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How to Shoot and Retouch a Dynamic Cosmetics Ad in Photoshop

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Highly stylized looks offer a great learning opportunity to the beginner or intermediate product photographer. When items are placed on a composite-heavy background, there are certain considerations we can make in-camera to avoid a headache in Photoshop.

Since we are using speedlights, we’ve used adapters to make them fit inside stripboxes, which are great modifiers for controlling the light to flatter our cosmetic. By placing our stripbox behind the subject at a 45-degree angle, we can add a nice edge light which will make our product stand out on the dark composited background.

By setting this light up while other lights are off, we can get a strong read on how the edge light is positioned. We can also avoid flare, by getting a pure look at the contrast present in the black background. Here we adjusted the angle of our light a couple times before we achieved this stark level of contrast while cutting the edge out nicely.

Since our product cap is glossy, it will reflect our lighting directly. This incentivizes the use of a diffuser, which, in combination with a stripbox, will give us a larger area to reflect light onto the cap. By placing the stripbox such that it is almost perpendicular to the diffusion panel, we can create a gradient going from the inside to the outside of the cap. We turned our edge light off while we made these adjustments.

The gradient gives an edgy look to the product, while flattering the matte & glossy materials, and sufficiently lighting the brand name and text.

Now we can turn our edge light back on, and we will see right away a fashionable look emerge with just two speedlights. Of course, any type of lighting can be used here, as long as you can modify it properly. The strip boxes helped a great deal in crafting this look with precision.

Reflective frames can give you good data to incorporate in post-production, and it only takes a quick second to hold a piece of paper or card, to bounce some fill back in the subjects darker right side. Even if you don’t use all of this data, it takes a moment to capture and would be a huge headache to “fake” in Photoshop.

Mounting our product on a wire, allows us to diligently tweak the lighting, making our compositing work very straightforward. Shooting the accompanying applicator is as simple as cleaning it off and placing it similarly in the boldly lit environment.

By ensuring our products are sufficiently lit and carved off the backdrop nicely with an edge light, we create an easy time in Photoshop. The high level of contrast makes the items easy to select out, while the bright edges ensure the product will sit confidently on a low-key composited backdrop. We used pixels here as a background element, though this is just one small application of an array of looks that will now be at your fingertips.


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About the author: Dustin Dolby is a commercial photographer and speedlight enthusiast. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. Dolby teaches photography through his YouTube Channel, workphlo, where he breaks down studio setups using minimal gear and retouching techniques.

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