The Business of Boudoir »

The Quality of Light

Quality of light can change your images dramatically. I am not talking about exposure. I am talking about the overall look of light in your photographs.

Shadows are just as important as light

Many photographers make photographs that are perfectly lit, which is totally okay, but shadows can add drama and make your images more interesting and have an art aspect. Shadows are just as important as light. Their placement, depth and edge sharpness is significant for any image. Their correlation with lit areas determines depth and structure. There are so many things you can do with shadows such as hide, shape and accentuate the body and set a mood to the image.

You need to be in control of the shadow portions of your images and don’t just let them happen. Shadows are determined by how you set your main light. The farther away from the camera axis it is, the more prominent the shadows will be, right up to a very dramatic mood where the shadows dominate.

NY | Chicago Boudoir PhotographerPIN

Distance and light source size add (or remove) drama

The transition from light to shadow plays a big role, causing what is considered as “hard” or “soft” light. The sharpness of this transition is based on the light source’s size relative to the subject. A light source that is small in relation, like a speedlight or a strobe that is far away from the subject, will create crisp shadows.

The opposite is a light that is large in relation such as any umbrella or softbox when it’s closer to the subject. Be careful when changing a light’s intensity by moving it closer or farther away: This will also change shadow hardness.

NY | Chicago Boudoir PhotographerPIN

Squint your eyes to mimic what your camera sees

The second important factor in the appearance of shadows is “fill light,” whether it is reflected light from a wall, a reflector or even the bed sheets or another light source. Be aware of the fact that the camera sees shadows way darker and deeper then they appear to the naked eye.

What may seem a perfectly clear detail when you look at it can turn out as completely black in your photo. Overtime as you observe and compare you will get more and more experienced in judging shadows. My trick here is to squint my eyes when I look at a scene. This will give me an impression that is closer to how my camera will render it.


Use shadows to shape and conceal

Shadows pronounce structure and they can also pronounce irregularities in a client’s skin. Watch closely to avoid problems that can increase your retouching dramatically. On the other hand shadows can also shape the female form. Shadows can hide problematic areas as well as mold the bust, back, hips and an athletic abdomen in a beautiful way.

Shadows can be alluring and sexy when used correctly. Not every situation works well with adding shadows to the mix. My best advice would be to play with the light to see what you get and if you and your client love it then you are golden!

NY | Chicago Boudoir PhotographerPIN

-Critsey Rowe


Critsey Rowe

International boudoir photographer Critsey Rowe of Couture Boudoir® is the best selling the author of "Boudoir Photography- The Complete Guide To Shooting Intimate Portraits". Critsey has been a guest speaker on The Wedding Planning Audiocast, Convention speaker DWF at Imaging USA, Convention speaker WPPI's Road Trip, speaker Pictage Users Group and featured on Mimika TV and many other online resources.

More Posts - Website - Twitter - Facebook - Pinterest

  • May 18, 2014 - 9:55 PM

    Neil van Niekerk - This is such a key idea – the quality of light. And somehow it is a concept that takes us too long to understand the importance of it. I am sure as we all started taking photos, we just shot, happy with the results … and then later, much later, do we really *get* it – the importance of grasping the quality of light. Not just snapping away, but looking at how light shapes our subject, and “flavors” our subject and scene.ReplyCancel

    • May 19, 2014 - 9:21 AM

      Critsey Rowe - Neil, I can happily say I learned so much of what I know from your books. Thanks for being such a great teacher and sharing your wonderful knowledge of light!ReplyCancel

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *