Viewing Glamour

Finding Your Style in Glamour Photography

Sunday, January 1st, 2017


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.




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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Pageant Glamour: 4 Tips for Shooting Beauty Queens

Sunday, January 1st, 2017


Pageant Glamour: 4 Tips for Shooting Beauty Queens with Moshe Zusman


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Second to the world of modeling, the world of beauty pageants takes the cake for all its glitz and glamour. Photos of contestants need to be a step above a regular portrait.

When pageant girls step into my studio, they’re looking for a final image that represents who they are in the most fiercely confident and over-the-top, gorgeous way possible. In addition, the girls have complete trust in what I’m doing because I’ve been both a pageant photographer and judge, and their confidence in my expertise always helps.

Here are my top four tips for delivering great pageant shots to clients every single time.

  1. Set the Mood

We know this is important when we photograph any client. We have to create an environment where they can feel at ease in a normally uncomfortable situation. With my typical headshot clients, I do this by making small talk, offering them something to drink and so on. With my pageant girls, I do the same, and then some.

In addition to making them feel comfortable, I need to make them feel “confidently beautiful” (a theme of the Miss Universe pageant), and that doesn’t always come easy, even to beauty queens. As an added way to make them feel as beautiful as they are, I have a hair and makeup stylist on site. Stylists primp and make her feel like she’s being taken care of. Getting the right makeup artist is key to this because they also need to know how to make the subjects feel amazing.

Music is the final key to mood-setting. It’s always amazing to watch how quickly the right music can bring people into the right mindset and drastically change the expressions I’m getting from my subjects. On pageant shoots, I have upbeat music with a hint of sexy in it, which works every time.

  1. Lighting

When I photograph headshots, I usually start with a butterfly lighting setup. With fashion and pageants, I go for a more glamorous look, so I start with a clamshell setup and work my way from there. I use a Profoto D1 1,000-watt strobe just above my client’s face with a 2×3 softbox positioned horizontally. I use my 1,000-watt light because I want to shoot with higher apertures to get the most detail and sharpness as possible throughout the entire image.

Then, I have either a reflector or another Profoto D1 250-watt light just below her face with a 1×3 gridded softbox also positioned horizontally. It’s a run-of-the-mill beauty light setup that creates a gorgeous catchlight in the eye and highlights the subject’s cheekbones for a glamorous lighting pattern on the face.

Depending on the look we’re going for, I throw in a hair or rim light with my Profoto D1 500-watt strobe. I adjust the clamshell setup to utilize my Profoto soft-white reflector (beauty dish) instead of the softbox, and have fun from there. The key thing is to remember to never lose the catchlight in their eyes and watch for any harsh shadows underneath the chin.

  1. Posing and Props

There are two types of pageant shoots. I take photos for girls who need them for their application to the beauty contest, and that they’ll use in the pageant program and for judges’ eyes later during the competition. I also photograph the titleholders: girls who have just won a competition and need their winning photo session results. Their photos will be used for publicity and for the next-level competition (Miss Maryland would then be competing for Miss USA).

For submission images, the photo needs to be representative of how the woman looks in person. The judges see this photo before meeting her, and if it’s overly retouched to the point that they don’t recognize her when she walks into her interview, it will annoy the judges. The photo should be posed naturally, not too sexy, and accentuate her best features. If she has great teeth, have her show off her beautiful smile. If she has great hair, highlight that. You want to create an image that is beautiful and more than just a headshot, but also one that is a true reflection of who the girl is and what she looks like.

For titleholders, we add sashes and crowns. It can be a little tricky to work with props like these without making the image look cheesy. You’ll develop your own style. I take the traditional image of the winner wearing the crown and sash, then play with her positioning, putting her anywhere but where she is supposed to be.

In contrast to the submission photos, titleholder photos should be over-the-top sexy and glamorous. Concentrate on her best features, but add more sultry posing and varying expressions. Whatever the girl is good at, go for it. The only caveat is to know the difference between a Miss and a Miss Teen. Teens shouldn’t look too sexy, while more mature contestants can be a bit more provocative.

There is also a difference between Miss USA and Miss America. Miss America is like the “girl next door,” while Miss USA is the girl you wish lived next door. You can’t go too sexy with Miss USA.

  1. Post-Processing

Again, remember what kind of shoot you’re doing. Submission photos shouldn’t be overly retouched or alter how a girl looks since judges don’t like deception.

Titleholder shots can be retouched more heavily. Go to town with the retouching. Lower the shoulders to extend the neck, smooth out the skin, and brighten the eyes and smile. Take care of any blemishes and flyaway hairs. Nip and tuck as you see fit. These photos will be used for the next level of competition, and judges look for flaws first.

Want to see how we work firsthand? Get yourself to ShutterFest 2017, where I’ll be doing a live beauty queen photo session complete with music, hair, makeup and everything I talked about here. It’s going to be the most talked-about session at the show, so don’t miss it.


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.

Portrait Meets Pageant: Breaking Into Pageant Photography

Sunday, January 1st, 2017


Portrait Meets Pageant: Breaking Into Pageant Photography with Blair Phillips


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Love them or not, most pageants stand for a good purpose. They are intended to instill self-confidence, beauty, assertiveness. There are thousands of pageants held annually all over the world. The money that parents invest in pageants can be staggering. Statistics prove just how serious parents are about pageants, with 72 percent hiring a pageant coach. There are custom designers contestants rely on for the latest and greatest gowns. The amount of detail spent on hair and makeup is jaw-dropping. Some contestants sleep in uncomfortable hot rollers the night before a pageant. The great thing about pageants is that contestants can begin as early as just months of age. With the amount of money invested in how contestants look, photography is important. When they find a great photographer, everyone in the area will help make that photographer a household name. This was my thought several months back. It has proved to be a big moneymaker.


We surveyed a few pageant mothers and coaches in our area. We asked them to share some of their favorite images that stand out from the crowd. Most of the images were evenly lit and pretty boring. I realized then that this market was wide open for a good photographer. One of my favorite types of business is when you market for something only one time and it continues to create income for you. That is my idea of a successful marketing venture.


We reached out to a few pageant contestants we got to know during our research. We asked them to come into the studio for some test shooting that we would use for a campaign. We took that time to ask key questions to help create a great experience for future clients. We learned that we were right on the mark with our offerings.


Having a decent-sized area for them to get ready is important in setting the tone. They come with a lot of items and require a good amount of space. With hair and makeup, heat can overpower a dressing area. We have a small but powerful fan in the room that is a saving grace. Nothing makes a pageant girl more moody than sweating while she is getting ready.


Another important tip is to have everything set up and ready when they are camera ready. They feel fresh and at their best at this point, so do not make them stand around and wait for you to set up your equipment.


Lighting is what will ultimately make your work desirable in your pageant community. The eyes in the photograph have to be the main focus. I prefer large light sources. The larger and closer the light can get to my subject, the softer I can make it appear. I use three to four lights. Shooting into reflectors to create a bunch of light coming from different directions is key for me. I like to bring light from overhead and reflect that light back into my subject’s eyes. This creates a look that you do not see every day, striking and desirable.


People like what they do not see every day. They want to look glamorous. When I work with these clients, I talk through the lighting as I am changing it. I want them to feel like I am putting a lot of thought into what they are paying for. Doing this helps add a huge amount of value to what I am creating for them. I explain that anyone can take a picture, but it takes true talent and experience to produce spectacular lighting.


We explain that what they are paying for is for someone to take their beauty to a higher level. People undervalue their work and price themselves too low because they are uncomfortable talking about pricing. What makes this easier is to educate your clients on all it takes to create their images. Without doing so, clients think all you do is turn on a light and push a button. The more comfortable and educational you make their experience, the more they will spend and share their experience with others. That’s the ultimate payoff.


The pageant community can be very “click-ish.” Your goal is to appeal and be inviting to the masses of people. You need not get caught up in that world by showing any favoritism toward anyone at all. Do not post only the most beautiful and photogenic clients on social media. Make everyone feel just as important and appreciated. If you hear a conversation that knocks someone else in the pageant community, make it known that you appreciate everyone the same.


You will learn that hair and makeup are an integral part of the pageant world. Contestants often bring someone to do their hair and makeup before the session. It is a great idea to partner with a stylist in your area who can come to your studio should clients not have a person of their own. This person should have some experience with pageant hair and makeup. I never ask anyone for a price break on the services they provide here at the studio. Some people ask for volume discounts. That is basically asking your stylist to take money out of his pocket.


Once you get your feet wet in this market, word can spread like wildfire. We’ve learned that people from our area were traveling from up to four hours away for these types of images. No one else was doing them.


We now have stylists, coaches and pageant organizers sending clients our way. They often want to set up marathon days where we book and shoot clients all day. They bring a ton of qualified clients to the front of my camera. This is advantageous for the stylists as well, since they are making money also. They become a referral powerhouse.


We even think there could be a market to travel to other areas and set up for a day or two. Listen to and trust the input of the stylists. They know exactly what people are accustomed to receiving.


You can have some creative freedom, but you can’t treat these types of sessions like a high school senior session. You need to stay within the parameters of what they are used to receiving. During each session, though, I step outside the boundaries just a little.


This way, I begin to break down the boundaries of conformity. This has opened up a whole new avenue that I can count on for a great income for me and my family.


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Glamour Photography 101

Sunday, January 1st, 2017


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.




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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Lighting in Tight Spaces with Michael Corsentino

Thursday, December 1st, 2016


Lighting in Tight Spaces with Michael Corsentino


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Whether you’re in a studio, office or on location, space is always an issue. A large studio with plenty of room is wonderful, but space is at a severe premium. What do you do? This month, I walk you through the considerations, tools, techniques and ways to get the job done when space is super tight. We also go behind the scenes for a fashion portrait shoot produced in a 10x10x10-foot space so you can see what’s possible with a limited footprint.


Let’s start with gear.


Equipment is a major consideration when you’re planning a shoot in a confined space. Things like large boom arms, lots of heavy-duty grip equipment, gargantuan octabanks and a ton of lights aren’t normally feasible; even when they are, they end up being more of a burden than an advantage. Your best bet is to work light on your feet. For the most part, that means one or two lights. I like moonlights due to their compact, lightweight form factor. Add small modifiers, grids to keep the light from your strobes exactly where you want it, and a backdrop that fits your concept, the space and the method you’ll be using to transport it. For this shoot, I used a 10-foot painted canvas backdrop that rolls up for transport. For something more compact, try Lastolite’s variety of high-quality collapsible backgrounds that fold down to a very manageable size.


My modifiers of choice for lighting in confined spaces, and often on location, are small octabanks, strip boxes, beauty dishes and ring flash. Each of these is easy to transport, quick and easy to set up, and they can be supported on a compact, foldable C-stand that’s ideal for transport. I typically rely on grids for all but the ring flash in order to keep the light from my strobes from spilling everywhere.


The value of grids quickly becomes evident in tight spaces where light can end up bouncing all over the place, creating a very flat, boring look. For the shoot featured in this article, I used two Elinchrom 500ws ELC monolights, an Elinchrom Deep Octa and an Elinchrom 14×35 Strip Box, both fitted with Lighttools soft egg crate grids. When you’re working in confined spaces, 500ws heads provide more than enough power in most cases. You don’t need as much power as you would in situations that call for more distance between your lights, subject and background.


With limited space, typically one of your biggest challenges is controlling the amount of light falling on the background. In a studio with ample space, it’s easy to move your subject away from the background and control the amount of illumination using either distance, separate lighting zones or both. In a confined space with little to no space between your subject and the background, this isn’t possible—you’ll need other tools and techniques to shape and control the light falling on your subject and background.


To do that, you’ll need to rely on the angle of incidence, which is the direction of your lights in relationship to the model and backdrop, as well as the tools you use to modify and shape those lights. For this purpose, honeycomb grids, both soft egg crates and hard grid spots, are indispensable tools. This is because grids take the light coming out of a softbox, beauty dish or reflector and channel it into a much more narrowly confined beam, allowing you to place light precisely where you want it and keep it away from areas you don’t—in this case, the backdrop.


The other essential component in controlling the light falling on the backdrop is the direction and placement of your lights. Even with a grid in place, if your lights are pointed directly toward the backdrop, you’ll have a very limited amount of control over its illumination. You’ll be lighting your subject and the model without a mechanism to help separate them. This is where light direction and placement are key. By simply moving your lights to the side of the backdrop, you’ll not only help avoid putting too much on it, but you’ll also avoid boring flat lighting; you’ll add shadow, volume and drama to the lighting on your subject.


I’ve included example images to illustrate this point. With the light positioned over the camera and pointed directly toward the backdrop and subject, you light both pretty equally and flatly. By moving the keylight (an Elinchrom 500ws ELC monolight with an Elinchrom Deep Octa) camera left and channeling its light with a Lighttools soft egg crate grid, I was able to more precisely control the light falling on the subject and the background as individual elements. The bonus, I think you’ll agree, is that the light is considerably more interesting and dramatic.


I’m an advocate of working one light at a time, so I always start with the keylight and progress from there, seasoning to taste with additional lights as needed. Once I’ve nailed a few winners using only the keylight, I add a second light, third light, etc. That’s exactly what I did here. I added a second Elinchrom 500ws ELC monolight fitted with an Elinchrom 14×35 strip box and a Lighttools soft egg crate grid. Arranged in a cross light pattern, behind the subject and opposite the keylight, this strobe served as a kicker light and alternative keylight. Cross lighting is great because it gives the model the flexibility to turn freely from left to right, with each light alternating as key and kicker.


Lens choice and aperture also play a pivotal role when you’re working in close proximity to your subject and background. For this shoot, I chose an 80mm and 150mm lens and set the aperture to f/11, with medium format that’s like f/5.6 when using a DSLR. This kept the front of the model’s face shape but allowed me to create the falloff I needed between the model and backdrop. If the backdrop is too sharp, it can easily become a distracting rather than enhancing element. We chose a retro-inspired fleur-de-lis-patterned red and black painted backdrop consistent with the gothic fashion direction of the shoot.


You can see that with a few simple tools, the right techniques and a creative vision, it’s easy to achieve great results even in the tightest spaces.


Check out this month’s companion video, and let’s keep the dialog going. Hit me up on the ShutterFest Facebook page with your lighting questions.


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Building a Mobile Portrait Studio with Miguel Quiles

Monday, October 3rd, 2016


Building a Mobile Portrait Studio with Miguel Quiles


Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the October 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.


If you have a studio portrait business, you’ve probably had potential clients who wanted to do business with you but couldn’t make it to your studio. I decided to maximize my sales opportunities by creating our Studio-to-You package: I literally take my studio to them.

In the beginning, I brought all of my studio equipment, which was exhausting and ineffective. With experience and research, I found an awesome combination of studio gear that I can transport easily, and set up and tear down without breaking a sweat.

Here’s what I have in my mobile portrait studio.


I use a variety of backgrounds in my studio, but most of them aren’t meant to be portable, and take some time to set up. To be as light and nimble as possible, I use the Savage black/white collapsible backdrop. Unlike traditional seamless paper backgrounds, these open and close just like a reflector. They come in a zippered case and weigh just a few pounds. They are double-sided, so you have two options that can be quickly and easily switched out.

Along with the solid white-and-black collapsible backdrop, I use Savage’s textured backgrounds for my Dramatic Portrait series. These backdrops come in two sizes that can be used for both individual and group portraits. They come with a light stand and take seconds to set up. These have been essential to my mobile portrait studio.


You’re going to need quality stands to hold your backdrops, lights and reflectors. Get stands that are not only sturdy but also light. I recently started using Kupo Click Stands. These click into one another, which makes them easy to carry around. You can even connect a strap for added portability. At a minimum, you’ll need one for your lights and one for your background. If you want maximum versatility, consider a reflector holder as well.

Lighting & Modifiers

The majority of my portfolio images were shot using a studio strobe. Strobes are my preferred lighting because they are very powerful and allow me to use any of my favorite light modifiers. For portrait work, I use the Phottix Indra500 paired with the Phottix Luna Octa. The Indra500 is a studio strobe that offers high-speed sync (HSS) and through-the-lens metering (TTL). It works off a portable battery pack, which is great for using it in the studio or outdoors. If you’re planning to shoot thousands of images or for several hours in a day, get the optional AC adapter.

Another lighting option is to bring a hot shoe flash instead of the strobe. I have a set of Phottix Mitros+ flashes that I use in combination with the Speed Mount II. With that combination, I can use all of my modifiers with my flash, just as I would with my strobes. The only downside is that they run on AA batteries and don’t have a modeling light, which can come in handy. The upside is that you can pack them in your bag without much hassle.

For modifiers, my go-to pick is the Phottix Luna Octa. For portraiture, it gives you a beautiful, soft light that flatters your subject’s skin. The main reason I choose it for my mobile setup is that it opens and closes quickly and easily, in less than two minutes. The entire Phottix Luna line of modifiers set up in the same manner, so if standard softboxes are more your style, they have options for you. Pair these items with triggers, such as the Phottix Odin II, and you’re all kitted up and ready to shoot no matter what the lighting situation.


A good versatile reflector is an essential part of a mobile portrait studio. You can use it in place of an additional light anytime you need some fill. Get something like a 5-in-1 (or 7-in-1 if the budget allows) reflector that has at least a white and silver side. Some fancier reflectors have silver stitched with white, which gives you a nice in-between option if you need more light bounce than the white side or less than the silver side can provide. One of my favorites is the Phottix Premium Triangle Reflector. It has handles, making it easy to hold with one hand when I’m using it for portrait work. I don’t always use one for my portraits, but I never leave home without it. Find a quality reflector that works for you, and bring it with you every time.


Shooting portraits and headshots at a client’s location requires me to have all of my gear easily accessible and protected. The ability to be able to take all of your studio gear on location in one trip is vitally important. Time is money. If you have to take multiple trips back and forth to your vehicle, it cuts into your setup time, which cuts into the time you have to work with your clients.

For years, I’ve been transporting my camera equipment inside the Tenba Roadie Large. It has plenty of space for all your lenses, several camera bodies, as well as batteries and any other accessories. It also has space for my laptop and tethering gear, which I set up to allow my clients to preview their images after the shoot. The front of the roller has a pocket that is great for storing light stands and small reflectors.

If you happen to have more gear than you can fit in one case, pair the roller with a messenger bag, such as the Tenba Cooper 15. For a long day of shooting, I bring a messenger bag filled with snacks and drinks, plus my keys, wallet and phone.

The Mobile Studio Completed

This has been my mobile setup for the last four years. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Everything packs up easily so you can carry everything in and out of your shooting location in a single trip. With a little time and practice, you can arrive on location and be ready to take your first shot in 10 minutes or less.

If you want to explore new opportunities for portrait clients, incorporate these mobile studio tips and take your portrait business to new levels.


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Two-Light Portraits with Craig LaMere

Monday, October 3rd, 2016


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


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


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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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4 Techniques for Shooting Boudoir with Craig LaMere

Friday, January 1st, 2016



4 Techniques for Shooting Boudoir with Craig LaMere


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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.


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