Personal Project “What A Beauty You Are” Series – Etude No. 2

“Don’t just shoot what it looks like, shoot what it feels like!” That’s the basic idea I outlined for a triple-part series.

In this article I will cover the shoot No. 2 done with glamNUDE model Brenda Kucerova (video interview).

Get the full details about Etude No. 1 with gorgeous Glam Model Michaela here.

Look Concept: Confidence Makes Sexy

The most beautiful women are the ones that feel confident. Confidence and heart create sexiness. Feeling inner strength and being centered translates into a beautiful personality.

Brenda Kucerova - What Beautiful you Are - Nude Photo Series

Note about final imagery: There’s absolutely no retouching involved (no skin retouching, liquifying, dodge & burn). Nada, niente, rien. I just applied a photo look to make the single series more appealing and impactful.

No overdone beautifying and styling here. No excessive simulated poses. I sought to capture the sense of real inner beauty, attractiveness and the graced soul that is hidden in every woman, yes, in every model. There’s something special behind every model’s pretty façade.

No Budget: 2 People On Set. Shot At My Place.

Let me here in the very beginning state again that this project was brought into existence for the purpose of enhancing my portfolio, and at the same time as a kind of a personal work as well. For once, there was no budget allocation in place at all.

Surely, Brenda received a small fee based on a non-commercial contract and limited distribution rights. But during the shoots, the team only consisted of the model and me – 2 persons. That was it. Based on the looks required, the involvement of a MUHA was not necessary.

Further, the shoot took place in my city apartment in Prague.

Behind The Scenes - Brenda Kucerova - What Beautiful you Are - Nude Photo Series

Beautifying & Styling: For this portfolio series I only revealed the concept’s essential buzzwords and vague outline to Brenda: natural, inner beauty, sexiness, confidence, appeal – Not a word about the look. She was asked to select her own outfits that support their personality and help bring the project’s message across.

The same requirement was set regarding beautifying actions: it was left up to the model what she wanted to apply for and during the shoot. I just asked for a very light, natural nude make-up for the first set. The choice and the progress thereafter were for the model’s to decide upon.

Brenda Kucerova - What Beautiful you Are - Nude Photo SeriesBrenda Kucerova - What Beautiful you Are - Nude Photo Series

Posing: At ease, natural, flowing, spontaneous, open hearted, comfy, cheerful…no plans, almost no instructions given! It was interesting to experience that as soon as Brenda felt totally relaxed and we were in a kind of a conversation or diverted mood, the energy was greatly flowing and I could just snap away.

As soon we were back intending accurate “posture creating”, Brenda started to pose more attentive or were even asking for direction every now and then.

When focusing on achieving attitude, the full-blooded glamour model Brenda fell back into the more genre-specific posing. Her work specialty definitely had an influence on their behavior.

Lighting Design

Behind The Scenes - Brenda Kucerova - What Beautiful you Are - Nude Photo Series

I must admit that I used quite some lighting equipment. I put 3 flash heads into action.
However, you can implement the same look with only two speedlights. You just have to waive the idea of evenly lit three-quarter length shots. When you stick to a portrait-mode you will be able to excellently implement the same style. This brings us to the actual lighting design needs…

Lighting Design – Supporting the Look: I was craving to create a setup that utterly flatters the women’s forms. The facial lines, the head and hair form, cheek bones, collar bone, shoulders and all the rest of the magically beautiful body lines.

The light fundamentally needs to sculpt and accentuate the different body parts. But at same time it’s impossible to let shadows (which are created by light) distort the overall notion.

Brenda Kucerova - What Beautiful you Are - Nude Photo Series

Lighting Design – Implementation: Diffusion is the key factor #1. I always use shadows as a reference to our creations. It’s the same case here. Creating with shadows in these series means to make them as soft and subtle as possible. Soft shadow transitions, only graduations.

The action area is the 2nd factor. The full shooting-set buildup was limited in space (due to a small corner), but the usable area had to be as wide and evenly lit as possible. The given posing radius was very important for the model so she could unfold, develop her own acting-story and have the ability to move around a bit.

In order to get the two important factors implemented, I created two consistent soft spreading light volumes. One to forcefully wrap its light around the model from the back; The second one, the actual key light, filling-in extensively and yet gentle from the front.

Lighting Concept: Details

Background Lighting: The Glowing Heart of this Series
Here you see the final background wall. It’s built out of 4 white translucent shower curtains; the frame was created with the help of 2 Manfrotto Autopoles, an aluminum pipe and a broomstick act as crossbars. Everything was attached and stitched together with a bunch of clamps.

Behind The Scenes - Brenda Kucerova - What Beautiful you Are - Nude Photo Series

The curtains were not that plain but it didn’t matter because of the (subtle) overexposure the background-lighting created in this scene.

The shoot-trough background was lit with two 80×120 cm softboxes. Two of them were necessary to create an even light in almost full width. Just one box would not provide a beam that was wide-spread enough. The light fall-off to the left and right would be clearly visible.

The boxes already scattered and diffused the light to a certain degree. But the curtain-wall then did the final job: even-out the volume uniformly and very soft.

Key Light
Here curtain number 5 comes into play 😉

Behind The Scenes - Brenda Kucerova - What Beautiful you Are - Nude Photo Series

The most important aspects in designing the key light’s characteristics were:

  • To create a uniform volume that could be used for a three-quarter length shot. Meaning no light fall-off from crown to knee.
  • An appealing fluffy light that keeps our attention fully and solely on the subject. No drama, no semi-hard shadows that could distract one from the model’s inner (and outer) beauty.
  • A flattering catch light! Due to the large area such a curtain features – and the little distance from this surface to the model – we received most flattering catch lights and very open, lively and blazing eyes.

The key-curtain was lit by the same principles applied to the background. However, I used a medium-sized octobox here, simply because I had no additional softbox of that size left.
And any other smaller modifier would not have provided the same large light volume I needed.

Brenda Kucerova - What Beautiful you Are - Nude Photo Series

Implementing the light’s characteristic here – let’s call it the soft-light-creation-principle – was based on the same approach I used for the background. The Octo scattered and diffused the light to a certain degree at the first stage. The beam was medium-soft and medium-wide. But the translucent curtain did the final job: spreading the radiance even more. And this final bigger-dimensioned surface creates a much more distinct sparkling catch light than the octobox ever could.

Conclusion: Requirement Divinely Fulfilled

I am very convinced of the results and more than pleased to add this marvelous style of photography to my public portfolio.

Brenda Kucerova - What Beautiful you Are - Nude Photo Series

Lighting Gear Equipment Used

  • 5 translucent, white-fabric shower curtains. 4x background, 1x key light
  • 3x 400 WS Monoblocs
  • 2x 80x120cm/2.5×4’ Softbox, background
  • 1x Ø120cm/4’ Octobox, key light
  • 4x Manfrotto Autopoles for the frames. Note: You can use any construction you want to attach the curtains to. I just own my Autopoles so it was the natural way to use them.
  • Transparent tape for sticking the curtains together
  • A bunch of clamps

Lighting Set Plan

What Beautiful You Are - Brenda - 3 Light Setup with Shower Curtain


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