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Diagram: One Light in Studio

In this photograph, only one strobe (Light #1) is used, fitted with a 17”x54” strip softbox. Fill light is provided by a 48-inch collapsible gold reflector (Reflector #2). The lit model zone allows for moderate movement, as long as the model doesn’t step too close to either light or out of its path.

Advantages: portability and dramatic contrast.
Disadvantages: limited coverage and lack of versatility.


One light in studio

This is one of 18 lighting diagrams from the book Lights, Camera… Nude!

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Adjust contrast of RAW images in Photoshop

If you shoot in RAW format, you have some options to control contrast in Camera RAW Import in Photoshop (You can also
use Lightroom, GIMP, or other tools). The sliders in the import interface allow you to control the entire image. The other option you have is the Adjustment Brush built into Camera Raw, which allows you to control contrast by painting specific areas darker or lighter. Adobe Lightroom provides similar tools.

Use the histogram to understand contrast
Use the histogram to understand contrast

There are many kinds of contrast, but we are mostly concerned with tonal contrast, the difference between predominantly light and dark areas in a photograph. An image with large amounts of black or near-black areas, as well as large amounts of white or very light area, is said to be high contrast. An image that has mostly middle grays is said to be low contrast, even if it has some minor areas of extreme lights and darks. One of the easiest ways to make your images look pleasing is to increase the contrast. If someone says an image “pops,” contrast is often one of the elements they are talking about. An image with good contrast has plenty of bright highlights and rich dark shadows.

High contrast is only one option, there may be times when you want the effect of contrast that is more subdued.
You affect contrast with your initial exposure. Highlights that are too light to show enough detail are called blown out;
shadows that are too dark to show enough detail are called blocked up.

The above information is from True Confessions of Nude Photography.

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Lines in Composition

Converging lines can be a powerful type of visual pathway. Multiple lines can all point towards your subject, or radiate out from it if you start tracing them in the other direction. Converging lines, such as lines of perspective, make for powerful compositions.

Linear perspective involves both line and depth. Converging lines, such as in architecture, show linear perspective. This kind of perspective also exists in exterior formations, such as roads and buildings. Perspective is very powerful in developing the illusion of space.

Perspective creates strong, obvious lines that can be used to align the other elements of the composition. This is effective when the subject is placed either at the vanishing point or at the point of greatest divergence. If the vanishing point is within the frame, the eye is drawn to it. In the case that the vanishing point is out of the frame, the viewer will tend to be drawn to whichever vertical line, closest to the camera, joins the lines of perspective.

Undulating curves include S-shaped, Z-shaped, and zigzagging lines, whether they be curved or jagged. The image below is an example of this in nude composition

The above is an excerpt from Exquisite Curves

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Build Your First Nude Portfolio

You need sample shots in order to book nude models. Building credibility is an essential step to recruiting models, and nothing builds credibility better than an astounding portfolio. So how do you get your first nudes? This may seem like a catch-22, but you can get there. You may have to add progressively unclothed shots to your portfolio until you have a portfolio of nudes.

hs6_001513-crop-700Shoot clothed models until your work is good enough to convince someone to do glamorous bikini or lingerie shots. I have rarely met an attractive woman who would not pose in lingerie. If glamour is not your style, choose a more artistic mode of half-attired subject, such as sheer drapery. Then you can move on to models who do implied nudes (nude from behind, for example) or topless shots. Sometimes you can most easily accomplish this by shooting repeatedly with the same model. With any luck at all, you will quickly meet a model who is only too eager to pose for the exact style of photography you envision.

There is a first time for everything, and I have had my fair share of models posing unclad for the first time. I do not encourage beginning photographers to work with first-time models, since neither of you will have much experience. Eventually, you will have no trouble finding your first nude model, especially if you work repeatedly with the same model or hire a model who has a lot of experience with figure work. Finding your first nude model may be intimidating, but it is not as difficult as it may appear.

Once you have created your first portfolio, complete with everything you need to impress prospective models, know this: you are not done. You are never done building your portfolio. Periodically review your portfolio and relentlessly eliminate weak or old photos. Recognize what works and stick with it or update it. Your portfolio should contain only consistently strong, recent work.

This article is from the book, True Confessions of Nude Photography

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Achieve Sharp Images

hs6_001258-cropNude photos, like fashion, can present a challenge to getting crisp shots. The model moves, the pose is fleeting, and you may frequently change camera position. All these factors can lead to motion blur. The first ingredient to sharp photos is to have plenty of light. This could mean shooting with daylight or powerful studio strobes. A large quantity of light allows you to use a smaller aperture, yielding a sharper result from your lens.

In daylight, more illumination translates into faster shutter speeds for stopping motion. To avoid camera shake indoors or out, you should use a tripod (also see “Available Light”). In the studio, stopping motion depends on flash duration. If you are accustomed to camera-mounted flashes, you may think that all flash lighting will freeze motion. However, once you begin to use more powerful units, you will find that the flash duration can be as slow as 1/100 of a second. This is not fast enough to freeze quick action such as a model leaping into the air, dancing, or flinging her hair. Flash duration is measured in terms of t0.5 and t0.1, being the time required for the strobe to emit 50% and 90% of its light, respectively. For example, a flash may have a t0.5 of 1/1000 of a second and a t0.1 of 1/300 of a second.

The number you want to pay attention to is t0.1. Unfortunately, many manufacturers only state t0.5, do not indicate which measurement of duration they are using, or omit the information altogether. I recommend a t0.1 of no longer than 1/500 of a second if you are planning to photograph a moving model. If the manufacturer does not specify that the stated duration is t0.1, you can look for a duration of 1/1500 of a second, and assume that this is the t0.5.

As if that was not complicated enough, there are some more twists. Each flash’s duration is affected by its power settings. The advertised action-freezing duration is usually at the unit’s lowest power setting. If you are working with a wireless transmitter, you will be limited to the sync speed of the transmitter, which could be lower than that of your camera. On my website (, I include some specific equipment recommendations. To find the sweet spot of your lens, take a variety of shots at varying settings. After you determine the sharpest frames, look at the shutter speed and aperture settings that are recorded in the EXIF data.

This article is from the book, True Confessions of Nude Photography

A few flash units I’ve found that achieve fast flash durations and respectable power output. Many of these can be purchased used for those on a lower budget.

  • Paul C Buff Einstein E640 (around $500, 640WS)
  • Elinchrom Ranger RX Speed AS with Freelight A Head (around $2,800, 1100WS)
  • Speedotron Black Line 105 head with 1005 power pack (around $2,400, 1000WS)