5 Natural Light For Boudoir Photos To Take Them From Good to Great
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Natural light is the cheapest and most convenient way to light for boudoir photos. And it makes for one great resource for a photographer just starting out (because it’s free!).
But to take your images to a professional level, you must know how to use them effectively AND efficiently. So in this episode, I’m breaking down my top five favorite tips for using natural light for boudoir photos.
Click the link below to listen, or keep reading to catch the show notes.
RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:
- Jerry Ghionnis, my photography idol!
- Short light examples
- Shadow sculpt body examples
- Westcott Solix Lights
- Westcott Ice Lights Alternative
- Session Prep Guide for Boudoir Photographers
Why You Need to Know Your Light For Boudoir Photos
I wouldn’t say I’m a natural light photographer, per se, but I know how to add light where needed. And I prefer natural light because it works so well.
I’ve studied with some of the best in the industry as far as posing and lighting — such as Jerry Ghionnis (I’ve actually been to 3 workshops with him AND a private workshop at his and Melissa’s house. If you can’t tell, he’s my photography idol!).
I’ve photographed over 850 sessions since 2017. You could say I’ve had some practice with this whole natural light for boudoir photos thing. I know my lighting and posing pretty well. And I understand how light falls and what it will do when it falls depending on all the conditions.
Learning how to work WITH the light makes all the difference. And yes, it will help you book more clients and keep your schedule full…because your portfolio is definitely a factor in getting booked out. So take your portfolio seriously!
Now let’s get to those lighting tips, shall we?
Tip #1: Understand the Difference Between Short, Broad, and Flat Light
First up—you need to understand short, broad, and flat light. These are the three most important types of lighting for boudoir and portrait photography (unless you’re photographing a man, but that’s another subject for another day).
Flat light is when your light source is facing directly at the front of your subject and lighting the face evenly. Flat lighting on a face means that your subject is well-lit and you’re unable to see any shadows along their face.
This type of lighting can be great for anyone in boudoir photography but works especially well on more mature skin.
I don’t have any photos that I’ve taken of flat light since I rarely use it, so here’s an example with Lyla as a puppy. 💕
Broad light means the shadow side of the face is furthest from you. This type of light can make a face look fuller, so it’s ideal for those with very narrow faces.
Short light is my favorite type of light! Why? Because it’s so beautiful and really helps you sculpt the face. All short light means is that the shadow side of the face is closest to you.
But short light can tend to show more imperfections, like bags under the eye or wrinkles that some clients may not want to see. That’s where retouching can help. After retouching, short light will still look great on mature skin, too, because, again, of how it sculpts the face.
Tip #2: Use Shadows to Sculpt the Body
Using shadows to sculpt the body will make the chest and booty look fuller (which is trendy nowadays, thanks to the Kardashians!). The easiest way to do this is to position the body away from the light. This will cause the light and shadows to sculpt the body in a flattering way.
Remember, women are coming to you to feel more confident in their bodies as well as possibly give a gift to their significant other–everything about the pose and light for boudoir photos needs to be flattering and help them feel confident!
LEARN HOW TO SEE THE LIGHT FOR BOUDOIR PHOTOS
Take your hand and move it around. See how it falls in the crevices of your hand? It will do the same on the body.
Next time you’re in your studio, have your clients move around and see how light falls on their bodies before you get started. That will help you see what is most flattering so that you can really develop your style.
Tip #3: Use Direct and Full Sunlight
I love full sun because the colors are so much more vibrant and beautiful! My outdoor images are almost all in full sun, and I try to use it indoors when possible. It makes for amazing photos — like this one.
Another thing about knowing how to use direct sunlight—it’ll set you apart from other photographers because most are scared of it.
Using direct sunlight requires you to pose more than any other type of lighting because even if the client moves just a little bit, you’re going to miss your shot because the shadows are very harsh. There’s a big contrast between the shadows and light.
But if you feel like you’re ready to take on the challenge of full sun, I recommend trying with a model FIRST rather than a client.
The first time you do it you will likely struggle. I hadn’t shot outdoors in full sun in a while, and it was tough to get back on track. That first outdoor session took me an entire 15 minutes before I got into the swing of things.
Once I found my groove, though, it was fine. But the first few minutes were messy, and the struggle showed in the photos.
Lesson learned? Practice BEFORE your sessions.
Tip #4: Add Light When Needed
It doesn’t matter where you’re from; you’ll have an inconveniently dreary day at some point. That’s when you would need to add your own light for boudoir photos to make the magic happen.
But to do that, you need to understand how it works. And it needs to be done in a quick and efficient way to keep it from slowing down your sessions.
My two favorite options for quickly adding light are:
- My Westcott Solix Lights: It’s a continuous light and it adds just enough, but not too much. I think this is the best option for added natural light.
- My Westcott Ice Lights: If I’m wanting to be a bit more dramatic, I use these. They’ve been discontinued now, but I use them all the time.
Of course, there are other options, like strobes and speed lights. My recommendation is to find what works best for YOU — don’t just choose something because a photographer you admire is recommending it. That definitely doesn’t mean it’s the best option.
Tip #5: Pose From Head to Toe
Do not make your clients model FOR you. You need to TELL them how to model, head to toe. That’s what they’re paying you for. Which means you need to understand posing.
So let’s talk about a few of my favorite tips:
- Put allll the s-curves in their body: The more curves you can create, the better. It helps the image look sexier because there’s more to the composition than just a straight body.
- Make sure what bends, bends: This is for the same reason you want s-curves — it looks sexier. Make sure nothing is straight unless you’re intentionally wanting that particular part of the body to be straight.
- Be mindful of your composition: The rule of thirds applies to boudoir, too. No matter what pose I’m photographing or how zoomed in or out I am, I always make sure that I’m focusing on the rule of thirds in each image.
- Check the entire frame: Before clicking the shutter, please! Make sure everything from the hair to the face is exactly where you want it. This will make the editing process 1,000 times easier.
When you incorporate all of this into your photos, you’re going to end up with better images all around, especially when paired with great lighting.
Need Boudoir Posing Tips? I’ve Got You Covered
If you get just one thing from this episode, it’s that you can BE a natural light photographer, but you still need to understand how light works, especially how it moves on the body.
You still need to know when to add it, when to adjust the pose, where to place your client IN the light, all the things.
Remember — super talented photographers fail at business, while decent photographers can be very successful. Because regardless of your talent, your portfolio still needs to be solid.
If you need a little more help with that, be sure to check out my Session Prep Guide for Boudoir Photographers. This guide will help you build trust with clients by using a few different poses to help break the ice.
Clients being comfortable with you is KEY because that’s the one thing that can elevate your photos by leaps and bounds. Because when they feel good, those photos will look good.
Oh, and it’s free! So make sure you grab it here.