The technology of boudoir lighting for location settings

speedlite boudoir, boudoir lighting,

Mixed lighting situation with 600EX-RT Canon Speedlite mounted inside ‘lamp’ behind the subject giving the look of a lit bulb. The ‘lamp’ is actually a vase with a lamp shade and speedlite only.  It isn’t even a real lamp.

Professional boudoir photographers with have their sessions either in studios or on location and will have lighting and modifier technologies and tools in place to properly light our boudoir sets.

Boudoir sets may be indoors or out.  They may use natural light, studio strobes, or small portable battery operated strobes called Speedlites (Speedlights is what Nikon calls them).

This particular boudoir photography set was shot on location in a luxury home in Greater Phoenix.  The challenge was getting my large powerful and versatile studio strobe units to play well with my smaller sized portable speedlite strobe units.  As seen on the image at right where a speedlite has been used to give the illusion of lamp lighting, small speedlites, in addition to portability, can be used in a number of uniquely creative ways to amp up a boudoir portrait.

In my case, I currently use radio controlled smart controllers and studio strobes made by Paul C. Buff and Speedlites made by Canon, as well as third party knock off speedlite flash units made by Yongnuo.

Gear Tested

What I wished to do is to be able to remotely control the power output of both my studio strobes and speedlites simultaneously, in a radio control mode.

Mission accomplished.

The problem trying to control both studio strobes and speedlites

There is a hot shoe mount on the camera where the strobe triggers mount.  There is only one mount, and I wished to control two different technologies via the one mount.

While this is an easy fix in software, the software is not available to the casual user.  There was no easy apparent solution.

The folks at Canon Professional Services were very helpful, though confirmed, both the 600EX-RT and the ST-E3-RT were incapable of working together when not mounted onto a smart camera, like the Canon 5D Mark III camera which is my main body.

Solution to controlling both Canon Speedlites and Smart Studio Stobes

Yongnuo’s YN-E3-RT smart controller will in fact control the output of Canon 600EX-RT speedlites even when not mounted on the smart Canon body.

One need only mount ones current studio flash controller unit onto the camera hot shoe mount, and use a radio receiver unit, which is then plugged into a Hot Shoe Flash Mount with something like a PC Sync Adapter port and attach the YN-E3-RT onto that mount.

I use Paul C. Buff Cyber Commanders, Cyber Sync Receivers and Transmitters.

My Gear Set up

  • Paul C. Buff Cyber Sync Transmitter mounted on the camera
  • Paul C. Buff Cyber Commander, to control the Buff unit power outputs
  • Paul C. Buff Cyber Sync Receiver attached to the Yongnuo YN-E3-RT via a Pocketwizard HSFM3 Flash Sync Cable with Hot Shoe Mount
  • Canon 600EX-RT and YN600EX-RT Speedlites

The YN-E3-RT can control the Canon 600EX-RTspeedlites when the group settings are used in a Manual Power mode.

Studio flash units are generally used in manual power setting modes, so this is quite acceptable and the best for controlling the exact light required.

Between a Yongnuo YN-E3-RT and a Paul C. Buff Cyber Sync Receiver and the cables, you can invest about $200 to the the job done.

That is until Canon makes their 600EX-RT’s functionality capable of this function, or allows their ST-E3-RT Controller the capability.

Bonus – Use this system on Sony bodies to fire and control Canon Flashes !!

Now I can control Canon 600EX-RT flash units using my Sony A7ii camera  body.

This can work two ways.

  • The YN-E3-RT can be mounted directly on the Sony A7ii body and used to manually control the power output of the  600EX-RT Speedlites
  • The YN-E3-RT can be mounted off the A7ii and triggered by the Buff Transceiver / Receiver modules as above, with or without studio flash also

The ability to use Canon Strobes on Sony bodies is a huge advantage to boosting the capability of the Sony system, with only a modest investment in additional lighting accouterments for those with a large stash of Canon gear who are also shooting Sony mirrorless camera bodies.

While I haven’t tested this specifically, am interested to know by comments any tests confirming this mode works with other makes of DSLR.  For example, the YN-E3-RT aught to  work with the 600EX-RT Canon Flashes on most any DSLR camera bodies, like Fuji, Nikon, Panasonic, Pentax, etc.


We are talking about controlling remotely the power output and flash triggering of both studio strobes and/or speedlites, simultaneously or separately.

This can only be done in manual power settings.

Most professional photographers usually shoot in Manual mode, both for exposure, and for flash settings, in order to insure full creative control.  So, this is a small bit to give up in many professional scenarios.

This setup will not work for ETTL modes, where the speedlites work smartly with the camera to control exposure.  No big deal for me, as I wasn’t interested in that in any case.

The YN600EX-RT speedlites do not seem to be able to be similarly controlled… Only the Canon Flashes work, not the Yongnua’s… go figure..

Also, I had tried using a PC Sync Cord attached to a Promaster Standard Hot Shoe with a PC Sync Adapter port before switching to the Pocketwizard HSFM3.

The Promaster Hot Shoe worked a few times before it literally broke in gentle use… and I mean for less than 10 use occasions over a little more than a week or two of easy in studio use.  Use the Pocketwizard, it’s well worth the reduction in embarrassment with clients, and of course, always have backup plans.

Biggest Caveat

While the YN-E3-RT Transmitter will control the 600EX-RT’s… in order to adjust the power setting, one must first press and trigger the flash units via the transmitter’s flash test button, that is the button with the lightning bolt next to it.  Otherwise, the power does not adjust.




Posted in Boudoir Blog

Black and White or Color Boudoir Photography, what’s the difference

At our Phoenix Boudoir Studios, we are often asked, what are some of the differences between black and white photographs and color photographs, and are either of these is particularly well suited for boudoir photography?

Right out of the gate, some of us have clear general preferences either for Black and White or for Color photographs.

While many of us have these preferences, many factors go into these preferences, for example age.  Those who are older among us have grown up in a world of black and white television sets and predominantly black and white photographs, with the occasional color TV or splash of color in some high end glossy publications or images from our youth.

Others of us who are younger have seen black and white only rarely, having been born into a world of large flat screen color televisions, color monitors and even color screens on our phones.

Photography is an art form which continues to evolve.

First let us have some background on what is a black and white or color photo and how they are created.

Do cameras shoot in black and white or in color?

Almost every digital camera today takes images in color layers.  That is, every photo taken digitally, is a color photo of a sort.  The black and white photographs we see today are rendered by processing the color information and converting it into black and white, after the image is taken in color first.

Any color photo can in fact be converted into black and white, after the fact.

In days of old, there were color films and black and white films.  The black and white film to convert to color required a painting process, and people have indeed painted color onto black and white… In the late 70’s and early 80’s I too played with painting onto black and white prints…It as kind of fun and had a distinct feel.  Turner Classic Movies converted many black and white movies to color, by painting, either by hand or software onto black and white images patches of color.  This was done to expand the audience for the movies for audiences used to seeing movies in color.

Now practically all digital cameras shoot color images, usually in three primary color layers, and use software filters to convert the images into black and white.

What is black and white photography?

boudoir photographer phoenix

This art boudoir black and white was created using several black and white filter layers to enhance textures and form.  It is well balanced compositionally has a pleasing mirroring of sensuous curving forms of both woman and snake, shows clear separation of contrasting textures of snake skin and smooth lady flesh.  Clearly an improvement over the starting point color image below.

Black and white photography takes the usually 3 color layers in an image and converts each color layer into grey shades.

Many people feel there is only one black and white rendering for an image… this is inherently a false conception.

There are in fact infinite ways to render a black and white image from a color image.

This is because each color layer can be given different weight in the final black and white rendering.

For example, the red can be filtered out, or filtered in, or converted with partial weighting.   This can be done for the other two color layers as well.  The combination on blending these three layers together can create an infinite variety of black and white looks from one image.

There are further enhancements that can be applied to one area of the photo or many areas, or the whole of the image.

What are some black and white photo enhancements that apply to boudoir photography?

  • Give different weights to each color layer
  • Only apply an effect to part of the image
  • Apply more or less contrast/softness
  • Apply an overall whitening or blackening
  • Apply a tint, like sepia, duo tone etc

What is a duo tone?

Black and white photography uses two basic tones, black and white.

Sepia uses sepia and white.

Black and white photographs are actually duo tones using only black and white tones to portray an image.

Any two tones can be used, for example, black and yellow.  Green and white.  Green and yellow…where the green is the dark part and yellow is the light part.

The combinations become endless.

Let us focus on duo tones with either white or black as one of the primary tones for the rest of this discussion.

So, what is better about black and white or color for boudoir photography?

how does one make a black and white photo, color or black and white, color vs black and white, color v black and white, BW or color

The original color boudoir image before processing, kind of lacks any real punch, yet provides a strong starting point for our black and white conversion process

Largely, this is a matter of taste.

However, there are some definite differences between the feel of black and white and color that are key to which works better for boudoir photography specifically.

Black and white is about textures and forms.  Removing the color information from an image allows the eye to focus on contrasts, forms textures and composition without getting distracted by color.

Black and white, also is a classic.

These factors make black and white boudoir photography more suited generally to a classier feel and for fine art boudoir photography.

Color boudoir portraits can be fine art.  Though it often takes a much more complex set and wardrobe selection to pull this off.  For example, skin tones in red desert rocks can be a fine blend.  Color is how we see the world.  Color is great for boudoir portraits with a more realistic feel.  In a color portrait, you can see the red hair is red, as opposed to it being some shade of grey.

Color boudoir is great to show a bit more of what the subject actually looks like and can be fine art boudoir with the right styling, model and setting.

Black and white boudoir is more versatile and more readily has that art feel.  Because of the myriad ways black and white is created, it is much more possible for a fine artist to create a fine art boudoir piece using black and white photography.

On the other hand, because black and white eliminates color information, composition is much more key in black and white.  Any compositional weakness will undermine a black and white portrait, boudoir or otherwise.

Color images can be easier to compose as the colors can be used to balance the composition… another discussion, as composition is worthy of a book or several books of discussion.

Suffice it to say, some images look better in black and white, some in color.

Black and white has a generally classier feel and is well suited to fine art boudoir.

Color has a more natural feel, or can grab attention by virtue of strong colors, like red hair.

Each photographic image unique and can with the aid of a photographic artist, perhaps seem best as color or black and white.

The more important question is, do you desire a pretty boudoir picture of yourself, or do you wish to create art?

Then, let your artist portray you in your best light, be it black and white or color.

If you’ve an interest in further details on the creation on the black and white boudoir portrait example here, like the conversion processes used on the color image to make the black and white final image, the types of filters used, lighting diagrams and exposure settings, see also pages 122 and 123 of ‘Alternative Nudes, Creative Lighting and Posing for Photographers’.

Posted in Boudoir Blog

What’s to become of professional photography artists in the digital photography age ??

Do it as a dedicated professional, catering to the segments of the market which value our craft.

Monkeys do evolve, and so must professional photographers.

The niche at the high end of professional photography has been getting harder and harder to reach, in many ways…

Certainly there are many who call our Phoenix Boudoir Photography Studios and inquire strictly on price.

While the strictly price driven shopper has never been our photographic bread and butter, due to the influx of part timers and iPhone and Android photographers, there have been fewer and fewer jobs out there for the true dedicated professionals.

It’s become harder just to gain the experience to arrive as a professional.

It’s been getting harder to approach clients who value photography.

With the evolution of technology, in terms of gear, software, printers, and deluge of images both ho hum and OMG good, it is harder to impossible to achieve that level at which one may rest on ones laurels.

And yet, there is always room at the top.

Some people at the top still value professional photography.

This said, the middle and bottom are and have been gutted.

An influx of people, many of them very talented amateur photographers, many with limited business experience, many faced by a pool full of big, small and very hungry fish, are giving away the farm.

With no farm, the crop of customers has been dying out…

Ever try joining those spam sites for people who desire family photos for $100?

Some are so spammy, once you join and they have your email, try opting out… Good luck.

Why get a wedding for $5,000 when you can get one for $500 from cousin Bob?

Why pay $2,000 for a boudoir shoot, when Aunt Jen will shoot it for $300?

Why pay anything at all, when you can take the shots with your iPhone or with the camera you bought on Amazon for $800?

Because my fellows and fellas, people have done this.  They have used cousin Bob and Aunt Jen and have even bought the camera themselves…

At first, it was cute.

And, it saved a shit ton of money… YAY!!!

Then what?

The fails started coming in…

The fails are coming in…

And people started talking about the fails…

Remember the pet rock?

It’s fine if you do, it’s fine if you don’t.  The pet rock was like a $5.00 rock pet, in a world where $5.00 would feed a family of four the meal packages at McDonalds…

And, it was just a small rock… Everyone had to have one, and buy several for their friends…

Remember the Amway multilevel pitch that you and all your friends were going to retire with?

There are still folks who sell Amway and make money at it… Though most of us are over the pitch.

The days of pro/amateur photography is facing a similar transformation.

People have tried to become photographers.  And found it’s hard work.  Most fail.

Many have failed.

Most charged too little to break into the club in any sustainable way.

Once they started undercutting, they couldn’t find the way to raise pricing to a living wage.

So, they can’t put in the years of time necessary to fully develop as capable professional photographers.  They can’t find customers who will pay enough to cover the required gear and expendable purchases, let alone leave $ for Happy Meals…

On the client side, many many folks have tried hiring the relative, the neighbor, the family friend… And have lost friends and money both…

boudoir phoenix, boudoir Scottsdale, boudoir arizona, fine art boudoir photographer

Well executed fine art boudoir photography requires commissioning of a fully resourced professional fine art boudoir photography studio

Worst, they have lost the memories of events they were trying to capture on the cheap.

You can’t reshoot a wedding.  You either have it or you don’t.

You can’t redo the maternity shots… You have them, or you don’t.

You never get the opportunity to retake that fine art boudoir portrait of yourself when you were 10 years younger.

You can’t recapture the lost sales do to poorly executed executive portraits… They are gone.

People have lost memories.

They have lost time.

Those who’ve tried a do it yourself approach to photography have even lost money, in terms of cameras sitting on shelves unused and/or business opportunity costs.  That is, the $1,200 in scrap camera gear could have paid for a nice professional portrait photo sitting … and time lost buying and trying to learn to use soon to be technically obsolete gear could have been better re-tasked on more fruitful pursuits.

Clearly, many many people have now experienced cheap photography.

There has always been cheap photography.  Remember the Kodak Instamatic?

Or Polaroid film?

There will always be a place for self taken snap shots.

What the market is starting to learn is, just because you have the latest “cheap gear” doesn’t mean you can take the photo you must have, when the photo you must have is of a certain quality, or of an event which only happens once.

People will always take and cherish their candid alone anywhere shots.

The market for the professional is starting to reemerge.

It is being redefined, and revalued.

And, amateurs are beginning to respect that the craft cannot be entered profitably with a small camera purchase and doing the cousin’s wedding for $200.

Many would be’s have entered and gone.

Many more are still entering the field… Thought the tide has turned.

Whether a photographer or a potential photography client, how are you positioned to take advantage?

Posted in Boudoir Blog