Lighting tips: Smoky eyes

This was a beauty shot for a retro magazine series. Since it required smoke (luckily the model is a heavy smoker), I utilized a hefty side and side back light.

Smokey eyes, Neil Snape
Photographer: Neil Snape

This original shot (below) was done with more or less the same lights but they were placed quite differently. The setup was for less contrast and you can see the reflection of the light setup in her eyes.

Smokey eyes (original setup), Neil Snape
Photographer: Neil Snape

The main light I used was an Octa close, and it was high and feathered for short light. It is positioned above her head pointing down and towards the camera. There is a black cardboard strip on the edge closest to the model to stop her from being overexposed and to avoid spill onto the background.

There is a normal bowl on a lamp pointed into the wall behind me, which is the easiest way to make a fill without cross shadows, at around the same height as the main light. It’s important not to kill volume with reflectors placed too low.

There is silver card below in this example (removed for the smoke picture) and there is an all important black card cutting the light to her cheek on the bright side.

Smokey eyes (final setup), Neil Snape
Photographer: Neil Snape

I would have preferred the light to be higher but it can’t be for her eyes. I could have had her leaning forward, which would have kept the eyes the same, but it would have left the neck in shade.

Neil Snape

Neil Snape

Neil Snape is a professional photographer based in Paris, France. He specializes in beauty imagery, and his work has been featured in numerous publications, including Marie Claire, Biba and Jalouse. He also does commercial work for L’Oreal, Cartier, Lanvin Paris, LVMH and Sonia Rykiel. His website is

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