FS Original: How To Shoot And Retouch Beauty Photography

FS Original: How To Shoot And Retouch Beauty Photography

Patrick and I were invited to shoot a behind the scenes video with beauty photography Sam Yocum in NYC a few months ago. I've always been struck by the lighting and flawless models, makeup, and retouching that can be seen in high end Beauty work and so I couldn't wait to see a real professional work...



We showed up at Shoot Digital (a massive photo studio in Manhattan) early in the morning and the models were already in makeup. Sam's assistant was working on the lights and I got to sit down and interview Sam for a few minutes. What I found most interesting about Sam was his incredible attention to detail. Most photographers either say "we'll just fix that in post" or they wouldn't fix it at all but Sam seemed to know exactly what he wanted out of the shoot before he started clicking.

Sam started off the day with a Mola Setti Dish above the model and a gridded light below them. He quickly turned off the gridded light and lit the models with only a dish for the rest of the day. The photograph then became about the makeup, the model, and the way that single light was hitting their face. I always assumed there was some secret, ultra-complex lighting involved but that wasn't the case with this shoot.

Since Sam didn't really move his "light" at all, the behind the scenes video seemed a bit lacking so we asked Sam to film a quick look at his retouching. Once again Sam's attention to detail really impressed me and it made his "great" beauty shot a world class image.

As I get the opportunity to meet some of the top photographers in the world I am finding that they all start with a simple concept just like any other photographer, but the best photographers go the extra mile to create that one, single, flawless image while the rest of us stop short.


Lee Morris's picture

Lee Morris is a professional photographer based in Charleston SC, and is the co-owner of Fstoppers.com

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Even quickly scrubbing through the video as a peek left me intrigued. Seems that good.

yep his attention to details is incredible. but as he says big danger of "over-photoshoping" an image

Nice to see a perfectionist at work.

Damn those inconsistencies. I would've liked to see the real before/after of the image as I feel a lot of the post work was skipped - I could be totally wrong though! An interesting video and great work nonetheless.

Yes I'm sure there was a lot of standard retouching done that we didn't get to see but I will say, the makeup and hair was really unbelievable to see in person. It was by far the most detailed makeup I'd ever seen.

He's got an eye for detail indeed.

And I really like what he says about actually enjoying fashion, because looking at this.
Well - it is making me cringe. As a street photographer, inconsistencies and imperfections is desirable and removing them is something I could never enjoy.

But it is hard to enjoy when most of the people in the industry are narcissist, spoiled and have no concept of reality.  I work in this industry and sometimes you feel like you wanna pull out an AK47 instead of 85mm Prime.

Well if it was the 85 1.2 it was probably more deadly than a AK-47 :)

Darn those line patterns!  Awesome to see how much goes into finalizing a photo

... amazing reveal : although he moves quickly through the post, the retouchers I know get really (intentionally?) vague when they talk about the actual how-to around skin.  This is a very rare peek behind the scenes.  Thanks guys - very cool jem! 

I could care less about the photography, the video production was great! Who shot and edited? 

17:00-17:05 says it all

Thank you guys for doing this feature, and thank you to Sam for showing up his workflow, it's nice to see how other's attack an image. 

If you take nothing else away listen to what he says @2:50. 

There is so much to see and learn in everyone of your videos. This one is no exception to that rule! They are a fantastic insight on working methods, lighting, makup post prod, the whole 360° workflow. I think I learn as much through them than I did in photographic school! Many thanks.

"initial work of toning and cleaning already done"  That's the part i really wanted to see!!

what did he exactly do when he said diffusing the skin 60%. Is it a blur or a mix of two or more filters???? please explain

Great work and lovely final output.
Just FYI, actually the beauty dish is a Mola 33" Euro, not a Mola 28" Setti. 

Imagine having this guy critique your work! 

For someone specializing in beauty he does some really bad retouching, the amount of blur that he does is unacceptable to most clients.