#01: Low Key Boudoir

In this chapter of the Lighting Series, we are looking at a simple low-key portrait. Here, the skill lies in precise lighting and the posing of your model.

Nikon D800, 50mm f1.4 @4,5, ISO 100, 1/100s


  • 1x Striplight 140cm x 30cm on 500Ws Monoblock
  • Black molton background


This setup uses a light source next to or just behind the model. A striplight works best here, so that there’s a clean edge drawn across the model.

In order to maintain a really dark black background – and so as not to have to darken it later in Photoshop – use a black cloth. This will absorb a lot of the incidental light.

What’s exciting about this setup is the clear shapes that it produces, and the expanse of negative space around the model.

I prefer to position the light source slightly higher, meaning that the light comes from a more natural direction with the shadows falling downwards. We automatically query shadows that fall overhead so I try to avoid them.

The more harmonious and realistic the picture looks, the fewer questions it will provoke in the viewer.

Important: the edge of the light shouldn’t be broken. This may require some posing instructions for your model to keep the line clean.


If the striplight is placed too far forward, the light becomes too flat and we lose a lot of depth.

If the light is well positioned, there is a clearly visible edge to it. At the same time, it creates shadows that give depth to the picture.

The model sinks in the shadows when the light source is too far back.


For the pictures in the article we used the light simulation “Set.A.Light 3D”. You can download the lighting setup and try everything for yourself.

If you’ve never worked with Set.a.Light before, you should give it a try!

There is also a free demo version on the website, which you can use to open our set.

all setups

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