Beauty Photography Lighting: How To Do It Right

Last Updated on March 21, 2021

Taking a regular portrait and turning it into a professional beauty shot takes the right lighting setup. Beauty is a highly specialized type of photography and it takes time to master all aspects it takes. And one of the most important aspects of beauty photography to master is your lighting setup.

How To Setup Lighting For Beauty Photography

closeup of woman with blue eye makeup

A typical closeup calls for the main light to be aimed to fill shadows that will cause bumps or complexion blemishes in your models face to show.

If you do this right, your subject will appear to have perfect skin with little to no editing. On top of that, this technique is incredibly easy to implement.

This setup works whether you focus on your subjects body and skin or face and makeup with limited adjustment.

The key to beauty lighting is getting your main light as close to your subject as possible.

Keep your light just above the camera and keep tethered to a computer if possible. This allows you to see what is working without stopping your session.

And keep in mind that even small movements of your subject or light will make a big difference in your lighting.

Beauty Lighting Tips

woman closeup with brown eyes

Carefully aim your main light

Your main light should point directly at your model’s face. This will create a blemish free skin and eliminate nose shadow that are unflattering at best.

Crop tight

A closeup creates a very dramatic picture so keep it closely cropped. The further you pull your camera back the less dramatic your images become. Think of it much like it is makeup still life.

Go with a macro lens

Use a 1:1 macro lens for your beauty photography. A macro lens gives you the ability to focus in on a particular point such as an eye or makeup. It can create some dramatic images.

Work on your model direction

When you give a model direction ask them to make subtle movements. They should hold their poses long enough for you to take a few pictures each. After taking your pictures direct them to make a slight movement.

For full body shots their movements can be more pronounced but they must still hold them long enough for you take a few shots.


Keep your light close and make subtle changes to your lighting. Crop tight your images and your beauty shots will be much more dramatic. I use a strobe for my main light and black flags to direct my light. I suspend my main light from a mini boom and that’s my setup. It works great and covers most all of my beauty shots.