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HOW IT WAS LIT: Paul Mitchell Haircolor Campaign


Today on HOW IT WAS LIT, I talk about the first shoot I ever did for Paul Mitchell, a hair color campaign for the 2006 holiday season. Paul Mitchell usually does tones of red for the holiday, and I love shooting red hair because of its vibrance and boldness. There are two main considerations when shooting hair – color and texture. This particular campaign focused on creating blunt cuts and sleek styles. I therefore  wanted to light the hair to showcase richness in color, shape, and sleekness. Highlight placement then became a priority.

To really let the red tones stand out and give that holiday feel, we chose to shoot against black. I wanted to use a large light source that didn’t sacrifice contrast and punch, so I went with an Elinchrom Octabank for the key. To give me some separation between the hair and the background, I rim lit the model using three soft boxes; two off to the side and one above her head. All three were positioned behind the model slightly aimed towards camera. Using soft boxes to rim light created beautiful soft highlights that gave the right amount of separation without overpowering the image. Anytime you are backlighting with strobes and want to eliminate flare or haze, you have to flag the light sources facing the lens.

Obviously the objects in the above diagram are not to scale, but it should give you an idea as to lighting placement. From the background to the foreground we have:

  • 3 softboxes/stripboxes for rimlighting purposes; measuring 1/2 to a full stop below the key
  • model
  • flags/gobos for flagging/blocking off the rim lights from the lens
  • camera
  • Elinchrom Octabank, not to be confused with any other octagonal-shaped soft box as there is a big difference.


I hope you’ve enjoyed this installment of HOW IT WAS LIT. Learn my approach to lighting first hand at the upcoming workshop in DC.




  • Ruben Vasquez

    Whats the difference between an Elinchrom Octabank and other octabanks? Or were you just being silly?

    • Sean Armenta

      there’s a huge difference between an elinchrom octabank and an octagonal softbox such as a photodome or even an elinchrom rotalux. the octabank is an indirect lighting modifier, much like a silver umbrella, where the light head fires into the modifier, rather than straight out of the modifier like a softbox.

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