Beauty, Glamour + Fashion

A Complete Breakdown of How to Light Fashion Shoots [RF Video of the Week]

October 9, 2015

By RF Staff

Fashion photography can be one of the toughest genres to break into, mainly because producing shoots (and gathering a team to do so) can have so many moving parts to cover. That said, it can also be one of the most creative, artistically freeing ways to get your visions out there.

Christian Hough, an experienced fashion and beauty photography based in South East England, runs through just one of the trickier aspects of fashion photography—lighting—to alleviate a little bit of the mystery and difficulty. Here, he breaks down a five-light setup, explaining each one's functionality on set, what they're good for and why he uses them, and he even illustrates their exact positioning in diagrams to show how he's setting them up.

We chatted with Hough about other aspects of getting comfortable with putting together a fashion shoot. "Lighting is one thing," he says, "but inspiration, ideas and vision is the place where any great shoot will start. The planning stage is crucial to making your creative visions a reality and is an ideal opportunity to sit down with your team to build and expand on them." Here, in his words, are some elements to keep in mind:


Each team member needs to have creative input based on their own areas of expertise in order to feel fully involved. Give your shoot a name and a theme, and then let each person draw together their own tearsheets, before drawing the most appropriate looks together to form a comprehensive moodboard of ideas and inspiration. Ensure you each have a copy of the moodboard and take it along to the shoot for reference, so you can progress on a clear theme.

The Anchor

Any shoot needs an anchor, whether it be a strong story, a particular style of photography, a good set, quirky styling or particular props. For beauty shoots, look for retro clothing and quirky props in secondhand stores. Glasses, hats, garments with funky collars will all look good in front of the camera and can be themed nicely!

For fashion work, keep an eye open for interesting locations and visit them at different times to see how busy they get and how the light works throughout the day. Of course, always make sure you have the necessary permissions if you're wanting to access private property. Look at local urban explorer sites—you can always spend a little time exploring from your armchair via Google Earth!

The Light

It is one thing to copy a lighting technique, but make sure you fully understand it before you put yourself under too much pressure. Practice on a friend first, use different modifiers and learn from your mistakes. It is important that you concentrate on the feel and vibe of the shoot, not just the lighting!

Check out more Videos of the Week here, and email Libby Peterson with submissions.