Through social media, blogs, and build-your-own websites, photographers have more avenues than ever before for sharing their work. This is significant in a number of ways. On the one hand, photographers have a better chance to get their work out there, but the saturated scene also makes it harder for their work to stand out.

One of the upsides to this is that in an effort to get noticed, several photographers have sharpened their skills and built stronger portfolios. Plenty of images out there are shot well from a technical standpoint, with solid lighting, posing, and composition. The question is, then, is that enough? If not, then how do we take it to the next level?

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PROBLEM: technical proficiency does not equal artistry

While it is definitely important to understand lighting, posing, and composition as a photographer, a technical proficiency will only get you so far. A lot of what is interesting about photography comes from the artistry and unique perspective of the individual behind the camera.


One solution for creating artistic images involves using a GOBO. A GOBO, or an object that “goes before optics,” can help shape and define light to create drama or add interest to an image. They’re relatively easy to use and they open up new creative possibilities.

Click right in the box below to see a behind-the-scenes look at how we used a GOBO to add interest to a boudoir shoot:


GOBOs can be made from pretty much anything you can think of to place in between the light and your subject; you can purchase pre-designed GOBOs created specifically for your light source, such as these from MagMod, or you can create your own using everyday objects.

We chose to use palm leaves as a GOBO in the scene above because they mirrored the palm leaves we placed in the bathtub with the subject, and the shadows of the individual leaves served to direct the viewer’s focus to the subject’s face (see example below or in the Instagram post above).

STEP #2: find your angle(s) and POSE YOUR SUBJECT

Getting the best angle when posing your subject is very important, especially when using a GOBO. Sometimes, you may not like an image because of how it’s cropped, even though there’s a strong image present within the frame. So, pay close attention to your angles.

Also, where and how you pose your subject should be consistent with the end goal for the photo you’re capturing. For this series of fine art boudoir images, we placed our subject’s hands and arms across her chest to tastefully cover her upper body, while her hands (like the GOBO shadows) also drew attention back to her face. Also, positioning her chin down and directing her eyes up to the camera accentuated her seductive expression.


Setup your flash at the appropriate height and angle to adequately light your subject. For this shot, the bathtub was located directly beneath a window with a sheer curtain, which we used for a soft, diffused fill light.

Shown: Gary Fong Speed Snoot on a Phottix Mitros+ Flash

We then placed a flash with a grid to focus the light direction and minimize light spill (see the image above), and directed the flash down toward the subject’s face from camera left.


To help you find the perfect spot for the gobo, in the case that you are using a flash and not a modeling or constant light, use the flash test button (this button will vary depending on the camera you are using; for a Canon, the DOF preview button can be programmed as a flash test button). Using this button will fire a pulse, or a quick series of flashes, that will allow you to see how the shadows from the GOBO will fall across your subject’s face. You can then move the GOBO into the exact position you want it and take the picture. You can expect to take quite a few shots in order to capture the “perfect” image.

Note: Keep a good distance between the flash and the subject. Also, place the GOBO farther from the light source for hard, defined edges, or closer to the light source for softer edges.

See two of the final images below from the Earthen Bathtub Fine Art Boudoir Premium Tutorial:

Left Image: Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 100mm f/2.8 at f/2.8, 1/200, ISO 200. Right Image: Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 100mm f/2.8 at f/2.8, 1/200, ISO 400
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