How to Set Up a Beauty Photoshoot With Just One Light

Fashion photographers cannot overstate the value of a precise lighting rig. Three-point kits and background fills are common, and knowing how to control your light is one of the most fundamental aspects of being a photographer–especially if you’re shooting indoor fashion or beauty models. That’s what makes Sean Armenta‘s tutorial on how to use just a single light so insightful:

What to Use

Sean only uses three pieces in his lighting setup, in a delightfully makeshift fashion:

  1. A beauty dish, lit around the edges rather than from the middle and diffused by a nylon “shower cap” cover
  2. A three-fold reflector, taped together with silver paper
  3. small mirror

When shooting with one light, a reflector is crucial.

Sean sets up his beauty dish at arm’s-length from his model to highlight the broadest possible amount of her face’s T-zone–that is, across the forehead and beneath the eyes, and down the middle of the face.

But the beauty dish shines downward, which casts some unwanted shadows under her face; rather than using another light from below, Sean sets up his reflector across at her chest.

Finally, he places the mirror atop the reflector to light up her eyes and sets up surrounding V flats to block outside light.


A diffused beauty dish works well at arm’s length from the model’s face.

How to Shoot It

Sean sets up his model with a clean makeup look, to make her seem as if she’s wearing as little as possible.


A “clean makeup” look aims for naturalism above all.

Sean’s Canon 5D, set up with a 180mm f/3.5L Macro lens, is tethered to his computer, running Phase One’s Capture One software, which effectively replaces his camera screen with the computer screen.

He then takes his Sekonic L-358 flash light meter to read right at the light source and suggests opening up his light to expose the model’s skin a bit more.

How to Edit It

Lighting-wise, Sean aims for a zero-adjustment RAW file, so he doesn’t have to tweak the brightness, contrast, or saturation of his image in Photoshop. Instead he focuses entirely on cosmetic edits: removing blemishes and moles, smoothing her skin, and heightening the color of her eyes.  


Not having to do lighting adjustments saves time for cosmetic Photoshop work.

Sean’s video is a totally technical, no-nonsense tutorial–definitely a useful guide for aspiring fashion and beauty photographers–nothing extraneous, and a solid educational tool.

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