The Girl in the Pink Dress: How to get this shot

Light It! Shoot It! Process It!

I enjoy fashion editorial photography, and when I’m not traveling, chances are I’ve got a photoshoot lined up. Sometimes, I post my photos up online (when the client gives the go ahead, after publication), and people ask me, How did you do that?

I’ve heard this question lots of times, and decided recently that I’m going to deconstruct the lighting, the shot, and the processing for you. So here is the first in a series I call 3inOne-Light it, Shoot it, Process it. Sometimes, I’ll talk about the lighting. Or I’ll talk about the thought process behind an image. Other times, I’ll talk about some Photoshop post-work on an image. Then, if I’m feeling really nice, I might just talk you through the whole thing—all 3 in one.

How to Light the Girl in a Pink Dress

This image was published in Masala Magazine, December 2010.

When we got to the location, I was very excited about this window. The client’s dress had this wonderful scarf that was delicate and diaphanous, and I wanted to love it in the image. So I had to use the window and the scarf to add drama —impact— to the image.

The other advantage of the window was the directional light through it. Plain good old sunshine—but the most beautiful light of all.

I placed the model in the gorgeous dress on one side of the window and angled her body so that the dress would be seen in its elegant cut: a brilliant upper bodice with intricate embroidery, and the skirt with its graceful folds. Then I asked the model to hold the scarf in front of her, and love it.

Notice that the window light does a couple of things. One, it gives the shot a sidelight which is perfect to create that 3D effect in a portrait (Thank you, Mr. Rembrandt, for this centuries old tip). Two, the window light gave the scarf a backlight, showing us how delicate and lovely the fabric is.

The last lighting bit was to fill in the dress with a portable strobe. I didn’t want to overpower the sun; all I needed was a suggestion that there was another window at camera right. So I just popped the flash at a medium intensity. Below is the lighting diagram.

Sometimes one light and a window is all it takes.

And there you have it. In my next posts, I will be going through some camera settings for an editorial shoot and a Photoshop workflow, Parts 2 and 3 of 3inOne. So stay tuned!

Let me know what you’d like to learn in the comments.

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  1. Hello Aloha,

    I thank you for sharing your technique for this shot. It is a beautiful images. I just found your work this morning and have enjoyed it immensely.
    I look forward to seeing more of your posts.
    I am a late starter in photography ( a very mature student) so I am grateful when artist such as you not only share their images but also the lighting setup with diagrams which are so imformative and allow those finding their way to practice with lighting setups.

    I am based in Northern Ireland but looking towards a move to France following a bad road traffic accident which has encouraged me to look at the new opportunities in front of me and to take new directions.

    Thanks again


  2. Hello Derrick, Thanks for your comment! I think photography is a great art because it allows us to start late and still learn technique well enough to master it. Don’t forget Gladwell’s advice–it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill, so practice a lot! Ireland as well as France has some wonderful outdoor scenes, so in one of the following posts I am going to go through an outdoor shoot! Stay tuned.
    Take care and all the best in your move to France. May you always find good light.

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