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Tips & Tricks

4 Tips On Creating Stunning Beauty Images With A One Light Setup

By Miguel Quiles on January 14th 2016

Ever since I first picked up a camera and started shooting professionally, I’ve always wanted to shoot beauty images, similar to what you see in magazine ads. Unfortunately, it was rather difficult to find good resources online detailing the process of creating them. Because of that, I decided to partner up with Sony & AdoramaTV to create a new series called “The Breakdown.” The series seeks to explain the process of creating images in an easy to follow and repeatable manner.

In this first episode, I set out to explain my process behind capturing this beauty look that I absolutely love, using just a single light and a reflector. If you’re looking to do the same, here are some tips that will help you nail the look technically and artistically.

Tip #1: It’s All About The Eyes

Having your subject engage with the camera is crucial in this genre of photography. I often coach my models to gaze piercingly into the center of my lens in each frame, and then rinse and repeat the process. Even if they aren’t looking directly at my lens, I let them know to look with a purpose and intent wherever that may be. A dull expression that isn’t connecting with the camera will lose the viewer, and ultimately end up making for a lackluster capture.

Tip #2: Keep The Hands Relaxed & Natural

This is something that I often struggled directing in my early days, but has become better with time. Coaching your subject not to show the inside or back side of their hands when shooting this style is very important. By showing the blade of their hands and forearms, it will keep the focus on the face, which is the ultimate goal when shooting a beauty image. Also, make sure your model has their nails cleaned and polished, as it’s a major pain to try and clean up in post production.


Tip #3: Give Feedback Throughout The Shoot

Make sure that every so often you stop and give your subject feedback and coaching. Never let them know they are doing a bad job or not giving you the look you want, but rather, give them specific instruction on what you’d like for them to do. I’ve been known to try and pull off some of the looks and expressions that I want the models to give me, which is often met with a hearty laugh by all. It loosens up the mood and gives them the confidence to keep mixing it up in between each frame.

Tip #4: Test Out New Lighting Setups Often

The lighting setup you see used in this video isn’t very conventional but was the result of a variety of test shoots that I’ve done over the past year. I’ve used it to shoot full body images, and now most recently to shoot the images you see below. I will often look through the pages of Vogue, Elle, Harpers Bazaar, etc. and study makeup and hair ads to see if I can decipher the lighting setup.

I’ve landed on some of my favorite lighting techniques doing that, and the longer you use this discipline, the better and more creative you will become as a photographer. Try placing the light close to your subject, above them, to the right and left of them, and see how making these changes impacts the final image. This has been the key to my lighting success in recent years, and I trust it’ll help you, too.



To see the full breakdown of the gear used to take these images, be sure to watch the video and leave a like/comment if you enjoyed it and found it useful!

Gear Used:

Sony a7RII w/ Zeiss Batis 85mm 1.8 Lens

Phottix Indra 500 w/ Phottix Hexa-Para Modifier

Savage Collapsible Background & Posing Table


one-light-beauty-miguel-quiles-1 one-light-beauty-miguel-quiles-2 one-light-beauty-miguel-quiles-5

This site contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links, however, this does not impact accuracy or integrity of our content.

Miguel Quiles is a commercial wedding & portrait photographer based out of New Jersey. He’s been involved in the photography industry for over 15 years, starting off first as a salesman at a local camera store. Since that time, Miguel has been refining his skills and pushing the limits of his creative abilities through the medium of photography.

As a self-taught photographer, Miguel hopes to share his experience and knowledge with new and upcoming photographers who wish to take their work to the next level.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. David Weikel

    Quick question, Miguel. Are you using the 500 with the battery pack or the ac adapter? I see multiple options and don’t know which way to go.

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  2. Gabriel Rodriguez

    Thanks, Mike! Gonna do a shoot for a Nail/Beauty shop owner today. Will definitely try out this technique!

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  3. Shaun Monahan

    Outstanding! Love the video and technique you’ve shared- thank you!

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  4. Daniel Thullen

    Great article! Miguel, you’ve inspired me to stray from my usual sports images and give beauty photography a try!

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  5. Steven Pellegrino

    It’s always inspirational to see great images from a simple setup. I love one light videos!

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  6. Vince Arredondo

    As always, very nice pictures and you make the process look really easy.

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  7. Michael Henson

    Phenomenal images and great advice, as usual. Thanks, Miguel!

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  8. Rafael Steffen

    Great images and great article! One light portraits Rock!

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  9. robert s

    sponsored content that look like help articles but are just ads. Ive since have used ghostery and adblock so no ads, but I guess revenue has to come from somewhere so this is how .

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    • Steven Pellegrino

      I don’t see it that way. and here’s why. Adorama sponsors the video, which means they are going to give it a lot of exposure through people following their channel and that’s good for Miguel.

      You can duplicate this exact look with inexpensive speedlights and softbox from Amazon against a white wall. You don’t need the gear he’s showing, but we all want to know what the gear is, so I have no problem with him showing brand names or with SLR Lounge using affiliate links to get us to the product. It’s not costing me anymore should I choose to buy from that link. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.

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  10. John Cavan

    I like the nails tip… It’s the little things that’ll kill you at the end. :)

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    • Miguel Quiles

      Totally agree! It took me forever to figure that out, so hopefully this saves someone out there a little bit of time. :)

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  11. David Weikel

    Beautiful images! I keep seeing folks talk about setting up at a 45 degree angle, etc. I’ll try this at my next shoot. Thank you!

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