Classic Nude Photography

Classic nude photography can be a challenge and many photographers shy away from it. You may wonder where you would find models, or whether the shoot will be unbearable embarrassing. If you've always wanted to tackle this genre, give it a go. The rewards of producing sensuous fine art nudes are well worth overcoming any apprehension.

Fine Art Nude Female

Tasteful Nude Photography

The human body allows endless photographic opportunities - and you can create stunning images with a little imagination. The first question, however, is where to find a model.

© Bianconero

Finding a Model

You will be surprised how many people are willing - and even keen - to pose nude. You just need to know how to ask the question. You may want to start with a partner or friend for your first nude shoot to help you gain confidence. Some photographers place a small ad in a local newspaper and ask for models to pose for a fee. You can also hire a professional model through an agency.

People who are just breaking into the modelling business are often keen to pose in exchange for free prints for their portfolio in exchange for their time. If you're just starting off as well, it's best to be honest and let them know that you're experimenting with a new genre.

Educational centres and local art galleries sometimes have listings of models who sit for nude figure drawing classes or pose nude for a reasonable hourly rate. Keep in mind that these models come in all shapes and sizes - it's your job as a photographer to find the model's best attributes and portray them in a way that the viewer will connect with. This can be in the expression of the face, the delicate way hair falls over bare skin, or the subtle curve of the hips. There are many ways to capture the elegance and grace of the human body.

Make sure that you have an agreement ready for your model to sign, setting out your rights as a photographer (for example how you can use the shots after the shoot). Many stock agencies have model release forms that you can download. Explain to your model exactly what would be expected from them during the photo shoot, and give them the chance to ask any questions that they might have.

If you already have a portfolio, show your model what you have in mind and what your expectations are. It's also a good idea to have some photo or art books handy to show any other poses you may want to try.

Posing your Model

Your professionalism will show in how respectful you are towards your model. Be courteous at all times, make sure that they are comfortable and respect their wishes to make the most of your classic nude photography shoot. Remember that tension doesn't only appear in the face, it also shows in the body if they're not comfortable.

Amateur models seldom know how to pose, so they need direction. Most models find it reassuring when you tell them how to sit, stand or position themselves. You can also ask for their own ideas, which expand the range of possibilities and may help create beautiful images that you haven't contemplated.

Think curves and lines when posing the model. Small details make all the difference, for example an arched back or the placement of a hand on a hip. Think how you can isolate areas to change the shape and the form of the body. Nude and semi-nude photography offers wonderful opportunities to focus on certain body areas by maximizing the power of the lens and zooming in.

Add some humour - it goes a long way to lightening tense moments or tricky situations!

Props for Classic Nude Photography

It's a great idea to use props in classic nude photography as it adds to the overall effect of an image and provides a point of focus. An example of a good prop is an old chair full of character. Explore different poses - you don't want to shoot the obvious.

Be creative with props. A delicate flower behind the ear of a model or a feather placed in the dip of her back can create an eye-catchng image. Try muslin cloths draped over half the body of a model. The simplest ideas are often the most stunning.

Choosing a Location

Decide whether you want to shoot in a studio or outside for a more natural look.

Large windows offering indirect daylight can be great for nude portraits indoors as they create soft, even skintones. Place a reflector or large piece of white / gold card opposite the window to bounce light back into your shadow areas. It's important to experiment with the distance you place the model from the window. Being close to the window will render softer light, while the light becomes more contrasty the further you move away.

If you opt to go outdoors, consider a deserted beach at sunrise when the light is soft and golden. Rugged rocks can make a dramatic backdrop. Wooded areas offer both privacy and diffused lighting from the overhanging leaves. Branches and dead trees can make lovely props as they sometimes mirror the curves of the body.

Classic Nude Photography Tips

  • Plan your session and make sure you're well prepared. Jot down ideas and make a shot list of images that you would like to create.

  • Always get a model release.

  •  Make sure that you clarify before the shoot whether you wish to photograph the model topless or fully nude. Don't push the boundaries of what the model feels comfortable with.

  •  Always, always, always get a model release.

  •  Choose your location with care. Being outside with your model in a deserted area brings a sense of freedom. Using a studio on the other hand, gives you complete privacy and you don't have to worry about the weather.

  • Watch for distracting backgrounds that may clutter the image.

  • Make sure you are familiar with all your equipment, including studio lights and backdrop papers.

  •  Ensure that the room is comfortably warm if you shoot indoors.

  • Aim for a touch of mystery. Place a tan stocking over the lens for a beautiful diffused effect. Less is often more in nude photography.

  •  Use the widest possible aperture (f1.2 to f2.8). Pinpoint the area that you want to be in focus while everything else is soft.

  •  Try different effects in post-processing, for example sensuous, grainy black-and-white images.

  •  Have fun!

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