From softboxes to ring lights: A guide to the best fashion photography lighting techniques

A common misconception often bandied around is that you cannot do a successful fashion photography shoot without expensive, top of the range equipment. This is simply not true.

However, it is true that photographers working on a budget need to be inventive, working with much less gear to create inspiring fashion imagery.

Below, we’ve delved into the glossy world of fashion photography to discover if less can actually be more when it comes fashion photography lighting setups.

Ring light fashion photography

Ring lights are incredibly versatile and affordable (you can pick one up for around £40), but before making a purchase, it’s worth investigating some of the creative techniques that incorporate ring lighting.

If you have never used a ring light before, you might be wondering how you can incorporate it into your fashion photography lighting setup, read on to find out more about this must have light.

Eye Catch Lighting

This is one of the most common uses for a ring light, accentuating the appearance of your subjects eyes creating those circular highlights most often seen in close-up fashion photography shots.

Fill light

A ring light can also be used to provide a soft glow to your image. You can control the direction of the light to create a beautiful, flattering and soft image.

Halo Shadow

With the subject placed in front of a darker background, you can create some very unique ‘halo’ lighting effects. This lighting technique helps the subject stand out in the image, this technique is used frequently in fashion spreads to ensure the garment is the main focus of the image.

Top ring photography kit

Buy the largest ring light that your budget will allow. This will ensure that techniques such as catch lighting and filler lighting are much more visible, no matter what type of fashion shoot you’re working on.

Outdoor fashion photography lighting techniques 

Shooting fashion photography spreads outdoors can be a great way to reduce the cost of the shoot, as you won’t need to hire a studio space in order to get the results you’re looking for. There are a few things to consider when taking your photography out into the wild, which we’ll explore below.

Choosing the right time of day (and year)

Ambient lighting can change dramatically within a couple of hours when shooting outdoors. The weather can also play a big factor in this, so make sure you have researched this prior to heading out.

The midday sun (at any time of year) can make capturing fashion photography shots difficult, due to the shadows that will be cast on your subject. The best time to shoot is usually just after the sun has come up, or a couple of hours before it is due to set.

Blending ambient and artificial light sources

Blending these two light sources can add a unique dimension to fashion photography shoot. One technique is to use the natural light as the main light source in your image, then supplement this with a flash to capture all of the fine detail of the subject.

If you are heading out on a fashion photography shoot, whatever the weather you need to make sure your fashion photography camera and lighting gear is safe from dirt, dust and rain.

Take a look at our range of protective camera cases, which will help you store and transport all of your gear, safe in the knowledge it’s protected from everyday bangs, knocks and damage.

Softbox Lighting Techniques For Fashion Shoots

Softboxes are a simple way to introduce a flattering light source to any fashion photography shoot. Softboxes are incredibly versatile and widely used in fashion photography, due to their soft lighting effect. Below, we explore the different types of softbox lighting and how they can be used to elevate your fashion photography to the next level.

If you’re looking to invest in a softbox, there are many different styles on the market, but the main thing is to invest in the best quality softbox your can afford. This will ensure it’s longevity, especially if you are travelling with your fashion photography lighting kit.

Find out more about protecting your camera equipment when travelling here.

With just one softbox, you can create a variety of different effects, by making a few subtle changes.

Rim lighting

A softbox can be used as a rim light, meaning that the subject of the image is only very slightly lit by the softbox. This can add significant depth and an edgy mood to any fashion photography shot in this way.

Softbox lighting for beauty shoots

If you’re not planning on using a ring light for your beauty photography shoot, a softbox can easily produce a similar, diffused light effect. The softbox should be positioned directly in front of the model to produce the soft and flattering effect.

Bounce softbox lighting

Sometimes, you may be working in a very large studio with just a small amount of lighting. Bouncing the light from your softbox (at a 45 degree angle) off a wall or another flat, white surface can increase the amount of light you have to play with. This light will be soft, flattering and perfectly diffused, helping you to focus in on the detail within the image.

Fashion photography doesn’t always have to be about big budgets and expensive equipment. As long as you are creative, inventive and are willing to test and learn, fashion photography is one of the most interesting niches to get involved with.

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