I’m not particularly involved in the fetish world, but ever since I started shooting in sexy women photography genres, I’ve been fascinated with shooting latex outfits. I’m fascinated with latex from a fashion standpoint, and from a glam/tease standpoint.
In some of my early efforts, while not bad from the standpoint of showing the allure of the model, images were not optimal from the standpoint of showing off the latex as latex. That is because photographing latex presents some technical challenges for the photographer.
This article is intended to guide you in your first efforts at shooting in this interesting genre of sexy women photography.
What Are Latex Outfits?
For those of you who have not seen latex clothing before, here is a brief introduction:
- Latex clothing is made from rubber.
- Most of the outfits fit the model like a second skin, hugging the model’s body. Of course, this shows off all of a woman’s curves very nicely.
- Latex outfits originated in the fetish world, where they are still popular today. However, as celebrities like Kim and Kloe Kardashian, not to mention well known fashion models like Kyle Jenner (https://goo.gl/IUghxo ) and Bella Hadid (https://goo.gl/VgCLFe ), have worn latex outfits in public, latex has gained credibility in the mainstream fashion world as well.
From the standpoint of sexy woman shooters, latex outfits are compelling for a couple of reasons. First, the skin tight nature of latex shows off a woman’s curves quite nicely and alluringly. Furthermore, latex outfits are often designed to expose a woman’s breasts or buttocks while fully clothed. Other garments are made with a translucent quality, thus revealing the wearer’s body underneath the clothing.
Photographic Challenges: Embrace The Reflective Material
Being rubber, and fitting skin tight, most latex outfits reveal little, if any surface texture. Additionally, latex is worn with a lubricant on the outside. This gives the outfit a shiny appearance and more pop to the colors. But it also means that the outfits are highly reflective. It is this reflective quality that presents the photographer with challenges.
It is counterproductive to try to light latex in a way to eliminate the specular highlights. In fact, the presence of these highlights are what clues the viewer in that the outfit is, in fact, latex. Rather, the goal is control the highlights and give them a pleasing shape on the outfit.
Getting Control Of The Highlights
Because of the very nature of the latex, point light sources are very difficult to use.
A reflector or even a beauty dish will produce a very small reflection in the latex. This might look appealing if it appears on particular parts of the outfit, but if the model moves even a small bit, the highlight would move and possibly appear in an area that is not flattering. Thus, the best approach is to use large, diffused light sources, particularly strip boxes, as you can achieve long thin strips of light along the model’s limbs and torso which seem quite natural and pleasing.
How Others Did Their Lighting Strategy
Very little has been written on how to light latex.
Nick Saglimbemi. Celebrity photographer Nick Saglimbemi wrote a short piece when lighting a latex outfit that Khloe Kardashian wore in her photo shoot. Nick included a lighting diagram and some observations on how the reflective nature of latex affected his lighting approach. I highly recommend that you check it out:
Michael Zelbel. The only other piece on the internet about shooting latex that I’ve found of any value was a piece on Michael Zelbel’s “Smoking Strobes” blog. In two posts Michael details lighting theory by legendary photo instructor Dean Collins (back in the 1980s’), and how that theory relates to lighting latex. I won’t go into the details except to refer you to “Smoking Strobes” to view the articles and videos that Michael prepared. They are worth the look.
Lighting Approaches I Use
There is no one right way to light latex. As long as you follow the basic principle of using bigger, diffused lighting modifiers, you should realize decent results. What follows are a few lighting setups that I’ve used with success in shooting latex. I’ll give a brief description of the lighting approach, a diagram and a sample image or two.
Two Key Lighting
This lighting set-up uses two lights, one to each side of the camera, at roughly equal power. Place the lights approximately 30 degrees to each side of the camera position. Experiment with the light placement that looks best to you. The further away from the camera that you position the lights, the more the lights give you an edge light. The closer they are to the camera position, the more the reflections will appear in the center of your model’s torso. Your modifier of choice should be large strip boxes or simply large rectangular softboxes.
Strip Key with On Axis Fill
This set up requires two lights.
Key: For the key, I fired a strobe head into a v-flat to produce a long narrow, strip of light. You can easily substitute a large strip box or rectangular soft box.
Fill-In: The second light is a fill light positioned behind your shooting position. I used a parabolic umbrella with a diffuser (the light is too directional without the diffuser), but a large octabox or umbrella will work. The key light produces the highlight, a long narrow strip of light on the latex, while the fill light opens up the shadows.
Three Point Lighting Version 1 (+ 2 Background Lights)
The lighting setup that I favor is a variation of the good old three point lighting system advocated by famed “Pretty Girl Shooter” Jimmy D.
Rim: In a traditional three point lighting setup, the rim lights are often modified with reflectors and a grid. This works fine for skin and fabric, but because it is a point light source, you’ll end up with a small circle of a reflection on the latex. Instead, try using strip boxes for the rim lights. Try experimenting with the position of the rim lights from behind and to the side of the model, to bringing them almost directly to the side, or even slightly in front of the model.
Key: For my key light, in Version 1, I used an Octabox or large umbrella positioned either over or slightly to the side of the camera. In some of the sample images from this set you can see a roundish highlight on the model’s chest. That is from the key light, while the longer highlights on her arms are caused by the strip boxes.
You should also note that, as this was shot on a white seamless background, the background was lit independently. That allows the background to become yet another light source, and you can actually see the background reflected in the latex.
Three Point Lighting Version 2
In this version, I used a larger strip box, positioned roughly at a 30 to 45 degree angle from the camera. On the opposite side of the camera, position a reflector to open up the shadows created by the key light and to help create the specular highlights on that side.
What If I Don’t Have Strip Boxes?
You have probably noticed that, for shooting latex, my preference is to use strip boxes as much as possible. It is possible to use lighting modifiers other than strip boxes. Large rectangular softboxes can be used. But because the modifier will be reflected in the latex outfit, the reflections will mimic the shape of the modifier that you choose to use. Because strip boxes project specular highlights in thin
lines along the arms and legs, in my opinion they tend to be more aesthetically pleasing than the wider rectangular shape of normal soft boxes and the roundish shapes generated by octaboxes or umbrellas.
However, there are things that you can do to narrow the beam of a conventional soft box or umbrella:
- You can use flags to make the shape of a soft box longer and narrower. Similarly, you can use Cinefoil (https://goo.gl/7F9knV ) or fabric to mask part of the soft box and get the same effect.
- Another possibility is to use V-flats. In Dan’s ebook, Creative Nudes on a Budget, Dan used a V-flat to create a strip box. Simply position the v-flat into a very narrow V, and fire a strobe head into the v-flat.
Other Considerations When Shooting Latex
Because of the nature of latex, there are other considerations that a photographer needs to keep in mind when planning a photo shoot with latex outfits.
- First, because it is skin tight and very thin, latex outfits must be put on with some care. As a result, you must allow for longer times for wardrobe changes. What that means is that you can’t shoot as many looks within any specific time frame as you could with other wardrobe options. Plan accordingly.
- In addition to being difficult to put on, latex is also difficult to take off. That means that the normal shoot strategy favored by many glamour/tease photographers, a slow striptease in which the model gradually removes her clothing, can’t readily be applied to latex. Once again, you need to allow for more time than you normally would to produce a similar set of images with non latex wardrobe. Or you need to change your shooting strategy.
- Alternative striptease strategy: Choose latex wardrobe pieces that are already “revealing” in some fashion, and not worry about getting the model to disrobe or disrobe completely during the set. Some latex outfits might have zippers and thus allow for some ease in disrobing at least partially. Other outfits may by design reveal particularly alluring parts of the model’s body, or be translucent and thus be revealing even when the model is clothed. I tend to prefer this strategy. It allows you to maximize the looks you shoot within any allotted shooting time. That helps to keep studio rental fees and model fees down, while still producing some alluring, sexy images.
How To Find Models Who Shoot Latex
Any experienced glamour model is capable of shooting latex in terms of posing and the like. (Some latex garments may be more restrictive of a model’s movements than other wardrobe options, but aside from that, there is little difference from a posing standpoint) But latex garments are expensive. And you need to know how to put the wardrobe on so as not to damage these costly garments. Consequently, there are models who tend to specialize in modeling latex, and I would suggest that you seek out one of these models for your shoot. Many of these models have relationships with latex garment manufacturers, and they constantly get new outfits to take with them on the road. For the photographer, that means working with these models will probably afford you a great deal of choice in terms of outfits.
When you book a shoot with a model who is experienced in shooting latex, she can give you an idea of the time it will take for wardrobe changes. She can also give you an idea of the kinds of pieces she has in her wardrobe at the given moment. That will allow you to better plan for your shoot.
Go And Enhance Your Portfolio
While it may seem that there is a lot to digest to plan a latex shoot, it really isn’t. Aside from modifier choice, lighting isn’t dramatically different. And once you do this once, the additional planning items will become second nature.
I encourage you to give it a try. You’ll likely come away with some interesting images for your portfolio.
Thanks for reading!
If you have any questions hit me up in the comments below.