Hollywood Style Lighting

Good day,

Recently I had a senior client come in for her planning session and like always, we ask what they envision for their portraits. We talked for a while and finally she said, “I want a Revlon look”. I did a quick search found some images online and said “like this” and she exclaimed “yes!”

So in today’s blog, I want to take you through how I lit this image. First things first. When you are evaluating another image and dissecting the light, I think it all comes back to 3 simple questions. How much light is there, what size is the source and what direction is it coming from? Quantity, quality and direction. In the images I found of this type, the light quality was crisp, telling me I needed a small source. The catchlight was between 10 and 2 o’clock telling me the direction of light and the subject jumped out and was very three dimensional telling me that I needed more light on my subject than the anywhere else, more or less a low-key image, light quantity. Having answering those questions, I can get to work and pick the right tool for the job.


1. The main light is a fresnel spot. The fresnel produces a very crisp focused light. Most glamour, hollywood style lighting is a harder light quality. You can see the quality by the shadow edge transfer. In this case, the shadow edge is very clean and hard. The placement of a light like this is critical. First, it needs to be in a direction so that it produces three-dimensional shadows. Second, it needs to be placed so that that the shadow of the nose does not hit the lips and also watch for eyelash shadows on the eyes. When using a smaller, narrow light such as the fresnel, you have a small window that your subject can be in. If they move, you may not get the desired results.

2. For accent lights, I used two strip boxes. On camera left is a 1×6 that is tilted with it’s top toward the background. This tilt gave me both a soft edge light on her hair and shoulder providing depth and separation and it also put some light on the background behind her left, our right ear, providing even more separation. On camera left was a 1×4 with a soft grid to add some more dimension to her hair. This light is very important in an image like this. Without it, the shadow side of her hair goes black due to the strong light from the main.

Here is a pull away of the set up.


On final word of when using a main light like the fresnel. Since it is a small source, it provides the light quality we want, but it will also increase specularity so make up is very important to keep the skin looking smooth without glare. Retouching will also help as well.

If you do not have a fresnel, a snoot would work similarly as would a speed light with some sort of tunnel attachment to keep the light spread very narrow.

Happy creating.



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