Fetish Photography with Low Key Lighting

Recently I arranged a shoot just for fun.  To quote one of my favorite perfomers (Eddie Izzard) – who can live at that speed???  I have become a member of an online community called Model Mayhem.  This community allows photographers, models, designers, makeup artists, hairstylists and others to connect.

A word about ANY online forum/community – BUYER BEWARE.  There are many fine, upstanding citizens out there using these forums, with no harm, no foul.  However, flip that rock over and out will crawl lesser mortals and lower creatures….and you can get slimed.  Use your common sense and listen to the little bells and whistles sounding off in your own wee noggin.

Fetish photography with low key lighting tutorial

Anywho, the lovely young lady in the image above approached me to update her portfolio.  I agreed and we were off to the races.  After many and sundry emails exchanged back and forth, we both finally settled on a ‘look’.  Dark and sophisticated with touches of Gotham City thrown in for fun.

I decided to use a basic two light, low key setup.  See diagram below:

Tutorial diagram for low key lighting with two lights heads.

The Gobo (a large sheet of black foam board held in place alternately by a background stand with arm and the subject’s friend) was placed between the key light and the background (in this case seamless black paper) to keep the light off the background, allowing it to go completely dark.  By using two lights, the subject is completely lit and does not disappear into the background.  In this type of lighting setup, try to move the subject as far away from the background as possible.


There is an alternate way to light this, still using two lights, but placing one behind the subject and aimed at them.  See Below:

Tutorial diagram #2 for low key lighting with two light heads.

Here are some other shots from the session. Click on each image to see it larger:

Fetish photography with low key lighting tutorial.

Fetish photography with low key lighting tutorial.

Fetish photography with low key lighting tutorial.

Fetish photography with low key lighting tutorial.

And finally, I just fell in love with this image and couldn’t resist post processing it like a slightly twisted ‘beauty shot’:

Fetish photography with low key lighting tutorial.

To see any of the images larger, just click on them.

For more lighting tutorials, see these articles:

High Key Portrait Lighting Tutorial

Low Key Portrait Lighting Tutorial

Photographing Young Children With Low Key Lighting – Tutorial

Studio Lighting for Headshots Tutorial

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  1. Lol, thought you died! Great update, want to try this one out, would you say paper is better than the material backdrop?

    I only have a vinyl stretched white back. Would love black…
    In fact I just shoot with the lights off and nuke the subject to make the back go black with the fall off, but I think this is a very wrong approach.

    You go girl!

  2. deborahwolfe says

    Hi Chris,

    Still alive and kickin’. Black seamless paper is fairly inexpensive here in the USA. This ‘nukin’ you speak of…..how is that working out for you? As to it being a ‘wrong’ approach, are you happy with the results? That’s the important thing.

  3. It works out fine, very harsh sometimes but makes the back pure black with no tweaks, but if I back off a bit I get the hint of the backdrop (white) so I have to burn the shots.

    Guess Im ok with it, always wondered the ‘pro’ way if it was vinyl, paper or other…

  4. deborahwolfe says

    Hey Chris,

    I am all about being able to ‘control’ light. I use the widest seamless background paper I can get away with in the space I’m shooting in. As to using vinyl, it’s heavy/cumbersome and difficult to store. If you have the studio space to burn, the back muscles of Huge Jackman and don’t mind repainting it fairly frequently, then vinyl is fine.

    You can, of course, use a white cyc wall (once again, assuming you have the studio space for it) and just move your subject VERY far away from the background and let the light completely fall off. However, the floor will not go completely black. And there you are having to burn it in post production.

    I say light it like you want it to look IN CAMERA. As a matter of fact, I’m a big believer in doing EVERYTHING you can in camera. Fill the frame with your subject, leaving just enough background around the subject to ‘clone’ if need be. Then you have lots of good, HIGH QUALITY pixels to work with in post. This frees you up to play and experiment rather than having to ‘fix’ problems.

    Hope I’ve explained it well enough.

    But the most important thing of all is HAVE FUN! : )

  5. Love your name I have a web site could you look at it and give me some feed back? thank you so much Debi Wolfe

  6. deborahwolfe says

    Hi Debra Wolfe, this is Deborah Wolfe!

    Thanks so much for dropping by. I popped over to your website and gave it a bit of a ‘look see’. I can usually tell by looking at a photographer’s portfolio what it is they really love to do. I feel your best work is with children and seniors.

    That said, there are a few navigational issues with your site. Number one, it is not readily apparent that you must click the images to get them to advance. I’m a big believer in making it super easy for people to navigate around a site and view the images.

    If you really want to take your photography to the next level, I do offer phone consultations and would be glad to schedule a time to speak with you.

    Good luck and have fun!