Skip to main content

From Shoot Through Photo Editing: Fashion Retouch

Lesson 4 of 10

Shoot: High Key Image with Flowers

Lindsay Adler

From Shoot Through Photo Editing: Fashion Retouch

Lindsay Adler

Starting under


Get access to this class +2000 more taught by the world's top experts

  • 24/7 access via desktop, mobile, or TV
  • New classes added every month
  • Download lessons for offline viewing
  • Exclusive content for subscribers

Lesson Info

4. Shoot: High Key Image with Flowers

Lesson Info

Shoot: High Key Image with Flowers

Okay, so we're just gonna completely switch looks. That was one light and it was dark and dramatic. Now we're going the opportunity direction and we're going to go really high-key, really glowing, but still on a budget. So the budget lighting that we are going to do, the reason we're using two strip softboxes is just because I'm using for the last set-up, so it's easier to use this. But, if you had a single, just one studio strobe and nothing else, you could do this lighting set-up. So you only need one light to do this and you don't need any modifiers. What I've done is I bought these in a discount bin at Bed, Bath and Beyond. And these are white curtains. And so we've just hung them in-between, I mean, you could, I've set it up before where I put the curtains on a painter's stick, like a painter's pole and had that out. So, this is actually going to become our backdrop and a light source. So, this is going to be a bright, high-key completely white background. And if you only had one ...

light, just ignore these two. This is what we're doing for convenience. But if you only had one light ... well, I'll step on the black background, okay. Is I would put the strobe here, okay. And I would bring it not close, because what ends up happening, is this is gong to become your light source. When the light hits it, it spreads out and this is like the diffusion on the front of a softbox, like we have here with our strip boxes. So, I do own a 4 X 6 softbox, but perhaps that is expensive, or how many of you have space for 4 X 6 softboxes? A lot of people have small studios. My first studio space would not have accommodated at 4 X 6 softbox. So what's great about a set-up like this, is I can make it as big as I want. I can have a huge softbox for however many of these curtains that I have. So think of this as the front of the softbox. If it's this big light source, so this big softbox, and you've got your studio strobe right here, what happens, it just hits the center and you just light a small hot spot in the middle. And it doesn't actually light the whole thing. So, I always think and I always talk about light like buckets of water. If I've got my little bucket of water or light, and I throw it right here, it just wets the center. But, if I take that same bucket of water and I backup, it has a little bit of time to spread out. Even better is if you have two studio strobes, put one on either side far away, and throw it and it gives you much more even illumination. So, you can do this with one strobe or two, but the reason I like it so much is that it's a huge softbox, a huge, bright light source and you don't require any modifiers at all. Here I'm using curtains. You could use a bed sheet. You could use a shower curtain. There's lots of different things. Anything that is neutral color, translucent, something like that, as long as it's letting light through, just avoid off-color because then obviously that color will pick up in your photo. So, here's how I'm gonna use it. We're going to use as a pure white background and also as our light source. So when I am lighting people for high-key set-ups, one of my favorite things to do is put a softbox directly behind them. And I do it all the time, so I will put the subject right up against the softbox. And what's nice, is not only does it give me a pure white background, which is good because it's such a pain to light a huge white seamless and get it completely white. It's just such a hassle, especially in small spaces. So what's nice is this will go completely white, which is good. But then also, the light filters through and wraps around your subject. It wraps around the jaw line and the neck and the cheekbones and it's just much more of a wrapping, pretty light. If you were trying to get the light that would still wrap around the cheekbones and the jaw lines when you're on a white seamless, you'd have to take away your seamless, light it with two lights, and then take two more lights to light your subject for the room and then you're at four lights before you even get to a main light. So it's kind of a hassle. I'm all about the budget. Use your curtains, use your single strobe, pull it back as far as you can so it has time to spread out. So, this is gonna be what be what we start with. So, may I borrow you for a second? So I haven't gotten to the Photoshop concept yet, but I will, so don't worry. So I'm just gonna have you stand up there real quick. And what are these at right now? Can we put them at 7.5 for this particular one? All right, I'm just gonna pump up my lights a little bit. Okay, great. And I'm gonna have you take even one more half-step back, like right up against there. Perfect. All right, so let me just take a test. And just so you know, this is not the final lighting set-up so don't be like, "Oh, that's terrible." Don't judge me yet. Okay. This is a made-up exposure. I just wanna show you what this looks like. (shutter clicks) Okay, perfect. Let's make sure this pops up here. Okay, so here's what I wanted to show you. When you're looking at this shot, oh, maybe a little close, okay, do you see how the light wraps around? It's actually wrapping around her cheekbones and her jaw lines. Look at the light on her clavicles there. It's really, really beautiful. It does have wrinkles in the background. If you wanted to, you can kind of even it out. I do know the way I'm going to expose it, those will probably just go totally over-exposed. So, I don't even care. It's not even something to worry about. Or, if you're using a bed sheet, that kind of stuff, you won't have to worry about it as much. So looking at this photo, I really like the light that we're starting with. But how about the light on her face? Okay, so here's vision of what I'm going to do in Photoshop. I want a beautiful floral headpiece, but I'm not crafty. I'm not good at building things. It's just not my jam, it's not my specialty. And I don't have access to a headpiece designer and I don't have a headpiece. I wanna make something. So, I'm gonna do it in post. And I also don't wanna spend a ton of money on flowers. So I know I'm gonna do this in Photoshop. And so the way that I think through this is I say, "Okay, so floral headpiece, glowing, high-key." So, already I know that if it's flowers, I want it to be brighter for me. I'm not going for dramatic. So, for brighter, high-key, it's gonna be a white background, this was my easy white background. I know that if I'm going to make this headpiece and I'm gonna be stitching it together later, I think it would be easiest if I had really flat light. Because if there's not direction of light, no matter where I stick any flower, it'll look right, it won't look like I messed it up, if the light is just completely flat. So I'm actually doing myself a favor by giving myself flat light. So we're gonna do light that doesn't have many shadows, it doesn't have much direction. I could take a beauty dish from the front and light her flat lit. I could do that. But, I think it's got a little bit too much contrast. I want it really soft, like really dreamy and really flat. So, one of the things that I do in my studio space, is I use big v-flats. They're the 4 X 8' pieces of foam core. It's white on one side, black on the other. And I box my subject in. I put them here. If you've seen me a bunch in CreativeLive, I've done this before, but you usually can't see what's going on because it's basically this big box and you can't see anything. So there are other solutions. And you can make your own, but this particular one is produced by Westcott and it's called the Omega Reflector. So they actually made a reflector with a hole in it on purpose because here's how it'll work with this particular lighting set-up. Is we are going to put it in front of our subject here. And what happens is that light that is hitting the curtains here, the curtains become the light source. That's what happens. It hit the light source, or it hits the curtains, it spreads out, now that is like the front of a softbox. So all that light now goes straight forward and hits this silver material, and then bounces back at her. So this becomes the light source. And if we have it front and center, it is a completely flat light source coming from straight on. So, obviously maybe you don't wanna cut your own, maybe you don't really wanna cut into your own reflector, however, you could go to a Seymour Michael's and you could get that silver piece of poster board that I used in that box example, the golden goddess. Cut a hole in it, does the same thing. Buy one of those giant cake pans, they have those tin foil cake pans, cut a hole in it, could do the same thing. Or, if you want something a little softer, you could also just take a piece of white foam core, cut a hole in it. And it doesn't even have to be this big, it could just be the size of your lens. Go for it. (mumbles) lens, well, then you fill in more. Yeah, because right now, you're losing this amount of reflection, right. Right now this is gonna be kind of a dead spot, so if you just cut a hole the size of your lens, it gives you even more light to bounce in. So, it doesn't matter if it's homemade. So this whole set-up you could do with curtains and a cake pan or a poster board. It would do fundamentally the same thing. And one strobe and it will still look glowing and ethereal. So let me test this. And, there we go. Let me just test my light here. Okay. (shutter clicks) Okay, good, and I might open up a little bit. Okay, let me just show you. If I pump up my exposure just a bit, that background goes completely white. She's got these really pretty, glowing catch lights, highlights in her jaw line and then you can see the reflector in her eyes, so it looks like of cool that way. So whatever you have, that's what you'll see for the reflection. Okay, so the light on her face, I'm gonna figure out what pose I want. And right now, I'm shooting with a 24-70mm. I think I'll probably shoot with a 70-200mm. I feel like I was a little bit closer than I wanted to be. So let me switch over to that. And then we'll take a look at the flowers I've got. All right, so here's what I'm thinking about my pose as-is. When I look at this shot, it's fine. If it's just a beauty shot, you don't have to have and amazing and delicate pose. But I know that a lot of times, if somebody's facing straight-on towards camera, that's their widest, right. So when you're looking at her straight-on in this case, her shoulders look their broadest. So, perhaps if I want more attention to her eyes, or maybe to her jaw line, if I turn her shoulders one way or the other, it'll narrow her and then the focus goes more towards her face. So it's just a consideration when you look at a photo, ask yourself, one of the first things I say is, "Okay, we'll what's the brightest part of the picture?" That's one of the places you're going to look. It's okay in this case that it's the background and that highlight. It's a high-key picture. And then I say, "Okay, what's the largest "part of this frame?" And if the largest part is the shoulders, maybe that's not where you want it to be. So that's kind of part of my thought process. So I'm gonna have you turn, let's see ... Okay, so, my thought process here is I was going to turn her this direction, but the soft curls on the other side, so I'm gonna have you turn to your left, good. And then, what I'm gonna have you do, is I'm gonna have you roll your shoulder forward, good. And then, lower it just a little bit. Okay, good. Next thing, for my camera angle. The way I had her turning again is I didn't want that straight line up and down by just having her hand to the side. And I have her, you can raise the shoulder up, that kind of coy look. But watch out when you do that that you don't completely hide someone's jaw line because the things we think are beautiful, we love big eyes and we love cheekbones, we love jaw lines, so if you just do this to somebody, you just completely lost both their neck and their jaw line. So if you're going to do it, at least make sure you can see this jaw line. So let me just do the difference to that camera real quick. Basically, here there's no jaw, no neck, but if you rotate a little bit, at least now you've got the neck line and the jaw line turning them back. So, I'm just watching for those types of angles. All right, so let me just give a test here. Great, beautiful. (shutter clicks) Let me open up a little bit more. And then can you just go back just a little bit. Right there, cool. (shutter clicks) Okay. Good. And let's pump this up again. Next shot, there you go. Okay, so super glowing in high-key. So, I will shoot a few more of these, but let me grab my flowers. So, we grabbed some flowers from the local market, by we I mean she did. (laughing) Thank you. And I could, you know you could try to put this into a headpiece if you're that crafty. For example, you could take like that foam and you could find a way to put it in their head and stick those, I mean you could do ... There's absolutely ways to make headpieces. But, I also know that I can also hold flowers around in that light and just move them and composite it. The biggest difference would be, or the biggest thing I'd be careful of is I don't want it to look all the same. So, I think that maybe in the beginning, I'll try a few with the rose closed down. I'll make sure I rotate, make sure I'm changing the angle. Then, I'll open it up for a few to give it some variety and I have a few more in there. And so, I can just kind of move it around to give myself some different shapes and sizes, and then cut and paste it to my heart's desire and make whatever type of headpiece that I want. The same thing would work, too, not for this lighting situation, but if you wanted to build a floral wall behind somebody. Who has the budget for a real flower wall? I have one. That was good. But, it's crazy expensive. Instead you could build it this way. So what I'm gonna do first, is I wanna real quick shoot a few more of her posing to make I get the shot that I'm gonna work with, and then I will get some of these flowers to composite in and then we'll move on to our third and final shot. Okay. In our third and final shot we make a mess, so how fun is that. All right, cool, perfect. Let's see, sorry John. Let's try here. All right. (shutter clicks) Good and soft with your lips, just real soft, good. (shutter clicks) And I'm gonna have you bring your arm forward this time. Good. Where she was before, she was opening her shoulders a little bit to far to me. I thought it was a little bit wide, but not bad, so I just wanted to try a couple close now. Perfect. (shutter clicks) Good. Beautiful, real soft. I like the smile in your eyes. That's pretty. Good. And my background's going nice and pure white. I will try a couple straight-on, so I'll have you face me straight-on. And, John, will you raise it up just a little bit. Good. And I also know that compositionally I can crop however I want, so if the headpiece is gonna go up and I don't have space on top, that's fine. It's not a problem. (shutter clicks) And can I have you take your right hand and trace it real soft around the side of your face and then leave your hand right here. Good. Okay, so that's I direct people's hands. I'll have them trace their hand around the side of their face, but I have this pet peeve. It's a weird one. I don't like thumbs. I think thumbs are like really weird. Don't worry, I'm not judging your thumb. Your thumb is lovely, okay. But, a lot of people, when I see this in photos, their like, twitch, and in my own photos too. When people put their hand around their face and have this, like it's this soft, beautiful curve and then like thumb. Not pretty. So, when you're posing hands, the general rule of thumb, okay, sorry, too much for myself today. Okay. The general rule is you want to see the pinky side of the hand because that is the narrowest and it's the most elegant and so it just looks prettiest when you're posing. Pretty much any beauty shot you see, unless they're going for funky, unless they're doing something weird, you're always seeing the pinky side. So what I do, I have them trace their hand around the side of the face, and then two things. If their thumb is sticking out, I have them tuck their thumb. I say, "Can you tuck your thumb against your index finger "because it just bothers me." And the other thing that people do is they'll do this. And then their palm is towards the camera and it's really distracting because not only is your hand the size of your face, but it's also lighter. So, what I do, is have people trace around the side of their face and then I say, "Can you turn your palm towards your face?" And so it narrows it. Because if I say, "Turn your pinky towards me," it doesn't work. It just doesn't happen. So let me try directing again. Lindsay? Yeah. Can I just ask a favor. Can you talk through what your settings are and how you got there for this, and maybe later we can change the overlay. Yeah, so ... Thank you. Guys, so my settings and how I got there. Do you want the truth? Yes. Yeah, I just did it and made it look good. Okay, so the settings I'm at right now, okay, the way that I have this set up right now is that those strip softboxes are cutting down quite a bit of light just because the way that they diffuse the light. And then it hits the curtains, which also eats up a lot of light, even in that distance and in the way it diffuses. And then, that's why it's gotta travel forward, hit the reflector and they travel back to her. So the reason I'm saying all of that is there is so much light lost in this whole process. So I'm actually shooting at ISO 800 and F7.1. That's the exposure I need to shoot at in order to have enough light on her face. If I don't wanna shoot at ISO 800, I'll just go pump up the power in the back. These are not at their fullest strength right now. But just to give you an idea of why I would have to shoot at ISO 800, F7.1, the reason 7. is that what looked good for the exposure, but I don't like to shoot any wider open than that because if I miss focus on the eyes at 5.6, it's out of focus. I would be able to tell. So if I got to the point where I start being at 5.6 or 4.0, I'd probably go back and pump them up. Granted, I do shoot on location at wider apertures. When I'm on location, I'll shoot at 2.2 or 2.8, but that is because my narrow depth of field is for a creative purpose, not just because I was opening up to let in light. So, usually in the studio you will find me between F8 and F13, somewhere around the sweet spot of the lens, usually is where you'll find me, whereas on location it depends on what I want for the depth of field. That's the current settings. Okay, let's try this again. Cool. Great, now turn your palm toward your face, perfect. So, it makes a big difference. She went from this to this. So it's much softer. Good. And I'm gonna have you tuck your thumb to the side of your index finger. Good. And then just wiggle them and set them back down. Great, beautiful. (shutter clicks) Great. (shutter clicks) Beautiful. She's good, she's doing it like look down and look up to connect with camera. She did it by herself, but sometimes that's a good way if people are kind of dead towards camera. Just have them relax their eyes down and then look back up at you. Or I'll say, "Okay, look down and I want you to look back up "and connect with camera." I'll try to give them some direction there. But you were doing it already because you're lovely. All right. And relax your shoulders just a little bit. Also notice, I'm sorry, John, I keep ... It's a workout for today, yeah, it's good, exactly. Yeah, this is why I don't exercise. I gotta hold this camera. It's my excuse. So, one of things that I also recommend if you're shooting beauty is, probably, unless it's a long shoot, and if you're working with an inexperienced model, watch out for having your subject sit because what happens is if they sit in a chair, what they do is they sit back and it shortens their neck and it hunches their shoulders, even if you tell them to sit up straight. So a lot of times, if I have my subjects stand, I tell them to pull you through the top of their head and elongate. That's what gives me the longest neck. And one of the things we like in beauty photography is long necks, so one of the reasons that I have her standing in this instance, everything just lengthens out. Okay, sorry, John, here we go. For real, for real this time. I'm lucky you love me, John. Untuck your thumb and hide it. Tuck it to the side of your index finger, good. Perfect, great. Right there. Beautiful. And hand a little lower. Good, and now raise that left shoulder and turn your body to your right. Good, yeah, there you go, beautiful. And turn your hand towards your face just a little more. Good, long fingers, beautiful. (shutter clicks) A little bit longer, a little bit lower with the hand. Good. And then look right at me. And longer fingers, good. A little bit lower with the hand, keep going, good. Soft eyes. Great. Okay, and then one more. One more long neck. I'm gonna have you face that side. Good. Stick your neck out and then turn it back towards me. Good. And bring your shoulder forward. And pull back just a little bit, John, good. (shutter clicks) Beautiful. (shutter clicks) Okay, so that'll be perfect in there. Great, thank you very much. Okay, so, now, she's good and she doesn't need to be there for the flowers. Will you help me? I was just gonna take a few flower shots. You're gonna come up and hold them. Yeah, you're just gonna be the flower holder and I'll switch to my last thing. I think, I'll just try a bunch, okay. And I think some of these roses actually have thorns, so just don't die. Okay, I'll give you a few. And I do need to have the light the same. So, I can't just do it backlit, like I will actually need to have that light held up in roughly the same place, all the settings the same. Roughly the same focal length. It will make a difference if I'm drastically different, but as long as it's close. It doesn't need to be 77mm as long as it's in the same vicinity. And then I like these, so I can always change the color because maybe I want it to all be yellows and stuff. Okay, you can start with those and I'll do a few. Okay, John. And PS, you don't actually have to have an assistant, you could clip it, which is a workout. A workout. Yeah, it's cool. Okay, great. Perfect. And let me make sure everything looks good. Okay, so now just rotate them around and then point them down a little bit, good. All right, now point them up a little. Up even more, keep going, okay. Now, like, see they're pretty. See, those will be nice. It'll be a pretty headpiece. Okay, can you open them up a bit more too? Yeah, and just like spread them out. Cool. Good. (shutter clicks) And just keep moving, I'll just keep shooting. And point them down. And point them to the side. Now hold them vertically, like ... I don't really know what that means, but, I just grunted and I figured that'd make sense. (audience laughing) It works. Yeah, it kind of works, the lighting looks good. Okay, now rotate it further away from me again, like that way, yeah. Let's do a couple that way and then now go back towards you. And keep going and like contort yourself in weird ways, cool. Good. All right, cool, all right, so let's do a different flower or two. I probably don't want white because I was gonna grab white, but it's hard to change the color of white. Anything with some tone. Dark colors are harder to change because you're messing with luminosity at that point, like the actual lightness, darkness. It's easier just to change hue. So, if you want something to be light, pick something a little lighter, but don't go white. So that's why the yellows. I can change it to pink easy. Can change it to purple. Those are gonna be easy. The red I will have to lighten up or darken down, but it might be, I'm thinking for the headpiece, it might be a good anchor point. Maybe I want one darker piece. All right, so let me take a couple of pictures. You can put the roses down. All right, cool. And you can just rotate around. Good. And up. And a few more. Good. And then last one, I don't know, maybe some of these purple might do something for me. Oh, this one's pretty too, though. Okay. I don't know, I'm just throwing stuff at you. I'm sorry. Okay. I'd rather shoot more than shoot less and change my mind later. Good. (shutter clicks) Good. And then can you just do the white one? I don't know, it might be detail, or white, it's green, whatever, okay. Perfect, and rotate. And towards me. (shutter clicks) Come back towards me even more. Good, okay, great. So that is perfect. Thank you for your help. Okay.

Class Description

Learn how to create powerful, unique fashion imagery by shadowing Lindsay through her shooting and editing process. In part 1 of this class, she will explain the start-to-finish details (concept, lighting, posing, and more) of three fashion shoots. In part 2, she will share her post-production process by walking you through her favorite tools and techniques in Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom.  

Software Used: Adobe Photoshop CC 2015


Avril McPherson

Yet another fantastic course from Lindsay. She is by far my favourite photographer as well as a brilliant teacher. We are so lucky she is willing to share her brilliance )

Phyo wai Moe

Lindsay is awesome as always . I should have bought this course long ago . Its well worth of money and i recommend to people who like to start fashion shoot with cheaper option . Thank you Lindsay . As for Creative Live group , please fix the " Purple Skirt Picture " as crush or corrupted . Thanks .


I love Lindsay's tutorials. She speaks "our" language. She has very simple, but highly effective approach to studio set ups as well as post-processing. She is very (very) creative photographer. Highly recommend.