Fine art nude photography: The art of photographing insufficient clothed people

Fine art nude photography: The art of photographing insufficient clothed people


Fine nude art is sophisticated nudeness

Try it at least once in your life as a photographer to do fine nude art!

This is meant seriously. All other techniques to photograph people are influenced positively through some vital insights that occur when doing fine nude art photography. In general, you will make your first nude shooting with a group - and here it relies onto the instructor if it only was a nice day or if you have learnt a lot. But believe me - the gained knowledge can be huge!

Nude photography is the supreme discipline of photography. This has several reasons: for one thing because many people have problems with nudeness or rather their body. On the other hand, the cooperation between model and photographer is totally different when doing nude photography instead of when doing "passport photos". Some people confuse nude photography with top-shelf magazines or the typical run-of-the-mill clichéd image of typical calendars. No - fine nude art is sophisticated nudeness. It is about esthetics and perception of the body. At this it doesn't even matter if it is a female or male model. Usually the course will be more likely to have a female model which is posing for nude photography. Here in this photography course I will only show a few selected pictures to this topic because of the reason that I do not want to satisfy the voyeurism of any people, but I want to give tips and hints for photographers about the topic fine art nude photography (when I speak about photographers I also always mean female ones).

A thing I often experience in courses with students is, that they behave very carefully with this topic - especially people who are from the south of Germany. The upbringing plays a crucial role in that. Interestingly, people from the north-east have a much more relaxed relation with the topic nudeness in general and nude photography in particular. A good friend of mine from the east part of Germany once expressed it very accurate: "The swimsuits back then were something you didn't want to wear - so everybody was going nude."

Therefore, simply try to relax on this topic - but not as the model! The special of nude photography is, that you can see the whole body and the muscle tension. And that is the biggest knowledge gain, which you can learn. Even when doing a portrait muscle tension is of utter importance. A, from me, highly valued colleague instructor made a very nice demonstration of this. He indulged the course by booking two nude models for photographing. The first one was nearly as inexperienced as the bigger share of the course participants, while the one coming midday was a veteran in that area. She had the same age as the first model, but the differences became clear in the evaluation phase. The first model would have loved many instructions from the photographers (which she barely got). So, it happened what is completely normal, body tension is exhausting, and many avoid exertion, especially when nobody tells you that you should built up muscle tension and hold it. The second model knew that and simply posed. The topic of that photo course were body landscapes. The photos of the inexperienced model often looked like somebody had (excuse that term) photographed a corpse. Body tension makes pictures look livelier and stronger.

And that is the art of it: The body is under tension, but the face and the facial expression look calm and relaxed - in comparison to the sometimes dogged faces you can see in a fitness studio, where everybody tries to reach his limit. This maybe fine for a fitness studio - but in nude photography you mostly don't want a cramped or dogged facial expression.

Body landscapes in fine art nude photography: scultura gamba

Body landscapes in fine art nude photography: scultura gamba

Canon EOS 5D Mark II
1/125 Sek.
Focal length:
100 mm

Body landscapes are a nice start, because only areas of the body are used as a quasi-landscape. Nude photos from the direction body landscapes are also good for the models, who do nude photography for the first time. Here you can mostly work lying down, but the model should not be tempted by that to simply relax and internally rejoice to earn money that easy. Even here body tension is demanded and often also very uncomfortable rotations and persisting in such positions till the desired photo is shot.

Learning success of nude photography: shut up and look in a friendly way

If you are in a photography course with a lot of beginners, they will easily disconnect in two groups. Some photographers will fight their equipment, which they don't control yet. And now a phenomenon happens, let us call it mirroring. The their-equipment-fighting photographers take a photo and immediately control the result on the display of their digital cameras. The photo there doesn't look like the photo they had in their head at all and somehow, they express statements like "not good", "I don't like it at all" or something in that direction. This doesn/'t have to be expressed verbal. Take a look at the faces of these photographers and they clearly shout exactly that without a word. Of course, the photographers mean "this technology doesn't want as I want". Or after the 10th picture: "F*** this s*** technology, if I only would have read the manual." And the nude model sees exactly that face of the photographer (mostly the instruction is to look into the camera i.e. in the direction of the photographer). And the model reacts to it and thinks its about herself after the slogan "I don't look good", "This does not work at all", "my boyfriend was right, I gained 300 grams too much weight" or something else negative. This can easily blow up now, because they goad each other, and the shooting can become as negative as the resulting photos will be, even when the photographer manages to control the equipment after the first 20 photos.

THUS: if it does not work out with the equipment or the result does not look like you have imagined it, "shut up and look in a friendly way"! Everything else influences the result in a negative way. And the more insecure the model and the photographer are, the faster they might goad each other. That is the reason why it is a good idea, when beginner start nude photography with experienced models, which are used to beginners.

Learning success of workshops: only the photographer can see if the model is standing in the right light - so, speak and look in a friendly way!

You will often discover that the most participants are male photographers and that there are seldomly female photographers, which are interested in the topic fine art nude photography. It is remarkable, that many men totally forget how to talk or that they could talk when they sight a nude female body. Of course, you shouldn't permanently talk with the model in a shooting - particularly as you need to press the trigger as calm as possible to not blur the picture. But, in between it would be nice, for the model, to know if it is standing in the right light. And that's the main point. Nude photography often happens in a studio, which is much easier for beginner, because it can be worked without wind and weather, light and varying temperatures in a closed warm and quiet room without distracting debating walkers. The light in the studio can be controlled - and exactly that light can only be steered and controlled by the photographer, because he needs to know if the light is shed as wished or not. Modeling with light is important. As, in general we do not want full illumination: as we mostly do not take pictures of nude human bods for medical textbooks, where we should depict every single imperfection. We can use the light to highlight beauty and let unflattering or undesired parts and spots vanish into the shadows. Certainly, the overall impression of the illumination can only be seen by the photographer and he should give the model fitting instructions to shape his idea. Often a single small rotation is enough to fit the illumination. That is the technical reason, why you should talk.

What you should acknowledge: the photographed person does not see himself. So, the photographer has to give instructions to present the model in the best possible light - and therefore receive the best possible photos.

And additionally, about the instructions: you are not in army barracks - instructions with a commanding tone are not helpful. It is also not what we understand when speaking about friendly ways. So, stay positive. And a "please" has never hurt anybody. You can also express wishes and suggestions, what also flatters the model. An example for a nice sentence would be: "I think, your shoulder would look especially good on the photo, when you would lift the shoulder closer to me a little bit and tense its muscles."

Positive thinking and praising

The second and much more important reason for talking is, that we are working in cooperation with a human - in that case a naked human. And some people are more sensitive when they are nude, creating a relaxed and comfortable ambience which extremely helps for good photos. The talking should begin even before the shooting (even when you pay that time and have less time for the shooting in the end). The improved quality of the pictures always justifies that, and you get to know what the model expects from the shooting.

During the shooting you should only praise and talk positively. This can also be with humor. Once the model and the photographer can laugh together photos of another sort of quality can be achieved.

It reads strange and maybe the photographer is not used to it: Praising - and I do not mean something awkward like "oh, you really have a nice bosom". It is not about that, but about aesthetic pictures. In other words, about the effect of that human. Take a look at the instructor, who hopefully takes the first turn in photographing. He will (hopefully) compliment. Anything goes, which is positive and matches to the photographing process:

  • "Please turn your hips slightly more outwards.
    That looks great and it really emphasizes the waistline".
  • "The hair looks great in that light."
  • "These will be some remarkable photos."
  • etc. etc.

You can also talk about, what you plan to do or which idea you try to realize with that picture. Models are not dumb - and it can be quite an experience for the photographer when the model starts making suggestions on her own, which could benefit the realization of your idea. That way the shooting becomes even more clearer a cooperation.

Tension: Body tension is crucial

Even when I said it in the beginning - a big advantage of nude photography is, that we see the body and its muscles. The body tension makes the most diverse effects possible for the picture. If the model doesn't do it on her own, simply let her stand on her tiptoes. That way not only the muscles of her feet tense, but the whole body, because many muscles from the feet till up to the head are needed for that.

In contrast to a portrait no clothing covers the muscles anymore and it clearly shows, why a picture with body tension looks much better.

Sure, it is quite much what a photographer can do, and most will be overstrained in the beginning, but the more you open up for photographing in the area of nude photographing, the clearer you will see body tension and its positive impacts onto the final result, hence the photo.

Understanding the light with nude photography

Model with light: When we photograph in a studio, we have full control over the lighting setup (in the beginning perhaps not that 100 %). Now we can with the help of the light highlight areas and let others vanish in the shadows. Often you want that in the pubic area. Always think of it - we want to take aesthetic photos and not porn photos.

harmonic nude photograph

Harmonic nude photograph

Canon EOS 5D Mark II
1/200 Sek.
Focal length:
100 mm

Variation in light can cause beautiful and unique photos. We can use a hard light for a distinctive model (for example a very sporty model) or very soft light towards the direction of a beauty shooting (which is often used in fashion photography). As a consequence, that no fabrics "thwart" the light and maybe transform it under some circumstances, we have a lot more of learning opportunities.

Understanding the model

It doesn't matter how good somebody looks, there is always something bothering you about the own body. Nobody is perfect. And that is the reason why praising, from the chapter before, is important. Some people became addicted to photo shootings because of this reason.

Understanding the model, is also understanding, what the model wants from the shooting. Which of her body areas does the model like most and which should be highlighted in her opinion?

Tips about nude shootings

There is always the possibility to learn from your own mistakes. It is much easier to learn from mistakes of others. Or to formulate it positively - profit from the experiences of others to have more fun in your own life.

Optically enlarge small breasts:

If the model thinks her breasts are too small, then it is advisable to avoid photos from the side. Photos from the side underline a flat or small breast. But, if you adjust the main light stepper you gain a hard shadow below the rounding of the breasts, which optical feigns more volume.

Reclining figure and the breast

Depending on the structure of the tissue a reclining figure can easily make curves disappear, which you would like on the picture. Depending on the model a reclining figure is a good or a bad idea. Observe such details with a sharp eye.

Streamline breasts optical

If you want to streamline the breasts, then let the model lift her arms. This stretching can even go above the head. When taking a photo from the side you should care that the breast curves do not or only slightly overlap each other.

Different sizes of the left and the right breast

It is completely normal to have breasts which are differently sized. The bigger side is often depending on if the model is a left- or right-hander. When you aim towards concealing that, then do not take a picture from the front, but let here turn her smaller breast towards the camera and take the photo like that. This changes the impression considerable.

Important for the model

Especially when you have never made professional nude photos of yourself, there are some important aspects that you should know and respect:

Touching is a „No-Go“

What seems obvious, must be clear for all sides. Touching is a complete "No-Go". This can make a shooting blow up and shifts the mood towards a cold war standoff (which you can clearly see on the pictures). The poses can be communicated verbal or shown over a safe distance.

Clothing and pressure marks

Clothing (especially tight clothing) causes pressure marks, which depending on the type take longer or shorter till they are not visible anymore. The photographer could exhaust photoshop (and valuable time) to remove those or simply ask the model in advance to arrive in comfortable clothing.

Chronological order: first nude, then lingerie

In the professional area the prior statement is the reason for the chronological order. First nude, then lingerie (when photos of both is desired). Nobody wants pressure marks on the skin (which also appears through tight lingerie). This is a point, which beginners of nude photography would love to have in a different order (Both sides - photographer and photo model) would prefer first lingerie and then nude. Take the way you and the model are most comfortable with, if it is first lingerie and afterwards nude then simply make a break in between, so that the pressure marks can disappear. Important is, that everybody participating in the shooting feels comfortable and is having fun. That way good photos can evolve.

Avoid disappointments and misunderstandings

Very important is in the run-up the exchange between the photographer and the model. If fundamental differences arise and they get discovered in the shooting it is not really helpful. That is the reason why you should clarify in advance what photos you would like, which photos would be fine and where are the borders.

Often words are equivocal. Therefore, exactly clarify the expectations to avoid disappointments on both sides to have a fruitful cooperation and a good result.

In such a manner, I wish a lot of fun with nude shooting and many beautiful and aesthetic photos. And to round out this text with Picasso: Picasso got asked between the difference between art and erotic. His prompt response was "It is one and the same, because art is always erotic."

Author: Axel Pratzner

Translator: Felix Pratzner