A boudoir/ fashion shoot in Belgium ~ The contact sheet collection

Oct 8, 2012 | Continuous Lighting, Location | 12 comments

01. Lit with a single Lupolux 800 HMI spotlight.

I decided to share far more pictures than normal with this set. More shots mean a weaker selection but I thought it worthwhile sharing my evolution to some of the images plus my choices and the reasons why I chose them. So I apologise if you are on a slow connection but I hope the subtlety between frames is a worthy subject to study.

Now these pictures are what I call viewing files. Straight from Lightroom 4.2 without any Photoshop or skin softening. This is the standard I show my clients and then I work further on any that they buy for their album or folio. Prints are usually on art paper from 16 bit tiffs. What you see here is pretty much what I saw in camera on the shoot.

02. I used a simple one light key and kick technique to make this portrait. The antique mirror added the sparkle.

I drove my ‘cool’ new Fiat 500 to Cologne a couple of weeks ago just for the fun of it. My reason for the trip was to spend time at Photokina and to enjoy the delights of Belgium too. I’ve long been a fan of cities like Antwerp and Brugges and my trip to Cologne gave me good reason to pop in on and spend time with some amazing photographers. I stopped by Luc Peters sensational studio in the heart of Antwerp and was treated to a fabulous dinner in the restaurant opposite. The man is an inspiration on every level.

I then had a trip to De Haan to meet up with Tom Museeuw. I met Tom on Twitter and we struck up a relationship straight away. Tom is the master of reflectors and is rightly sponsored by California Sunbounce. Tom also has some Lupolux spotlights so we decided to set up a creative continuous light shoot. Tom mainly shoots children’s fashion and shoots more than 30 catalogues each year. You can follow him on twitter as @fotofolio. Boudoir was right out of Tom’s comfort zone and I admire that he agreed to give it a go. Tom booked me into the fabulously eccentric guest house Chant d’Oiseaux for a couple of nights and we took over the place on the day in between.

I had discussed the possibility of an impromptu shoot in the woods with Tom on the afternoon I arrived (the day before our scheduled shoot) but the sun turned to rain and it became stormy so we soon retreated to the hotel. I was feeling rather despondent at that point but Tom fired me up. The energy and passion of another photographer is such a valuable resource and I must admit the next few pictures are powered by Tom’s drive and determination…

03. One Lupolux 1000 DayLED plugged into my inverter and bounced through my magic water reflector gives this shot some style.

04. I love this French pose, I call it the Pingu :) Elke’s hair was still set from a shoot the day before and it looked fabulous.

05. The low angle viewpoint does wonders for legs.  This frame is lit with a barefaced Lupolux 1000 in full flood mode. Shots 3, 4, 5 and 6 are all shot 90 degrees to the light.

06. I wanted to shoot on the stairs and the shots had to be different to my normal repertoire.

On the main shoot day we started early, selecting locations and rigging a pool of Lupolux lights in the main hallway that we can draw upon as required.

07. The boudoir/ fashion session the next day started with a full make over and hair styling by Tessie. I wanted a messy hair look for Arina to add some dynamic sassiness to my images.

08. I love ‘before’ portraits with clean skin prior to make up. I think they have a beauty and honesty that is so rarely seen in photographs these days. Arina, pictured here is stunning and a delight to work with. A boudoir shoot relies on a mutual trust, respect and rapport. I usually start the process off with a chat during make up or over coffee. On another note my little Fuji X-Pro 1 looks very unthreatening and I’m pretty sure I could not have taken this shot at that time with a pro SLR.

Models: Elke and Arina

Make up artist and hair stylist: Tessie Callens

Photographic partner and inspiration: Tom Museeuw

Photographic assistant and all round great guy: Lieven Hoste

Location: Chant d’Oiseaux

Camera: Fujifilm X-Pro1, 60mm, 35mm and 18mm lenses

Lighting: Lupo Fresnel Spotlights and 2 Lupo Striplights

09. Shoot 1 on day 2 lit with a Lupolux 800 and a Lupo striplight. Arina brought the flowers.

10. Arina’s hair is amazing to mould. It frames her face, simplifies her expression and drives the mood of the shot. This is just the bed head look I was after.

11. There has to be a buzz, an energy to release the beauty within.

12. A small shift in mood and some strong direction delivered this dramatic and beautiful pose. Shooting from above gives the viewer dominance and open the eyes at the same time. I usually shoot women and men from below or chest height if standing.

13. Next we went for elegance, delicate beauty.

14. I directed a look and that added complicated overtones to the picture. Now we have a portrait with a story to tell.

15. Laughter broke the moment of intensity and Arina’s personality filled my frame.

16. “Be confident, fun and alive” came my direction and magic happened. Lighting for this sequence came from a soft Striplight used as a key dimmed to 30% and a Lupolux DayLED 1000 at 100% as a back light to simulate sunlight.

All the time Arina and I were shooting together, Tom was shooting Elke. I think he was quite shocked at how hard I like my lighting. I happen to really like the way Tom bends light with reflectors and I made a commitment that day to learn the reflector way.

17. Here is a sequence of subtle evolution pictures shot over a period of about two minutes. Shots 17-31 are the result of a rhythm shoot. I shoot a frame, look at it, direct a change then shoot another. I notice another tweak to do and shoot frame three etc. There is no point shooting frame two without making a change. The Fuji X-Pro1 is not a fast camera to use and I like it that way. Every frame counts.

18. “Turn away from camera, roll your shoulders forward, shake you hair from your right eye, drop your chin onto your shoulder” etc comes my voice.

19. I move in and intensify the look.

20. I tussle hair to provide a barrier, I direct Arina to align her head straight up to become more confrontational.

21. “Swing round and open your shoulders to me. Throw your hair to one side and soften”

22. “Now challenge me” You can see how the session evolves. I never get a perfect image but I get a level of engagement that delivers beautiful sequences. I never shoot for the wall portrait, I shoot for the album.

23. There is a fragility in this pose driven by the tilt of Arina’s head. I enjoy shooting Arina with her hair thrown over her left shoulder for a change. It balances her face and now her right eye becomes more dominant to match her left. As a portrait photographer I need to know how to read a face, how to balance asymmetry and how to draw emphasis to where it is needed.

24. “Rest your head on your hands” The shot is now reflective, in a minor key if you like.

25. Remove the left hand because it is looking a bit awkward and bring eye contact back to the frame.

26. Pick up the moment in a way that Kate Moss knows how to do so well.

27. “And smoulder” direction doesn’t come that easily with the language barrier but you get the idea.

28. And so the evolution continues for a few more frames.




32. This was a lighting rig I was setting up for Elke (for shots 58 & 59) and while Tom was organising his lights elsewhere I grabbed this frame of Arina While she adjusted her outfit.

33. I switched to dappled light for these shots. I used a home made gobo on a Lupolux DayLED 1000 and a Lupolux DayLED 650 from the far from as a kicker.

34. I got the ‘eye stripe’ in the wrong place on this shot, it was perfect in the frame above. But I can correct that to some extent at the printing stage if required.

35. Arina is great at posing her hands.

36. and masterful with her eyes.

37. The sun made a brief appearance so down to the floor  it was for Arina. This is nearly an NSPCC shot but I love it.

38. Legs.

39. I had shot Elke the day before and this was a new moment for me. The dynamic in the room was very different and it took me a few moments to regain my confidence. I was happy to let Tom take the lead at this point. After a minute or two I was back with it. I’d never shot Elke in close up so I gave it a go. Starting wide and moving on in With my 60mm macro.



42. Elke’s hair was just as great to use as a barrier or to frame her face.

43. This is a fabulous angle. Elke has eyes for Tom. I stole the moment.



46. I wanted to explore the Striplight that Tom had brought. We worked hard to discover how to make the shadows sing. Arina completed my oil painting.



49. I struggled in this room. I’m still not sure how I want the image to look hence shot 50 having a different contrast treatment.

50. On film we used to change emulsions to give our shots a look and then print on different papers but it was way more committal then. Nowadays it is easy to ‘fix it in post’ and sometimes the choices detract from the simplicity that is print making.

51. Beautiful bones.

52. This is another soulful uncompromising character portrait. The light is from the wrong direction and the contrast in Arina’s face is not right either but I love to just look into her eyes. There is a lot of history and life experience in those eyes and they just draw me in.

53. The same room and with the previous errors corrected we were up and running.

54. Is this my favourite shot from the set?

55. No this is. Then again… “How do we choose” say my clients. “Have them all I joke”.

56. Next came the bathroom scene. I wanted a touch of timeless in the lighting.

57. I’m starting to feel the mood of the moment now. With continuous light everyone experiences the Holywood glamour style as if they are on the set of a Clarke Gable and Vivianne Lee film.

58. I used all the lighting toys I had in the boot of my Fiat 500 on this shoot.

59. Far more direct and engageing. 58 is distant and questioning by comparison.

60. I wanted to create a few shots in the same location as shot 5, again with Elke but with a sense of mystery. This shot is challenging, perhaps disturbing such is the look in Elke’s eyes.

61. This I love. I chose to direct Elke to form a triangle with her arms. We went soft with the fingers and loose with the hair.

62. This is the same location and lighting with one Lupolux 800 HMI as I used for shot 1.




66. In days of old back in the last century haha, we would use a bit of potassium ferricyanide to highlight the hair in the print making process. Those days are over and I’m very glad. I’ll just use a highlight brush in Lightroom when I come to export for print.


68. Beautiful.

69. We were loaned dresses for the shoot but they were at least three sizes too big so there are 5 or 6 big clips just out of shot clamping it in place. Lit with two Lupolux spotlights.



73. For this last shot of the day I held my Fujifilm X-Pro1 on the ceiling using my monopod as a support. Never rule out a different angle. It’s always worth giving it a try.

After the shoot we had a selection of Belgium beers in a beach front bar as we watched the sun going down across the sea followed by dinner with a couple more beers. Vedett (Sister of Duval) was my favourite light beer of the evening. Take a look at the Vedett website, pretty cool stuff.

If you would like to shoot with this simple but effective style then take a look at our photography training options here.

please feel free to  feedback below.



  1. Eujin

    Hi Damien

    Really great series of shots. They got better and better as you progressed. Just two questions – how do the Dayleds hold up against the HMIs? I noticed that you repeatedly used the HMIs for key lights.
    Also for shots throughout the house, do you spend some time placing the lights and knowing where you’re going to place the subject for your shot? e.g.. Bathroom scene #57 Elke has some hairlight/shoulder rimlight from camera right 2 o’clock… Wouldn’t have achieved that separation if you hadn’t set up the lights in the bathroom, unless that was sunlight flitering into the bathroom…

    Great stuff again.

    • damien

      Hi Eujin,

      Thanks for your compliments about my shots. I prefer the Lupolux 800, it’s slow to warm up, can’t be switched off then on without a few minutes cool down time yet the light just looks a tad better in my opinion. The LED has the convenience and 90% of the imaging of the HMI but I love HMI.

      It’s all planned then lit then in comes the model and I shoot. There was no sun on the day of this shoot. I make my own sun with Lupolux lights.

      I hope this helps,


  2. Mark Dell

    Another great set Damien.
    I love my 800 Lupo too I used it at a recent portrait shoot as a light on a wall and it gave such a cool hair light i love it!

    • damien

      Thanks Mark.

      The 800 is my favourite light in the Lupolux range. The new Osram Excelence bulb has a fabulous colour rendering.

      Cheers, Damien.

  3. stefaan

    Dear Damien,

    DId you took al the picture with the fujifilm XproI?

    Greetings Stef

    • damien

      Hi Stefaan,

      Yes all these images were shot with the Fuji X-Pro1 camera. I love the 60mm lens the most but unfortunately the latest firmware has made matters worse not better re the AF speed. When the camera declares it is in focus all is well but if it hesitates the lens trundles off to extreme macro and trundles back to some arbitary mid point before declaring a red rectangle. All the time the lens is wandering off there is nothing that can be done. If it happens twice in a row some 10 seconds can have passed before all is well. For normal frontally lit subjects there is no issue at all with the AF speed.

      All post production was in Lightroom. The X-Pro1 files look fabulous from Lightroom.



  4. Ramon Mosterd

    I think #52 is the most honest en powerful picture of the set. Could you explain why you consider the light is coming from the wrong direction?

    • damien

      Hi Ramon,

      The light in shot 52 is coming from below and inverts some facial features. In extreme cases it can look ‘horror’ but not here.


  5. Sona

    I love those: 6, 11, 15, 24 and 30.

    • damien

      Thank you Sona :)

      Good choices. A little imagination and a bit of energy makes those shots unique.

      Kindest regards, Damien.

  6. Thorsten

    So many great images Damien, and a wonderful insight into your thought processes and direction during a shoot. I’d go so far as to say this is even better than a BTS video! Cool to see you met up and shot with Tom too! I’ve been enjoying his work almost as long as yours. With so many great shot to choose from your clients are spoiled for choice and must have a hard time making their final selection. But I’d be interested in a follow up post at some stage with an insight into your own selection process if that’s not too much to ask.

    • damien

      Hi Thorsten,

      Thanks for your kind words. A follow up post on picture selection might just be the way to go although the best chooser of pictures in this studio is Julie. A video or a webcast might be a better idea. I’ll look into it.

      Best wishes, Damien.


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