Three Easy Fashion and Beauty Lighting Setups

Unless you’re a well established fashion and beauty photographer with the support of an agent or a plethora of business acumen, you probably aren’t going to make much money when you’re first starting out in the business. This is why it’s important to learn how to be scrappy and work with less gear if you’re working on a budget. In these lighting tutorials, I’ll show you three easy-to-replicate fashion and beauty setups that fit almost every budget.

As a person who has worked alongside some really talented makeup artists, hair stylists, etc., I’ve learned that less is sometimes more. The final image is a byproduct of the work the whole creative team puts together, and if one or more of those individuals (including the photographer) goes overboard, everything falls apart quickly. This is why I’d recommend starting off with less and building your way up to more complicated setups. In the video above, I construct three images using very simple lighting setups that you should easily be able to replicate at home regardless of the studio lights that you're using. I will build up from a fairly simple two-light setup and work my way up to usingfour lights.

Setup 1: Beauty

In this first setup, I'm using two main lights. My main light is a Phottix Indra 500 with a Phottix Hexa-Para softbox positioned directly behind me. This light is placed behind me and is large enough so that the light wraps around me and illuminates my subject with a very soft and gentle glow. My second light is a Phottix Indra 500 with a 16" Phottix Pro Beauty Dish MK II positioned so that it illuminates my background.

Camera: Canon 5D Mark III

LensTamron 90mm f/2.8 SP Di MACRO

Settings: 1/160 s, f/2.8, ISO 100

Setup 2: Fashion

My second lighting setup is another two-light setup. This time, my main light is Phottix Indra 500 with a 16" Phottix Pro Beauty Dish MK II positioned between loop and Rembrandt at camera left. Depending on how my subject turns her face, we'll either see loop or Rembrandt position. The second light is a fill light to add light to the shadows left over by the small size of the 16" beauty dish. It is a Phottix Indra 500 with a softbox and a grid positioned just off-center facing camera right.

Camera: Canon 5D Mark III

LensTamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 DI VC USD

Settings: 1/160 s, f/6.3, ISO 100

Setup 3: Dramatic Editorial

The last go-to setup is by far the most elaborate, but is still relatively simple. We have a main light on the subject's face, a hair light, and two rim lights. The main light is a Phottix Indra 500 with a 16" Phottix Pro Beauty Dish MK II positioned centered on the subject to enhance her cheekbones, the hair light is a Phottix Indra 500 with a silver reflector dish positioned camera left, and finally, the two back rims lights are both Phottix Indra 500s positioned 45-degrees facing back at my subject.

CameraCanon 5D Mark III

LensTamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 DI VC USD

Settings: 1/160 s, f/5.6, ISO 100

Jeff Rojas's picture

Jeff Rojas is an American photographer, author and educator based in New York City. His primary body of work includes portrait and fashion photography that has been published in both Elle and Esquire. Jeff also frequents as a photography instructor. His teaching experience includes platforms like CreativeLive, WPPI, the Photo Plus Expo, and APA.

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thanks Jeff for the video!

Anytime! Thanks for watching! :)

Thanks Jeff: great article and video. I really liked the first setup. Would a 5ft Octabox yield similar results or are parabolics unique for their wrap around ability?

Thanks for watching and reading! Absolutely possible! It'd depend on how much light you're blocking when it's behind you. :)

When you mention this works for budget photogs starting out, speedlights with modifiers should achieve similar results? Your setup definitely isn't budget! :>) Tutorials such as yours are some of the most useful on this site.

The largest speedlight para reflector I've seen online are 47". Can this size still achieve the soft wraparound effect?

You could achieve similar results regardless of the lighting company you use... Hence we I mentioned that later on. There are more budget friendly solutions, but I showed what I personally use in the video. :)

Thanks for watching btw!

Rembember that you'd need multiple speed lights to equate to the power of a 500w light... So if actually think a studio light would actually be less expensive in your case. :)

"Very limited gear [....]" and then continues to use multiple Phottix Indra 500s and expensive modifiers. For most people that equals a metric shit ton of gear. :P

If you want to shoot studio beauty or fashion you need to have some equipment, you can do the same thing with Alien Bees if you can afford but two lights and two modifiers is not a shit ton of equipment.

Actually, can do stuff like this with speedlights and umbrellas. For the first example you can use a 72-inch soft white umbrella that you can get for $40 for the main light and a $15-20 smaller soft white umbrella of your size choice for the fill.

If you need more light, there are inexpensive adapters that will allow mounting 2-3 speedlights on one modifier.

For the second example a hard speedlight properly distance filled with a 20-30-inch soft white umbrella'd speedlight for the fill will do the trick.

For the third example, although you can easily use an umbrella again, if you want to use a beauty dish, there are multiple DIY beauty dish projects online that allow you to build one for peanuts. You can also build your own simple reflectors.

So such shots are not out of a beginner's reach. The most expensive investments with be in speedlights, of course it's good to have at least 3 of them, with built-in optical triggers. You can get a great pair of 2.4 MHz transceivers (with remote camera control!) form Yongnuo for only $40.

All told you'd be out about $300-500, depending on how savvy a shopper you are, and pull stuff like this off easily.

I totally agree! :)

The last setup was 3 lights a reflector, and modifiers for all 3 lights. Yes the 7" reflectors are small but modifiers none the less. Plus taking into account the stands, and reflector holder. It's certainly not a "metric shit ton of gear" but it's also not being "scrappy and working with less gear on a budget" as Jeff states in the beginning of the article.

Did you miss the part where it says I was building up to more complicated setups? Lol

Lol I suppose I did miss that part. My bad

That's what happens when you are a selective reader. :)

" should easily be able to replicate at home regardless of the studio lights that you're using."

There are less expensive solutions on the market. I showed you what I use. :)

Would be nice though, if you would have shown it can actually be done on a way smaller budget. ;)

"This is why it’s important to learn how to be scrappy and work with less gear if you’re working on a budget."

This is like Karl Taylor doing a budget video and then pulling out 3 x Profoto D2 heads and modifiers

For budget gear, I think the best one i have seen has been Fstoppers own video using speedlights and their own flasgdiscs. Or even Sean Armenta's single BD video

Love it! 4th person to mention expensive gear without thinking that they COULD USE WHATEVER GEAR THEY OWNED. :D

That was said in the article. :D

People always seem to overlook the little things and are quick to criticize. :)

Want budget friendly lighting solutions? Checkout my YouTube videos. ;)

Thanks jeff for the article and ideas, it's really good and they are always inspiring. Thanks for your time and sharing with the community.

Guys, yes jeff is talking about "on a budget". We are talking about fashion shoots, so this could serve for purpose of editorials, magazines, ad campaigns of the sort... and if you're pulling out even 2000$ for that kind of work, knowing that if you work hard on your setups and skills, and retouching techniques, you will be getting some return on investment on all this.

gear can stand years of use, the evolution is slow, and if it is not, it isn't always needed to consider upgrades, the rest comes into G.A.S clearly. When spending 2000$ on that gear, and if you consider let's say something silly short as 3 years use, that would be 700$ per year, so less than 60$ per month. If you're spending 20$ on netflix, 20$ on another subscription to film TV or other channel and 20$ on a few starbucks a month... you're into your gear each month and even getting some cash in.

Let's remember photography, as well as being an art and something amateurs can love and enjoy and be really damn good at, it is also an industry, with people living from it and making their family live from it... and this post does bring that into perspective IMHO.

I will agree to disagree with whoever, as this is my personal thought about it :)

Great Article but UMMMM wheres the budget? lol... Maybe in your budget range But most of us need some time to get your lighting and modifier.. lmao!!! its a great tutorial though!!!

Thanks! :)

Did you read the comments above?

For the price of 1 Nikon SB910 you can get FIVE Yongnuo TTL speedlights!!! I added one of those to my SB800s and its a quality light

Except when trying to overpower sunlight, I think speedlights can do nearly anything you ask of them. With the latest DSLR's you can easily shoot noise free at iso400 and above.

3 Yongnuo TTL lights with their pocket wizard like TTL flash triggers can be had for less than $400, Of course a bunch of gear doesn't mean great photos-thats where tutorials such as Jeff Rojas's come in handy

I agree buying brand name Nikon or Canon speedlights is a waste of money today. However you don't really even need TTL for stuff like this. Although 3 is an absolute minimum, 5 or 6 speedlights is certainly a better number for creative lighting work. Speedlights, being light, also allow for use of inexpensive stands. Get some soft while shoot-through umbrellas of various sizes and you're golden.

For portrait work AA-power speedlights like the Yongnuos will work, but for moving models Li-on speedlights will be more practical. I bought the non-TTL Adorama re-branded Godox Li-on speedlights for a buck a pop. Their recycle times don't slow down as the battery gets depleted like AAs do, they remain constant. You get an estimated 650 full power flashes per charge, and come with metered chargers that let you know how far your batteries have charged, which is handy if you need to pull a spare before it's fully charged, as it can give you a rough estimate of how many flashes you can expect from it.

There's also a great set of cheap portable reflectors and diffusers that you can get for $60 here:
If you only need a small area reflected this is another, smaller, handy and portable inexpensive reflector:

So yeah, some simple, basic, inexpensive resources that will give you more creative lighting capabilities than most beginners will be able to shake a stick at. ;-)

I never shoot TTL but you need it for full control from the camera. I shoot manual and its a pain running back and forth tweaking flash power & zoom. I can't believe the number of 3rd party accessories now available and affordable. Wacom? Pocket Wizard? Forget it...

" I shoot manual and its a pain running back and forth tweaking flash power & zoom."

If you're shooting Yongnuo, I believe there's a multichannel controller you can get for them, I think it also works with the non-TTL units as well, but I'm not sure, so you don't have to go running around to reset power levels.

The Godox units have their own multichannel controller, so you can set individual and group power levels. Although I don't use it, you can see it at the Adorama site (they re-brand the Godox units under that Flashpoint brand, it is version R1). You can see a video of this on a manual unit here (Neewer is also Godox):

The older units like I have worked off the older 433MHz controller (as you see in the video above), the new R2 models are 2.4GHz AND 433 MHz units, and have the 2.4 GHz transceiver built-in:

So while you can't remotely control your zoom, you can remotely control power on fully manual units. Pretty cool if you ask me. ;-)

Yeah I have it and it works great ( YN622-tx). With non TTL lights it works just as a trigger only. It supports up to 3 flash groups. when I need a 4th light, i either pair it with another or just slave it. I've seen videos of photogs using 5 & 6 units-I'm not there yet . I would like a Pocket Wizard set but we're talking 4-$500!

Forget Pocket Wizard. That's over. Frankly, I'd go with the new Godox units with their built-in 2.4GHz transceivers. The lights and controllers are dirt cheap, and Godox so far has proven reliable.

Very nice, thank you!

Hi Jeff, Can you tell me what colour backdrop you used when shooting the Beauty section please? When you're shooting it looks grey but the finished image looks white/light grey, was this done in post or was this just how the backdrop looked with the light? Many thanks in advance