Viewing Boudoir Photography

Finding Your Style in Glamour Photography

Sunday, January 1st, 2017

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Finding Your Style in Glamour Photography with Craig LaMere

 

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When you hear the term family photos, you know what family photos are; when you hear the term business headshot, you know what a business headshot is; and when you hear the term newborn pictures, you know exactly what that is. Two genres that are harder to pin down because they are always evolving are boudoir and glamour. This month, we look at my idea of glamour photography and some of the ways I shoot it.

 

Glamour to Me

 

When I was growing up in the 1980s, glamour meant denim jackets with raised collars, lots of makeup and hair teased to the moon with a gallon of hairspray. Nowadays, I look at glamour as a hybrid of boudoir and fashion. Some say glamour is more of what you would see in Maxim or Playboy, but that is not the definition I have adopted. Glamour has the sexiness associated with boudoir and the clothes associated with fashion. The two meet in the middle to create something unique.

 

I know a lot of women who feel confident in who they are, who embrace their age, who are proud of their position in life and who are comfortable with their sexuality. They want beautiful images of themselves, but do not want the stylizing that goes into a fashion shoot. They don’t want to be half naked, like in a boudoir shoot. For these clients, our version of glamour is the perfect genre. Glamour in my studio is all about making our clients feel sexy, beautiful and awesome by combining killer hair and makeup with dresses, gowns and lighting—but in a more conservative atmosphere than that of our fashion and boudoir sessions.

 

Hair and Makeup

 

For our glamour line, hair and makeup is one of the most important components to creating killer images. It sets the mood. One of the most powerful parts of boudoir for most clients is when they come into the studio as their regular self and, in a few hours, they are a whole new them.

 

This is the same for our glamour clients. They come into the studio clean-faced, no makeup, hair in a ponytail. Then they sit in the chair, and my badass stylist goes to work on her. We turn them into supermodels. They love it.

 

All woman want to feel pretty and special. That’s what we give them. Our clients are well taken care of. For many, this is their first time doing a session like this, so they are a little nervous. But this is also an opportunity for them to relax and let their nerves settle.

 

The actual hair and makeup is pretty standard: smoky eyes, big curl and, at some point in the shoot, we do an updo.

 

Clothing

 

We do a presession consult to gather the important information about our client. We find out hair type, skin type, body type and their overall comfort level for the shoot. We also start planning their wardrobe.

 

Wardrobe is where the hybrid nature of our glamour product starts to show. Most of our clients want to be sexy and show some cleavage and some leg, but they do not want to show off all the goods. Clients bring different dresses, mostly evening gowns.

 

I tell my clients that the clothes themselves, while important, are not the most important part of choosing wardrobe. The most important part is to make sure they can be 100 percent comfortable. Your client could show up with the greatest dress on earth, but if she does not feel good in it, you will get just okay images because her mind will be on everything but the shoot and she will never relax enough to kick ass.

 

Lighting and Backgrounds

 

My glamour product is more portrait-based than fashion or boudoir. So, even though my clients have great wardrobe, I’m focusing more on them than their clothes. For that reason, I also use very simple backgrounds and very soft lighting.

 

For glamour, I use hand-painted muslins. I love their tones and textures. I have about every tone and color of muslin you can imagine. The color of clients’ clothes doesn’t matter because I have a muslin in every tonal range. I like to keep everything in the same tonal range so my client is the focus of the image and is not competing with the drop.

 

Our lighting setups are very simple. We want soft and elegant images, which means big diffused light or directional diffused light. Elegance is about using a light pattern that flatters every body and skin type, which to me is loop light. To create the loop pattern, place your light at a height so that the middle of your box is above and 45 degrees down on your client. Then all you have to do is bring the light around till you see a little loop shadow on the side of the nose and light in both eyes. If you want a little more drama, pull the light back around until the shadow on the nose extends and connects with the cheek, which is a Rembrandt pattern.

 

I use constant florescent lights in a 3×4 box. The light from the constants is so buttery soft and forgiving that you can’t take a bad image. If you do not have constant florescent lights, use a large softbox—a 4×6 or a 52-inch octa—to get very pretty, soft light.

 

If you want more directional light, use a strip with your constant lights; the light source is so diffused that it does not become specular in the smaller box. This is one of the only times I do not use a grid with my strip. If you want more directional light with your strobe, use a small box, maybe a 2×3, but be very carful using a strobe with a strip; a strobe is too specular, making your light way too hard.

 

Though glamour has many definitions, my version works for my studio and my clients.

 

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Creating the Boudoir Experience

Sunday, January 1st, 2017

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Creating the Boudoir Experience with Amber Jones

 

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I remember my first boudoir client. I had previously photographed her wedding, and she wanted to do a shoot for her husband as an anniversary gift. My studio was awkwardly laid out, and it had almost no natural window light, but I did my best to create beautiful images.

 

From that session on, I wanted to continue with boudoir photography. I knew I needed to make some big changes to create the experience I wanted for my clients, an experience that starts before I ever take a picture.

 

The Preshoot Consultation

 

I ask all potential clients to come into my studio for a meeting. It lasts about 30 minutes, and sets the tone and expectation for the rest of our time together.

 

When someone inquires about a boudoir session, I send a template email message that includes the session fee along with product starting prices.

 

This first contact does a couple of things. It helps weed out those people who aren’t really interested, and also lets a potential client decide if we’re compatible on price. I mention in my message that I have more examples to show in my studio, as most of my clients don’t want their images online. It’s extra encouragement to set up an in-person meeting, which then becomes the preshoot consultation.

 

We talk about why they want to do the session—is this a gift for a fiancé or husband, a personal project or a celebration of reaching a fitness goal? My clients come to their boudoir sessions from many different places in life, and the more I learn about them, the better I can tailor the experience to them.

 

One of the most striking differences from client to client is the woman’s comfort and confidence about her body. Each woman comes to this process with her own insecurities, related to age, a specific body part or simply the fact that she doesn’t stand in front of a camera every day.

 

With every consultation, I learn more about identifying and minimizing those anxieties, while also discovering what she considers her best asset.

 

Women come to my studio with the goal of giving a beautiful gift at the end of the process, but they leave saying they have renewed self-confidence and appreciation for their body.

 

Creating that experience begins with this conversation.

 

She’s a Teacher, Not a Model

 

What I didn’t fully appreciate about my first boudoir client is how foreign this process is to the normal person. Imagining yourself during a glamorous photo shoot is a lot different than getting in front of a camera in your lingerie.

 

Putting them at ease starts at the preshoot consultation, where we talk about the items they already own and any non-lingerie pieces their significant other might enjoy (button-down shirt, tie, sports jersey).

 

There is no model release clause in my contract, since 80 percent of my clients are teachers, lawyers and other professionals who don’t want their images shared. Building that trust is a lot more important than building a large online gallery.

 

Once the contract is signed, they register for a series of automated emails with more information to help them prepare. The emails cover topics like the different types of stockings to buy, how to purchase the right size and “Don’t forget to shave!”

 

Women arrive with all sorts of preconceptions. Put those aside to make them feel more comfortable. This isn’t the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. There’s no right or wrong here; it’s about finding clothing and poses that make them feel beautiful and confident.

 

Those automated emails save me time, both before the session and during editing. They also give the client confidence. Having their questions answered before they ask (or knowing that someone else had the same question) allows them to relax and enjoy the experience.

 

In the Studio: Hair & Makeup

 

Once my client steps into my studio, it’s all about her. It’s about creating the experience she’s always imagined, and that means focusing on her without distractions from email or phone calls.

 

Even the most outgoing client can get nervous on the day of her session. As much as we’ve done to prepare, she’s still likely on unfamiliar ground, and I want to make sure she doesn’t feel that it’s her responsibility to make this session successful.

 

We start with hair and makeup on site. I offer her champagne, which can help ease nerves, and it’s also a fancy touch that adds to the “supermodel” experience.

 

I take photos and video of the hair and makeup process while we talk to diffuse any stress and warm her up. When we get to the post-session viewing, these are wonderful images to include in the slideshow along with those from the shoot itself.

 

Once hair and makeup is finished, I ask my client to look at her transformation in a full-length mirror. I’m fortunate to work with some talented hair and makeup artists, and clients are consistently blown away by what they see.

 

The confidence and joy this moment creates is one of the biggest discoveries I’ve made working with a wide range of women. The right hair and makeup artists have just as much impact on your clients’ experience as you do, but it’s critical that they’re working to create the same atmosphere of comfort and confidence that I am. (Ever since I had a makeup artist explain to a client the best way to ensure getting pregnant, I’ve had a conversation with every hair and makeup artist about my expectations of professionalism and appropriate conversation.)

 

In the Studio: Creating Images

 

Everything up to this point, from consultation to email to makeup, has been done to prepare my client to enjoy her hour and a half in front of the camera. I’m amazed by how many women arrive for their consultation unsure whether they can do this, only to end up loving the process from start to finish.

 

Walk them through the poses, keep the conversation going and maintain a positive atmosphere. If she’s having a hard time with a pose, move on to a new one or get into the pose yourself.

 

With every session, I appreciate the risk I’m asking my clients to take. It’s the risk that comes with doing something for the first time and having someone capture it on camera. I reward that bravery throughout the session, both with verbal encouragement and by showing them photos from the back of the camera. There’s no substitute for their seeing how wonderful they look with their own eyes.

 

The In-Person Viewing

 

It took me a couple of sessions to realize that an in-person viewing was a critical final piece of my boudoir product.

 

I spend weeks shaping a specific experience for my clients. If I sent them a link to an online gallery, I would lose the chance to create the best possible sales environment.

 

I love the connection I have with each client, and my enthusiasm about their images plays a big role in the way they see themselves. By the time we reach the viewing, I’ve sung the praises of an album at both the consultation and the photo session—“This white-sheet series will be amazing as a full-page spread in your album!”—so concluding their boudoir experience with an album seems only natural.

 

Since that first boudoir session, I’ve learned that I’m selling an experience—an experience that I continue to refine with every client.

 

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Glamour Photography 101

Sunday, January 1st, 2017

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Glamour Photography 101 with Nino Batista

 

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There has always been disagreement on the definition of glamour photography. While art is subjective, the modern-day definition that’s most embraced goes something like this: The focus of glamour is on the model, the subject, with a strong sensual tone and aesthetic.

 

Basically, glamour is about beauty, style, strength, sex, allure and energy. Glamour images are designed to elicit a response, whether positive or critical. They create a sense of unfiltered fantasy. As I try to remind everyone I teach, glamour is not necessary, as it were, but then most art never is.

 

So how do you go about creating glamour images? It would seem simple enough. Find a beautiful subject, have her look all sexy into the lens, and snap away…right?

 

If only. In fact, there are few genres of portraiture with worse amateur images than glamour. Nothing in portrait photography is more cringeworthy than a tasteless, poorly executed (and often crass) glamour photo. Sadly, you see it all the time. The appeal for (mostly male) photographers to photograph beautiful models in various states of undress is strong, which sustains the ever-present inundation of wannabes and GWCs (“guys with cameras”) in the genre. So while the genre is filled with plenty of click-happy shooters, the vast majority do more to hurt the reputation of glamour than help it. Meanwhile, the rest of us have to suffer the stigma while trying to make a legitimate go at a career in it.

 

Creating glamour images requires, first and foremost, one’s tongue planted firmly in cheek. Do not take yourself so seriously that you forget glamour is supposed to be exciting, fun and arousing (I’m generalizing, but stay with me here). You’re trying to create scintillating, sexualized images, and you need to be honest with yourself about that right up front.

 

Next, realize that the vast majority of your subjects are going to be female (there are exceptions to this, of course).

 

Finally, understand and defend the idea that glamour is not pornography. Alluring, yes. Arousing perhaps, yes. NSFW, often. But definitely not porn. It may not be for everyone, but it is not simply wanton pornography.

 

Pure, unadulterated glamour depicts exactly what people love (or hate) about the genre: beauty and sexuality. (Note I didn’t say “skin” or “nudity,” as those are styles and aesthetics that, while common in glamour, aren’t required.)

 

And before you or anyone else protests, it’s fair to say that glamour has a certain amount of redundancy from shot to shot, artist to artist, theme to theme, ad infinitum. The same can be said of pretty much any genre. The stigma that comes with being a glamour photographer (“You just like to see pretty girls half naked!”) is unique as genre or art criticism goes. A landscape photographer never hears, “You just like to see beautiful outdoor scenes.”

 

The assumption of negative intent is ever present—and the endless backlog of history depicting men’s incessant obsession, deprecation and debasement of women doesn’t help. Critics of glamour assume the photographer is strictly focused on his own depraved intentions and is using the art form as a thin disguise. Sadly, far too many men in the genre are doing exactly that. The few of us fellas who deal with that industry stain just by association work daily to ensure what we do eclipses that stigma.

 

So where do female glamour photographers belong? A woman who wants to shoot glamour faces fewer barriers of entry. That’s not an issue of fairness, it’s just fact. Just like male models are often regarded as unicorns in the fashion industry, women who shoot glamour have unparalleled access. Their potential storehouse of opportunities is bonkers, especially when they first enter the industry. So, ladies, play that gender card if you go into glamour, and play it loud.

 

Crafting Glamour Images

 

I begin with the same questions every time: “What is my specific vision for the look and vibe of the set? Do I want a softer look, with perhaps natural light and windows, delicate posing and gentle emotional aesthetics? Or am I after intense sexuality and vibrant styling, and maybe some harsh light?” An answer is never, “Just get naked and let’s see what happens.” If you want to produce professional results that, you have to transcend stereotypes and stigmas.

 

Keep in mind as you’re planning your shoot that you’re not shooting fashion, necessarily. Fashion photography is about the wardrobe, accessories and jewelry, hair and makeup. What the model is wearing is equally or more important than who the model is in fashion, and on most commercial fashion shoots, you are never told who the model is to begin with. Glamour is quite the opposite. The priority isn’t fancy labels and the latest signature pieces from XYZ designer.

 

Because the focus is the model, the ideal glamour image should be engaging and have plenty of personality, ranging from candid and cute to intense and aggressive. It should make viewers want to know who the model is, and not challenge the viewer to figure out your intent. A strong glamour image should be immediately striking, evocative, and at times have just enough shock value to cause people to do a double take (but not so much that you lose commercial value).

 

The tease is important. In many ways, the tease is everything. In glamour, you are creating fantasy. It’s delightfully unnecessary and beautiful sexual fantasy, to varying degrees of intensity, of course. Accepting that is vitally important to producing the best glam you can. And let’s be clear here: While full nudity is fairly common in glamour, implied nudity is not only a better tease but also far more commercially viable (and more common). That’s the tease. You want to evoke a fantastical situation, scene or mood that is playfully shocking but also sellable. Pornography is easily sellable, but it also compromises your dignity and industry potential.

 

Wardrobe

 

But what about wardrobe? Are glamour photos resigned to the convention of skin alone, with no regard to sartorial matters? Absolutely not. The right outfit, with the right location, theme and styling, make all the difference. The nude form is fine, and tons can be done with it (and should!), but don’t discount the importance of styling your glamour shoots. Brand names are not that important; be concerned only with how garments look on your sets, even if they were $4.99 at Target.

 

The Face

 

The face is the most underrated and underutilized part of a glamour model. You either get the connection from the model to camera, or you utterly avoid it.

 

In an ideal glamour image, there is instant connection to the subject. The best way to produce that connection is with the face, and specifically the eyes. When dealing with sexuality, this can be your most difficult obstacle. Why? Because sexy is one of the most divisive looks in portraiture. Overly pouty looks can work, but can also be a train wreck.

 

If her body looks amazing but her face is nowhere land, your shot falls short—way short. I have shot lots of flat, unemotional expressions in my day. Sometimes it’s unavoidable, and other times it’s simply the way the day went on set, and you have to accept it. But in a perfect world, even one where perfectly sculpted bikini models on tropical beaches exist in front of your camera, you still manage to produce that connection, that emotional intent. Whatever that may mean for your project depends, of course, on your vision for it.

 

As for the technical aspects of glamour photography—well, that’s a subject for another article.

 

 

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Two-Light Portraits with Craig LaMere

Monday, October 3rd, 2016

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Two-Light Portraits with Craig LaMere

 

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In my previous articles, I’ve talked about how light patterns are the building blocks of what I do and how I create those patterns. With a firm understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of each pattern, you can create any look or mood you want, using them singularly or combining them. I’ve talked about the way different light modifiers work in conjunction with light patterns to create specific looks. This month, I show you how to use the same two-light setup with different light patterns, modifiers and thought processes to create very different images.

 

The two-light setup we are going to use is one light directly overhead on a boom and used as either the main light, the hair/fill light or the main. The other light is down below and is used as the fill or the main, depending on the image. I interchange lights as the main and fill, with different modifiers and thought processes, while keeping the position of the top light pretty much stagnant, and moving the light below more liberally.

 

The Drama Shape Shot

 

One of the principles of portrait shooting is to focus on the eyes. There must be a great catchlight. In the two-light shot we will set up, we will be concerned with capturing a shape, an idea and the mood of your subject. I call this a “shape shot.”

 

This setup is pretty simple. You will need a boom arm to get the main light directly above the subject. The light modifiers I use for the main are either a 7-inch reflector with a grid or a small strip light, around 9×24. I use the 7-inch reflector when I’m shooting a single person, and I use the strip when shooting two people. I have never shot more than two people with this setup.

 

Place the main light directly over your subject. The height of the light determines the spread and coverage of the light. Turn your modeling lamp up all the way so you can see the light better.

 

Once you have your light where you want it, meter it at the highest point to find your exposure. Because the light is direct and pointed, your subject must not move. Add fill to bring back the detail in the shadows. Because of the small light source and the grid, the light will not spread very far; where it does not directly hit, there will not be a lot of spread, so there is a tendency to clip the shadows. This is where artistic taste comes into play. How much or how little you fill in the shadows is totally up to you. In a lot of cases, you would use a reflector placed close to the subject and bounce back the light to add fill.

 

You can’t do that in this case because the light is coming straight down. The best way to add fill is to bring in a second light.

 

The best fill is a very broad and soft light. I use a 4×6 or 3×4, or, when I’m on location, a shoot-through umbrella. When you use the umbrella, remember that the farther away the inside of the umbrella is, the softer the light will be. I place my fill light directly behind and above me so it shoots a butterfly pattern at the subject. Even though is it a fill light, I match the pattern of the main as best I can so they don’t fight each other. Add a little more than what you feel might be right since it is easier later in post to subtract light than it is to try to pull detail out of the shadows later.

 

You have three choices for the look of the image. One is to keep your subject’s head lower. This blackens the eyes and gives your image an ominous shape. If you bring your subject’s head up, you have a choice of patterns. If the light is directly above and you bring the head straight up, you make a butterfly pattern. If you bring the head up and turn the chin to one side, you make loop light. When I shoot a male and female together, I keep one of the subjects’ heads down and bring one to the light, creating great contrast.

 

This two-light setup is best for athletes, fitness competitors and other clients looking for something badass.

 

Full-Body Glam Shot

 

I use almost the same setup for full-length lying-down glam images. The only change is in the main light modifier. Where I used the 7-inch reflector to pinpoint the light on a standing subject, this time I use a 16×60 gridded strip light to spread the light all over a lying subject. When using the strip, it’s key how far to the front or to the back of the subject you put the light. If the light is closer to the front of the subject, there will be less light on the background and more on the subject, and vice versa if the light is moved closer to the back of the subject.

 

The more forward the light is, the more of a butterfly pattern you create. The farther back, the more of a split light pattern you create on the body of your subject. When the light is more to the back, you need more fill from the second light, and you will have less light on your subject’s face. If you want more light on the face from the main, have the subject lift her head more toward the light. This is a very pretty wrapping light. I use this setup in boudoir to show off curves.

 

Soft Portrait/Beauty Shot

 

The two-light setup is the same as the other setup, but the feel, look and philosophy of this shot is the polar opposite of the previous two shots. Where the last shots were hard, edgy and dramatic, this shot is soft, airy and light. In the other two setups, the light on the boom was the main; now, we are going to switch the role of the overhead light.

 

You will still use the same overhead light hung on the same boom. This time, instead of the light being very direct (because you used a 7-inch reflector as the main light), the light will be used as the fill/hair, along with a much larger and softer modifier. Use a 22-inch socked beauty dish or a 3×4 box. The sock softens and spreads the light. I want the dish to work more like an octabox than a beauty dish.

 

The overhead light now has three roles: hair light or separator; fill light; and the kick on the drop. One creative choice you have to make is how far away you place the light from the drop. If you’re closer to the drop, you get a brighter image; farther away, and the darker, more saturated your image will be.

 

The light on the ground is the main light. For this setup, I want the image to have a soft feel, so I use a softer directional modifier, like a strip with the grid taken out. I want the strip because, at a closer distance, it is very directional.

 

With this setup, you can do just about whatever you want with the main, and come out with killer images.

 

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When is Black and White Not So Black and White? with Craig LaMere

Friday, September 2nd, 2016

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When is Black and White Not So Black and White? with Craig LaMere

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the September issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

 

When is black and white not black and white? Answer: Always. A lot of shooters oversimplify the black-and-white imagery they create. Because of this, a lot of black-and-white images are pretty average in quality.

 

When I say “oversimplify,” I guess a better way to put it is a lot of shooters are very lazy in their approach to black and white. Most new shooters think of black-and-white images as nothing more than desaturated color images, which is not the case.

 

For me to create a killer black and white, there are a number of factors I take into consideration that help me create a by-design black and white rather than just desaturating a color image. This month, I show you how to create even better black-and-white images.

 

Most of the time when people are shooting for black-and-white in studio, that is the order they think in: black, then white. That is fine, but there is a better way to think depending on the end result you want. If my final image is going to be predominantly white, then I think in terms of white as the main with black as the secondary. If black is going to be predominant, then I think in terms of black as the main, white as the secondary and the variety of gray tones as the filler on both. When white is the main, I watch out for the highlights since it is easy to let them get away from you and start to blow stuff out. When black is the main, I watch the shadows like mad so I don’t start to clip or, worse, start to blend into the background.

 

White and Black and Not Black and White

 

Let’s say I’m going to shoot an image on one of the white walls in my studio. I have a couple of decisions to make that will affect my image greatly. Some of the decisions are what I consider to be my universal decisions. These universal decisions are ones I make with every image. One way to think of these choices is that they are the main ingredients in a dish: focal length, crop (is the image a full length? half? tight headshot?) and f-stop. Once I have the fundamentals of the image worked out, I begin to think in terms of the final look. If I want a bright white image, there are three shooting options I typically use.

 

High Key

 

My least favorite option—and the most boring one—is to light the wall up and then shoot my subject. This method is traditional high key. You take a couple of lights, one on each side of your background, and try to evenly light the drop, which is a pain in the ass. You have to get the perfect spread of light. The only way I know to get even f-stop across the drop is to meter. You have to meter all over the drop to make sure you do not have hot spots. If you are not a light meter user, this is not good for you at all. Another downside is that you need at least three heads to shoot this way.

 

Using a Softbox as a Drop

 

My next option I have used only for creating silhouettes, and it works really good. For this you need at least a 3×4 softbox; a 4×6 softbox works best. This is super simple and gives you killer results.

 

Put your subject in front of the softbox and shoot. Because your subject is so close to the light source, the light softly wraps and fills in any spaces on your client. You can regulate the amount of detail in your subject by adjusting the f-stop relative to the power of the strobe. To get the best idea of what your final product will look like, turn your camera to mono mode so you are seeing black and white on the back of your camera. Moving to mono lets you see what your highlights are doing.

 

In white and black, you have to watch your highlights. It’s easy to blow stuff out. The most important thing to know when shooting in mono is you have to shoot in Raw. If you shoot in JPEG, your image has no color information. When you shoot in mono and Raw, it displays only in mono. When you open the files later, all the color information will be there. I’m sure you could use this method in conjunction with a keylight and get sweet results.

 

Distance to Create Light

 

The third option is the one I use the most because it is the most versatile. I place my subject very close to my drop and use either a wide light source or a narrow harder light source. My two go-to modifiers when shooting strobes for white and black are my 28-inch Mola Setti and my barn doors.

 

The key to getting a white background using one light is distance. The closer your subject and your light are to the drop, the whiter it is going to be. The farther away you get, the more gray your image will be. What I like about this method is I have a ton of control. If I put the mod straight on, I get more flat high key, and if I move the mod, I get nice directional light, and can use the shadow as part of my image. The difference in the two modifiers is that the beauty dish gives more even soft light and the barn doors give more directional, harder light.

 

Black and White

 

Shooting for black and white is a little simpler to me because it is way easier to manage shadows and the darkness of the background than it is to manage the white scenario. When shooting primarily black in the studio, I use one of three setups. Each is easy, and each gives you very different looks.

 

Distance to Control Light

 

All the walls in my studio are white, so it’s easy to get the spill from any lights I shoot to get to the wall and boost the ambient. So when I want a very dark image but I want more of a dark gray background, I don’t use any drops. I use distance from the wall to determine the light and darkness in the image. When shooting like this, I use strip lights or small softboxes to control the amount of light reaching the walls. I bring the light across instead of shooting at the subject to try to control the amount of light that becomes your ambient. I never use a second light with the setup, but if I need a little more detail, I use a white or silver reflector.

 

Muslin Better Than Seamless

 

If I want a pure black background, I shoot using a black drop. A lot of people like to shoot on black seamless paper. I’m not a huge fan of seamless. The main reason is I don’t have a backdrop system, so I have to take the paper up and down every time I shoot. I’m pretty much a one-man show, so that is a big pain in the butt; most of the time I tear it or put a crease in it, and then have to cut it and start over.

 

My solution is to use unpainted black muslin, which I also used for my hand-painted drops. It is light because it has not been painted. You can fold and store it easily, and you just hang it, spray it with water and boom—a wrinkle-free drop in less than five minutes.

 

Another reason I like muslin is because of its ability to suck up light. Unless you are right next to the fabric, you are not going to get any reflection or hot spot from the drop; this allows you to be creative and shoot multiple lights a lot easier than on other drops.

 

Thinking in terms of black and white and white and black has helped me create better images. Separating the two has helped me identify issues faster and see the final image in my head better. I hope some of these tips will help you take your black and white or white and black images to another level.

 

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Bridal Boudoir with Melanie Anderson

Sunday, May 1st, 2016

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Bridal Boudoir with Melanie Anderson

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the May issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

I am a portrait and commercial photographer, and while I do photograph several weddings a year, I am very selective. I need to be excited about the wedding experience, and generate revenue without having to invest an entire day photographing a wedding. We do it through “bridal boudoir,” which is a prewedding shoot for the bride that we turn into an intimate gift for her husband.

When we attend bridal shows, we set up our booth to showcase boudoir. We collect brides’ information in exchange for their chance to win a $1,000 credit toward a boudoir session. We call nonwinning entries and offer them a $100 portrait credit. What’s great about this method is that all those who enter our giveaway truly are interested in boudoir, and they receive a packet filled with information on how to prepare and what to expect. (I showcase this process in the video segment.) We create this packet from templates by Design Aglow. Our typical boudoir sales are between $1,500 and $3,500. The boudoir collection includes a large wall portrait canvas and an album. As I explain in the video segment this month, the wall portrait is usually black and white and very artistic. It’s rare that my client’s face is the main focus—it is usually the curves of her body.

Let’s go through our bridal boudoir process. A session lasts about an hour. Set aside two hours if she is having hair and makeup done in the studio. Brides often bring along their maid/matron of honor and/or her mom for support. It’s also not unusual for them to bring champaign or wine to ease their nerves. While they’re in hair and makeup, I browse through her outfits and discuss the product line we offer. I am preselling the album size and style.

Knowing what the bride wants allows me to continue to shoot with intention. If my bride’s goal is for a canvas wall portrait only, there is no need to take a ton of images. Whatever my client’s budget is, I want to spend it wisely. I walk them through the products and discuss the cost, and offer a payment plan if needed. Most of our clients end up with a 4×8 accordion album or a 10×10 leather album, along with a large wall canvas. The album style they choose dictates how many poses, outfits and images I need to capture. I am purposeful with my time and my client’s time. By keeping track of our process and creating the storyline as I photograph, I put my client at ease and make her final decisions easier.

We hold our order session immediately following the shoot. I do not pre-edit our images, which also saves a ton of time. Clients gather their stuff and relax while I download the images. It takes 10 to 15 minutes to download and narrow down to my favorites, crop and convert a few to black and white. I use ProSelect for this process. I then bring my client into our sales room and ask her to choose her favorites. We start with the wall art, since that usually becomes the cover of the album.

After our full-time staff designer receives the order, we send off our images for editing. When images are complete, our designer begins the layout process. She uploads the album to a private gallery for our client to view and approve. Upon approval, the album is ordered. The entire process takes about two weeks.

On the day of the wedding, the bride presents her boudoir album to her soon-to-be husband as a gift. The canvas is usually revealed that evening or when they return from their honeymoon.

Marketing for this brand of photography is word of mouth—it is vital. We rarely post these images on social media, and they are not on my website. If a client is interested in viewing our boudoir images, we give her a link to a private gallery or invite her into our studio to view our albums.

 

What to bring:

  • Four to five outfits (anything that makes her feel beautiful; doesn’t need to be all lingerie)
  • Something of his, like a favorite t-shirt, jersey or tie
  • Multiple pairs of heels in a variety of colors and styles
  • Accessories
  • Thigh-high panty hose or fishnets

 

Action Plan and Recap:

  • If you are not already photographing boudoir, create a call to action. Seek out a few women and offer a complimentary boudoir session to create a portfolio for display. Print several album choices, along with a few wall portrait canvases in 16×24, 20×24 and 24×30. It’s important for clients to see and feel the products you offer. It provides several opportunities for you to upsell.
  • Create an internal pose guide. Design a way to make your clients feel comfortable and confident during the session.
  • Presell your products.
  • Shoot with intention.
  • Seek out bridal shows and set up a boudoir display. Give away a free boudoir session. This gives you a list of other potential brides who might be interested in your services. Offer all others a $100 portrait credit.

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the May issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

4 Techniques for Shooting Boudoir with Craig LaMere

Friday, January 1st, 2016

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4 Techniques for Shooting Boudoir with Craig LaMere

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the January issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

 

Of all the photography genres, boudoir might have the most variations and the loosest definition. If you ask 10 shooters what boudoir is to them, you’ll get 10 different perspectives, ideas and answers. To some, boudoir is about capturing a woman from a voyeuristic perspective, waiting for that one moment. For others, boudoir is all about showing as much skin as possible and using the nuttiest and least flattering poses. It can also be about empowering women. Some shooters create more of a glam product, like what you would see in Maxim or Playboy. Locations vary, from outdoors to the studio. Pinning down boudoir is like trying to play horseshoes with the horse still attached.

 

Because of the nature of the shoots and the variety in the wants and needs of the clients, you need an array of tools. This month, I discuss some of the most important components to creating killer boudoir.

 

Shooting High Aperture (“Open”)

 

One of the techniques I use in the studio to produce the mood I want is to shoot at a higher aperture, or more “open.” Shooting open means shooting at the highest aperture on your lens. For example, if you had a Canon 135 L 2.0, your highest aperture would be f2. If you had a Sigma Art 50 1.4, your highest aperture would be f1.4. When you are shooting “wide open,” the lens opening is at its widest, letting in the most light it can in the fastest amount of time and producing the greatest depth of field based on the focal distance of the subject. A lot of people think if you just put a lens at its biggest aperture, everything behind the subject will have the creamiest, dreamiest bokeh ever. That is not completely true, since the bokeh is dependent on a few other things.

 

There’s a big difference between shooting wide open and shooting with the correct depth of field. When I say shooting “more open,” I mean choosing an aperture that gives me the shallowest depth of field. This usually means shooting somewhere between f1.2 and f4, depending on the lens. Instead of picking an aperture that best fits the conditions, people often automatically default to the lens’s largest aperture. Defaulting to wide open anytime you want a shallower depth of field is like eating only with a fork. Sure, when you are eating spaghetti, it’s a pretty good tool, but the day you have to eat soup…not going to be as good a time.

 

Shooting Lower Aperture (“Closed”)

 

Shooting closed is the opposite of shooting open. Instead of choosing an aperture with the largest opening, you are choosing an aperture with the smallest. When you are stopping down, you are closing the opening for the light to get into the lens, so there’s longer time to achieve proper exposure since less light is getting in at a much slower rate.

 

If you are shooting the Canon 135 L 2.0, your smallest aperture is f32. If you are shooting the Sigma 50 ART 1.4, your smallest aperture is f16. In general, stopping down your lens two stops from open produces a much sharper image than would be created by having your lens wide open. So, your 135 L 2.0 would be most sharp at f4 and your Sigma ART 50 1.4 would be sharpest at f2.8. The interesting thing about the default built into us when it comes to stopping down is that people almost always consider f11 to f13 as the top end. When we shoot closed, it is very rare that we push past those f-stops.

 

Distortion: Your Friend

 

One of the most important things to know when dealing with the depth of field is the understanding of the focal distance and f-stop combination, and how they work together with different lenses. Understanding what each lens does when framed equally is one of the most important principles to grasp. A 24–70 2.8 at 24mm produces a much different image than a 70–200 2.8 at 200mm. A 50 1.2 is very different from an 85 1.2 if all are given the same framing and f-stop. The reason all these lenses shoot differently is most commonly called lens compression. Compression is the amount of distortion of a lens at a given distance. As a general rule, the wider the lens, the more it distorts as it gets closer to your subject and the more you fill the frame.

 

If you are shooting a headshot with a 200mm and you are filling the frame with the subject’s head, you physically will be a considerable distance away and there really will be no significant distortion. The subject will look just like herself. Now, if you shoot the same shot and frame it equally with a 24mm, you are going to be almost standing on top of your subject, and you will be in for quite a different experience. Your subject is not going to look quite like herself, especially in the area closest to the lens. You should always keep this idea in mind.

 

Creating Mood

 

To me, the mood of the image is everything. The mood is what conveys the feeling and creates the story. I tell my stories in boudoir by combining certain lenses and apertures to get very specific looks. I’m going to go over my thought process for a couple of different scenarios so you have a better understanding of how all of this ties together.

 

Situation 1: Shooting High Aperture

 

I have a client come in who is a romantic type, and all about being soft, pretty and dreamy. She has given me examples of what she likes, and all of it is very simple and clean. I know right away I want to shoot very open and give the image the softest feel and look that I can. I lay her on her side, facing the camera. I know I can push the focal point to get the most depth of field possible because her body will pretty much be all on the same plane, so I will shoot the 50 at f1.6 without worrying about part of her being in focus and part of her not. Shooting very open works just the same with standing clients, or anytime your subject is completely on the same focal plane.

 

Situation 2: Shooting Medium Aperture

 

With the same client, we are shooting closer-up images. She has the brightest blue eyes, and I want to emphasize them. I pose her lying on her stomach facing the camera. I plan to fill the frame with her face and let the rest of her body fall off. Because of the distance between her face and the lens if I used the 50, and the distortion that would happen to her face, I go with the 85 L 1.2. I shot the last image at f1.6, and I could do the same with the 85. But because the focus is so narrow, unless she is looking totally straight into the camera, the eye I focus on will be sharp and the other will not be. I don’t want to limit the movement of my client, so I move the aperture down to f4. I know at f4 my client will have the freedom of movement, and if the eyes get off plane, they will still both be in focus, or a lot more in focus, than at f1.6. Because I have framed so tightly, the rest of her is far enough from the focal point that the f4 depth of field is enough to make the rest of her fall off, so the eyes are the stars of the image.

 

Situation 3: Shooting Low Aperture

 

My client who wanted soft pretty images tells me she has these killer boots and a wild leather outfit she would love an image or two in. She comes out in 8-inch stilettos and a Catwoman leather body suit. The outfit is dramatic and powerful, so I want my images to match. I want to make her as powerful, sexy and badass as I can. I use my 24–70 L 2.8 for the job. Shooting down to up is a power angle, and I want to push that power angle to the edge, so I put my lens at 24mm. The reason I switched out the 50mm for the 85mm in Scenario 2 is the reason I switch out the 85mm for the 24mm here: distortion.

 

When you shoot down to up at 24mm at a close enough distance to almost fill the frame with your standing subject, you get a very dramatic change in what is closest to the lens, which in this case is the legs. They can look a mile long depending on the tilt of your lens. The length you create from the distortion is seasoned to taste.

 

There are a couple of reasons for using f10 in this situation. One is that at f10 you get all the detail of the client and the outfit. The outfit in this situation is as important as my client. It is so dramatic that you lose the power or mood of the image if you do not show the details. The other reason I go with f10 is because of the angle and the focal distance. If you ever tried to focus and recompose wide open, you found out in a hurry that, unless you were very steady, you got a lot of soft images due to the focal plane changing when you recompose. At f10, that is no longer an issue. You are free to create as you please.

 

There are a million and one combinations for creating boudoir images. I hope this gives you some food for thought to help you become an ever better boudoir shooter.

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the January issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

Boudoir Personal Projects: Summer Styling With Sizzle!

Friday, August 1st, 2014

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Boudoir Personal Projects: Summer Styling With Sizzle!

Although our summer season here in Las Vegas goes on a lot longer than in the rest of the country, the official end of summer is coming quickly, but there’s still enough time to do a summer-themed boudoir personal project! If you’ve ever heard me speak or read some of my articles, you know that personal projects are near and dear to my heart. Not only do they provide an opportunity to learn and grow, but they also allow you to style the entire shoot with your creative vision instead of your client’s, for a nice change of pace.

Personal projects can be tiny or huge in scale. Your larger projects can be immensely fulfilling but require more time, commitment and models. My “Pure Beauty, No Makeup” series (discussed in the April 2014 issue of Shutter,  HYPERLINK “https://www.behindtheshutter.com/empowering-boudoir/” https://www.behindtheshutter.com/empowering-boudoir/) that I began shooting in 2012 is a perfect example of a large project. It is, hands down, the most meaningful one for me and my clients. These lovely ladies braved being bare-faced (and more!) in front of my lens as an exploration of the attitude and emotions of being photographed sans their daily beauty routine. These huge endeavors are always rewarding, especially the end product, but my smaller, more impulsive projects are usually the most fun. I try to scatter these shoots throughout the year for this reason. As a business owner and a creative, I have found that I absolutely need these small projects for my mental health and well-being. They give me the freedom to be as creative as my soul desires, in a nonstressful environment, and they resemble play more than actual work. They force me to wander outside my comfort zone, which is where the real learning and growth begins.

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boudoir spokesmodels

Saturday, March 1st, 2014

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boudoir spokesmodels

Boudoir photography can be tricky to market. We need content, but we may not always feel comfortable using client images for promotional purposes. Many clients opt out of the sharing option, leaving you with nothing to market. And using professional models goes completely against the concept of boudoir. Boudoir is not about shooting models, it’s about making the everyday woman look like one. And when we do get to share client images, quite often our photographs get reported in different media outlets for being too risqué. Or
worse: Our images are being stolen at a staggering rate, and we need to be more mindful in protecting them. Oh, the conundrum!

The best solution I have found for many of these issues has been my spokesmodel program. I began my spokesmodel search to not only add excitement to my brand, but also because
I needed images I could use for different things without worry of crossing any boundaries with my clients. I often have clients who are comfortable with my sharing their images, but down the road they may get flack from their significant other, and I’ll get a request from her to remove images from my website or blog. This can be problematic if I’ve used her images for marketing pieces.

Want to read this photography training article? Log in and launch this free photography training magazine // March 2014 issue.

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