Tuesday Tutorial: Drama with Diagonal Lighting

Boudoir portraits

Tuesday Tutorial: Drama with Diagonal Lighting

Diagonal Lighting Directions

Diagonal Lighting

Diagonal Lighting

This weeks Tuesday Tutorial comes to you from Boudoir Photographer Mariah Carle. Mariah runs a boudoir & portrait photo studio in Oakland California. Her mixed media photo works have won grant awards in Seattle WA. Her male boudoir photography has been published in New York Post & Boing Boing. This style of lighting can be used for many different photo applications.

With all great recipes, it is best to start with a list of necessary ingredients:

2 Strobes (with stands)

2 Strip boxes

2 Grids for your strip boxes

1 Roll of duct tape

Your imagination



I love Alien Bees photo equipment, it is priced well and these “cheap strobes lights” have lasted me through nearly 10 years of professional studio use, travel, & even a few tumbles over rocks. Once I wrapped a strobe in a pair of jeans, tossed it into my suitcase & flew to Chicago for an on location boudoir session. Large power pack systems don’t travel so well.

This lighting schematic is an adaptation of a very popular symmetrical, side & rim lighting. Instead of setting the two lights equidistant I place on light on the floor of my studio or “lower” tilted upwards.

Bedroom set with Diagonal Lighting

Bedroom set with Diagonal Lighting


This diagonal lighting schematic is wonderful for showing movement, hiding flaws in shadows, working with asymmetry makes it easier to pose the body in natural ways, it is also a great way to address clients concerns of asymmetry in body parts, none of are perfectly symmetrical, so why do so many of us photographers design our lighting to be symmetrical?

If you choose to place on the floor I use a roll of duct tape to place the light on to stabilize it as well as make sure the optical slave can read your master flash

 The second light is raised up above your client and tilted downwards.

 You can use just two lights for a more dramatic lighting ratio, or if you choose, you can add in a third very broad soft light light as fill.

Dark backgrounds are great for this dramatic lighting setup, if you prefer a more high key approach, then use additional lights to brighten a lighter background

Get your clients to move body parts such as faces, breasts, hands up towards the light and you will have great images.

This diagonal lighting schematic is not limited to boudoir and dance photography, it also works great with portraits.

This diagonal lighting style does have a few disadvantages, it is a pretty hard light so it will show raised skin blemishes and cellulite, it is also a very contraind light so you have to keep your clients within the light and not let them wander around set, if they go too far into the light you risk blowing your highlights. I find even with these constraints it is a very lovely light. Once my boudoir clients see how it makes their muscles pop and at the same time can be used to hide trouble places in the shadows they love it.  This is a great boudoir set up for clients asking about fine art and those who dance or do gymnastics.

Photographer: Mariah Carle – I steal souls; then sell them back at a profit.

Photo Studio: Carle Photography

Boudoir Models: Wara & Rivi & Ulorin Vex






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