Simple and Elegant Tips for Your Next Boudoir Shoot

In a world filled with the need to stay up to speed with the trending ways of shooting boudoir it is no surprise that it can be exhausting. However keeping up does not always mean having to change the preferred style. Knowing how to keep current with techniques yet staying true to your signature look is not as daunting as it may seem.

Rex Jones, located in Saint George, Utah caught the attention of this writer during a boudoir contest on the Fstoppers boudoir group. The simplicity and sheer elegance of his work with Lydia was refreshing to see after a influx of overtly sexual images becoming the new trend in boudoir photography. While this new trend has a beauty of its own, the elegance of Jones's work brought back the beauty in storytelling. He works mostly dialing in the poses during his boudoir shoots. Striking a balance to have them look their best without having the images come across overtly sexual is a major priority for him.

I really want to avoid having the attitude of 'come at me' in my boudoir shots, because that's not the story I want to tell. I aim for simple elegance. I want to capture the natural beauty of my subject without trying to show her off. In a world where it is so easy for an individual to be objectified in so many different ways, I work really hard to avoid letting extra themes/attitudes/expression into my work. To really portray my model as a real, genuine, human being. As a beautiful person.

His goals for the poses is to use natural light to highlight the individual's best features. He works with each model and client explaining that if the pose feels uncomfortable in any way then they should reposition. If the subject is uncomfortable, this will show through in the end resulting imagery. This is not the story Jones wants to portray so he works very closely with his clients to bring natural posing. In this same regard, the wardrobe is not as much of an issue to Jones. He uses the wardrobe they bring and works it in to a natural comfortable way adding the natural light. 

There's always something new to learn as I get to know my subject and how they see themselves, and we work together to create images that everyone is happy with! Simple elegance. That's the name of my game.

Jones uses a Canon 5D Mark III. He wrote that his go to lens for boudoir is almost exclusively the Canon 85mm f/1.2, though occasionally he will utilize the 70-200 f/2.8. He works at f/3.5, mostly for sharpness in his subjects, and says that he will only open up the aperture if he needs the light or if he is looking to work a different take on the depth of field.

He is a 100% all natural light shooter and he admits that is rare for him to use artificial light for any shoot. He prefers window light for his boudoir shoots, typically a 4' x 4' or bigger. He plans his shoots at specific times fo the day when the sun is on the other side of the building as to avoid any direct sunlight.

 My initial approach to boudoir was heavily influenced when I took a one-on-one workshop session from Sean Archer (Stanislav Puchkovsky). But really from there, I really developed my style. I prefer window light for a couple different reasons. Probably the biggest reason is ease of use. I hate taking all that time to set up, adjust, adjust again, etc. The window light is soft, pre-set-up, and most importantly...consistent!

Since his light source is immovable and consistent, the team has to work with poses to make sure the light hits her figure in a flattering way. In turn this means since they cannot move the light source they instead they just alter and move the pose. The formula that tends to work best is to have the model quartered toward the window according to Jones. Instead of facing the window straight on or having the window 90° to their side, they are turned towards the window at a more-or-less 45° angle. Jones feels this positioning is enough to have the light cast just enough shadows to highlight the best features on the figure without making it look overly intense or shadowed.

Modifications of the pose form from here to make the most of the highlight and shadows. Jones keeps an assistant on set to help out on the shoot as he feels this is beneficial for time and business practices. He writes that he never shoots a client or model alone especially in this genre. Other benefits of an assistant is for a second pair of eyes for the fine tune details such as stray hairs, twisted clothing elements or positioning. Jones can focus on the shot itself without having to leave the camera each time to fix a hair or a strap.

Really, beyond that, the rest of the shot is finalized in post-processing. It is rare for me to ever share an image that hasn't been processed. My background comes from shooting in film, studying the old film photographers like Ansel Adams and their darkroom processes. So much of my post-processing is basically glorified dodging and burning, just in Photoshop instead of underneath an enlarger. I find it amusing when anyone claiming to be a 'purist' (whatever that is) who refuses to modify their images after the camera. That is similar to saying their giving all the image control and look to the engineer who designed the camera that they use. 

His post processing work is a fair amount of dodging and burning for lighting control. Some skin work is included but he does work to keep that to a minimum as well. He wants his clients to see themselves as they are naturally but without spending time focusing in a a blemish that is not permanent. Jones wrote that one major piece of information he took away from his mentor Sean Archer was that he wanted the person to see themselves as he saw them.

All images are courtesy and used with permission of Rex Jones.

Follow his work on 500px and Instagram.

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Mike Mendoza's picture

wonderful images

Rex Jones's picture

Thanks Mike! 😃

Jonathan Brady's picture

I always enjoy your boudoir articles, despite the fact that I've never shot a boudoir session in my life. I think there's SO much to be learned from this genre when it comes to client interactions, lighting and shadows, mood, posing/directing, and story telling.
Thank you, to you and to Rex, for another fantastic article and I look forward to the next!

mike brannon's picture

Really beautiful, inspiring, soulful work. It's easy to get numb to the stream of images that leave nothing the imagination. Where do you go from there, especially w/ everyone else doing it? Its really nice to see a return to modesty and mystery. Let the viewer's imagination have something to do! Its the most powerful tool.

Cameron Akin's picture

Would love to know how you edit these! Insane skills, bravo!