On Location: Behind the Scenes with Natural Light

On Location: Behind the Scenes with Natural Light

The dramatic looks that can be achieved with strobes can very well be accomplished with natural light if utilized correctly. Understanding how to use the sources and the environment will increase the overall image every time. Using pull backs of each shot is a valuable tool in order to truly appreciate and understand how each image was shot. One photographer shows just how to light dramatically with minimal set ups.

Have you ever wanted to be a fly on the wall during a boudoir shoot to understand how each shot was captured? Known in the photography industry for his fascinating boudoir videos, Michael Sasser walked us though a recent session on his lighting techniques for still image intimate portraiture. He uses minimal set up and four key issues to create his change from light and airy to dramatic and moody without leaving the bed.

Four Key Items Needed for a Successful Dark Moody Image

Rim Light

A rim light would generally be on the other side of your subject. This source of lighting can be a window or strobe however your subject needs to be between you and the light. It helps if this is a small light source, but it can be accomplished as long as it is coming from behind your subject.

Dark Background

Sasser writes that to accomplish this moody look you need to shoot into an area of the room that is dark. This will cause the light hitting your subject to glow against the contrast.

Decrease Lighting

Decrease the amount of light hitting your subject but darkening the rest of the room. Sasser suggests closing all the windows, utilizing black out curtains, or even hang a blanket over a nightstand while putting it next to your subject to block any light bouncing around.

Underexpose Your Image

Expose for the highlights, so that the rest of your image falls into shadow. To bring out an even more dramatic look, Sasser suggests darkening the shadows and increasing the highlights in post production.

Room Options

Small Room/Bedrooms

The shots below show first the final image and then the pull back on how each set was created. Sasser only changed the light source for each set while maintaining the consistency of the posing. The first set was in a small bedroom with the ability to close off doors and curtains to allow minimal lighting onto the subject.

Opening up the curtains to flood the room with light

Larger Room Area

The first set was with all curtains fully open. Multiple light sources from the windows allowed the room to flood on all angles of his subject.

Closing the blinds in this next set brought the light source to highlight only portions of the client for a moodier darker look. This minimal set up helps Sasser to shoot in most any location while he travels for his boudoir clients.

All images are courtesy of and with permission of Michael Sasser

Jennifer Tallerico's picture

JT is known throughout the International Boudoir Photography Industry and the region for her unique approach to Fine Art Photography. Her underwater work as JT Aqua is ethereal based and conceptual. She is an educator, writer and currently teaching workshops for underwater and boudoir.

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