by William Lulow

I’ve written about the Hollywood Light, but when you need to have a completely shadow-less light for a beauty shot, you must arrange your lights in what I call the “Hollywood Beauty Light.” When makeup artists work their magic, they usually sit their subjects in front of a mirror surrounded with light. They do this because when light surrounds the face it produces complete light with no shadows. It makes it far easier for them to see any flaws in the skin, any applications of the makeup and what it does.

The way to achieve this kind of light in a studio is to make sure that the lens is surrounded with light. If you set up a Hollywood Lighting (where the main light is a large, round umbrella placed above the lens, you then need to add another, fill-in light placed below the lens. This is the basis of the Hollywood Beauty Lighting.

Another way to achieve this is by using a Ring Light, which is a special light that attaches to the lens and completely encircles it. I don’t like this solution as much because it produces strange looking catch lights in the subject’s eyes that to me, are distracting. But if you keep in mind the idea of encircling the lens with light, you will produce beautiful lightings with no shadows on the face.

Here are some examples:




These types of lightings tend to work better for women rather than men. Usually, men can take a bit more shadow. So, I light them with only the main light into an umbrella or straight, when I’m looking for more shadow. Here is an example of a portrait done with a main light, edge lights and background lights:


In order to give the face a little dimension, you can try moving the mainlight to one side a bit and see if it creates a little bit of a shadow. Sometimes I do this just to create some interest within the frame. The light will still be quite soft and with some kind of light on the background, it creates a great look. Men can usually take a bit more shadow on the face than women can.

Here’s the lighting diagram for the Hollywood Beauty Lighting:


The large umbrella is the main light, placed in the Hollywood Light position (usually high and near the camera). The fill-in light is a small light box placed on the other side of the camera and down low.