What camera gear do I use for portrait and boudoir photography
I’ve been a Fujifilm X-T2 shooter for about 4 years now. Before that, I always shot with Canon, and my last Canon camera was the 5Dmk3 model. I still have it, because I wanted a backup camera in case my X-T2 failed, but I never actually shoot with it anymore. I’m going to sell it soon, together with 3 lenses that I still have. I don’t really need so much redundancy anyway.
I have a Fujifilm X-T2, which is my main camera, and I also have a much older X-E1, just in case. X-E1 has a smaller sensor and its autofocus is not great, but for portrait and boudoir photography I don’t really need fast autofocus. I could easily even use manual focus if I wanted to. Besides, it is only my backup camera anyway. I only rarely used it during a boudoir shoot.I put a different lens on the smaller camera and it is just easier to shoot with 2 cameras than to keep swapping lenses on the main camera.
3 reasons I switched from Canon to Fujifilm
The size and weight.
My Canon gear weighed a few kilograms. I shot usually with 2 bodies and a couple of spare lenses in the bag. Altogether around 7kg of gear. Multiply that by 10 hours a usual wedding would take and we have hard labor. That was not fun, but it was necessary to make sure I get all the necessary shots of a wedding. There is no do-overs in wedding photography. It was hard work and it became harder as I grew older. Fujifilm gear of similar specs would weigh probably 40% less.
The look of Fujifilm cameras
I learned photography when cameras had all the necessary dials on the body. There was a dial for the shutter speed, the aperture had to be set manually and the ISO had to be set manually too. I know it’s nostalgic, but I do like the look and feel of Fujifilm X-T2. it reminded me of the years gone by, and it felt good.
I am now only a portrait and boudoir photographer
I needed a lot of gear to cover weddings and family photography sessions. Now, for boudoir or portraits, I just need 1 camera and 1 prime lens. That’s it. And a backup, of course, just in case. I used to have a number of lenses that covered focal lengths of 15mm to 200mm, and all of them were professional-grade glass, which means, it was very heavy and very expensive. Now, I just shoot with 35mm and 50mm lenses which are 23mm and 35mm on Fuji cropped sensor, and while they are still professional-grade, they only weigh around 300g each. My camera and the lens are less than 1kg. Compare that to the 7kg I had to lag with me before.
What do I use for a boudoir photography session?
Like I said already, my main camera is a Fujifilm X-T2. It’s a 24mpx camera, which is plenty and it is about 5 years old now. It has good auto-focus, can shoot into 2 SD cards, and has some weather sealing, but I never shoot in the rain, so it’s not a big deal.
I bring a 35mm f1.4 lens and a 23mm f1.4 lens. These are the 50 and 35mm equivalent lenses in a full-frame camera. I carry 2 lenses because I am never sure how big the room is going to be. If it’s a big place, I prefer to shoot with the 50mm lens. It produces images that are a little bit more flattering, and it will not distort some images like the wider angle lens can. up until now, I think 80% lf all my boudoir images were shot with a 50mm(full-frame) lens.
The 35mm is also f1.4, and I’d use it if I shoot in a small hotel room. The 50mm lens needs much more space between me and the model, to get a well-framed image. Often, in small hotels, the rooms are really not that big at all.
I almost always shoot wide open. I would say 80% of my images are shot at f1.4, and I don’t think I shoot at more than f2. Because the X-T2 is a cropped sensor camera, the equivalent f-stops are f2 and f2.8. I know, I would lose a little bit of a bokeh, shooting with a cropped sensor, but on the plus side, I rarely miss the focus, like I often did when I shot f1.4 on a full-frame.
I shoot jpeg images into 1 card and raw images into another card. That gives me access to the amazing Fujifilm jpeg images, but it also gives me redundancy in case one of the cards failed. Which, btw never happened. Touch wood. I can then process the raw images but I actually prefer to work with jpegs. They just come out so much nicer straight out of the camera. Check out the gallery on my Boudoir Photography Page
What I use for my portrait sessions
Practically all my online dating portrait sessions are shot with the X-T2 and the 50mm equivalent lens. I tried the 85mm f1.2 lens as well, but I found the images looked a little bit
too “professional” with a very smooth buttery background. Very pleasing to the eye, but since these images were to be used for online dating, I don’t want them to look like they were shot by a professional photographer. I want to keep them a little bit more authentic like they were shot by a buddy of theirs with a good camera.
The focal length is always 50mm and the aperture goes between f1.4 and f4. At f4, the images retain a decently sharp background, so they look nice as a lifestyle portrait rather than just a headshot.
In a boudoir photography session, I would probably take around 1000 images, and on the online dating photoshoot I normally take around 200 images per hour. Depending on the portrait session my clients choose, I would take from 200-600 images. Some sample images from my portrait sessions are on my Online Dating Photography Page
I process and organise all my images using a software called Exposure X5. I used to have the Adobe suite of Lightroom and Photoshop, but I am not that keen on monthly subscriptions, so I dumped Lightroom in favor of Exposure X5. Both programs help me choose and edit images, and both are great for organising my work, although, I prefer Exposure X5 for that as it doesn’t require separate Catalogues. It just works directly on folders. I still use Photoshop, but it’s version 6, the last one before they went to subscriptions. For a piece of software that is more than 10 years old, it still does more than I could ever want from it. And NO subscriptions.
I don’t edit portrait images that much. Mostly just adjust exposure, and crop. They are to be used on Tinder and other online dating apps, so people should still look in pictures like they do in real life. I will remove some obvious blemishes, of course, but in portraits, I rely more on good posing and good light to create nice portraits. Not so much on post-processing and Photoshop work.
For boudoir, I do a lot more post-processing. I still organise and crop my pictures in Exposure X5, but I also edit them in Photoshop and run a subtle skin smoothing job using a Portraiture plugin. That is really all I need to do online dating portraits and boudoir photography sessions. Not much gear. Much lighter gear. And very little additional software. Next week I’m getting the new Fujifilm X-T4 delivered. Just bought it earlier today. A new chapter begins.
Do you need professional online dating photos?
No. You certainly don’t need professional online dating photos for your Tinder profile, but it helps. I’ve seen people check their Tinder profiles. It takes them a couple of minutes to go over 50+ profiles. That’s a few seconds per profile on average. Some of the profiles are swiped left immediately. That person paused on the better ones to check the other pictures and sometimes, but not always, read the actual profile content.
She said that reading the description in the profile is just another filtering process, to weed out people she didn’t want to meet, even if they looked ok. So, according to her, the profile description can only hurt your chances for a date. When I asked her why the profile didn’t matter so much to her, she said that she is not interested in people’s own opinions of themselves. She wanted to judge for herself what type of a person they are, if and when they actually meet. That sounded a bit cold, but not illogical.
But, what happens to all these people she swiped left, and never bothered to read their profile. She said, physical attraction may not be the most important thing in a relationship, and a lot depends on the character and personality, but she would not even consider anyone she is not attracted to. At least a little.
That brings me back to the whole idea of getting professional portraits for Tinder and other online dating apps.
Do you need professional portraits as a man?
If you’re a man and 8 or above in looks, then a selfie against a bathroom mirror will do the job. Unless of course, you are really awkward in front of the camera. If you are below 8 in looks, which is a vast majority of us, a good portrait will help. There is a lot of competition out there, and you need to stand out a little from the crowd to be noticed.
When I first started taking online dating portraits, I tried to make sure that the images didn’t look too “professional”. I didn’t want men to look like they were trying too hard. I chose the aperture of my camera to blur the background a little, but not so much as to let everyone know that a professional photographer took these pictures. They needed to look like they were taken by just a friend with a phone camera.
These days, I don’t play that game anymore. IPhone has an amazing photo app, that creates images with a great blurry background. This is not done optically, it’s generated in software, but not many people can tell the difference. So, I shoot my clients with the best camera glass to make sure they do stand out. They always look sharp against a blurry background. I make sure they have great light illuminating their faces, and that they fill the frame properly. This will give them the best chance to be noticed among hundreds of other dating profile pictures.
What no camera and no app can offer though, is good posing. I think that this is my most important skill as a professional photographer. Get the right angles, the nice facial expressions, elicit a cool attitude. And of course, find the right light to get the best out of my clients while keeping the session friendly and relaxed. I don’t over-pose anyone in those sessions. I still want the images to look authentic, and I don’t want them to look like studio shots. I will throw in a few “modeling” images. Just to make the person look cooler, but nothing extravagant.
Yes, I want the men to look cool. That is my main goal. It’s challenging at times because most of us do not take thousands of selfies to test what looks good. Most men I photograph have no pictures of themselves at all. It’s just not something that we do. So it usually takes a bit of work and time to get rid of the stiffness out of my male clients, but it’s worth it. Most men, if not all tell me that they actually enjoyed the session and feel quite good about themselves when I showed them their images at the back of the camera.
Do you need professional portraits as a woman?
I have to say that a lot of women can get away with just a few selfies. I’m not saying that a professional portrait isn’t going to make them look better. What I noticed is that no matter what kind of images women post on Tinder, they will still get matches. This is certainly not true for men. And this may also have something to do with the way men and women search for partners. I’m no sociologist, but I think women may be a little bit more selective when it comes to that. I think they don’t go for quantity, they still prefer quality.
While it looks like women have it easier to attract partners, the competition for high-value men is very strong. Especially on websites like EliteSingles.com, which a lot of my female customers use. Men are visual creatures, so a good portrait is a must. Again, if you are a 9 or a 10, well, first of all, you will probably not be on Tinder, but if you are, then pretty much any image will do. And if you are a 10, then you have tons of great images to choose from already. This article may be useful for the rest of the world.
The way I photograph women differs from the men’s portraits, but I don’t over-complicate the process. I shoot men to look cool, and women to look beautiful. That is pretty much it, in theory. In practice, I always start with good light and a nice background. Once I have a good spot I try poses that accentuate the curves. I go for feminine beauty in the poses and cuteness in the facial expressions.
Again, new iPhones can create good-looking images, but they can’t pose the subject. A bit of direction is what can transform an ordinary snapshot into a very attractive portrait. I think the ability to pose people is the main thing now that good photographers can offer their clients. I don’t over-pose women either, as I want the portraits to look authentic, but women can get away with modeling poses much better than men. And why not have a bit of fun during the session. They may not necessarily use these images for their portfolio, but they are great for Facebook or Instagram.
I am not sure if I convinced anyone to get a professional photographer for their online dating pictures. Let me know in the comments, and if you have any questions, use the Contact page to email me. And you can check a few of my images on my online dating portfolio page.
Pro tips for men to get great online dating portraits
Pictures are by far the most important part of your online dating profile. And it’s not just for Tinder, where you swipe left or right on pictures that you see. Even more “conservative” online dating websites like eHarmony or Elite Singles recommend getting good professional images. The easiest thing would be to hire a professional portrait photographer, but here are a few tips you can use to improve your images even when they are taken by your friend with a phone.
When I shoot men for their online dating profiles, I only really have 1 rule that I follow. Make them look cool. First of all, what does it even mean?
Wikipedia defines coolness as an aesthetic of attitude, behavior, appearance, and style which is generally admired. Easier said than done? Actually, it’s not that hard. The following are tips I give all my male customers before and during our online dating photo session.
Tips for online dating photos
Stand up straight and smile! A typical grandmother’s advice… No! I think standing straight makes us look stiff and that’s the opposite of cool. Sure, we can shoot a man standing straight, wearing a leather jacket and Aviator Ray-Bans. Especially from a lower position, making them look larger than life. But, I’d leave this pose to Tom Cruise, for the rest of us, a comfortable stance is much more appropriate.
Put your weight on one foot. Left or right, doesn’t matter, whichever feels more comfortable. This will cause your body to slump a little and create a nice curve, and a curve is much more pleasing to the eye than a straight line. Another option is to cross legs, especially when leaning against something like a tree or a side of a building.
During my sessions, I will direct my male clients to swap the legs they are standing on and capture the in-between poses. To get the most variety of the standing poses, I will direct them to stand facing me, as well as standing at a 45 deg angle, both left and right.
What to do with the hands
Hands are very difficult to pose, so I don’t pose them at all. If a man is comfortable being photographed, his hands would just hang next to his body and look slightly curved. This can be good for a few images, however, in most cases, their fingers would be straight, which indicates tension. And that looks stiff to me. To avoid that, I either hide their hands or give them something to do.
In a typical male pose, I would ask them to just put their hands in their pockets. Nice and easy and it actually looks good. Back pockets are also great to hide the hands.
We don’t want to hide the hands in every photo. So, I give them something to do. Holding onto their jacket is one option. Holding a cup of coffee is another. Holding a prop they brought, like a book or a football is also great. Fixing their shirt sleeves… There are tons of things we can ask them to do, and when their hands are doing something, they will look very natural.
Confidence and approachability. I don’t remember where I heard it first, but that is how I like to direct my clients during the shoot. I want them to look confident, without overdoing it. And I want them to look approachable. Meaning, people should not be scared of approaching or talking to them. How to achieve that? Easy… 🙂
Confidence comes from the eyes, and approachability comes from the mouth. How? Like this. Squinting your eyes very slightly will make you look more confident. When your eyes are wide open, it shows that you are either scared or unsure. That’s not confidence. By squinting them slightly, you show that you are very calm, and very comfortable exactly where you are. Try it in front of a mirror. Then check out some of the celebrities or movie actors. You will see that most of them have their eyes slightly squinted.
Approachability, on the other hand, comes from your mouth. Make sure you have at least a tiny smile on your face. No need to show teeth and a slight smirk works as well. What it tells the viewer is that you are a friendly person, and if they come over to talk to you, you will not bite their head off.
To smile or not to smile
Smile, by all means, but not in every photograph. A man who doesn’t smile at all takes himself way too seriously and a man who smiles in every picture could look like a clown. I think most images in an online dating profile should show a man with a nice friendly smile, but I’d use 1 or 2 photos that show a more serious, or more mature facial expression.
The smile should obviously be natural. Telling someone to smile will not get a natural expression, in most cases. What I do is try to tell a joke, and have my camera ready just in case they find it funny. I don’t have many jokes, so I need to be prepared, and also, a natural smile lasts for only a fraction of a second. So I have to capture it quickly before it becomes stale.
Look into the camera or away
I shoot online dating portraits to look like they were taken by a person very close to the subject. I want there to be a good connection between the subject and the photographer. This makes the pictures look authentic. Now, how can I show a great connection to someone I just met? Well, my friendly personality helps, but I also want them to interact with the camera. I want that piercing look in their eyes as if they were listening to a great story. I want them to look at me(the lens), not through me. This is the main difference between a modeling shot and a portrait.
When a person I’m shooting is looking into the camera I want their eyes to be engaged, but I also shoot a few pictures with my subject looking away from the lens. This serves 2 purposes. One is simply the fact that they look a little like a model. And that can make them look a little more attractive. Another reason is to allow the female viewer to get a good look at him.
What do I mean by that? If a man has this piercing, engaged look in his eyes, it’s almost intimidating to look at him. When he is looking away from the camera, a woman can then properly check them out. It’s what I’ve been told by some of my female customers, and it makes sense.
You can check out my portfolio on the online dating photography page here on this website.