How to Shoot a Marilyn Monroe-Inspired Boudoir Photo (VIDEO)

We always enjoy when pro photographer Lindsay Adler explains how she creates one of her stunning images and the below video is no exception. In the clip at the bottom of this post, Adler walks you through the process of how she shot a head-turning boudoir photo inspired by the look and vibe of Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe.

"Fine Art Nudes is one of the things I love most to photograph because there are no limits on your creativity," Adler says.

"I can collaborate with my model to create something truly artistic and beautiful. The image shown here was taken during my in person Fine Art Nude workshop and was inspired by Marilyn Monroe. While my lovely and talented Burlesque model Bryona isn’t blonde like Marilyn, we’re still channeling that vintage pin-up look, just brunette style!"


"The main light is here I one of my favorite modifiers (and not just because I co-designed it with Westcott lol) because of how it can create really hard crisp light," Adler explains.

"If you look at vintage photographs many times, you’ll notice they are using a hard light source. This is because they were using hot lights, specifically Fresnels which created very poppy, high contrast lighting.

"Since this is a rather concentrated light there were areas that were darker than I liked so I introduced a medium umbrella with diffusion as my fill.

"Lastly, I added a third light for the background that had a 20-degree grid just to create a little separation between the model and the background.

"Of course, the set played a big role in the execution of this image. I purchased some red velvet curtains and used them as the backdrop as well as draping them over the couch for the model to sit on.

I loved the result and the lighting straight out of camera, even with zero adjustments, which you can see at the 5:23-minute of the video."

Post Processing

"For post processing I darkened down the curtains a bit so that the model would pop a bit more and desaturated the image overall.

"For retouching, you can see that the biggest changes were to the background. What I wound up doing was grabbing a plate from another shot where I didn’t have those shadows hitting the background and added that in.

We could have left the shot as is, but this extra step made the image look a lot more polished. You can see the final Marilyn Monroe-inspired image at 8:12 in the video below."

tomkelley's picture

A good tutorial. You are right - the lights used on the original Monroe session were Mole-Richardson 2K with a bit of diffusion.
Also used 8x10 Kodachrome.