Cosmetic Product Photography Using a Simple 1-Light Setup

Large yellow diamond engagement ring tutorial: how to get your diamonds to popCosmetic photography using a relatively simple setup. I decided to have some fun just recently and decided to step away from my daily jewellery photography work and do (finally) a new blog entry. This past weekend I was shopping with my wife and found myself in the makeup section of The Bay department store. My wife decided to buy some makeup by Yves St-Laurent. I saw an ad for the item she bought - a product called Metal Eyes. I told my wife that if I bought it for her the only condition was that I could shoot it before she used it (hehe). I decided to recreate an image similar to the one I saw.

YSL makeup ad
The ad that inspired this blog entry

The image has a nice graded light painting it; something that immediately tells me it’s not simply a softbox bouncing light onto it. Softboxes generally give an even diffused light across a surface, and to get it to graduate is much tougher than some other methods.

As I only had one makeup kit at my disposal, I decided to reproduce the lower portion of the ad. Doing the top part would require risking ruining the makeup with water and as this was my only kit, my couch would be my best friend should my wife’s temper be raised (hehe). During real shoots, clients normally have several kits at our disposal, where the nicest one is selected, and budgets are allotted for this sort of mishap.

The Setup!

Image out of camera, stacked
Out-of-camera, stacked image.

This was the simplest setup possible I’ve used recently. I used 1 strobe mounted with a 30°grid. The object was shot laying flat on the shooting table sitting on white foamcore. Behind the object, I had a 20”x30” white foamcore at a slight angle held by a clamp. The strobe was pointing towards the center (this is where the work goes, placing the light to get a nice gradient on the object). You might have to play a little to get the light to shimmer nicely on your object. It will come with experience (and more play).

To the immediate left of the object and camera, was a 18”x20” black foamcore. This added some black delineation to the object by bouncing back some black. Finally, at the front of the object, was a small 4”x8” piece of silver card that filled in the shadows on the hinge of the little makeup box.

When I shot the image, I first shot without any water droplets to get the right shimmer across the gold cover. Once satisfied, I spritzed some water with a bottle. On a real shoot, the droplets would be critical, and most often several dozen images are made with various droplet configurations and selected by the art director and client. For my demo/blog purpose, this was adequate.

I used focus-stacking comprising of 4 shots exporting to tiff. Color, contrast, and other tweaks were done in Photoshop.

The actual ad for Yves St-Laurent was photographed using 2 light sources reflecting on a card. You can see the 2 sources by looking at the droplets. This brief tutorial was to give you some insights for you to try at your own studio. The sky’s the limit! Stop surfing and go shoot!

Lighting diagram for single light cosmetic imageHere's the lighting diagram for this image. Quite simple no?