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How to shoot and light older ladies

Hi All
Not a real problem but help please.  From time to time I have to take head shots for local theatre companies.  The photos appear the the foyer and therefore I want to make the actors look good, well as good as I can!  The problem, if it is problem, I would like to solve is taking photos of older ladies.  I am never sure how to set up the speedlites to show them at there best.  Men I think are a lot easier as a wrinkles or age lines on a man seem to give them character, whereas women well you know what I mean! Someone must have a setup that shows women in the best light. attached is how close I prefer to display the image, generally in black and white not colour.

Cheers Shelly


  • TrevTrev Moderator
    edited January 2016


    One of the things you can do is make sure the light is not 'raking' across the surface of female faces, as that will deepen shadows/pores with any 'age lines' showing up.

    Your image above has been mainly 'broad lit' with the light coming from camera right and slightly back/behind her which deepens the shadows in the cheek lines and those shadows and pores show up a lot more with angled light.

    As you stated it works great on, shall we say, 'seasoned' men. :)

    I would light up more from the front, eg: the main light on camera right just needs to be brought forward more in front of her face instead of back/behind her.

    Obviously you cannot eliminate all the lines showing up in mature ladies, but it will most certainly help.

    Also, you can get Imagenomic's Portraiture Plug-In which is a great skin smoother/softener without it going crazy. I did a small test on this image and it did a good job. Not cheap though, $199, when I bought it a good while ago, it was like $89.


  • I found an older article here along the same lines which may be helpful - "butterfly lighting" with the main light above the camera and a reflector below the camera providing fill:

    On post-processing, to my eye the original photo looks over-sharpened. I would recommend a gentle touch when it comes to sharpness, clarity, and contrast settings for portraits like this. Sometimes in Lightroom, I will apply a brush to the face area (avoiding hair and eyes) and bring down the sharpness and clarity in a way which doesn't look unnatural, but does soften the skin.

    Another thought: You shot this at 55mm at f/4.5. Depending on the kind of portrait being taken, a possibility is to naturally reduce the depth of field when you are shooting by using larger apertures and/or a more telephoto lens (if you have other lens choices available). That could help naturally soften things.
  • Hi Shelly, you can also try something which seems to be disappearing with the advent of software skin smoothing plug-ins. Apart from lighting, you can use a "soft focus filter" which does a good job in-camera to soften the wrinkles. I have a B&W SF filter and works well. I got is at B&H, see here: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/search?Ntt=B&W+soft+focus+filter&N=0&InitialSearch=yes&sts=ma&Top+Nav-Search=
  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    Definitely make the light source(s) as large as possible, and shoot fairly straight-on with the light. All this will give you relatively flat lighting, which will help minimize wrinkles. 

    As Treven mentioned, avoid "raking the light across their face". 
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