Photography Tips: Lighting a Fashion Shoot

Before planning a fashion shoot it is important to decide what it is that you are trying to achieve, as this will determine the type of lighting you will use. Often fashion is shot within a studio setting, as it is easier for the photographer to control the lighting effect that he/she is using. In contrast to portrait photographers who usually work with a light ratio of 1:2 on the subjects face (or slight variations of this), one of the popular ways to light a model is to fully illuminate the face, using even lighting on both sides and often from above.

This lighting technique is called butterfly lighting, because the small shadow it creates under the nose looks like butterfly wings. The shadow is then removed or softened by a reflector or small umbrella under the camera. One of the reasons this technique works so well is it eliminates harsh shadows from the face and therefore makes the face look more symmetrical (most conventionally beautiful people have symmetrical faces) and less of a character portrait so it doesn’t take away from the clothes.

Another lighting technique used in conjunction with the butterfly lighting is back lighting (also called skim lighting), which is usually on the hair or down one side of the body to create a glamorous effect. Your back light needs to be behind and to the side of the model and needs to be a least one stop brighter than your front lights. If you are using it on the hair, position the light so it is level with the head so the light will catch the top of the head and give the hair high lights and life.

Coloured gels on your lights can also create mood for you images. Warming gels on the side and front lights can deepen the skin tone of the model. Other colours can suggest mood and create atmosphere.