Beauty Photography

Live On: Thursday 9th September 2021 - 15:00 BST / 10:00 EDT

In this live show, Karl takes you through a studio beauty shoot in real time.

He begins by breaking down some of the key differences between portrait and beauty photography in terms of subjects, lights, modifiers, lenses, backgrounds, post-production and more. In doing so, he outlines some of the key equipment you’ll need to tackle a shoot like this one, and explains the role of hard light for beauty images.

As the shoot gets underway, Karl first demonstrates the sort of results you get from using a single bare bulb with no modifier. In a word: ‘horrible!’ He goes on to attach a modifier while introducing a fill light, tweaking the exposure as he works. Moving and altering these light sources, he shows how small adjustments can lead to big changes in the image.

Next, Karl works on the background by introducing extra lights and poly boards. Then it's time to add another modifier to the key light. As he works, Karl answers various members’ questions on a range of matters related to the shoot.

As you watch Karl and the team try one-, two- and three-light setups, with and without reflectors, you’ll also pick up tips on makeup – plus witness a couple of moments that are destined for our next blooper reel!

To learn more about creating this kind of image, be sure to check out our Beauty Photography and Retouching classes.

In this live show:

  • Best lenses for beauty photography
  • Best modifiers for beauty photography
  • Lighting setups for beauty photography
  • Using hard light in beauty shots
  • Depth of field in beauty photography
  • Backgrounds for beauty photography

Questions? Ask them in the comments below.


  1. Oh gosh my ocd can’t handle the white balance at 7,5k throughout the video xD… I know it doesn’t matter but it bugs me to no end 😛

  2. Hello Karl, I hope you are doing great. As usual you explain every single detail so precisely which makes things easier thanks for that. Although I wanted to know from you what’s the basic difference between the using the snoot from using the grid?

    1. Hi Jeet, thank you the snoot gives a much smaller beam of light (sharper shadows) and less light spill so it is better suited in this case.

  3. Good refresher course. If I rent a studio next year, I see I can use some of the recommendations and see if it has some of the accessories. Many thanks for your expertise.

  4. jmhedrick

    Excellent show as always, I’m always grateful to you and you’re team’s shows. I saw Rankin work with some kids using the technique you demonstrated and he kept saying ‘key’ to the assistant so the shadow stays in the place he wants, and now I find myself saying it too, and using that very technique.

  5. Hello Karl,

    Nice show again. Thank you very much.You are talking about the studio “blocks” and that there is more info about how to make them and stuff in the introduction to fashion photography . Could you be more specific where I can find this because I don’t seem to find it.
    Thanks in advance and kind regards,


  6. Hi Karl! How do you like the idea of using a large 165 cm parabolic umbrella as filling by placing it opposite the model? Did you see such a technique in one of your lessons? Will the result differ from the one shown in this show?

    1. Hi, you’d have to be careful because a true parabolic umbrella is a reflective surface that reveals approx 20 small hard light sources. Generally they cancel out the shadows that would be caused from each point but it depends on the para. Take a look at the Live ‘Legs’ show I did where I used a similar technique and you will see if you control it well it will work.

  7. Gary Stasiuk

    Rather a simple question, but in the past, when I’ve been in post, occasionally I’ve run into focus issues after the fact and I end up a little disappointed with the result. What point are you selecting to focus on? I usually always focus on the eyes but then the tip of the nose sometimes is a little out of focus. Is the issue then just the amount of DOF? I feel the forward points need the focus while anything past the focus plane somewhat less so and easily forgiven.

    1. Hi Gary, I generally try to focus for the eyes but if I’m struggling then the lips are a good choice as they are often very close to the plane of focus for the eyes. However the main thing would be sufficient DOF which is why in this show I was shooting f16 and not going too close for the reasons explained at the start of the video.

    1. Hi Zhangt as explained at the start of the show the Octabox would be too soft for ‘beauty’ shots which need a bit of sparkle. The beauty dish would be a good choice.

  8. Good refresher course on lighting and working with people. I really like your product photography section also. I can use some of the techniques when I do another social media practice product shot and self-portrait. Many thanks for sharing your knowledge. May look at Manfrotto and ask for a discount code during the fall or spring. I will let you know.

  9. Absolutely superb tutorial. Gave me a lot of new ideas. I like how Karl explains not just the ‘what’ – but also the ‘why’. Excellent. Many thanks

  10. Loved the show! Always love beauty lighting classes. So informative.

    All the coughing was stressing me out! Hope it’s just a tickle in Karl’s throat…

  11. Any reason you used the fill light off to the front left as opposed to underneath in a more clam shell like setup? Seems the under position would provide more even fill, no?

    1. Hi Jared, someone asked the same question in the show and I demonstrated why and the little difference it would make.

  12. Another brilliant show, inspired again by Karl and the gang, can’t wait to start experimenting. Wish my studio was larger! It’s encouraging to see that you still have accidents/incidents in your warehouse-size studio. My studio sessions usually look something like Basil Faulty taking shots whilst undergoing an assault course.

    I personally really liked shot with the horizontal (30 x 120) softbox – love the reflection in the eyes.
    Anyway, lots of fun ahead!

    Thank you so much!

  13. Liked the white board start, Karl. Personally I thought it helped to set the agenda for the show nicely.

    I’ve now watched many of your classes and find the overlap from previous classes helpful revision. Your intro, pointing out the differences between portraiture and beauty, was just such an example. Yes, I’m sure you’d explained it before, but with the white board start, for me, it reinforced some aspects that I thought I knew, but in honestly, probably hadn’t fully appreciated.

    Good to see you’ve learnt to delegate removing a hot snoot 🙂

    Many thanks

    1. Hi Barry, that’s good to hear thank you. I like the whiteboard idea too for reinforcing information so I will use it more often.

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