Olena

boudoir photography: couples boudoir photo session – gesture and connection

With portraits of a couple, the way they connect with each other is often the main factor whether the image is compelling. It could be through gesture and touch. The gesture might even be subtle – if a couple snuggles in, they don’t have to look at each other – it’s entirely possible to give that sense of connectedness, even with a downward glance. As long a it looks like they are concentrating on each other or responding to each other, it works.

With the image at the top, Olena and Austin are directly looking at each other, hands intertwined and legs touching. Connection clearly there.

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finding interesting available light & white balance options

It’s always a feel-good moment to discover interesting available light while out on a photo shoot. Something unusual to add a new flavor to a different sequence of images.

While photographing a model with Tilo Gockel and Mike Silberreis (both from Germany on a visit to NYC), we started off with off-camera flash to help with the strong sunlight. (You might remember Tilo from a recent guest article on product photography on a budget.)

Then, while positioning Olena, I saw part of her dress had a patch of bright light on it. Turning around to see where this came from – I expected sun flare from nearby building window – I saw that it was actually the sun reflecting off a traffic sign right next to us. The light that was reflecting off this traffic sign was pretty hard, but had an interesting specularity, yet appeared flattering. So we shot an entire long sequence here, ditching the off-camera flash.

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lighting a vintage styled boudoir photo session, using LED fresnel lights

Working with the ever-delightful Olena in my studio, we went for a mix of outfits and looks. We started off the photo session with straight-forward headshots, but then when Olena showed me this outfit, it just begged for something with a more vintage feel in lighting. So, drawing on the classic Hollywood glamor lighting for inspiration, I used the Litepanels Sola 4 LED Fresnel Lights to create that dramatic light on her, and on the background.

I’ve used the same lights before for Hollywood Glamor style portraits, and loved the effect. The lights, being a smaller light source than a softbox, need more careful placement, and more careful posing. So using lights like these, need to be more controlled. The end result though retains that air of mystery and that certain allure than boudoir photography needs to exude.

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exposure metering for a backlit subject, using the histogram  (model – Olena)

When our subject is backlit, we have a number of options:

  • expose for the background, and then either:
    – go for a (semi) silhouette,
    – add light to your subject to balance their exposure with that of the background.
  • expose carefully for our subject, and let the background blow out. This is the “ambient-light-only” option.
  • anything somewhere inbetween those two choices, where *we* decide how we want to balance the exposure between our subject and background.

Exposing for our subject, very often gives us this kind of ethereal look as the strong light from the background causes internal lens flare.

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finessing photographic composition – and using off-camera flash vs. available light

With this background, I liked the way the dots were repeated in Olena‘s dress in reverse – white dots on black, instead of black dots / holds on silver. I liked the repetition, and decided to work with the composition of this photograph a bit.  For the final sequence of images – of which the image at the top is one – I asked Olena to really exaggerate the curve of her body to create an S-shaped, which in turn contrasted boldly with the rigid pattern of the background.

This article’s original title was going to be:  Off-camera flash vs the snobbery of “available light is always better”. When you look at the available light photo of Olena, you’ll see that the available light was pretty sweet – soft and flattering. But it lacked punch. It needed just that little bit of drama to it. The available light shot just looked a touch too bland. Off-camera lighting to the rescue!

I had the flash in a soft box to create flattering, yet dynamic light on her. I wanted her shadow to be more defined and become part of the composition, but that would’ve meant a harder light source. Holding the Lastolite EZYBOX 24×24″ softbox (vendor) fairly close to her was the compromise. This way her shadow added a subtle element to the composition.

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lingerie photo session with studio flash – model: Olena

During this same photo session with Olena - the first in my new photography studio space - we also worked with just the studio flashes. Actually, this part of the photo session was first. An easy setup just to get things rolling.

We used two lights here – the main light was a Profoto D1 head in the massive Westcott 7′ Parabolic Umbrella (vendor). It’s an easy light modifier to use, since it gives a wrap-around light that is very forgiving. Forgiving to how the photographer places the light, and also forgiving to the subject – not that Olena really needed that!

The background light was another Profoto D1 head with a Profoto 7″ reflector (vendor) and a Profoto Honeycomb Grid – 10 Degrees (vendor).

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lingerie photo session: video light & studio flash – model: Olena

With my new studio space pretty much ready, I’ve been itching to actually use the studio with a photo session there. Olena is a model that I’ve worked with once before during an individual photography workshop in New York, and I was really impressed with her, but we never quite got the opportunity to do further photo sessions. So this was a good opportunity to shoot in my new studio, and re-acquaint with a wonderful model. (Here is Olena’s model mayhem portfolio.)

We shot several outfits, using different lighting setups. This one is interesting because of the simplicity of the setup – using a 1×4′ softbox to control the light, and a Lowel ID-Light (vendor) as a back-light to give that warm glow to her hair. It really helped enhance the intimate feel of the sequence of photographs.

Here is the pull-back shot that will show how the lights were placed.

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photography: how good / sharp do your lenses need to be?

Olena, who I photographed during a recent individual workshop in New York.

camera settings:  1/320 @ f/3.5 @ 800 ISO  (available light)

I was trying out the new Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 VC (B&H) for the images I shot during this workshop. (It comes in a Canon version too.)  It appears to be a fantastic lens. Build quality is good. The feel of it is good. The zoom ring has a nice throw. And it features stabilization! Nice touch.

However, shooting other images at wide open aperture, I wasn’t sure I was happy with the edge performance. Zooming in on the image on the back of the Nikon D4, I felt my Nikon was sharper.

So I decided to do a few comparison test shots between the Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 (B&H) and the Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 VC (B&H) that I had for review purposes, as well as my trusted Nikon 24-70mm f2.8G (B&H)

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