Why you should get to know “Clamshell” lighting

When I started shooting in the studio, I had a garage, one light and one reflector. I call this the poor photographer’s studio. Honestly, most of us start this way. You’d be surprised how many looks you can get with this simple setup. One configuration you can do is called “clamshell lighting.”

What is clamshell and why do you need to know about it?

First, it is easy to do. Put your light source close to the model, directly in front and slightly above, tilted down. Now set a reflector directly below, at about the waist or chest level of your model. And that’s it! Of course you need to adjust the tilt or the height of your light source depending on how diffused you want your light (or maybe you want to deepen the direction of your shadows?), or move your reflector’s height depending on how soft you want the reflected light –  but as you can see, it’s a pretty straightforward set up.

Second, because it lifts the shadows, you do get this beautiful glowing light. 

You’ll see this light in a lot of fashion and beauty campaigns. Just look at the catchlights in the models’ eyes.

Here’s an example from a recent shoot (which was recently featured in the Mola blog) where I used one Einstein head in a Mola Demi beauty dish and one reflector. The beauty dish was about two feet in front of the model.



Photographer | Makeup and Hair: Kris Fulk

Model: Annie Bray

Retoucher: Siyana Kasabova

Once you’ve mastered the one light +  one reflector technique, take out the reflector and use another light! Get creative! Maybe even play with gels or golden reflectors. If you get stuck, there are plenty of inspirations.

But if you’re like me, once you start looking at catchlights, it will totally change the way you read magazines or browse Pinterest. I think it makes it more fun.