knew would look great with the red lipstick makeup I had in mind. That in conjunction with her great skin meant I could have slightly edgier lighting.

Equipment List

Lighting Setup

This year, I really focused in on shooting with umbrellas as my main modifiers. Excellent dual use prop in case of rain here in Singapore! Ha! Ha! Ha! No? OK, moving on. On a more serious note, they’re just so portable, easy to set up with and go a long way in terms of helping the overall look of the shoot! I’m a strong female but nonetheless I try to reduce the weight of the gear I have to work with whenever possible since I'm typically dragging it around myself. I absolutely love to shoot with the 5’ Octa Softboxes but the setup and tear down is such a huge pain. Sometimes after I do the setup with the softboxes, I just want to lie down and take a nap. However with umbrellas, if an idea strikes that includes using them, I can just open and set one up in 5 minutes and if it does not work, taking it down is just as fast. Once a 5’ Octa is set up, I honestly just end up stubbornly using it even if it’s unnecessary due to how much effort was put in just to set it up.

For this shoot, I was really just playing around with the set ups and tried this look. For the main light, I had a shallow silver umbrella on the left and a deep silver umbrella on the right for fill. I would love to give a long and deep reasoning on why I chose one deep umbrella and one shallow but truthfully, the only reason was due to there only being one each at the studio. 

Using software set.a.light 3D, I tried the lighting setup first on the software so I had a clear idea of what the outcome would look like. This software is truly a lifesaver, it makes planning for shoots so much simpler and the results are very close to reality!


Retouching for these images were by retoucher Marco Chavez! Love the way he works on skin. It’s so important that after editing, skin still looks like skin.

Additional Experimenting

I’ve also been experimenting and creating moving images recently and these are the results of them! They’re both surreal and kinda creepy at the same time, like Harry Potter portraits. I hope you like them!


Trying out new lighting setups is always fun and it's great to see what results you can come up with. Do share what new lighting setups you’ve been playing with

Photographer: Shavonne Wong 

Model: Ombeline Neo (Ave Management)

Makeup: Benji Oo

Retouching: Marco Chavez

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excellent. well balanced , smooth, simple. elegant. The technique is basic, but effective. Post not at the same level and a little off (a colorist would scream at those), but we don't know the destination so it falls into the excuse of a "personal preference".
The lighting works, but a little harsh, but it works. Well done.Definitely.

Shavonne Wong's picture

Appreciate your comment, thank you! (:

I like the use of umbrellas as opposed to the ubiquitous beauty dish or softboxes. Their versatility, compactness, and low price make them great choices for a busy location photographer. While there can be a lot of spill, so many situations don't have that problem. And as one can see for your results, the output is beautiful.

Shavonne Wong's picture

I definitely love the silver umbrella and find it's effect generally fairly close to the beauty dish. Thank you for your thoughts!

Fantastic article! The moving images are so cool too!

Shavonne Wong's picture

Thank you! I really like them too! :D

Oliver Kmia's picture

Very interesting, and nice shots. Congrats.

Shavonne Wong's picture

Thank you Oliver (:

Andy Day's picture

Awesome photos, great write-up.
I rented a 5' octa for the first time in a long time last month. Totally with you.
And yeah, those moving images are awesome. There's something slightly Bladerunner replicant (almost certainly just me) about the whole vibe that's really striking.

Shavonne Wong's picture

Thank you Andy! And I do love Bladerunner so that's a really nice compliment! ☺️

Lighting ideas?
having expensive brand name stuff may be important to show in the studio to market your own name. That's a fact and I understand. But it doesn't mean that you actually have to use them. That's also a fact. So let's say a couple of broken brand-name stuff (or fake) for marketing and (say) two $40 bare monolights for a decent ratio and two full scrims on c-stands will produce WAY better results. better light, so you don't have to over-soften anything (with the risk of messing the color balance badly that comes automatically with it).
scrims close to the target and away from the $40 monolights. Beautiful light, guaranteed , beautiful shadows under the ratio guaranteed, post-free basically. Colors and diffusion "intact". Like a breath of fresh air :)

scrim material: artificial silk (expensive) , pvc paper (or tracing paper that you run twice) cheap and beautiful . Bigger is better for full body shots

Shavonne Wong's picture

It's not even my lights, haha it's from the studio I rented. And yes I do love the light that's shot through a scrim but the lighting would be too soft for the edgy mood I was going for.

I didn't mean "you". look that aspect is part of the business (period). Pretending to be all about the pictures is a nice dream but still a dream. It's about connections and looks and pictures.
Dismissing the power of a scrim with idiotic excuses is also a dream. Let's talk abut how to cook vegetables then.

Michael Jin's picture

After using various umbrellas and a 47" octabox, I've been working on experimenting with some harder light sources such as a deep octabox with just a silver Elinchrom deflector and no diffusion fabric, a white beauty dish, and flags. Most of my photography of people have been corporate headshots where everyone generally wants really bright, soft, and evenly lit images so I wanted to play around with shadows a bit more in my personal time. I also recently ordered a long throw silver reflector for some even harder light.

It's always fun to test out new things and I'm learning a lot, but it's really hard to find people around me that want photos of themselves taken. LOL! Some test shots with my sister and one of her friends below.

Any ideias how she did this living portraits?

Jiří Lízler's picture

Great work! Can you make a tutorial on how you have achieved the moving image :)