Soft Glamour Lighting
In this post, I’m continuing with the idea that less is more, so we’re sticking with one softbox again. But this time it’s a different type of softbox and a totally different light source, as the light I used is actually a continuous light source (so, it’s not a flash—it’s always on). The light is a Westcott Spiderlite TD-6, which uses daylight-balanced fluorescent bulbs. Note: This Glamour Lighting look is part of series Scott is doing, check back for another post by Scott with a different lighting setup.
Here’s our image, and you can see that the position of the softbox creates a really nice mixture of light and shadows, with lots of drama. For a very soft, glamorous look like the one we have here, you can’t beat using a really large softbox. It creates such a soft light because of its large size in relation to the size of your subject, and this makes all the difference in the world. The bigger the light source, the softer the light, so having a huge softbox like this (it’s a Westcott 54×72″ Shallow Softbox) makes your job really easy.
You Can Finally Use Wide-Open Apertures
A signature look for glamour photography is that the entire image isn’t in focus—details like her eyes would be in focus, but then her hair and the background would be very soft focus. To get soft focus in parts of your image means you’ll need to shoot at wide-open apertures, such as f/2.8 and f/4. With studio strobes that’s often hard to do because even when you turn down your strobes to their lowest power setting, getting down to f/5.6 is sometimes a struggle, let alone f/4 or f/2.8—it’s still just too bright. But because these are continuous lights and not nearly as bright, shooting at f/4 works wonderfully.
Since the softbox is directly beside your subject, you need to make sure your subject’s body is facing the light and have her play a little toward that light. If she turns away from the light, she will be fully in the shadows, so ask her to keep herself aimed a bit toward the light. In our case, I had our subject flip her hair over to the side of the head farthest from the camera, which lets the light flow in toward her face and really does a nice job of lighting her hair. Of course, this “flipping your hair” isn’t necessary—I just thought it would work well with her particular hairstyle.
How Close to Put Your Subject?
Position your subject as close to the softbox as you can without the softbox actually appearing in the shot. Just like using a really large softbox helps to make the light softer, getting it as close as possible to your subject is the other secret to getting that supersoft glamorous light (as you move it closer, it gets larger, right?).
Our background is a 5′-wide roll of light-gray seamless paper, supported using two light stands with a crossbar between them to hold the paper roll. I positioned our subject closer to the background than I normally would—only 6 or 7’—so that some of the light would hit the light-gray background. If I had her positioned 10 or 12′ from the background (as usual), none of the light would hit the background and it would go to solid black. So, to keep it gray, I moved her back a bit so a little light would spill onto the background.
Camera Gear and Settings
The image below was taken with a Nikon D3s and a 70–200mm f/2.8 lens, at a focal length of 195mm. The ISO was set to 800 so I could get the shutter speed up to 1/160. Since the subject wasn’t moving, technically I could have lowered the ISO quite a bit (at least 400 ISO, if not 200, which is the native ISO for my camera), or I could have lowered my f-stop to f/2.8 to increase the shutter speed.
Because I wasn’t shooting with strobes, I shot in Aperture Priority mode and set my aperture to f/4. At f/4, making sure the subject’s eye closest to the camera is in sharp focus is absolutely critical because the depth of field will be really shallow—so much so that her hair will be soft and out of focus, which is actually what you want for this particular look. To make sure her eye is in sharp focus, aim your camera’s focus point directly on her eye, then hold the shutter button down half way to lock that focus, and then recompose the image the way you want it.
Scott has a unique approach to education. If you love this Glamour Lighting look, you can catch him on tour over on KelbyOne Live. Is he coming to a city near you? If you are looking for more tutorials right now, go and check out this tutorial by Scott on Setting Your White Balance.