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Creative Ways to Light Boudoir Clients

In today's somewhat over saturated market of boudoir photography, everyone is looking to shoot something new and unique. It can be difficult to find a new perspective on shooting when so many ways have already been discovered. So how can you get creative and grasp the attention of the viewers without reinventing the wheel?

There are many forums out there dedicated to boudoir photography and all its sub niches. When reading through some posts, a certain photographer's images caught my eye in not what he was shooting, but how he was lighting each of his shots. Alex Charilaou based in London UK, shoots with a different perspective on boudoir photography. His images are more voyeuristic giving the viewer a sense of being in the moment along side the subject. He does not just use light to enhance his clients, he uses creative ways in order to intensify the mood of the story.


Charilaou prefers the Canon 45mm TS-E f/2.8. "I use it to create texture and mystery," Charliaou wrote. He feels it is useful when shooting boudoir and art nudes as a way to blur body parts which is helpful when publishing them to certain social media where you could be banned otherwise. "I find it more elegant than other censor techniques sometimes."

His use of prism work is truly what was captivating. In this type of work, the prism always has a different outcome each shot due to light sources and the environment. He uses this technique with a wider lens (24mm, 35mm or 50mm), and at a large aperture (f/1.2-2.8). Making sure the subject is framed close to one edge of the frame and then placing the prism in front of the lens. This technique can be experimental yet rewarding with trial and error. The effects can be anything from light trails, double and triple refraction, rainbows, as well as reflecting the surrounding areas back into the frame. 


Charilaou wrote that his locations while important, they do not necessarily need to be spectacular as it just needs to suit the mood. He feels the best way to prepare for a session is to approach it the way a movie director would in terms of scouting, lighting, dressing, and rearranging the set until it suits him.

I like to use both large scale epic sets and also smaller, more 'real' sets to light mysteriously (mostly in shadow) and using items from the subject to give a personalized, editorial, and somewhat narrative approach to images.

Some of the images were taken simply in his attic space. He wrote that while it is quite a small room, utilizing different lighting and props can create completely different scenes. With natural light, he tries to find pockets of it like window aided with blinds. Artificial light he prefers to use candles or lamps that are generally in the room. He has even used fairy lights where possible. A constant video light made by Neewer or a version of the Icelight is another way he brings in light to his subject.

The image below was shot at the model's home. The interior was filled with vintage cameras, taxidermy, and amazing furniture. The window was already set up so he improvised the scene. While the model was comfortable with nudity, this perspective represented a way to show it mysteriously with the frosted glass as well as capturing the model's love of photography all in one shot. 

He uses AirBNBs and hotels a frequently, scouting them for clients ahead of time. However he prefers to use the client's own home as this is where they are most comfortable. In their space they have access to all their available clothing, which can inspire Charliaou in his images.This will make all the story more personal and tailored to each unique shoot. "I also like to juxtapose locations with the subject, for example shooting lingerie or boudoir images in warehouses, art galleries, museums, and abandoned chateaus or derelict factories."

Charilaou will be teaching in the 2018 Camp Do More, a group dedicated to boudoir photography in Canada with live shoots and his techniques on prism work.

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Jay Jay's picture

Color toning always seems to be considered a dirty secret in photography. While these photographs are well shot and composed, the way he toned each photo is what creates the mood. That among anything else, is what makes these photos what they are.

Is toning so taboo that there's not a single mention of it in the article?

Jennifer Tallerico's picture

I have written many articles on color toning and for this one I wanted to specifically go into his use of creative lighting. It is not taboo it all and many fstopper articles have gone over color toning in much detail. I can definitely do a follow up article on his specific color toning in the future but for this one I wanted to Focus on other creative ways to create a mood.

Alex Charilaou's picture

Happy to collaborate on a future toning article, thanks for the post Jay Jay!

Jay Jay's picture

I get what you're saying, but he's using the lighting as an initial base, but then completely personalizing it and turning it into something very different than just an in camera image through his use of toning. It's like telling giving someone a recipe for baked lasagna and telling them they can make it by just putting in pasta, cheese, and sauce together- but not telling them that it's the certain spices and aromatic ingredients that give it its flavor.

Not asking for how he toned it, as that is not an issue, just wondered why there wasn't a mention that his post processing contributes heavily to the overall look of these photos. :)

David T's picture

>airbnb and hotels

Is it not a problem to get a property release for all them, esp. when doing nude?

Alex Charilaou's picture

Hi David - it can be, yes! Best to have an agreement beforehand, although this obviously narrows the field. This is why it's best to shoot at the client/model's own place where possible. Thanks for the question!

Stuart Smith's picture

Very interesting enjoyable article. Beautifully artistic images & creative approach. Also nice to know there are other make boudoir photographers in the UK! 😀

Judy Cormier's picture

Beautiful images. Thanks for the article Jennifer.