No matter what genre you shoot, with portraiture we aim to make people look good. Right? Yes. We all want to look good. Younger, thinner, taller, smarter, etc. I know that each woman who comes into my studio has a list of all the things she wants to look like. I tell her she will look like the best her there is!
As a photographer for women, I have a lot of responsibilities. I need to make sure she is dressed well, posed well, lit well, and feels great during the whole shoot. While keeping an eye on all the details and the big picture, my main focus is making sure her face is lit properly and in a flattering manner, and with the type of light that will make her look her best.
A woman looks at her face first in every photo. I am sure she will next go to how her stomach and butt, and legs look, but the first and foremost place she looks is her face. If she has been lit poorly, that image is not going to sell and could actually make her feel negative about herself—the last thing any of us want!
So, my No. 1 priority is to make sure the light falls on her face in a flattering way that highlights her eyes and use the shadows to sculpt her face. I felt compelled to write this because I have seen many images online that don’t show women in their most flattering light. I really want to help photographers that might be entering this genre to really think about the light before capturing the image.
Note: all of the photos below are straight out of camera.
Window light & a reflector
In the photos above, I am illustrating how lighting from below the face will create many unflattering shadows. I see this happening when natural light is used and the photographer shoots this direction out of ease, instead of moving the subject, or just doesn’t see the way the light is not flattering the face.
If you simply take a reflector above the face to bounce back into the face you can see how this is evening out the light that is coming from below. This evens out the light and helps with all those unflattering shadows on the face.
Strobes & continuous lighting
You can also illustrate this with strobes or continuous lighting. I find this might happen with a photographer that has recently moved a subject, but maybe didn’t take the time to move the light to flatter the face. You can really see the difference in the under eye area and nose appearance with the two images. I also find that her face overall looks more attractive in the proper overhead lighting based on the sculpting shadows that are created under her nose, lips and chin.
With strobes and continuous lighting you can usually position the light as you need to capture an image with the proper lighting. If you are using natural light and realize while capturing an image that you can not change the direction of your light, why not just create some creative images without showing her face? I make it a rule of thumb to not to photograph a woman if her face is not lit properly. (with exception to these examples)
Crop to hide bad lighting on the face
In the below examples assume I can’t move the light, the laying down image is that window light, and I am illustrating how to capture a flattering image from that if you didn’t add a reflector.
The following image illustrates the same issue. I have the light too low to light her face properly. If you need to make an image from this and hadn’t properly lit the face, just make this a crop, anonymous type image, that can be very sexy and add to an album layout.
As a boudoir photographer, you must know these basics if you want your client to love herself and her photographs. Practice!