Capturing details in beauty portrait photography with Kate Whyte and Softlight Kit | Profoto (IN)

Capturing details in beauty portrait photography with Kate Whyte and Softlight Kit

05 May, 2020

Written by: Sofia Sigfridsson

Even as a young girl, the details have always been a fascination for Canadian born beauty photographer Kate Whyte. “I could spend hours on one drawing when my friends had made ten. I love to focus on the details, the features that make a person unique. If I can make someone’s natural features shine, then I know I have created real beauty. And using soft light in different ways makes that possible, which is why the Profoto Softlight Kit is perfect: it’s small, compact and versatile.”

After having worked 9-5 in the corporate world doing design work for several years, Kate decided to enter the world of freelance. A decision she hasn’t regretted since.  

“It’s always scary to leave what’s familiar and secure and step into something unknown. But I did it, and I can honestly say it was the best decision I’ve ever made! Beauty photography really moves me, there’s just something about going down to a micro level that is so interesting to me; seeing the lashes, the texture of the skin, the baby hairs, that’s what I want to show the viewer,” Kate says.

The world needs more beauty

Kate’s clients are a mix of 50/50 percent commercial and portraits. Make-up and jewelry are usually the subject for the commercial ones, and with these types of assignments she works a great deal with reflections and grids to make the products really stand out.

“In every job I do, I aim to create a photo so beautiful it makes the viewer gasp and go ‘wow’! The wow factor is my calling card, my confirmation that I have managed to bring some more beauty to the world, which I think is always welcome,” Kate says.

Kate Whyte’s 3 top tips and tricks for beauty photography:

1. Keep it simple 

“It’s easy to want to make the most of everything: the hair, the lips, the lashes, the gemstone appliqués. However, I encourage you to dial it back. If you want to play up a specific feature, stick to that. Keeping it simple helps give your images a polished and sophisticated look!” 

2. Work with skilled make-up artists

“When you’re looking for a make-up artist, look for someone who has strong ‘no make-up’ looks in their portfolio. I try to find artists who appreciate the natural texture of skin and don’t cover it up with too much foundation. Follow high-end make-up brands on Instagram to know what is on trend.”

3. Work with powerful lights

“Since beauty photography is all about portraying details and to make sure all the details are in focus, it’s important to work with a small aperture so that your depth of field is not too narrow. The Profoto D2 1000 AirTTL allows me to capture crisp details and textures in all their micro glory.”

Models are characters dictated by lighting

When doing beauty shoots and portraits the photographer is dependent on the model to take on different roles and the ability to show emotion through expression.  

“The work I do is theatrical, and the images reflect that. The models become the characters dictated by lighting and styling. For one shoot I may look for someone who can wear latex gloves and slicked back hair, and for another I want soft curls, florals and pastels. The versatility is definitely something I look for in the person I’m shooting,” Kate says. 

Creating drama with soft light

After gathering her team of make-up artists and other creatives, Kate decided that the theme for this shoot would be “beauty in a moody sense.” The model, Amanda, was wearing minimal make-up and like always, Kate wanted to enhance the model’s natural features in the photos.

“A photo gets a little more interesting when there is some drama, something that catches the eye of the viewer. And the Softlight Kit provides all the tools necessary to do this. In this shoot, I placed the Profoto D2 really close to the model with high power, and then I used a reflector to even out the light and the diffuser that gives me soft shadows and highlights – perfect for showcasing the natural make-up on Amanda,” Kate says.

The best light for beauty photography

In this shoot Kate uses the Profoto D2 1000 AirTTL because of the power it provides.

“For this image below, I used the Softlight Reflector on its own with no diffuser or grid. I wanted to show off the dewy skin and bright lip by highlighting them with a slightly harder, less diffused light source,” Kate says.

“For the last shot below, I used the Profoto Softlight Reflector with the grid attached at an angle to my right - I really wanted to showcase the sharp, graphic eyeliner and her strong profile with the low bun and the tulle,” Kate says.

Creating magic with light

“My inspiration has always been people working as creatives, there’s an energy, a passion there that I find so fantastic. And to be part of a team, working together to create magic, is so fulfilling. I feel very happy to call myself a creative and to be able to work with what I love: beauty photography by focusing on the details. And to be able to do that, I need good light and to trust my gear. I know I can rely on Profoto strobes to deliver. Always.”

The advantage of a portable toolkit

Kate works in various places, sometimes needing to shoot at more than one place for one assignment.

“It’s really been quite impossible to easily move from one location to another with all the products I need – until now. The new Softlight Kit enables me to be more flexible when it comes to locations and I know I will have everything I need with me. With the included Softlight Reflector Case, I don’t have to worry about any damage during transport. I will definitely use it going forward,” Kate says.

This is Kate Whyte:

Background: Graphic designer/Illustrator before entering the world of photography
Type of photography: Beauty/fashion/portraits
Hometown: Victoria, BC, Canada
Goal with every photo: To challenge myself and evoke a wow factor with the viewer!
Favorite light: The Profoto D2 1000 AirTTL

Written by: Sofia Sigfridsson

Products used in this story

Air Remote TTL

Wirelessly connects your AirTTL light with your camera
New

Softlight Kit

Our classic beauty dish