Femme Fatale™ – Pictures and inspiration

Feb 19, 2012 | Continuous Lighting, Location | 10 comments

01. Raphaella McNamara lit with one 1200 Lupo HMI in a Chimera softbox. I love to capture beauty, vulnerability and strength, in a portrait.

Here are twenty of my shots from a recent Femme Fatale™ workshop that I gave at Maunsel House in Somerset. Apart from the last shot they are all lit with natural and/or available light or with the addition of one Lupo HMI daylight balanced spotlight. The lighting I use in my pictures is far more important to the success of an image than the camera or lens I used to shoot it. A Lupo light plus a workshop like this to learn how to get the most from it costs about the same as a good professional lens.

(Mild nudity beyond the jump. Not safe for work).

02. I've kept the first batch of photographs in colour so you can see how I select narrow gamut tones and use a warm white balance.

03. I get involved with the styling of the shot from hair and makeup to fashion and accessories. Once I've done the lighting and exposure tests I direct the emotion and mood that I want from Raphaella. On my portrait and boudoir workshops I show and discuss every element that has to come together in harmony or discord to creat a shot.

I like to keep my edits minimalistic. I’ll leave strands of hair across the face, and I leave liquefy well alone.

04. Raphaella's strong eye contact gives the shot the energy needed to make it work.

05. Art nude photography rarely engages the soul or the personality of the sitter instead it concentrates on shape and form. I like to try and bring personality and a story into my pictures.

06. Keeping some anonymity in the pictures is a popular style for boudoir. When I choose to have eye contact in my images I want a strong look otherwise I often direct a look down and to the side, just like in this image. This is part of my directing style that gets repeated at various points throughout a shoot.

07. I created sunlight in the bedroom on what was an overcast dull February day. High key images lift the set and provide the contrast needed for an interesting album. We've kept the makeup look 'nude' to give the feeling of a casual day time encounter.

08. The over the shoulder look is alluring. It adds a sexual tension with nothing more than a glance. This kind of image needs rapport and a bit of directing to coax it from your clients. I freely show my delegates how to direct the emotion needed to make these shots. It's all fun and not as intense as the pictures would have you believe.

09. Femme Fatale. The message in this shot is "Do you have to go to work or are you going to stay here with me?" The product could be bridal boudoir or a father's day promotion. Even though Raphaella has a summer dress on, this look is probably a bit to steamy for a desk frame in her husband's office. That's the power of good boudoir and portrait photography, it has a narrative. Each picture has a story to tell. Look at the paintings of Jack Vetriano. His work is far from high brow fine art but it fetches good money because of the narrative.

10. It was mid day and we just closed the curtains to change the mood. I used a Lupo 800 to light Raphaella on the bed.

11. My 100mm macro lens just gets on in there. I must remember to add exposure when I get in tight. One more stop or '3 clicks' was perfect for this detail shot.


14. A sideways glance triggers a questioning look. The light in Raphaella's eyes is fabulous along with the cascades of curls that Vicki has created in her hair. detailing right down to metallic lipstick is part of the process.

15. Lit from a North facing window.

16. We are all partial to a mirror shot. This shot needed direction to ensure the lighting angles from the window were spot on. The artifacts out of focus on the dressing table add to the realism. Being 'too tidy' can result in a fabricated look like that of a show home.

17. I asked Raphaella to push her hair over too her left thus opening up her face. In a few of the images we have used Raphealla's hair as a barrier to partly obscure her. I used the 100mm lens on my Canon wide open at f/2.8 to give the depth of field look I wanted.

18. I lit the bathroom one stop brighter than the bedroom. It's a trick I learned at the BBC when lighting dramas. It gives the picture depth and draws the eye into the subject. I've chosen not to edit out the cable going to my Lupo 800 light as it passes through the door. It could be going to a bathroom heater perhaps.

19. I used a single Lupo 800 light to provide the key and kick for this picture.

20. This is part of a series of shots that I'm shooting with a tutu skirt. It's a three light shot using an Arri 300 as a key light, an Arri 150 as a hair light and a Lowel iD light spotted up on the painting.

This is a very small selection of the images that we shot on the day. Each set up was lit with continuous light so that everyone could shoot from different angles at the same time. My workshops attract seasoned professionals, keen hobbyists and those photographers embarking on their new career. These portrait workshops are non technical yet full of core craft skill knowledge sharing. We strive for perfection without losing the realism. The image integrity and printability is paramount so we discuss and check our settings as we go. One delegate shot this workshop on the Canon 85mm f/1.2 and 50mm f/1.2 lenses. Another delegate used a Leica M9 with three primes. We had a Nikon and a Canon shooter using zooms and I used my Fujifilm x100 and my Canon 5Dmk2 with a couple of primes.

Here is a selection of Serena Bolton’s images from this workshop. Serena is a well established professional photographer who understands the value of continued personal and product development. Workshops like these inspire creativity and feed the soul.

Every year, between May and September I run a three-day portraiture workshop. Often in conjunction with other inspirational tutors. I’ve previously chosen to work alongside (in no particular order) Chris Hanley, Jo De Banzie, Tamara Peel, Martin Oliver, Martin Hill, Trevor and Faye Yerbury and Bella West. This year I may do things a little differently. I might shoot three different workshops on consecutive days. Options include; Interior fashion portraits lit using Speedlights with modifiers, Continuous and natural light boudoir, Exterior and interior location fashion portraits lit with the Elinchrom Quadra etc. On each day there would be another workshop option given by a top shooter and trainer using another area of the same location, subjects could include fine art nude or child portraits etc. The evenings at these events are the stuff of legends and are usually spent dining together with after dinner talks or perhaps a bit of ‘moonlight’ shooting too.

My question is this…. Are you interested in attending such an event? If so please get in touch with Blaise as we’d like to involve your input from the start. It’s a good idea to contact Blaise about Femme Fatale™, bridal boudoir, and fashion portraiture workshops too, as dates will be added to meet demand.

Please feel free to comment on these images or workshop ideas below.


  1. David Cooke

    wonderful shoot Damien, the quality of these images is superb, top notch model too.

    • damien

      Thank you David.

  2. Keith

    Hi Damien

    A beautiful collection of images as usual. I attended the workshop with the four other delegates and came away with a similar collection of images useable straight from the camera, no photoshop only minor tweaks in LR3. We shot Raphaella the previous day on a studio lighting workshop which was great and it will encourage me to get away from my 2 x softbox setup. I hope to get a cheap gridded beauty dish for my Bowens 500w heads soon. Raphaella was a true professional, patient and generously allowing each candidate to shoot in sequence and affording them plenty of opportunity and eye contact. Her eye contact is amazing and when she looks down your lens with that “come hither” look it sends a chill down the spine. I would encourage anybody looking to expand their photographic ability to seriously think about attending one of your workshops. The amount of different setups, hair makeup and clothing changes crammed into one day is experience that would otherwise take forever. Your teaching style is relaxed but informative. I found it fun to watch you think on your feet, shoot and dispense information all at the same time. Give it a year or so of working on these new techniques and I will be back for more. Thanks again,


    • damien

      Hi Keith,

      Thank you for your kind appraisal of the two days you spent with me. These workshops were unique as are so many events that I run. I try to keep any repetition to a minimum and I am always looking to evolve a style or technique. I wish you every succes in your photography development.

      Kindest regards,


    • damien

      Thanks Barney :)

  3. GabrielH

    When are you headed to Chicago Damien?

    • damien

      Hi Gabriel,

      I’m popping into Chicago on May 21st. I’ll have a recce and a few beers, stay a night or 2, then I’m on Route 66 for a couple of weeks. I’ll be back to run workshops when I can get shooting and hotel facilities at sensible prices. Maybe in September.

      Cheers, Damien.

  4. Bryan

    the same hotel room and bath, i’m beginning to think i’ve stayed in that room : )

    there is only 1 stop difference between the rooms in shot 18, gives a lovely effect and as you said draws the eye to the subject very nicely.

    you don’t say anything about image 13 but that is probably my favourite of the set, classic Lovegrove diagonals and such a soft pose for so many angles.

    • damien

      Hi Bryan, Thank you for your compliments. Best regards, Damien.


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