Location shoot awesomeness!

Hi Everyone!

We just got back from an EPIC location shoot with Ariel Anderssen, Faye Taylor, Natalia Forrest, Temptress Kate, Sophia Smith, ColFet Media, Steve and Merlin (and me).

We hired a big old party house for four nights and decided to concentrate just on shooting stills… and here are a few behind the scenes shots to show you what we got up to! We shot 88 sets in total which is unbelievable!

I’ll put the full behind-the-scenes set up as a bonus soon. First full sets from the shoot will be on the sites (we shot both RE and Silk Soles) in a few weeks!

Hywel

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Happy Birthday Restrained Elegance!

I’m not often lost for words (as you can probably tell).

But today’s 18th birthday of my little website-to-help-cover-shoot-costs website leaves me a bit gob-smacked and unsure what to say.

I’ve said a lot of it before- how I never expected the site to turn into a business or to make my living doing this. I certainly think I would have been astonished at the sheer technical progress that we’ve made – from crude scans of slide film to the first digital SLRs to cameras which routinely now deliver results far superior to those of the highest end film medium format cameras of 2001.

We’ve gone from 30 second videos shot on miniDV tape (and thinking that was remarkable- a TV-quality recording from a small box) to 4K footage that equals what Hollywood was shooting on just a couple of years ago. From flaky Jessops-own-brand flash lighting with a recharge time of several seconds to portable studio flat packs capable of overpowering direct sunlight and yet which can be carried in one hand. From tungsten hot lights from the stone age to large LED panels delivering colour-tuneable and dimmable light of delightful quality.

In bondage terms if I’m honest I’ve made less progress, but I’ve still gone from home-made cuffs and ropes from B&Q to tying awesome suspensions and travelling the world with a collection of brightly coloured ropes and heavy metal bondage, locking up 250 of the world’s most gorgeous women.

I think the thing of which I am most proud, though, is this page from the RE maintenance pages (a system written for my by one of my University friends, drafted in as most of my friends have been in one way or another):

This is the list of people who have contributed to the site behind the scenes or behind the camera. In 2001, I would never have thought that I’d have worked with over 50 people on my little website project with them contributing everything from ideas and bondage gear through to their time and energy and even donating material they have shot and paid for because they feel that Restrained Elegance is a safe, respectful environment where their creative output can have a home.

I’m quite shy, terrible at small talk, forget to smile and consequently off-putting on first meeting. People think I hate them. Plus I’m a weapons-grade introvert, so after a few days I shut down and have to go and hide. All of which makes a miracle that we’ve managed to sustain a BDSM community around something I created, really!

That Restrained Elegance is still here today is a testament to the power of the collegaite, collaborative model of doing business. Even if that business is making erotic art.

I prefer photography to drawing BDSM because of the opportunity to collaborate with models. I have some idea how to light and how to frame a shot. I’ve got some idea of how to tie safely in a way that’s relatively flattering. But that’s all for nothing without the skill and technique of a model who knows how to work with that and pose herself towards the camera, with exactly the right sort of sexy-but-scared bondage emotions projecting on her face, putting dynamic tension onto the ropes that translates to eroticism on the screen.

I’ve got some idea of what makes a cool story-line, but nothing beats working together with other creative people in a stimulating location to come up with ideas that are superior to anything we’d have come up with on our own. That’s why the highest point of a very high plateau of good experiences for me are the Restrained Elegance location trips, where we all pool our ideas and have a week-long frenzy of creative output.

And the other thing which I would never have imagined in 2001 is how lovely our members would be. That’s not to say I imagined you’d all be horrid- I don’t think I had any preconceptions. Indeed it was a surprise that there were any people out there who would be interested enough to sponsor the creation of more BDSM erotica. I don’t think I expected to meet so many people, discover that so many couples enjoy the site together, find people whose exposure to the site led them to explore BDSM in their personal lives, maybe even catalysed them to realised that they were kinky.

I really didn’t expect so many of them to turn out to be photographers, authors, artists and film-makers, either. If you’d suggested to me back in 2001 that my future fetish model wife would be travelling the world working with people who have been members of the site at one time or another, I’d not have believed it.

Well today is the first day that the website might be older than some of its members, and that’s a huge privilege and responsibility. We’ve got two big location trips coming up, and we’re adding more sets to the total created by the Restrained Elegance collaboration. We’ve got a new contributor, Drago Bee, whose work you will be seeing here over the coming months and hopefully years (Ariel will tell you more about that in her piece on the site’s birthday).

As always, this is only possible because YOU support it. The money you choose to pay to us goes directly to making more BDSM erotica (literally: 80% of the site’s turnover goes straight back out on shoots, models, locations and equipment. The rest allows me to eat and keep a roof over my head while I manage all this creative effort from so many people). Restrained Elegance will keep going so long as you think our output is good enough to support. Maybe another 18 years, who knows? I hope so!

Hywel

Ariel’s Thoughts

I asked Ariel to share some of her thoughts on today’s update featuring the work of Drago B, and on 18 years of Restrained Elegance.

This is what she said:

To celebrate Restrained Elegance’s 18 Anniversary, we’re very happy to welcome a new artist to the Restrained Elegance family, and to show you what I hope will be the first of many of his lovely movies to appear here. Welcome, Drago B.

I’ve been working with Drago since 2014, when he first hired me for a stills shoot. His interests include corporal punishment and exploring Dom/sub dynamics, so naturally, I loved working with him, and was delighted when he moved into movie production a couple of years ago. In the intervening years since we first met we’ve become friends, and I’m a huge fan of his work.

Initially, Drago made his films available for free on Vimeo, but like Hywel before him, his account was shut down for being too pornographic. I was offended on his behalf, as I’d been on Hywel’s. Though both of them are, I’m sure, perfectly capable of shooting excellent porn, neither of them had uploaded anything onto Vimeo that’d have been out of place in a Hollywood film. Hywel, of course, has Restrained Elegance to host his work, conveniently behind a paywall, and under his own control where it can’t be censored. Drago had no such place to for his movies. So both Hywel and I were grateful and honoured when he offered his films to Hywel, to appear on Restrained Elegance.

I’ve always been impressed by the way in which Hywel has welcomed contributions from other artists on Restrained Elegance. It reminds me of what a decent, collaborative and community-minded human being he is. And it speaks very highly of Drago, that he offered his work to Restrained Elegance for free, because he wants it to reach an appreciative audience.

And I do hope that you, like me, will be part of that appreciative audience. Drago’s work doesn’t feature a lot of bondage, since it’s more focused on CP, but to my mind, what he does especially beautifully is to make work that conveys how BDSM feels from the inside. The way in which it can feel like the most complete, satisfying form of communication. The sense of connection, warmth and affection between the participants, which is easy to overlook in favour of the more obvious elements of BDSM. I especially like the way Drago concentrates on the enjoyment of the submissive, which is an almost entirely absent theme in traditional CP productions.

Drago’s work is romantic, and sensual, and he’s one of my favourite people to work with. As, of course, is Hywel, who has carefully piloted his little personal project to commercial maturity over the last 18 years, with all the integrity of an artist, and with the bare minimum of business sense (Really. We have a lot of lenses. There’s no possible commercial justification for them. Ditto all the extra cameras. It’s a puzzle). Restrained Elegance was one of the first websites that gave me the feeling that my sexual identity was ok, and over the years, we’ve heard from many people who’ve said the same. That feels valuable, and I hope that we can continue to help people feel this way for many years to come. Censorship and regulation have been an ever-increasing threat to Hywel’s venture over the last few years, as has industrialised video piracy. The support of honest people like you who’ve been prepared to support our shared vision of romantic, beautiful BDSM, is the reason that Restrained Elegance has reached the age of 18. Thank you to you all.

And with Drago joining Hywel, Kate, Steve, Merlin, Sheep, me, and our other friends and colleagues from around the world, we’ll hope to keep bringing you work that will delight you, as it delights us.

Happy Birthday, Restrained Elegance. And congratulations to Hywel, who is braver, and kinder, and more full of integrity than any man I’d ever have dreamed of being able to marry. And who is, I think you’ll agree, a remarkable BDSM producer. May Restrained Elegance enjoy journeying towards middle age, just as its crew are.

Ariel Anderssen

Tutorials for 2019

Hi Everyone!

Many thanks to everyone who filled in our survey on bondage and photography tutorials. The survey is now closed and we are setting to work to create new photosets, videos and documentaries to fulfil your requests. I thought you might be interested in knowing the survey results.

First of all, we were very encouraged by the sheer volume of responses. We had 71 in total, of whom 66 people were interested in tutorial materials on RestrainedElegance.com.

This in itself is a huge boost for us- that’s a significant fraction of the membership, something we didn’t really know about before running the survey. It is great to know that people are really interested and it has definitely encouraged us to put significantly more time and energy into the tutorial material on the site this year.

I’ll aim for at least one tutorial feature a month, two if time permits.

Tutorial Subjects

(On this chart 1 = everyone hates the idea, 3 = everyone loves the idea. Sorry for the odd axes, blame Survey Monkey or me for being too cheap to pay for upgraded presentation options).

From this I take away that pretty much everyone is interested in tutorials on bondage ideas, how to tie and bondage techniques.

There’s a strong interest in stills photographic technique, model-related technique (posing, makeup, how to direct a model, etc.) and in post-production.

There’s some interest in video-centric tutorials. For some people that’s their main interest (reinforced by individual comments) but quite a few people are only interested in bondage and still photography.

The least interesting overall was industry-related technique like selling your work, hiring models, etc. but even that had plenty of people who would be very interested if we did do something on this.

Action points:

We will aim to prepare tutorials all of this in due course, since nothing proved absolutely uninteresting to everyone.

We will prioritise bondage technique first, then stills photo technique, then video specific tutorials.

I’ll try to cross-over video technique and stills technique where I can (eg natural light lighting and equipment is useful for both) to broaden the appeal.

It’ll take a while to prepare some of this eg some tutorials require a day’s shooting, where others (eg equipment advice) just needs me to sit at the computer for an afternoon. But thank you that sets our broad agenda for 2019!

Style of Presentation

Slideshows are clearly the least popular. I will continue to put up slideshows where we have given invited talks but will not use them otherwise.

All the other formats have their adherents, but people clearly value a better-constructed tutorial video or behind-the-scenes over a video-log talking head YouTube video style. In some ways that’s sad because talking-head videos are easy to churn out quickly. But I shouldn’t be surprised that RE members would prefer us to do fewer tutorials but make them more comprehensive and better presented!

Annotated stills sets with text are clearly appreciated too, which is nice for me as that’s often the most natural way for me to discuss technical issues like the aperture/depth of field series.

Action Points

A mix of materials is good, so we can choose the format that most suits the subject. Behind the scenes, documentary-style videos and annotated photosets will be the three main formats.

Can the Model sometimes be untied?

We are conscious of course that we are primarily a bondage site, so where we can have the model tied up we will. But sometimes if a technical series is being done with explanations or with us shooting documentary video, that could take a very long time and require her to be bound for longer than is safe or efficient.

For example, the recent Paul McRope/Ariel series. The early technical lessons involved a lot of fiddling around with lens changes and f/stop changes – there was too much going on, and each series took too long to shoot, for me to really be comfortable having Ariel tied up for all of it.

But once we stopped doing the methodical learning exercises with lights and camera in each of six places and were putting it into practice, something more like shooting a normal set, of course we went back to having her in bondage.

So thank you for this, it’s a significant consideration in shooting some of these tutorials. Especially the popular documentary-style videos. It means we can continue to do stuff like the aperture tutorial series and the lighting tutorial series without needing the model to endure potentially two hours or more in bondage.

A few highlights from individual suggestions

Thank you to everyone who contributed suggestions as well as just answering the questions. We’ll try to cover as many of them as we can. I particularly plan to cover:

  • How to achieve sharpness in your photos
  • Shooting on a shoe-string budget
  • Shooting on a camera phone (ironically, I’m not qualified to shoot this one. So it’ll be more of a “photographer challenge” – spend the day shooting with my iPhone, can I get anything worthwhile? I’ll film it and let you know!)
  • A basic all round videography tutorial
  • A basic all round stills tutorial – which I’ll follow up with more advanced videos on sub-topics
  • A basic all round bondage technique tutorial
  • A basic all round bondage safety tutorial
  • A basic all round working with models tutorial
  • How to approach post-production (one for stills, one for video)
  • Using light and shadow to make it seem real
  • Showing emotion
  • Sets, equipment, environment and production design – how do they contribute?
  • The hogtie (multiple requests here!)
  • Posing ideas for models in bondage, especially when the bondage is not so restrictive (eg collared and chained, but quite free to move)
  • Developing mutual understanding with models (suggestion mentioned studios and other photographers, too, but I think there will be less interest in that)
  • Effective shooting methods – which I’m going to take to mean “I have a model booked for a few hours. How do I make sure I get some good shots?”
  • Building up – from full auto to manual on the camera
  • Metal bondage technique
  • Moving from simple floor bondage work to more advanced ties
  • Doing your first bondage shoot
  • Doing your second bondage shoot
  • How to step up your game with some basic extra equipment
  • Progressive ties – ties that can start as one thing and turn into another without untying

That’s already WAAAAY more than a year’s work to cover everything, but I’ll do the best I can!

There are a few things that I will not be covering any time soon. Self bondage – while Ariel does sometimes tie herself up, and models do it on camera with metal bondage, it isn’t our area of expertise, especially since we ALWAYS have other people present when we do it. So I’m not qualified to speak about this I’m afraid.

Suspension – we don’t currently have a safe suspension point in our house/studio, and we’ve always been very cautious with suspensions anyway. So while we could put something together it would need a lot of resources, and I’ve already got my work cut out for me covering the above!

An updated lexicon – I think we can update the pages, but doing a whole extra lexicon shoot is a massive undertaking, so may not happen any time soon.

And Finally… Tutorials in Person

We have a very small number of slots for one-on-one dedicated tutorials this year. Take a look at the sort of thing we laid on for Paul McRope in the recent tutorials with Ariel. If you really want to kick-start your bondage photography or level-up your skills, this is by far the most effective option. We will construct a tutorial program to your individual specification, for one or two days.

We won’t have time to offer small group tutorials this year (although if you wanted to book us for a dedicated tutorial with yourself and a friend or partner we could totally put together a dedicated program for you).

If you are interested email webmaster@restrainedelegance.com. And if you happen to be interested in some of the above topics and are willing to let us use the resulting shots to put together tutorials for RE members as Paul did, we can definitely give you a break on the costs of the tutorial.

If you are interested don’t hang about, as we will likely only be able to fit in two or three people at most as we’ll fit them in around existing RE shoots and Ariel’s modelling, so we’ll need to get dates in the diary SOON.