Playing with shadows is not a new concept however in the boudoir community is has become a beautiful new trend. A recent group competition brought many boudoir photographers into the sight of this staff writer. One photographer in particular stopped the show with some moody light that won us over.
A few weeks ago a group contest was posted for the chance to be featured on Fstoppers for boudoir photography. Judge and group moderator Courtney Bell of The Adore Girls and I reviewed all images in the boudoir group forum. The winner, Martin Strauss, showed a range of poses, color toning and moods that sent us both into a unanimous vote for his work.
Strauss started photography roughly six years ago shooting weddings, fashion, and boudoir. He feels boudoir still remains featured on the intimate, romantic side of photography rather than the more erotic images of a subject. While shooting on set, he routinely will show the model the shots on the display to create a bond between the model and the images.
He wrote that there are certain elements decisive for boudoir photography: a combination of the model's pose along with the photographers point of view and focus. These two elements play the main role while the lighting delivers the mood needed to create the final image.
The Technical Side
His work consists of warmer tones where he sets his white balance to 7500K. He feels this gives the desired color he is looking for on his subjects skin enhancing a warm, soft, and dreamy look. The choice of colors contrasts and his skin retouching is a element that can clearly show how he is set apart. Lighting his subjects ranges depending on mood as he wrote that "boudoir photography is not about showing what she has to offer, but to suggest what may be hidden. Playing with the shadows, lines and curves are more important than getting the perfect soft spot of light."
Utilizing the window light in this image enhances the models collarbone, profile of the face as well as the elements surrounding her such as the table and bed. During the session itself, the lighting helped the model for the facial expression that would match the final resulting image.
Here the mood is set to a film noir look enhancing the curves and shadows that fall across her body. Using the natural light from the window gives the dreamy look without losing the contrast needed to create the image. Darkening the areas with shadows that are not necessary such as the larger back portion of the room will help focus the viewers eyes to the model.
Strauss explains that diffused high key images flatters the skin and gives a dreamy mood, while another may be characterized by soft focal distances and a shallow depth of field which imparts an intimate mood.
Normally I use natural soft light. Any big or small window is chosen over softboxes and beauty-dishes. I tend to say the smaller the light source, the better. This may sound contrary (as smaller light sources produce harsher light), but with less light, the soft intimate mood gets stronger.
He feels this applies not only to the final images but also to the mood created on the set itself. Using the soft natural light offers Strauss two distinct ways of shooting with the light as well as against it. Filling in with shadows the texture of the couch as well as part of her body line give a distinct moody look to Strauss's work.
Posing and the Connection
Strauss feels strongly that models should be natural and never overly erotic or sexually suggestive in posing. In this regard, he wrote that the facial expression is more important than the style of clothing or wearing nothing at all.
I try to go for a subtle eye contact between the model and the camera or even a dreamy far away gaze. Posing of the model follows more an esthetic approach. I often chose 35mm on a full frame for stretching the legs and the body itself while paying attention that her back, hands, and feet are elongated.
As in every other art, there are no rules Strauss writes, "I will not claim that all these assumption are downright 100% accurate, hell, there is at least one image of mine which breaks one or all of these 'rules,' but keeping that in mind, may help you along the way."
All images courtesy of Martin Strauss.