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How do I get bright even and soft light on a face like this?

enter image description here

Image taken from this link

I got the exact same equipment but I wasn't able to reproduce the result.

First I tried lighting it from the side and I got this:

enter image description here

As you can see, it is not even at all. There are a lot of hotspots. Even on the right side where the hotspot is less apparent it is not even.

Then I thought maybe I should avoid side lighting, just like in the original video, I did a traditional clam shell style with a reflector at the bottom. I got this:

enter image description here

It seems to be a bit better, but it still doesn't have that even look.

Any ideas, what I am missing?

About my my setup:

Camera is in manual mode f/9, 1/250, ISO500

That setting avoided most of the ambient light.

The softbox is the exact one in that link. 26″ Rapid Box Octa. It has a deflector plate inside, and a diffuser fabric at the front.

  • 3
    Did your model use make up to reduce shine from skin oils? The one in the example certainly did, and also probably benefitted from a bit of post production beautification as well. – ElendilTheTall Jul 1 '14 at 20:55
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    @ElendilTheTall a bit?? The model in that picture is so deep in Uncanny Valley she probably hasn't seen sunlight for a month! – Michael Borgwardt Jul 1 '14 at 23:12
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    Did you watch the video? The octa was up high and in front, the hair light was to the rear, and he had a reflector from below. After that, it's pretty clear the image has been retouched. Also, eyes are the guide to light, don't cut them out, it makes no sense. – John Cavan Jul 2 '14 at 4:05
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    Not only does cutting them out remove pointers to the lighting used, it looks really creepy! – John Jul 2 '14 at 7:43
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Editing out the eyes removes a metric tonne of information that might have been helpful in answering your question — please don't do that if you're asking about studio lighting problems — but there is still something to be seen in the photos you have posted.

Apart from the makeup and post-processing that have already been mentioned in the comments, it's pretty obvious that although you may have been using the same equipment, you weren't using it in the same way. The lighting in the video is Paramount ("butterfly"/clamshell) lighting, yes (and the idea that you could come close to reproducing it with side light is quite a jump). But please note where the light and reflector are in the video. Softboxes aren't soft light if you don't have them close enough to your subject, and the shadow edges in your photographs are telling me that you had your Octa just a little bit further away than the 90cm-ish distance (probably even closer than that) that Mr. Beckta was using. The boom isn't an extravagance, it's what's keeping the light stand out of the picture, since the light needed to be considerably closer to the subject than the camera. It's not the absolute size of the light that matters; it's the size of the light from the subject's point of view. (For the same reason, the reflector should be dangerously close to being in-frame.)

Almost every photographer who has picked up a softbox has made the same mistake early on. While it's true that (indoors at least) it's almost impossible to make light from a softbox quite as hard as it would have been from a bare speedlight, it's not until you bring it in very close (no more than twice the diagonal/diameter away) that it becomes truly soft; any further than that, and you're transitioning into "dramatic" territory as the apparent size of the light gets smaller. (What about absolute size? That has more to do with fall-off and coverage than softness most of the time; you can light a larger area from farther away with the same softness but more gradual fall-off using a bigger box.)

  • Think about what's happening: when the softbox is really close the light from the edges wraps around the face because they are above and below - and the further away you move the softbox the less wrap there is and more straight light. Draw yourself a picture or use an egg and a light you can move around and you'll see it right away. – Patrick Hughes Jul 2 '14 at 2:24
  • @user28116 no what you said doesn't make sense because I'm already as close as I can be. I'm literally like 1.5 feet away from her face. Actually from what I'm gathering from other sources, it seems the solution is to move further away. – erotsppa Jul 2 '14 at 3:01
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    @erotsppa Move yourself further away, perhaps, but leave the flash as close as it can be. It doesn't matter where the camera is, it's where the light is that makes the difference. If that means you need to purchase a lighting boom, then purchase a lighting boom. – user28116 Jul 2 '14 at 3:42
  • Excellent answer, certainly made me reappraise some of the lighting technique I've used in the past – user9817 Jul 2 '14 at 8:36

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