Building a Basic Lens Kit for Glamour & Boudoir Photography

by | Oct 20, 2020

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

Many photographers are intrigued by the prospect of creating glamour photographs but think that the lack of proper equipment makes this goal unattainable. Nothing could be farther from the truth. My No Frills approach to glamour photography doesn’t require a studio and, as the late Wilford Brimley might have said, “you don’t even need fancy studio lighting equipment.”

All that’s really needed to produce professional quality glamour images is a camera with interchangeable lenses, a few simple photographic accessories and models willing to pose for you.

My basic lens kit is simple and the specific lens used is determined by whether I’m shooting indoors or outside. The following suggestions are built around two basic facts about shooting indoor glamour, especially if space is tight. For openers, one of Farace’s Laws is that there is never enough space indoors to shoot. Before I had my current home studio I often found myself pressed up against the opposite wall when shooting glamour photographs in my former home. This translated into using shorter lenses than I might otherwise prefer.

The corollary to this dilemma is that there is never enough light to shoot indoors. You can use additional flash and I occasionally used speedlights for fill but glamour photography is about soft light and there’s nothing softer than window light. The only problem is that there isn’t always the enough light available. This reality translates into using high ISO’s and fast lenses. Indoors, I like using 85 or 135mm lenses but don’t discount the so-called normal 50mm lens that may be bundled with your camera. Even a used 50mm lens that sells for $80 can make great shots.

How I made this shot: I photographed Megan Textor in the living room of my former home using my No Frills Glamour Photography technique. She is sitting on the arm of a long-gone sofa and is illuminated only by the light coming from a South-facing narrow window. To maintain the overall moody look, no reflector was used. Camera used was a Canon EOS 50D with the inexpensive and now-discontinued EF 22-55mm f/4-5.6 USM EF lens set at 53mm, proving this would have been an easier shot with a 50mm f/1.8 that I didn’t own at the time. Exposure was 1/80 sec at f/6.3 and ISO 400, which was slightly underexposed creating a little extra noise that was mitigated with Dfine. Image was then retouched and tweaked using Glamour Glow filter from Color Efex Pro to add to the overall moodiness.

Which lenses do I use where? It depends on the multiplication factor of a particular camera. If I was making that same shot in my former North Light kitchen with a camera with a full frame sensor, I might use an 85mm lens instead of a 50mm. Either way the perspective provided by any 85mm lens, especially a fast one, makes it ideal for indoor glamour images no matter what kind of DSLR or mirrorless camera that you use. Depending on your camera’s multiplication factor a 135mm lens might be tight fit for some indoor locations but if you have the space you will love the perspective this lens produces.

Outdoors you almost always have both more light and more room so that’s when I start using longer focal length prime and zoom lenses. For openers I start with zoom lenses in the slightly wide angle to mild telephoto range. A lens in the focal length range of 28-135mm provides flexibility for choosing high or low camera positions. Another option is something from the mild telephoto to the longer telephoto range such as the classic 80-200 or 75-300mm lenses. Long focal lengths provided by lenses in the 75-300mm range produce the shallow depth-of-field that allow a model, especially when photographed at the end of that range and in a full-length pose to “pop” out of the background and place the focus squarely on her.

Are these lenses the only one that you can use for glamour photography? No. There are times when wider-angle lenses used indoors will enhance the look of leggy models and outdoors you can use focal lengths longer than 300mm for a more dramatic look.

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You can learn all of my tips, tools and techniques on shooting available light glamour photography in my book surprisingly titled  “Available Light Glamour Photography”. New copies of the book are available from Amazon for $22.53 with used copies starting at only $18.98, as I write this. The Kindle version is $21.40 for those preferring a digital format.