(A Note to my diligent reader: The following post includes some mention, with the utmost tact and propriety, of the photographing of unclothed individuals. Those who might find such goings-on alarming should probably go read something else.)

Let me start by saying I have some experience with photographing nudes. In my storied past I have worked with four nude models. All were men, and all were delighted to take of their clothes and prance about, as many men, as a general rule, are. Three were photographed in ambient light, either the sun streaming through two-storey windows or whatever happened to be cast by local floorlamps. The results were generally good, and nothing that couldn’t be fixed with patience and a delicate hand in Photoshop.

However last week I acquired a home studio set. It was, let me hasten to say, not expensive. As a rank amateur, a hopeful beginner, a pro-to-be, I was not comfortable shelling out the hard-earned in vast quantities for top-of-the-line equipment. But what I found, however, turned out to work just fine.

Lighting equipmentThe folks at ePhotoInc, via Amazon, provided me with the following, for less than $150, shown here set up in my den:

1 complete background support stand 10ftwide, 8ft high
2 x 7ft light stand
1 x backlight stand
2 x 105w bulb
1 x 45w bulb
3 x light holder
2 x 33″ umbrellas
1x 6×9 black, 1 x 6×9 white muslin background
1x carrying case for all that stuff

This was pretty much perfect for my purposes, and I spent several days tormenting Gimli the cat, my partner, Durrell, and assorted objets-d’art as I toyed about with different arrangements of lights and muslins and camera settings. I shoot a Nikon D-90, with a Nikon DX 18-105mm lens (although I’ve been known to use a Sigma 28-70mm too). I rapidly discovered that the lazy Auto setting I had been defaulting to was no long appropriate, and learned all about adjusting white levels to accommodate fluorescent lighting (yeah, yeah, I know, but the den’s small and heat’s an issue when the doors are closed to prevent Gimli from wandering all over the model lying on the floor…more on that in a moment).

Seasoned professional photographers, or those with a lick of sense, will be shaking their heads and rolling their eyes at me (and I will take their pictures and post ’em on the Web if they don’t quit it), but I think I’ve done some lovely work in the past with little or no formal training.

Oh but the lights are amazing. Suddenly objects that had been flat and dull-looking (neither Gimli nor Durrell falls into this category of course), when lit from varying angles, took on a richness of color, and depth of shadow, and a level of interestingness heretofore unbeknownst. (I’m really really sorry about how that sentence ended. Unnecessary multisyllabicism sort of creeped up on me when I wasn’t really paying attention.)

So here we go, I thought to myself. Promptly an ad was posted on Craigslist (the “Services” part, not the “Strangers Come Over And Fool Around With Me” part, thank you), and pretty promptly responses came back. I believe I discussed this in a previous blog. Some were, predictably, I suppose, not entirely genuine. Others, though, had promise. I sent inquirers to my gallery on the Web, and a few came back still interested. Two have been dealt with to date; two more are still on the calendar.

You can, if you feel like it, look at the results of this shoot on my PhotoShelter site in the password-protected gallery merely by dropping me an e asking for  the password-du-jour.  Some less scary samples can be seen in the Portraits gallery.

The piece I’m probably most pleased with is entitled “Tied” (detail shown to the left) and in it I had my model lie in a fetal position on the black-muslin-ed floor bound loosely with a selection of some of my nicer and more vividly-colored silk ties (I have some lovely ties, and have used them as props in previous work as well, but never quite like this). The result is a lovely mix of flesh-on-black punctuated by strips of bright jewel tones. The lights had a lot to do with the depth and richness of the photo (“Duh,” say those who know about such things), as did the model’s comfortableness in his own skin, and willingness to lie around on my floor wrapped up in neckwear.

So this blog is apparently generally concerned with me learning stuff at my advanced age that most semi-serious photographers already knew, so what did I learn? I’ve learned that I’ve just started learning about lighting, and I’ve learned about various new and surprising features of my camera. I’ve learned the value of a tripod, and also the value of a stepstool for looming over someone lying on the floor.  I’ve learned that fluorescent lights will in fact heat up a small room when the doors are closed. I’ve learned that I’m pretty comfortable working with models, clothed and otherwise, and that the difference between the two, once I’m fussing with lights and focus and angle and stuff, is surprisingly minimal. I’ve learned about the importance of making a model feel comfortable and unsurprised;  this is made easier when the model is pretty much already comfortable, and just needs reassurance that he’s not in the presence of a crazed serial killer which, in this case, he was not. Just a slightly enthusiastic new photographer with a thing for accessorizing.