Nude Photography: The Beginner’s Guide In 5 Easy Steps

📷 Ursula Madariaga

Nude photography has been for years one of the most controversial, yet difficult photography genres to master. That’s mainly because it walks on a fine line between aesthetic art that evokes deep, uncensored emotions, and soft porn which elicits arousal and sexual tension.

To straighten things out, nude photography is all about surprising the very essence of the human nature: fragility, endurance and playfulness. Traits that are often concealed by clothes and accessories that signal ties to a culture, religion, or ideology.

But how do you detach yourself from this context and capture someone’s intimate authenticity, without giving the wrong impression?

In this article, we’ll share a few tips on how to make your models feel more comfortable during a nude photography session and turn it into a successful one. Don’t worry, we’re still going to touch on technicalities for the geeks out there.

1. Get to know your model

The chances are that you’re going to work with an inexperienced model that, despite of their insecurities, still expects you to put them in the best light possible.

Now that’s a bit hard, to say the least, especially if this is the first time you work with them. So take the time to connect and create an atmosphere where they feel at ease in front of the camera. Perhaps you could show them your portfolio or suggest a couple of poses that better advantage their body type.

When in doubt, you can always draw some inspiration from famous nude photography artists like Helmut Newton, Bill Brandt, or Andreas H. Bitensich.

📷 Darius Bashar

2. Never touch your model

As familiar as you can get with each other, there needs to be a boundary between you and your model. Never touch or stare at them, they’ve already agreed to appear naked in front of you.

Instead, suggest. Take a few shots and ask for feedback. Do they feel comfortable enough or perhaps have in mind an angle that would play more to their body? This boosts their confidence and reassures them that they’ve got what it takes, without looking like a scared animal at a zoo.

Or mirror the intended pose and talk to them about the overall emotion that you want to communicate through the photo.

📷 Matheus Bertelli

3. Use rim light

The most common mistake when shooting nude photography is to shower your model with excessive light. Do. Not. Do. This. You only over expose the shot and leave no room for mystery.

Instead, create powerful shots with rim light, a type of light that only highlights the contours of the subject. For this, use a small softboxor strip light to control where the light falls on your model. Place it behind them, facing the camera forward, so it only touches the surface of their skin and leaves the rest of the body in darkness. That’s it.

The set up is quite easy and can help any beginner photographer to build up trust and make progress in real time.

📷 Evelyn Chong

4. Cover up

In nude photography, less is more for two reasons: not everyone is 100% confident when they’re naked and not everyone appreciates the sensitive character of this form of art. For an implied sense of nudity, use props like curtains, sofas, or a blanket to mask erogenous areas. Your model could also wrap their arms around themselves or bend to better accentuate certain body parts, like torso for women and spine for men.

Remember, the focus of the photo is not the nudity. But the soft impression created by the steady or moving shapes of the human body.

📷 Nicolas Postiglioni

5. Shoot in black and white

Not all of us are proud of our freckles, scars, blemishes, you name it. That’s why shooting in black and white works best for nude photography. It makes it less about the body and more about the model’s true essence.

Take it with a grain of salt though. You might work with models whose natural skin plays so good with the background that you want to keep your photos in color.

📷 Sydney Perry

On authenticity

A word of advice before we wrap up. It’s worth mentioning again that nude photography is all about pure emotion and the very essence of human nature. While you might be tempted to work only with athletic, slender models that could pose for Vogue at any time, consider the real ones too. The ones who didn’t starve or mutilated themselves to fit a media pattern or trend.

True authenticity rests in our flaws and accepting us as we are, not as we’d like to be.

🎥This article originally appeared on Gear Reserve’s blog🎥

I write, talk, pitch and promote tech products 🗣 Product Marketing @Paymo. Amateur photographer in my spare time 📷🔰

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