Many months ago I got an email from a makeup artist who is a friend of a friend of mine. I’d like to introduce you to the work of the very talented Fawn Monique. She travels the world doing makeup on movie sets, fashion shows, teaching and generally just being an awesome creative. (And to think that she lives and has her studio here in small town PA.) She was entering the very prestigious NAHA contest. The North American Hairstylist Awards (NAHA) is the Oscars or Emmys of the fashion world. She was looking for a local photographer to work with for her entry. I told her that I had never done anything like this before, but I was happy and excited to give it a try.

Let me tell you… I gained a whole new respect for this creative field. Before this, I never really understood why people put out such outlandish hair and makeup styles. I used to think something like, “Do they really expect that normal people are going to dress this way?” This day changed all that for me.

What do you get when you take a happy and fearless model and a talented artist and put them together? You get a human canvas for creative self-expression and living art.

Behind the Scenes



For the main lighting I had my two soft boxes. I kept one light on full power and the other at about 1/3 power to add some fill from the side. I didn’t always use the fill light though in moments when I thought the shadows working for us.

This was the first time I ever really got to experiment with light. I was using an off-camera flash and colored gels to add some accent colors to the photos. I wanted to aim the light into a very small spot flash rather than a broad flash. Zooming the flash itself wasn’t tight enough so I created an improvised snoot┬áto direct the light. I used a piece of cardboard which I rolled into a tube about 10 inches long, taped it onto the front of my speedlight and taped a colored gel over the other end. This created a very nice spot light effect which we all felt complimented the already colorful styles. Most of the time I kept the light focused at about a 45 degree angle from behind the model which mostly created colored highlights. We also experimented a little with pointing the flash from the front. You can see the results below.


I was shooting tethered to my macbook so we could all see the images as they were coming out of the camera. For most of the shoot I was using an 85mm lens. A few times I switched to a 28-135 for the longer focal length, but I liked the results better from the 85. For the BTS shots, I used my 35mm.


Since I was shooting tethered and Fawn could see the images immediately, I let her do most of the directing with the model. We only needed head shots for the contest entry so that simplified the directing even more.


For the BTS shots I used my usual go-to preset from VSCO film. Kodak Gold 100 Cool – and then adjusted as needed. Especially in this case I like this preset because it cools the shadows and warms the highlights creating a contrast of color which I feel compliments what we’re trying to do here. Usually though I do find that this preset needs to have the orange pulled down a bit.

For the 3 official entry images (Bottom of this post) I started out by choosing a VSCO custom camera profile for a good starting point and then it was all custom from there. I did the bulk of the processing in Lightroom and then switched to photoshop for the skin retouching. The model had some shoulder tattoos and ear piercings which Fawn did her best to hide with the makeup. Fortunately she made my job easier that way, but it still took a long time to fix spots like her earlobes which have LOTS of piercings.

The Result

Sadly, we didn’t win the contest, but it was a great experience and we created images that I’m proud of. Check out Fawn’s portfolio and more of her work on IG @fawnbeauty & @fawnmonique.

Please drop a comment at the bottom and let us know your thoughts.

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