How I Photographed a 70s Beauty Shoot on 3 Dollars

For the bulk of my career, I’ve operated on single-light photography for my projects while many others relied on multiple heads. This video is for the photographer eager to start and they think it requires a stockpile of gear. It’s to remind them they can operate on a lot less and start sooner if you have a clear direction with your concept.

Have a Concept

Clear concepts are vital to executing your vision. As a creative mind, we are easily tempted to change paths midway and try something new. While that can be a fun exercise, it does not contribute to the overall goal of your shoot: to keep on the theme for a particular project.

Another reason for having a clear direction of your creativity is to keep the crew on the same road to success. Many times a makeup artist might have a spark of creativity that’s outside your vision. That’s great and we want to encourage creative detours, but not when we have a clear goal to accomplish. In my case, I wanted a 70s themed beauty shoot that relied equally on shadows as it did with light. I wanted a heavy mirrored them, many reflections and geometric shapes.

Beauty Shoot on $3

One way that I keep focusing on the goal is to rely on a mood board shared with every member of my team, including the model. In the case of this shoot, the concept was a late 60s and early 70s natural look. We aimed at natural hair, strong makeup, and colors that complemented an era.   

When I have a new idea, I’ll reference check it against the board. Is it a “right now” idea, or can it be saved as a reference for a future shoot? Know when to veto and use your power of veto!

Have Flexibility

Just like I urge the photographer to stay on the path, I equally urge them to be open to different ways of getting there. In the video you will that I attempted many lighting modifiers to accomplish the aesthetic. I tried a softbox but the mood wasn’t right. I tried a beauty dish and it reminded me of the 90s. Finally, I pulled out the honeycomb grid and found the right look!

It’s important to stay flexible while staying within the creative lane you set out to tackle. It’s a fine dance and requires internal dialogue can be entertaining. I only ask that you remain open to last minute ideas!

Have Direction to Share

Once you have a clear direction and a proven method of accomplishing your goal, it’s time to share directly with the crew and talent. You’ll see that I speak with the model constantly, and even give her breaks throughout the session to review the images together.

If I can share photographs in the middle of a shoot, I will easily gain more confidence with the talent. It’s common to say “when you do this, it looks better than when you do this look. Here’s an example of that” — speak to them. Models are not mind readers, and neither are the glam team. Show them what you want, and then sit back and let them give you the creativity you’re seeking!

Beauty Shoot on $3

Less is More

You don’t need a lot. In fact, look at the setup in the video and see how it could have been accomplished in any small room or garage. The mirrors in my photographs cost me $3 and we had our entire prop set. Creativity can live anywhere, just start. 

Walid Azami's picture

Walid Azami is a Photographer/Director and creative consultant from Los Angeles. He got his start working with Madonna + Co by contributing to her many projects. It was then he realized his place in the creative world & began teaching himself photography. He has since shot Kanye, Mariah Carey, Usher, Bernie Sanders, JLO, amongst others

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What exactly is 70s about it? The last ten years of my childhood was in the 70s. I see nothing that says 70s in the photo. Even the club photos he said inspired him don't have that feel.