- Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 September 2019 08:09
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photo by DanielBendjy via iStock
Nude photography is not everyone’s cup of tea - that goes for models in front of the camera and photographers behind it.
Though it makes some people uncomfortable, it’s a genre that’s been explored for millennia in one art form or another, and if done right, you can produce some truly incredible images.
With these nude photography tips, you’ll learn how to approach a nude photo shoot the right way so that your model is as comfortable as possible, and so you get the best shots you can. And if you're photographing male models specifically, be sure to consult our nude male photography tips!
Disclaimer: To keep this post as PG-13 as possible, we’ve included sample images of models whose bodies are partially clothed or otherwise obscured.
Nude Photography Tip #1: Turn Up the Heat
photo by javi_indy via iStock
Let’s kick this off with a very practical tip…
If the model hasn’t got any clothes on, they’re likely to get cold, fast.
Help them out by turning up the heat in the room well before the shoot is scheduled to begin. It doesn’t need to be a sauna by any means, but crank it up to the mid to high 70s to ensure the model is as comfortable as possible.
Remember - the more comfortable the model is, the more relaxed they will be and the better the photos you will take!
Check out more nude photos in the PhotographyTalk member gallery.
Nude Photography Tip #2: Keep It Relaxed
photo by ancucristi via iStock
The chances are that if you’re photographing a nude model that the model is at least somewhat comfortable being nude in front of a stranger.
But that doesn’t mean that everyone that wants a nude photo shoot is an expert at nude modeling.
photo by javi_indy via iStock
Do your best to make the situation as relaxed as possible. In addition to keeping the model warm, simply engaging in light conversation can do wonders for relaxing both of you.
Talk about pets, kids, occupations, TV shows you like - you name it. Small talk can work wonders for getting you through the awkwardness of the initial “okay, get naked” stage and carry you both through to the end of the shoot.
Quick Tip: Always, always have model release forms when you take on nude photography. This is a means to protect you and the model both. Even if you know the model well and have an established relationship, you must have a model release form on file. Learn more about model releases and view a sample release form.
Nude Photography Tip #3: Keep It Simple
photo by blanaru via iStock
Unless you’re doing something like fine art nude photography or nude couple photography, it’s typically best to keep the posing as simple as possible.
Again, most of the models you’ll work with will be normal, everyday people doing something special for a loved one. They have enough on their minds being nude in front of the camera, so having them do complex poses usually doesn’t work that well.
photo by jarih via iStock
Instead, have the model lay down, sit, or even stand in ways that are comfortable and relaxing.
Rather than having the model constantly move around, try moving yourself around the model to capture different angles of each pose. This will help with the relaxation element discussed above, and will also minimize how many times the model has to get up and move around over the course of the shoot.
For additional details on how to get started in nude photography, check out the video above by DigitalRev TV.
Nude Photography Tip #4: Focus on the Details
photo by Goja1 via iStock
Along the lines of keeping it simple, one thing you can do to help relax your model is focus on the smaller details of their body.
Cleavage, a well-placed hand on the stomach, and the curvature of the back are all prime candidates for detail-rich, yet still captivating subjects for nude photography.
In fact, if you study classical nude photography, it’s not at all about the nakedness of the model, but the shape and form of their body. You can celebrate those shapes and forms by composing these types of detailed photos.
Quick Tip: When photographing a nude model, it’s helpful to approach composing your shots almost like you would with a landscape. Examine how the light falls across the model’s body and zero in on highlighting how the light accentuates the body’s curves, as was done in the image just above.
Nude Photography Tip #5: Nude Photography Doesn’t Have to Be Totally Nude
photo by richjem via iStock
A misnomer about nude photography, and particularly nude art photography, is that it involves full-frontal nudity at all times.
Instead, a lot of female nude photography and nude male photography involve the model covering themselves up at various points in various manners. In other words, not all photos in this genre are considered erotic nude photography.
photo by Fitzer via iStock
For example, a female model can use her arms to mask her torso. A male model can use his hands to hide his groin. You can use sheets or props to hide some skin while revealing other as well.
Often, viewers find these types of images even more appealing because of the mystery that comes with having certain areas of the body covered up.
Nude Photography Tip #6: You Still Need a Shot List
photo by miljko via iStock
Just like any type of photo shoot, you need to prepare for nude photography beforehand by sitting down with the model (or models if you’re doing nude couple photography) and discussing the types of photos that need to be taken.
After all, your idea of the photos that should or shouldn’t be taken might vary greatly from what the model wants, so discussing thoughts on the direction of the shoot before the shoot begins is always a good idea. Get other tips for planning a portrait photo shoot.
Quick Tip: If possible, have the client look at nude boudoir photography, black and white nude photography, fine art nude photography, and artistic nude photography to get a better idea of what they might want for their photos. Additionally, discuss different poses, lighting, and props that you might want to use, that way you have all the items you need ahead of time. The last thing you want is to have your nude model awkwardly waiting for you to find something you need!
Nude Photography Tip #7: Add Props
photo by swetta via iStock
Props are one of the best things you can give a model to help them relax.
Not only that, but a well-placed prop can add color, texture, and visual interest to a nude portrait. What’s more, if it’s something the model can hold, you have a ready-made solution for keeping awkward hands at bay.
When using props, be careful not to go overboard. Again, simplicity is the key here, so add a curtain in the background for some flowing movement, have the model pose on a piece of furniture with an interesting form, or give the model something to hold.
Nude Photography Tip #8: Use a Longer Lens
photo by AleksandarNakic via iStock
Using a longer focal length lens accomplishes a couple of things.
First, longer focal lengths mean you have to be further away from the model, and they will likely appreciate that extra bit of personal space during their nude photo shoot.
Quick Tip: Another lens option to consider for nude photography is a 70-200mm zoom. Though prime lenses rein supreme for portraiture, a 70-200mm zoom gives you excellent focal length variability while offering sharp results throughout.
Nude Photography Tip #9: Omit the Model’s Face
photo by Milkos via iStock
If you’ve seen much nude boudoir photography or artistic nude photography, you know that often the model’s face doesn’t appear in the shot.
Instead, as mentioned earlier, nude photography often concentrates on the form of the human body.
Don’t be afraid to capture shots of the model from behind or the side, or to crop images in post to omit the model’s face. Faceless portraits can often be equally, if not more powerful, than those that show the model’s face!
Nude Photography Tip #10: Try Black and White
photo by miljko via iStock
Like I mentioned earlier, nude photography is more about the shape and form of the body and its interaction with light than it is about the fact that the model is nude.
When you consider things like shapes, forms, and textures, your mind should immediately go to black and white photos, as those elements are perfect for a photo without color.
Just like stripping down and being nude simplifies how a body is presented, removing color from an image simplifies the photo.
The trick, of course, is to focus your attention on those elements that make black and white photos stand out. Find ways to increase contrast. Experiment with different lighting setups and type of lighting, for that matter (which you can learn how to do in the video above by Michael's Photo Tips. Doing so will help you create nude photography compositions that have a classic, artistic look that will impress the model and viewers alike.
Bonus Nude Photography Tip #1: Never Touch the Model
Photo by PeopleImages via iStock
This should go without saying, but let's say it anyway: don't touch the model.
This is good advice for any kind of portraiture, but especially nude portraiture.
It's easy to get lost in the moment and simply reach out to position the model's leg, arm, or hand. Doing so is a violation of their space, unless you've asked them and they've give you the go-ahead to touch them.
Instead of feeling like you need to help the model pose by physically moving them, communicate with them what you want them to do. It's a much more respectful and safer approach!
Bonus Nude Photography Tip #2: Get Outside
Photo by Kharchenko_irina7 via iStock
Not all nude photography should take place in the dark recesses of your studio.
Instead, find a location outdoors where you can capture some au naturel shots amongst the beauty of the world around us.
Obviously, nude outdoor photography requires a whole other set of precautions, like ensuring it's a private location where passersby won't get an eyeful of your models.
But, as you can see above, in the right setting, this type of nude photography can be quite breathtaking!
Quick Tip: Find outdoor locations with lots of texture, like a forest where the bark of the trees and the shape of the leaves provide interesting contrast with the smooth skin of the model. Likewise, avoid shooting at midday so the shot isn't overrun with harsh shadows. Find a shady spot, wait for some cloud cover, or shoot at golden hour to get the best results.
Bonus Nude Photography Tip #3: Don't Be a Copycat
Photo by Casarsa via iStock
As with any kind of photography, it's important for you to find inspiration in what others have done before you.
But taking inspiration from someone is a totally different animal than simply copying what they do.
Below, I've listed some nude photography recommended reading to help get your creative ideas flowing. Discover what prominent nude photographers have done, identify what you like and don't like, learn a few more tips and tricks, and utilize that knowledge to create nude photos of your own.
Often, finding your unique creative voice is the hardest part of photography. But developing your personal style is also supremely satisfying because you create things unlike anyone else has created before. How cool is that?!
Nude Photography Recommended Reading