Sensual boudoir….a shoot with Gemma


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What is boudoir photography? A simple question with a myriad of answers depending on who you ask. To some boudoir is the tasteful side of glamour photography, to others it is a hotel shoot with a bed sheet and if you search through Google images you’ll find a multitude of diverse photos tagged as boudoir.

There is one theme, though, that runs through all boudoir photography and that is the celebration of the female form with more than hint of sensuality. Too much and you move into glamour photography.

All of these themes are plainly obvious when you look at the photos, but what is easily missed is the central ethos of a good boudoir photo; a woman, confident in herself having a photo shoot that defines and celebrates her womanhood and her femininity. Good boudoir accentuates all that is wonderful about the female form and removes anything that does not flatter, hence the artfully placed sheet, the shallow depth of field, the pose that flatters, exposes and conceals.

All of this combined with good lighting creates a photo or a series of photos that celebrate the confidence and beauty of the subject, but this is nothing other than a good portrait if it does not also proclaim that underneath this beauty there is a sensual woman.

Boudoir shoots are often deeply personal events and usually there is a partner/lover for whom this shoot is aimed. As the photographer it is my job to create those photos with poses, props and lighting but in such a way that the recipient is wholly focused on the who not the how.

When I shoot boudoir I like to let the light and the pose sculpt the body, using shadow to hide what I don’t want seen. It would be easy to just use shadow to hide those parts of us that we don’t like, indeed I can do that with a good pose in full light regardless of body shape. Yet I don’t just want to hide things that shouldn’t be seen in the dark, I want to use that same darkness to heighten the sensuality of the shot. I want the light to sculpt the form so that it emphasises that natural curve and shape of the subject whilst also providing a sense of mystery that will push that sensuality and hint at the eroticism that is hidden from sight.

This hidden message is for the viewer, and the viewer alone. Now sometimes these shoots are for the subject, a celebration of her inner self, her youth or beauty or downright sassiness!! On other occasions it is a bride who wants a deeply personal present for her husband to be, one that is hidden from the glare of the wedding day yet is as much a celebration of their commitment as the ceremony itself. It could just as easily be a woman in a stable relationship, reaffirming that bond with her partner in a passionately intimate way.

It matters not why. Or how. The only thing that matters is the message from subject to viewer…and that I’ve managed to convey it in a subtle yet seductive manner.

I’ve added a few shots from a recent studio shoot with the gorgeous Gemma, these will become part of the Image Box sample that is one of the Boudoir Photography products that I offer.

Boudoir with Gemma

Boudoir with Gemma

Boudoir with Gemma

Boudoir with Gemma

Boudoir with Gemma

Boudoir with Gemma


Same tree, different light

I’ve previously posted that a photo is all about the light and that no matter how good the composition is if the light is uninspiring and dull the photo will never inspire you, and great light can make a photo.

Near to where I am there are fields and a few trees that are pretty good for silhouettes when the weather is right. This is usually of an evening as their location lends itself to sunsets rather better than it would for a sunrise.

I’ve shot this location before,

and as the weather has been rather changeable I decided to give the location a visit and see what I could come up with. The thing with changeable spring weather, especially around sunset is that it can go one of two ways, you either get some really good light or it just closes down and gives you nothing.

I’ve also learnt that with my current camera a Nikon D700 that it works best on silhouettes with stormy skies to underexpose by about one stop. This ensures that the foreground will go black and more importantly it adds a sense of menace to the sky by keeping detail and emphasising the colours. To leave the camera on matrix metering with no exposure compensation would result in a fairly bland picture as the camera would overexpose the sky to compensate for the foreground losing any colour and definition in the sky.

Working out camera settings is easy these days, you just chimp the photo on the back.

Anyway here are the photos, taken from the same area of the same tree within about twenty minutes of each other, unfortunately I lost the sunset as the clouds came in about ten to fifteen minutes before the sun was due to set. That’s the way it goes sometimes!




As you can see in the final photo the cloud is closing in and I lost any usable light shortly after this photo was taken.

There is some post processing, to enhance the colours slightly and to bring out some detail in the clouds, however the photos you see are close to the original RAW files taken directly from the camera. I have no axe to grind over the use of Photoshop too enhance a photo as it is as important in the digital age as the camera, however, I’m no Photoshop guru that can take a crappy photo and make it infinitely better so I try and get the photo 90% right in camera. And it saves me spending hours editing photos. Where’s the fun in that????

If I can’t get to the studio….



As I can’t get to the studio at the moment I decided to make the studio come to me! This is easier than it sounds and didn’t involve uprooting all the studio lights and throwing them in the back of the car along with the huge softboxes, instead I utilised the speed lights that I already have.

I do like using speed lights, considering they are designed to fit on the hot shoe of your camera they really pack a punch and kick out some quite powerful light so having three of these makes for a really versatile lighting set up that is really portable.

So I took them all down stairs and set up in the dining room/kitchen. I took myself down to Hobbycraft and paid a few quid for some foamex backgrounds in black and white and also picked up a sheet of glass. I was after perspex as it’s far safer but they didn’t have/don’t stock it and I wasn’t going to start wandering round B&Q or Homebase on a set of crutches so the glass had to do.

First off I wanted to do some smoke photo’s. I couldn’t find any incense sticks and I was too impatient to wait for some of the internet so I used a tea light. Now as you know candles generally don’t smoke until you put them out so I spent an hour or so trying to just nip out the flame to leave the wick smouldering. It’s a lot easier to say than do!!

Anyway I managed to get a few decent photos, and if you’re interested the camera was set to 250 shutter speed which is the sync speed of the camera and the aperture was normally set to f8. I placed the speed light about two foot away and adjusted the power to about 1/32.

The first shot is the bare flash illuminating the smoke and for the second shot I added a cerulean blue gel to the flash gun to turn the smoke a nice shade of blue. I probably could have done this in Photoshop but why bother when it takes two minutes to gel the speed light???

_DSC5460_DSC5463I’m not sure which one I prefer, I’ve had both as the wallpaper for my Mac and depending on the time of day and which way the winds blowing I could choose either.

Anyway after moving on from burning stuff and successfully avoiding setting fore to the kitchen I decided to try a bit of darkfield lighting on a glass. I’ve never tried this technique before and very simply it involves just highlighting the edge of the subject by lighting two small white panels just out of shot. The subject is of course shot against a black background.

It took a few goes to get the lighting just right and involved masking the speed lights so the light they give out didn’t go every where. I just wanted to light the white panels just behind my subject (a glass) and I certainly didn’t want any of that light to spill onto my background or the glass itself.

Anyway this is the best of the bunch with the tightest highlight I could manage. I do quite like its simplicity.

Darkfield glassSo after the success of a bit of darkfield lighting I was on a roll and decided to have a go at that most difficult of effects; specular highlights. The specular highlight is the reflection of a shiny/semi-shiny surface and gives the viewer information on colour, shape, texture etc It sounds dead simple but too many photographs of shiny objects have sharp highlights where they’ve been zapped by the flash and it’s impossible to get any information about the object from that highlight. It’s just a small white spot.

So out comes the cutlery (or what wasn’t in the dishwasher anyway) suitably shiny and very reflective. And didn’t that cause it’s own set of problems!! I tried bouncing the flash off the ceiling but that just put a reflection of the ceiling on the cutlery so plan A was scuppered! In the end I set up one flash gun, placed the fork and spoon on the glass on the black foamex and placed the large white foamex board behind them just out of shot. I pointed the flash at the foamex and flagged it with a bit of black card so the light didn’t spill all over the place

This is the shot I got.


There’s a little spill from the flashgun off to the right bouncing back off the white foamex board and reflecting off the glass which adds a lovely gradient to the background. I’d love to say this was intentional but it was one of those strokes of good fortune you sometimes get when you zap photons of light all over the place!

You can see that the specular highlight is picked up especially well on the curve of the fork and spoon which tells you that they are shiny and very smooth almost polished objects. What we see is the reflection of the light source, in this case a large white foamex board in the fork and spoon and it’s the soft nature of this reflection that defines the texture of the objects being photographed.

Personally I think this is the best of the bunch, it’s my favourite to date and proudly sits as the wallpaper on my Mac. As soon as I can figure out where to hang it in the kitchen I’ll print it. What size and on what paper is a whole different set of questions! I’ve heard of some titanium lustre paper that has an almost metallic look so I’ll be seeing if I can get hold of sample, at nearly £70 for 25 sheets of A3+ I want to see what it looks like first!!!

Time to kick start the blog again!!

The blog has been very quiet for quite a while, unfortunately all sorts of things that have nothing to do with photography and everything to do with the daily grind seem to have gotten in the way. Well be gone daily grind!!!

Well the photography has continued with portrait and wedding shoots in between a few opportunities to get some landscape shots in.

I always find it amazing that the location is never a barrier to a portrait shoot if you approach it in the right way. Some of the most challenging shoots tend to be in peoples houses as it seems that living rooms are generally not designed for good light! Having seen the size of some living rooms I sometimes struggle to figure out what the architect was trying to design, or indeed if the builders actually used an architect or just threw walls up wherever they felt like it!

Anyway,I had the opportunity of photographing the lovely Rory some months ago and having invested in a new woolly hat specifically for baby shootsI decided that if possible I’d look to grab a few shots with the hat. I also had a crocheted hammock as well which I planned to put against the black background for a nice b&w conversion.

Well the hammock went down like a lead balloon…..Rory was having none of it and after a short and very red faced screaming fit the hammock was put away! Fearing the worst I thought I’d try the hat, hoping for a calm and sleepy baby but expecting bleeding ears when he kicked off again. I’m not sure what it is but if I point a camera at a normally happy and contented baby they morph into a stroppy teenager within seconds. Weird.

Fortunately for my blood pressure and ears the hat worked so I could grab a few quick shots of a now rather sleepy baby.

I finally get my shot of a sleepy baby proudly wearing (or ignoring) the hat.

I finally get my shot of a sleepy baby proudly wearing (or ignoring) the hat.

This is a favourite and a good shot to finish the post with. Thanks Rory, you’re looking good!!

Thank you Gemma


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I don’t tend to do very many fashion style studio shoots. There are a number of reasons for this but mainly they revolve around not having a sense of fashion (those that know me will surely agree) and not really having access to a supply of models.

Yet although fashion photography isn’t an area I’m looking to expand into or necessarily specialise in I’ve realised that I’m missing out on an important area of photography and the chance to push myself creatively.

This sudden lightning bolt of inspiration came after I organised a training event at the studio recently for a group of friends and fellow photographers. Most of them had had very little experience using studio flash or working with professional models and there were a few who wanted an input into Photoshop and Lightroom.

A model I knew was proving more elusive than Lord Lucan and I was pointed towards the Model Mayhem site by another photographer. What a great site!!

One casting call on a Thursday for a shoot on the Saturday (it was beginning to be squeaky bum time trying to get a model at such short notice) led to 5 different modes all replying and some of these models were highly experienced and Agency represented. Wow!

Now if I’d have rocked up on the Saturday with a model who’s credentials included various magazine covers and was represented with modelling agencies in both London and Rome I may well have created the ‘rabbit in headlights’ look amongst some of the photographers. Don’t get me wrong, she appeared to be really keen to work with us and quite pleasant but her hourly rate was somewhat more expensive and I was looking for a model that was better suited to the experience level of the photographers I had coming in. So I settled for Gemma. An experienced model with a stunning portfolio who was also keen to work with us and who fitted the bill quite nicely.

So the day arrived and the shoot progressed and as is often the way with photography there is always someone who is more experienced than you in certain things and so it was this time. One of the photographers has done a lot of advertising work and is an old hand at fashion photography so after I had introduced everyone to the lighting and the more technical aspects such as shutter speeds and aperture he stepped forward and led everyone through different looks with just one light.

I will admit to being inspired. Gemma was really easy to work with and although she’s probably used to working with better direction than ‘just throw a few shapes and we’ll see where we go’ everyone had some quality time exploring the light and getting off some good shots.

As lead light shifter, tea boy and general dogs body/helping hand I didn’t get more than about 20-30 shots, however, what I did get was good. Even if I do say so myself!!!!

The benefit of working with Gemma was that I could just let her ‘throw some shapes’ and then without having to worry about posing her I could concentrate on composition and lighting.

These shots are all lit with one light fitted with a beauty dish, this creates the shadow which defines the face and as it’s a beauty dish the shadows are a bit harsher than if it was a softbox in the same position. This also serves to create a more dramatic portrait as there is a greater degree of contrast between the lit and shadowed areas. There is no fill light although as this bit of the studio is in essence a white cube there will always be some reflected light bouncing back off the walls and floor etc, to lift the shadows.

Stood against the white infinity scoop with a beauty dish high up to her right.

Stood against the white infinity scoop with a beauty dish high up to her right.

Close up with the lighting high up to the right of Gemma

Close up with the lighting high up to the right of Gemma

A beauty dish high up to the right of Gemma, notice how it blows the texture of the wall up close.

A beauty dish high up to the right of Gemma, notice how it blows the texture of the wall up close.

My personal favourite again lit with a beauty dish high up to the right of Gemma.

My personal favourite again lit with a beauty dish high up to the right of Gemma.

Not too shabby as I only took a few shots and we were rotating through the lighting to give everyone a chance to shoot.

So, off the back of this shoot I’ve got a new found enthusiasm for working with models and pushing my lighting which will obviously have an impact on my portraiture and wedding photography and can only make me a better photographer. Biiig smiley!!

The shoot

Just before Christmas I had the pleasure of accompanying a pheasant shoot with my trusty Nikon.

It’s a shoot I’ve been invited on before as a guest gun, and whilst I’m not going to get into a debate about the rights or wrongs of so called blood sports I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed the day.

The guns (as people are referred to) are a group of local farmers who have organised themselves into a shooting syndicate and whilst I know my way round a gun having handled them in the past I’d never shot at a bird so I welcomed the chance to experience something different.

It was a bloody cold day but the copious amounts of port that suddenly kept appearing did a fine job of keeping me warm. I can’t say it did anything for my aim and any pheasant that was unlucky enough to get flushed by the beaters was quite safe if it flew anywhere near me!!

So, after being invited along to scare some pheasants and ducks with a shotgun I decided to repay the favour by offering the shoot the opportunity of a personalised calendar.

It’s a somewhat surreal experience sat in a nice warm static caravan with a group of farmers (and they breed them big out there in Shropshire) all offering to do a naked photoshoot a la the now famous Womens Institute version of a few years ago. Shooting naked farmers wasn’t really what I had in mind. Ever. Farmers wives are a totally different proposition but farmers? No.

Anyway the port flowed quite freely and it is rather rude not to imbibe so after a few warming sips it was off out into the bitter cold of a bright, sunny winters day.

Fortunately the weather held quite well throughout the day and the early morning light was wonderful. It was still bitterly cold though, and I discovered that the battery grip that screws onto the bottom of my D700 doesn’t like the cold. Obviously the port that I’d drunk before we set off to keep me warm hadn’t quite stretched to the camera. I’ll drink more next time!!

Needless to say I’m a much much better shot with a Nikon than a Beretta so I ‘bagged’ a few this time round……

Broken shotgunWaiting for the first flushThe gun dogThe one that got awayA successful driveGood shot, Sir!

Alrewas Hayes Part 2

Where does the time go? In between selling a house, packing and moving into a new one (twice) and unpacking (twice) Christmas has almost snuck up on me!And I haven’t updated the blog with Mark and Margarites wedding finale….shocking!

Anyway, in the last installment of the wedding of Mark and Margarite at the stunning Alrewas Hayes I promised a couple of photos of the groom looking decidedly nervous. It’s a shot I always look out for and it usually comes in the last 5-10 minutes before the bride makes her appearance. The groom has managed to hide the nerves by joking and laughing with the best man but now he’s sat down and just counting the minutes….



Even the best man looks nervous on the first shot, not sure why, not as though he’s got any lines to fluff!!

I must admit that I was beginning to worry that I might not get these shots, Mark was looking really relaxed and having a good laugh and joke with Dave the best man and as it was a civil ceremony I was pushed for space. I was stood right behind where the ceremony was going to take place so as soon as the registrar came in I’d have to move. Fortunately Mark finally got a touch nervous (he’ll deny it obviously) and I managed to get the shots I was after.

The rest of the wedding was plain sailing. In a pressurised, stressful kind of way!! The biggest bonus with civil ceremonies is that the registrars tend to be a bit more relaxed than vicars so you get a bit of scope to move around during the ceremony, that said most churches have more space and once you can get in behind the vicar you have the bride and groom looking in your direction, which often isn’t possible in a civil venue. Can’t have everything I suppose.

I like to get a shot of them holding hands during the ceremony, it’s probably more for moral support than romance at this stage!!

Moral support

As is always the way the rest of the day passed in a flash, Mark and Margarite entered the merry go round of all the guests wishing them luck and happiness together and I charged around like a lunatic making sure I got the reportage style photos they wanted.

As I sat down during the meal for a 10 minute breather I noticed this, which is a lovely way to finish the post and to wish Mark and Margarite all the best for the future. When you take away all the trimmings it sums up just what a wedding is all about……..


Mr & Mrs Burnell

I recently had the pleasure of shooting the wedding of Mark & Margarite Burnell at the lovely Grade II listed Queen Anne residence that is Alrewas Hayes. Set in the Staffordshire countryside this is a gorgeous wedding venue that is just a short hop geographically from the A38 but seemingly miles away from the rush and chaos of every day life.

I’d managed to arrange a meeting with the Manager to have a look round the venue with the same day I moved house…I’m probably the first photographer who has turned up armed not with a Nikon but a Flymo (and assorted crap from my garage that I didn’t have time to skip before eI handed over the house keys!!).

I noticed that the marquee, although empty at the time was really light and airy yet I was still surprised at how good it looked when it was all set out the morning of the wedding. I now know why the staff were so proud of their marquee.

The cake was just being set up so I had a little wander and noticed the Candy Bar in the corner. What a fab idea. Jars of sweets with little custom made bags.

Having finished at the candy bar (couldn’t snaffle a couple as people were still setting up the tables and flowers …damn) I saw the cake.

Wow. A glorious tiered creation of white chocolate with fresh fruit that looked amazing. And tasty. Very tasty. Now I’m not a great fan of fruit cake which is traditionally what wedding cakes are made of but a cake made out of white chocolate? Oh yeah!! That’s a cake. And I must say the photo does it justice as well. Shot with the available light coming through the window against the dimmed lights of the marquee’s interior it looks as good as it must have tasted.

Now if that doesn’t make you feel a bit peckish for a spot of chocolate then you have no soul!!! I think that must be the best cake photo I’ve done. Very dramatic.

In my next post I’ll add a few pictures of the wedding itself, and once again I managed to catch the groom looking slightly nervous. I can’t help myself, it’s one of the few times that people are truly oblivious to a whopping big zoom lens about 6 foot away so you’ve got to grab those moments.

A new slideshow video

I recently shot the wedding of Mark and Margarite at the stunning Alrewas Hayes in Staffordshire. It was a low key affair as neither the bride nor groom wanted too much fuss but that didn’t detract from the day at all.

As they don’t want a wedding album and just want their wedding photos on DVD I thought I’d try out some new software that makes the slideshow of their wedding a bit more special than just a DVD of digital images.

Here is a try out of the new software with a collection of photos from previous shoots. I hope you like it, just click on the link and you should be taken to the video.

Your photos, your video.

The big re brand

Every business moves on in all sorts of ways that probably weren’t planned for when they started off.

I never really envisaged doing portraits and weddings full time when I first started a few years ago, instead I was hoping to generate a steady income through stock photography on sites like Alamy and Getty. My initial plan was to turn my love of landscape photography into a paying business that self generated the funds necessary to travel to take more photos.

Unfortunately the rise of micro stock sites such as shutterstock and istock just about killed that off as a way to earn a steady living, and whilst I still have a presence on Alamy I now consider anything it generates to be more of an added bonus rather than a steady income stream.

I then moved onto Emmas Diary and the baby shoots in north Birmingham and had a thoroughly enjoyable time taking baby pics in peoples living rooms. It’s a great feeling when you show new parents some fabulous (even if I do say so myself) photos of their cute new arrival, especially when it was taken in their living room.

What really appealed about my time with Emmas Diary was that I could continue as a freelancer and set my own prices and create my own offers, all I had to ensure was that I offered a free complimentary print. There was the opportunity of investing in a franchise, which would have offered all sorts of support and opened up markets in portraits and weddings but I would have been tied to a product and price list and I enjoy being able to work with people so that they can afford the photos I’ve taken so I didn’t take up that offer.

As time moved on and the recession bit deeper into peoples expendable income it became obvious that the areas I had in Birmingham were no longer economically viable. In about 6 months I went from never having a client only take the free print to about 60-70% of clients only taking advantage of the free print.

So you move on as a business and look to maximise other areas.

Which leads me to the rebranding exercise that I’m currently going through. You may have noticed the new header on the page and that it’s changed from KJ Imagery to Kev Jones Photography. This is a change of direction and will be reflected in the new website when it’s up and running. I’ve moved hosts to a different platform offering easier customisation and the ability to offer products directly from the professional printing lab that currently does all my printing and although the current site is still live and may well remain live for a while yet.

At some point I will rebrand the blog to match the website and eventually the whole KJ Imagery brand will be replaced. I can’t honestly say it’s fun, in fact it’s an utter pain, changing everything round and designing new logos and a whole different look, and there are still some issues I’ll have to work on such as the Facebook page and the web address of this blog.

But hey….who said life was easy!

And I suppose I’m at least getting value for money on my Mac as I’ve been sat staring at it for countless hours with my head buried in HTML, XHTML, CSS and all sorts of other completely meaningless jumbles of capital letters!

Right, time to walk away from the computer for a while and remember that I’m a photographer not a website design guru….might have to get the D700 out for a bit, one of us is beginning to get separation anxiety!!!!