Boudoir doesn’t always have to be about bedrooms and lingerie; it should be about who you are. Case in point: this series with Autumn. This was our first time working together and the whole purpose of the shoot was to capture a Vampire, not boudoir. I told her that to maximize her time (and the amazing warehouse space we had rented for the day – Park Street Studios is stunning!) to bring some lingerie/clothing that would go with a black leather jacket. Something on this side of sexy, but not bedroom boudoir. I had a vision that I’m sure called back to some of the visuals of movies, music and other artistic elements I saw growing up in the 1980s; big hair, black hose, kick-your-ass boots and all the allure that could knock you down with a glance. I saw a powerful young woman on her way to a gig, walking among the city lights at night with her light shining the brightest.
True to the picture we were painting, Autumn had a gig the day before our shoot that was a long day. Late to sleep, early to rise and a few hours later she was standing in front of me like the action had never stopped, the energy was still riding high. After a brief explanation of the lighting pattern I was working with and my process of shooting, we began our work. What a journey; Autumn is truly a master of her craft. Each pose, each moment was a story unto itself and I had the pleasure of tweaking those stories when we landed on those that spoke to my vision.
But let’s talk about the photography and the lighting here – perhaps a little bit about the process too. First the gear. I’m using a Canon EOS R5 with an RF 24-70mm F2.8 lens. The settings for this series were F-8, shutter speed of 1/160th of a second and ISO: 50 because I like to add the noise to an image in digital photo editing, not have the camera do it for me. I’m using two Godox AD600 strobes in this scene, the one positioned on camera left is using a 47 inch octabox from Strobepro and the second light positioned off of camera right is using a 7 foot parabolic umbrella with a diffusion sock from Impact.
The positioning of the lights aren’t set in any formal pattern, simply placed to sculpt the light around Autumn for this series of poses. That is one of the key essentials to creatively lighting a subject; set the pattern then have the model work within that pattern. I explained to Autumn that the key light (the main/strongest light source) was positioned behind her and would wrap around from camera left. The fill light (second most powerful light on the set) would gently lift the shadows on camera right. As we worked I would infrequently increase the power of the fill light by a full stop of power, lifting the shadows even more and creating an almost equal balance of power between both lights. The shape of the modifiers is then what would create the variety to the lighting and still give a different visual.
To create a little variety, I switched the two lights in their relative positions to the camera – the octabox is now on camera right and the parabolic umbrella is on camera left. Same power settings for the most part, but with less surface area on the octabox than the parabolic umbrella, we got some interesting patterns to the light. As she worked with the jacket like the prop it became, I focused my attention to the lighting itself and continued to quickly power up or down, either light to create variance.
As with all sessions once I get into the flow of the creativity, I tend to ride that wave of inspiration and follow that spontaneity. This makes it fun to be present in the moment and to collaborate with the subject so they feel as much a part of the session as you are. However it has draw backs that only really come to life (for me) when I am in front of the computer culling the session down. My regret is that I didn’t spend more time exploring various angles to Autumn while using this backdrop and these lights. In my mind I slapped a label of “portraits” for this part of the session and then slapped a new label of “slice-of-life” on to some natural light image work we did in a nearby window. This practice comes from my days of running a studio capturing high-school seniors. Each part of the session had to be compartmentalized to “portraits” or “landscapes-with-kid-in-it” or the slice-of-life that was ultimately my favorite to capture. Each style had a location and a new look to compliment that label. Working with a professional model like Autumn, I need to learn to capture images that fit all of those labels, all within one location/one look/one scene.
When I look at the above work I am happy with what I see. The subject is fantastic, the feelings are there and the various moving parts all worked together for a great 20 minute series. It is precisely that contentment that motivates me to want to do more. The energy from a job-well-done has always been the spark that fires my mind to want to see more and more from the work. Perhaps I need to take a step back during the session and simply ask myself “is this all you need this to be – is there more that you can create here?” Again stemming from my portrait studio days I would ask myself that silent internal question, but from the perspective of “have you shot enough images of this look for the IPS (in-person-sales) session – if so, then time for them to change clothes and move on.”
I’ll get there, it is just a matter of focus and time.
Model: Autumn Skye Huse || Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/autumn.huse || IG: @tumthecreator
Backdrop: Spectrum as a part of the David Byrd Imagination Collection with Intuition Backgrounds
Location: Park Street Studios in St. Louis, MO || Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ParkStreetStudiosStL
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