NJ boudoir photographer

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 Hermann, Kansas City boudoir photographer.
(Also check out Petra’s workshops on boudoir photography.)

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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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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lighting a boudoir photo session – Carla Starla

We want it to look Fashion-y and Retro. And a little glamorous.” “But I don’t want it to be like a bridal hairdo!” No wonder the hair-dresser was confused by these vague instructions from myself and the model, Carla. The hair-dresser really looked like she was under pressure, wondering if she’d be able to come up with something fabulous enough to be all of that. Fashion-y and Retro and Glamorous.

Carla is a friend (and previous bride), and we’ve been trying to get it together for a photo session for a few years now. But life, work and conflicting schedules kept interfering. But this weekend it all came together – even down to the hair styling which looks fabulous.

The look we wanted with this boudoir photo session, was that the images should have a retro feel to then. With that in mind, we had her hair styled in a complementary way, even if we didn’t have a clear description of that. The post-processing of the photos were also done with that in mind, consistent with the theme.

I’d like to show two of the final images from this photo session, along with the lighting setup.

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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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style in photography – intimate / boudoir photo sessions

I did a recent photo shoot with a model, Carly Erin, to expand my boudoir portfolio.

Sometimes you get to work in large spacious rooms or studios.  Sometimes you work in smaller more intimate locations.  When you work in a tighter, more intimate setting, the choice to include the surroundings or not will greatly affect how you shoot.  I made the decision that I didn’t want the location to be identifiable and this affected how I shot …

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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.  I find these intimate photo sessions quite a challenge.  I have to get a variety of looks in a short time.  For this I have to not only concentrate on posing and angles but also concentrate on the lighting.  On top of that, I have to make sure my 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.

An example of where I used the soft light coming through the window as the main light source.  I didn’t add any light to this.  The window light was soft, and it was the dominant light source from this viewpoint.  Easy to use.  Now I could concentrate on directing the flow of her movement.

1/30 @ f2.8 @ 1600 ISO
Nikon D3;
Nikon 24-70mm f2.8 AF-S (B&H)

The image above was shot ‘with’ the direction of light, giving even light on her.  It is also good to break it up a bit and shoot ‘against’ a light source, or at an angle to a main light source …

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