How to Photograph Sequins & Sparkles in a Fashion Shoot

Sequin fabric is great from a fashion perspective. However, shiny things make a photographer’s job very difficult. They bounce the light everywhere and create hot spots and sparkles that are hard to control. Photographer Gavin Hoey with Adorama has a solution for working with sequins:

Hoey’s idea is to reflect light off of the shiny dress on to the background and create an interesting effect. He first gives his thought a try by using a smaller light source (a torch light) and it works out pretty well. The light reflected from the dress creates some reflected patterns on the background. But when he uses a bigger light source, the ( Neo II from Rotolight), the reflection patterns are no more visible because of the light source. To conclude, smaller light = lots of sparkles, bigger light = less sparkles.

Lighting Setup

The idea now is to use a combination of smaller and bigger light sources. Hoey starts by using a standard lighting setup with a key light in front of the subject inclined at a 45 degree angle. He uses a soft box to create a diffused, soft light and also a grid on the soft box to direct light onto the subject and prevent light from leaking to the background. A darker background allows more sparkles to be seen on the background.

sequins with key light

After ensuring that the model is well exposed and the background is dark, Hoey sets his lighting to add sparkles on the background. He uses an eVOLV 200 with a snoot pointing at the model’s back so that the dress reflects light onto the background in the form of sparkles. Hoey determines the power he needs for this light by trial and error.

sequins keylight and backlight

Next, Hoey experiments with a smaller key light with a 10 degree honeycomb grid to concentrate maximum light on the model and prevent light leaking to the background. This creates an even more dramatic result:

sequins keylight with honeycomb

To spice things up even more, he adds a third light with a snoot. This time he places the lights on the sides of the model, while making sure that no light is spilled on the background.

sparkling background with side lighting


After he’s happy with the results, Hoey heads on to processing the images. He starts by retouching some imperfections on the props. He then uses the clone and stamp tools to remove the stray hairs that are visible in the shot due to the strong back lighting.

Note the visible dust thanks to the back lights . You’ll need to spend some time removing it.

Finally, Hoey heads on to Camera RAW Filter in Photoshop to enhance the color in the picture. He brings the color temperature down to the colder side and raises the vibrance to bring out the colors. He uses the brush tool with high clarity to paint on the background, which allows him to bring out the sparkles.

final sequin background image

To conclude, the fabric wasn’t a problem at all in the first place. If you’re creative enough, you can use almost anything to your benefit and get amazing results.

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