The Rigorous World of Macro Beauty Shots

Shooting very tight, Alex Bussa creates some sweet beauty shots.

Coming in this close can be a nightmare for the unsuspecting. Makeup must be perfect, hair perfect, every nuance of light has to fall to give the feeling of fresh and natural. And the skills in the toolset must be honed very tightly.

It goes without saying that usually a MUA is part of a team doing this work. Some models can do this on themselves, but it is so much better to have eyes that can see the whole picture instead of just a part of it. A great face also helps, as you can imagine.

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Alex Bussa is an emerging young talent in Phoenix, Arizona. His work for models is getting increasingly noticed and for this self-assignment he chose a difficult subject… the macro beauty shot. Long a staple of the fashion and beauty industry, the close up beauty shot takes serious lighting control and most often a team. Hair, MU, stylist and more can contribute to creation of perfection on less than a square foot of a woman’s face.

Alex is working closely with me to build his portfolio and we wanted to do something that was unexpected and would really grab a potential client. Alex is not planning on staying in AZ forever and the excitement of NYC is calling more and more each day. We knew he had to introduce some more sophistication to his work and the closeup beauty was a great way of doing it.

For these shots, Alex used a 100MM USM F2.8 Macro lens. It has plenty of sharpness and getting in this close calls for a lens that will at least give you a little distance from the model. It can be un-nerving a bit to have to be so close to your model… mere inches away, but the focal length at least gives you that.

Chocolate on Lips

The first shot we see has the melted chocolate. You can see how even the lighting is across the face. The broad, soft light is from a 63 inch satin umbrella with a single 400WS strobe head. It is brought in close to the subject to give a full light to the face and also to help eliminate any possible shadows from the photographer and lens in that close.

Sprinkles - A Close up Beauty Shot: Alex Bussa on Lighting Essentials

The Makeup artist applied some rock candy to the lips in this stunning image:

Powdered Sugar Lips: Alex Bussa on Lighting Essentials

Now the addition of Powdered Sugar for a more soft look. Notice how smooth the skin is. Lorri Mitchell, the MUA for the shoot took great, painstaking detail in creating a smooth surface on Jasmin’s skin without it looking too ‘cakey’ and over done.

Candy Beauty Headshots: Alex Bussa on Lighting Essentials

Alex and Lorri added the sugar candy for a colorful break and to add some texture against the smoothness of Jasmine’s skin. Notice how the large satin umbrella gives a luminance to the skin and the candy.

Alex Bussa shooting Jazmin Riley on Lighting Essentials

The blue rock candy literally jumps off the page with all that light. This shot literally ‘Rocks’… sorry.

behind the scenes at Alex Bussa Beauty shoot.

Alex is not using any side fill because the umbrella is so wide it is wrapping the light naturally around her and he didn’t want or need any more reflections in the eyes. With an umbrella like this, lots of things are possible. I love big umbrellas… now so does Alex. You can see how it all comes together in the behind the scenes images above. They were shot by Evan Romine, also a photographer, but assisting Alex for this shoot.

The addition of the fill card below Jazmin delivered a soft surrounding fill to keep the skin “open” and make sure there were no shadows under the chin and hands.

You can see how attentive Lorri is in the images… the slightest alteration can mean lots of time in Photoshop trying to make it better. These images received very little Photoshop beyond normally processing and sharpening.

Alex Bussa Photographer
Lorri Mitchell MUA
Evan Romine Assisting
Jazmin Riley Model

Thanks for visiting Lighting Essentials. More to come.

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About 

I am in love with light.

Also known as Don Giannatti, photography has been the focus of my life for most of my adult years. I have written three books for Amherst Media (available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble: keyword 'don giannatti'. Lighting Essentials is my flagship blog and ezine with a slightly different slant than most photography related blogs. If you are interested in becoming a better photographer, check out www.project52.org. Thanks for visiting.

5 Comments

  1. wow, great concept, MUA and beautiful model. Lighting was intence but very effective

    Reply
  2. Wonderful write up, I was looking for more information on beauty shots and i’m grateful to find this.

    Reply
  3. Looking back on this, what was i thinking. You might call the lighting ‘even’ but let’s be honest, it’s flat and uninteresting…

    I might sound bitchy but i’m being honest. These macro shots are not very good.

    Reply
    • Well, Hugh, it is interesting.

      When you are a client, you call the shots. When you are a photographer you do the best you can do to satisfy the client.
      When the work the client likes is criticized, it is them who the critic falls on, not necessarily the artisan who delivered the work that was created.

      Being honest is not the same thing as being bitchy. Being bitchy is like being bitchy… but it’s all good.

      Reminds me of the ol’ story of how many photographers it takes to screw in a light bulb.

      Just one… but 30 to stand around and say “I would’a done it another way”…

      Just being honest. Not bitchy.

      Reply

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