Equipment and Lighting for Shooting the Female Nude
Fine Art Nude Photography
KISS IT! = Keep It Super Simple
Especially for your first few shoots… select a simple concept or lighting style and don’t try to over do it.
The majority of my fine art nudes are shot with one or two lights. Even when I am not using the models face, I am much more interested in creating a mood based upon the model and the camera’s interaction with her – not elaborate lighting.
Generally when planning a figure shoot I select a lighting style or simple concept, like images featuring hands or the model moving like a dancer. I will add to that concept a simple background and simple lighting and that’s how I will begin.
My figure study shoots are collaboration between my subject and myself. Before I begin shooting I take the time to discuss my concepts and ideas with my subject. I want to put them at ease and also make sure that we are on the same page about what will happen. As I reminded you in Part I, don’t ever forget that your subjects have agreed to place themselves in a vulnerable position. It doesn’t matter if you are paying them or not – you will always get more out of your subject by making them comfortable, treating them respectfully and encouraging them to be a part of the creative process.
In Part I, I mentioned that I rarely pose my nude subjects. South African photographer Sam Haskins* [1926 – 2009] was quoted as saying: “A model can only be successfully directed by talking her into a mood or attitude. The moment you physically place a limb into position you may as well be photographing a shop dummy.”
This controlled candid concept works very well for me when I shoot nudes. Since much of my commercial work is designed to market models or products, I am often forced to manipulate my subjects as if they were shop dummies. When I shoot nudes, I prefer to photograph natural movement. Be sure to watch the video below for an example.
If your model is a beginner it will probably benefit you to give her a few poses to start with and then encourage her to move.
If you are looking for some posing tips, be sure to read my articles on posing.
Seattle based photographer Chase Jarvis has given new life to the age-old catchphrase “The best camera is the one that’s with you.” with his mobile photography book, app and website: TheBestCamera.com. This is a phrase that I learned as a teenager when my first 35mm camera was a $75.00 German made Hanimex Praktica Nova 1B.
Digital camera technology and megapixels are quickly exceeding our REAL needs. In 2000, I was shooting images for publication with a Nikon D1, which was 2.7 megapixels. In 2002, I was shooting images that were appearing on billboards with a Nikon D1x, which was 5.3 megapixels.
The images below were shot with an Apple iPhone4 that has a 5-megapixel camera!
Hopefully those images make the point pretty clear – it’s not the camera. It’s what you do with it.
When it comes to equipment, I place much more emphasis on the lenses that I choose for my shoots. Len’s allow me to manipulate the visual perspective of the shot and can have a dramatic impact on the mood of the image.
A Wide Angle lens will allow you to shoot closer and will provide a unique perspective as well as more depth of field.
A telephotos lens will allow you to shoot from a greater distance and will limit depth of field. It will also give the impression of compressing distance and allows you to limit depth of field with much less effort.
What is the best way to light a fine art nude? I am asked this question a lot and my first response usually frustrates the person inquiring: With as much or as little light as you have or can afford.
Are you spotting a trend yet? A quality photograph is not about the brand of the lights or how many were used.
The story of the egg and the lessons learned from it are invaluable when shooting the nude female form. The female body is made of the same shapes and similar textures as the egg.
* Sam Haskins Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sam_Haskins