Nude Photography

The Complete Intro Guide to Nude Photography

In this guide, we provide an introduction to nude photography, along with tips, examples, and recommended gear.

Nude photography can be seen as an extension genre of portrait photography, and can be used for many purposes including artistic endeavors, commercial use, and educational use. Although this form of photography has been known to cause controversy among creatives, as long as it is executed and handled properly, it can deliver amazing and creative results.

Dating back to the earliest forms of art, the naked human form has always been a subject of interest for painters and sculptors alike. Making its way into the modern world, nude subjects have found a way into photography, as many nude photographers use this genre as a way to explore the human form.

While this genre can seem exciting and even a little bit mysterious to some, this guide will help breakdown the basics of nude photography while providing recommended sources and gear as well.

**Caution: This article features nude photos for the express purpose of photography/art. If you are uncomfortable viewing this type of material, please do not continue on.**

What is Nude Photography?

The basic definition of nude photography is a genre of fine art photography that depicts a human nude as the subject with an emphasis on composition and form.

Simply put, nude photography is less about having a nude model, and more about focusing on the human form. Nude photography is best seen as an extension of portrait photography, and it can deliver stunning results when handled correctly.

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Image via Smart Photo Courses

Although nude photography can sometimes be viewed as a touchy subject, looking at it through an artistic lens can help alleviate some hesitation towards the genre. Many photographers in this genre view the process as a sensual experience for the model and the viewer, as well as a way to strip down to the bare subject of human emotion.

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Nude Photography vs. Boudoir & Other Subgenres

There are many reasons for one to get into nude photography, other than just taking nude portraits. Many nude photographers may want to explore promoting body positivity, using the pictures for educational purposes, artistic endeavors, and even commercial use.

Boudoir

Boudoir

Image via Looks Like Film

This style of sensual and intimate portraiture doesn’t necessarily require a completely nude model, but the principles of exploring human form and creating an intimate connection with the camera are the same. Boudoir is typically done by a subject for an intimate partner to enjoy, and can include costumes, nudity, and semi-nude poses.

Educational

This use for nude photography can help create diagrams and educational resources for analysis. When used in an educational manner, nude photography focuses less on the photograph, and more on how the subject can educate its viewers.

These photographs are typically used for illustrative purposes and are usually labeled for the viewer to understand what they are looking at.

Erotic

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Image via Wikipedia

This subgenre tends to get a bad reputation for being degrading or bordering too close to pornography, but that’s not actually the case (when done correctly).

Even some of the first photographers explored the use of erotic photography, typically photographing their nude subject with consent for other patrons. It’s also important to note that this subgenre is meant to be sensual, rather than exploitive.

Glamour, Advertising, and Commercial Use

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Image via Business Insider

Glamour photography is typically what we think of when we see modern semi-nude advertisements. Think Abercrombie & Fitch or Cosmopolitan advertising campaigns, where the subject is alluring, but the model is never completely nude. This is used frequently in modern day marketing, which adds a commercial section for nude photographers to work in.

Nude Photography Examples

With the basic definition and subgenres of nude photography in mind, take a look at some of these examples to help you get started:

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Image via Lauren Naylor via 500px

Nude photography doesn’t always mean a full shot of nudity. Subtly alluding to the model’s nudity can create a complex image for the viewer. This shot utilizes a bathtub and steam to conceal and hint at the model’s human form. By leaving the hands, legs, and face visible, the photographer makes sure to keep the subject of the form in tact.

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Image via Lauren Naylor via 500px

By having your model face away from the camera, you can explore the other side of the human form without revealing too much of your model’s body. This is another way to add a layer of mystery to your photos while also emphasizing the beauty of the human form.

This example also utilizes a dark background with light highlighting the back of the form, which emphasizes this part of the model’s body as the subject of this picture.

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Image via Lauren Naylor via 500px

Once you get a bit more comfortable, and if your model is okay with it, try moving your shoots outside. This allows you to explore the human form in a new way, and to capture the beauty of the scene around your model. When shooting outdoors, be sure to do it in a secluded area where your model feels most comfortable, and don’t forget to let your model warm up (in clothes) between shots.

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Image via Jenn via Photo Critic

Lighting can make a huge difference in nude photography. This example shows how this genre can explore the ways lighting affects the human form, as the model’s form is emphasized by the soft light from the window she is facing. Get creative with your lighting, and see what works best for the mood you’re trying to convey.

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Image via Hans Proppe via Photo Critic

This image illustrates how complex the human form can be, and how it can be used in an abstracted manner to create a photo that requires the viewer to really look at what is happening. By focusing on a nude body, while not emphasizing the nudity but rather abstracting the human form, this example shows how the human form can be utilized for a photo’s composition.

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Image via Artemisia Artex via Photo Critic

This example of nude self-portraiture shows how you can experiment with the human form while delivering a traditional looking portrait. The traditional studio lighting and framing of the model makes this seem like a normal portrait, and the nude aspect allows the viewer to connect with the human form.

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Image via Fix the Photo

Once the model and photographer are comfortable with each other, trying out complex poses and different angles can provide nice results. This example utilizes interesting poses as well as monotone colors, which help emphasize the human form.

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Image via Smart Photo Courses

Working with a nude couple can definitely add options to your shoot. Of course, you’ll have to find models willing to do a nude shoot or find a couple who want a nude photoshoot together. This example shows two people standing hand in hand, but there are endless possibilities for poses when working with two people.

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Image via Oliver Vaseechi at Smart Photo Courses

Another example of using a couple for your shoot, this photo shows how it’s possible to create a scene where the subjects are delicately interacting with each other. Again, this photo emphasizes the human form and adds a layer of sensuality without degrading its subjects. To achieve a shot like this, your models must be comfortable with each other and verbal communication is key throughout the process.

How To Get Started With Nude Photography

Getting started with nude photography can be a bit difficult if you don’t know where to begin, but these steps can help you get started:

1. Find a Model

Having a model for nude photography is a bit different than standard portrait models. You’ll need to find a model that is comfortable modeling nude and is interested in shooting with you.

Maybe reach out to previous models you’ve worked with or any friends that have expressed interest in nude photography. Check out any photographers you follow on social media, and if they have a model you think you might want to work with, reach out professionally to discuss a potential shoot.

You can also check out places like Model Mayhem, Model Management, and Musecube for potential models. Just be sure to act professionally and appropriately when reaching out.

2. Get Comfortable With Your Model

Before actually jumping into a shoot, it’s important to establish a connection with your model. Maybe sit down beforehand to discuss ideas, get to know each other a little better, and talk out any awkwardness either of you may be feeling before the shoot.

3. Organize Your Equipment

Shooting nude photography doesn’t require too much fancy gear, but it’ll be helpful for you to know which lenses you plan on using and what props you want your model to work with.

4. Research for Inspiration

You should never copy another artist’s work, but looking through the other portfolios of nude photographers can help inspire your own shoots. See what kinds of poses, lighting, and props you like, and think about ways you could creatively incorporate these in your shoot.

5. Plan Your Shoot

The easiest way to have a smooth photoshoot is to plan ahead. Agree upon your location with your model, whether you work out of an in-home studio, professional studio, or want to try an outside shoot. Have a working idea of pose, props, and what shots you’ll want to get.

6. Get Creative

Try out shots in black and white. Experiment with different props like fabric, flowers, blankets, and bathtubs. Try close-up shots of different body parts, and full frame shots of your model. Just be sure to communicate what you want to try with your model before you actually try anything.

Nude Photography Tips

Like any genre, there are several tricks that can help you get the most out of your nude photography shoots. Following these tips will help you have successful shoots with stunning results.
Black and White Nude Photography

Image via DIY Photography

  • Make sure your model is comfortable. This may seem like a no-brainer, but always keeping a verbal dialogue going with your model is extremely important. You should make sure wherever you’re shooting is warm enough for the model as well because it can get pretty chilly when clothes aren’t involved.
  • Keep your poses simple. Most of the beauty from nude photography is going to come from the human form, so intricate poses aren’t exactly necessary in this situation. You’ll most likely get better shots when your model is relaxed, so the simpler the better.
  • Don’t ignore the details. All of your shots don’t have to be full body nudes. Get creative and focus on different aspects of the human form. Try focusing on the back, stomach, legs, or arms instead of the full frame.
  • Nude photography does not require complete full frontal nudity. Of course, there are instances when you’ll want to get a fully nude shot, but it’s okay to have your model cover themselves with body parts or props. Keeping some of the nudity obscured in shots can help add a layer of mystery to your work.
  • Don’t touch your model. This seems like a bit of a no brainer when working with nude models, especially when trying to create a comfortable space for you and your model, but if you’re used to shooting clothed portraits your brain may be on autopilot mode. Be sure to never touch your model, and work on verbally communicating any ideas or suggestions you may have.
  • Try out black and white. Nude photography is a great time to experiment with black and white photography, since there isn’t really any color from clothing in the shot, and it can deliver some beautiful results. The lighting can really highlight the human form, and experimenting with silhouettes can add mystery to your photos.

Blogs and Recommended Resources

If you’d like to explore nude photography further, we recommend checking out the following resources:

Recommended Gear

Since nude photography can be similar to portrait photography, you can plan on using your standard equipment like studio lighting, lenses, and camera accessories for a shoot.

While most of your typical portrait gear can work for nude photography, there are a few items that will help deliver the best results at your shoots. Try using the gear below for a successful shoot!

  • Longer Lenses (85mm, 50mm, etc). Using these lenses will allow you to get a full-frame body at a distance from your model. If you’re just entering the nude photography world, this is a good way to get comfortable with shooting nude models before getting close with a 35mm lens.
  • Props. Although this isn’t camera-specific gear, it is important to try and get creative using props. These can be simple items like sheets and sheer fabric, or they can be a bit more personality centered like a guitar or flowers. You can get creative with water and body paint, as well, just be sure to talk to your model about their preferences.
  • Lighting reflectors. Studio lighting kits can help emphasize the human form, and using reflectors can also add to your photos.You can also use reflectors to bounce natural light to create a softer effect in your images.

Exploring Nude Photography

Getting into the nude photography world can seem overwhelming at first, but having a full understanding of the expectations of the field including the subgenres, tips, and the recommended gear can help get started.

If you’re interested in exploring this field, be sure to do your research and get creative!

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