3 Ways Natural Light Can Shape Your Boudoir Portraits

April 21, 2020

By Jess Pereira

© Beautifully Undressed Boudoir

I am a natural-light worker.

I love to see natural shadows fall on the face and body. To me, they help create mood in my images. I can use the light to highlight certain parts of the body and to shade certain parts too, making the images more thought-provoking. In boudoir photography shadows help to make the female form look even more flattering when they hug the body and wrap around a woman’s natural curves.

natural light and shadow hugging female client's body

[Check out the “6 Natural Boudoir Poses That Will Flatter Clients”]

When I’m shooting boudoir sessions at my studio, I use the natural light that comes through the windows, so my boudoir sessions tend to take place earlier during the winter months, due to the reduced amount of natural light available.  

I choose whether to have a moody and dark image, or a bright and airy image, depending on how much light I let into my camera. You don’t need a sunny day or dark day in order to create these looks. I adjust the ISO and shutter speed depending on my desired outcome. Regardless of the day, I tend to create a mixture of light and dark images for each client gallery. 

[Read about how to get first-time boudoir clients comfortable with you and your camera.]

I generally prefer to shoot with soft, diffused natural light, which I create by placing a sheer curtain up on one of the windows. But there are times when I like to play with the light, particularly when it casts shadows and makes shapes in the room. Depending on the pattern, I can play with harsh lines or incorporate a prism to introduce reflective effects. 

using harsh lines in boudoir photography with natural light
using prism with natural light in boudoir photography

Natural light can be challenging, however; it’s not consistent, and it is always changing. It keeps me on my toes, but it can be so dynamic. It makes me shoot in a spontaneous way, which I like. I feel using natural light ignites a photographer’s creativity and helps make every session unique. 

I mainly prefer to back, side and full light on my subjects because they help me create a moodier image that is also flattering for any body type. Here are some ways to use each of these types of light in your boudoir sessions.

Back Light

back light with natural window light in boudoir photography

Try placing your subject between you and the natural light source. Ask your subject to lie down on their back and turn their head slightly toward the light source. Look for the highlights and shadows on the face or body: Can you make a clear distinction?

You could also ask the subject to turn their head away from the source and use the light to outline their face and body.

back light from window light in natural boudoir photography

Aim to shoot towards the light. Adjust your camera settings to a low aperture and high shutter speed. Then take the shot, shooting at a slightly higher angle than your subject. 

Side Light

using side light natural boudoir photography

Take a step so that rather than having the light in front of you, the source is to the side of you. Adjust your camera settings to either a lower ISO or higher shutter-speed (or both). Look for the highlights and shadows over one side of the body or face of your subject. 

Full Light

full natural light boudoir photography

Position yourself so that the light source is directly behind you and make sure you are directly in front of your subject with their face evenly lit. This will give you a bright, fully lit image. 

full natural light in black and white boudoir photography

Each of these methods contribute to a huge, signature part of my style. Using only natural light allows me to set a simple, thought-provoking scene in which a story can be told—a visual story full of mystery, vulnerability and strength.

Jess Pereira is the photographer behind Beautifully Undressed Boudoir, based in the UK. For more tips from her, check out her e-book course, on sale now, called Create Stunning Boudoir Photographs.