boudoir photography and the 50mm lens
With shooting space often times so tight for boudoir photo sessions, there is the temptation to use a 50mm lens for tighter headshots on a full-frame D-SLR. Instead of stepping back a bit and using an 85mm lens or longer, a bit of visual laziness comes into play, and we rely on the 50mm lens too much. It really is too short a focal length for a tight portrait. I think many photographers are even too in love with their 50mm lenses, and use it without thought of how this would distort someone’s face when used too close to their subjects.
I totally understand the need for compromise. Quite often the angle we need to shoot from, dictates a shorter-than-ideal focal length – whether because of the shape of the room, or the direction of the light. This still doesn’t make the 50mm a good lens to shoot tight portraits with. A longer focal length would still give you more flattering results.
The example photographs in this article are by Petra Herrmann, Kansas City boudoir photographer. Petra also maintains the Business of Boudoir, website which has a lot of useful info for boudoir photographers.
She used a 50mm lens for these images, but kept to half-length as the closest distance to photograph her subject. The 50mm really is more of an environmental portrait type lens, rather than a tight portrait lens.
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using a small softbox for lighting an intimate / boudoir photo session
With intimate photo sessions, I use a number ways of lighting my subject. This helps to bring some variety to the images. It helps mixing things up a bit by not using just one specific way to light the session.
While I sometimes use a softbox, the medium sized softboxes (or the 24″ x 24″ softboxes) are just a little too big to swing around in a small room. With a recent on-location photo session in New York, I used the Lastolite 8.6″ Ezybox (B&H) a few times. I took it along on that photo session because it is so compact.
So when I arranged with a model, Carly Erin, to do another photo session, I instantly thought of taking this smaller softbox along. With the previous intimate photo session with Carly, I used bounce flash and tungsten light (the Lowel ID-light). But this time I decided to predominantly use this new small softbox. And I really liked the results …
(before clicking on the ‘more’ link,
be aware that the rest of this post has images with some nudity.)
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lighting for boudoir photo sessions
The one type of photo session where I work the most at getting my lighting just right, is with a boudoir session. These intimate photo sessions can be quite a challenge since you have to get a variety of looks in a short time. For this you have to not only concentrate on posing and angles, but also concentrate on the lighting. On top of that, you have to make sure your model or client is comfortable and relaxed at all times. The session has to be fun and really show her off at her best.
I bring a variety of lighting equipment to these shoots – speedlights to be used on camera,
and as a softbox setup. I also favour video lights.
But I keep the equipment portable and compact and easy to set up .. which means that I mostly use available light where I can. By closely looking at the direction of the various light sources in a room, I can position my subject in relation to the light (eg, a window), or simply move the light source if it is a bedside table lamp.
With the light levels fairly low indoors, this necessitates fast optics and high-ISO capable cameras. The style that I prefer is sensual and romantic. Sexy without being overly sexual. With boudoir photography, I feel that a ‘hint’ works better than being more direct. But styles and tastes vary of course.
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