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The Nude & Photography - Study of Line , Shape and Form

Updated on June 18, 2015
LuisEGonzalez profile image

I enjoy photography and have been doing so professionally and independently for over 30 years.

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Nudes in photography

“Nude photography is any photograph which contains an image of a nude or semi-nude person, or an image suggestive of nudity. The exhibition or publication of nude photographs may be controversial, more so in some cultures or countries than in others, and especially if the subject is a minor.

Most nude photographs are made for private use and intended to be viewed only by the subject and their current partner. Most nude photography has traditionally featured female subjects; male subjects are more rarely exhibited” Wikipedia

Nude photography has been around since the invention of the camera, even longer, nudes have been portrayed in well known works of art.

Add to that the fact that while many cultures applaud nudes in art, the same cannot be said for real live human visitors.

“Since the first days of photography, the nude was a source of inspiration for those that adopted the new medium. Most of the early images were closely guarded or surreptitiously circulated as violations of the social norms of the time, since the photograph captures real nudity. Many cultures, while accepting nudity in art, shun actual nudity. For example, even an art gallery which exhibits nude paintings will typically not accept nudity in a visitor” Wikipedia

Portrayal of the human body is also as old as the Greek and Roman civilizations and their very well known marble statues.

Nude photography is not erotic photography where the intention is to suggest sexuality. Nude photography is also not pornography, where images are meant to show explicit sexual acts. Nor is nude photography the same as glamour or boudoir photography, although they can sometimes intermingle. Both glamour and boudoir emphasize the model.

In its essence, nude photography is a medium in which the form and shape, line and texture of the human body is the main element and its main emphasis. In most types of photography, the model or the subject are easily identifiable, and most portraits show the model's face.

In opposition, most nudes rarely show the model's face or at least the face is not clearly recognizable. The emphasis is, again, on the form, the texture and line of the body itself.

A search of photographic nudes will yield ample results in which you can see nudes portrayed as unrecognizable entities, under extreme or with very creative lighting, and on artistic poses which emulate the artists of old.

The market for nude photography is geared or aimed towards the production of images to be used as artistic impressions, the same as it would be with standard paintings. There is also a market for nudes in the calendar, poster and greeting card industry, although they are not easily found, and no you can't get them at Wall-mart.

Book publishing is also a lucrative arena for nudes. The key is to represent them in tasteful poses where the form, shape, line and texture are the main points.

Contrary to other types of photography, most nudes do not emphasize the typical model persona or body type, instead most use models that are regular everyday people like you and me, although fit, and most nude photos show parts of the body or just enough to hint.

Nude photography is well suited for the studio although nature offers very suitable forums to showcase it. Creative use of light adds an exciting venue which lends itself quite well for this type of photography also.

Nude photography is very adept for black and white photography as this type of medium has the characteristic of highlighting shape, line and form more than its color counterpart. Plus as many would say, black and white photography adds charm and intrigue to any photograph and any subject.

Often the best set up is to use a photo snoot. This is a simple device that shines a concentrated and narrow beam of light onto specific parts of the subject and leaves the rest in semi darkness.

If you want o show the entire body then you need one main source of light placed on on side and at a 45 degree angle plus a reflector on the other side. One thing about reflectors is that silver ones have a stronger light, golden ones have a softer glow and white ones have a light source much like natural light.

Use black backdrops or single solid colored ones for effect and to minimize distracting elements.

To do tasteful nudes you should use limited lighting like that form a snoot, focus on capturing the texture of the body and its shapes.

You can include full nudity but often insinuating works better. Think of it as a work of art where the artist subtly guides you to explore the subject and to become aware of the many intricacies of the human body without showing you the more sensitive parts.

You will find that as your experience grows you will do nudes tastefully without even thinking about it.

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CC BY 2.0 | Source
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CC BY-ND 2.0 | Source
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Public Domain | Source
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Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) | Source

Experiment with monochrome settings and mediums. Because the skin often shows areas of uneven coloration, and this is exasperated with age, the effects of the Sun and so on, a monochromatic format does a better job in hiding these minor imperfections and it gives the image a more "intriguing" feel to it.

As far as what gear is usually needed, one snoot or a soft light, one reflector, plus a tripod is about all you need.

Choose your backdrop carefully. Bright colors can work but a black backdrop emphasizes your subject better without causing any distractions.

Try to use creative poses and use body parts creatively too. Insinuate rather than show.

Regardless of the photographer's intentions, laws governing nudity must be followed, such as the signing of model releases, which is nevertheless required for any modeling shoots, as well as laws concerning the use of minors in any photography genre, and never ever in nude photography artistic or otherwise.

Bottom line never overlook laws that govern this type of photography, be tasteful yet creative, use proper submission guidelines and always be professional.

Although nudes are better done in a studio like mentioned before, natural settings can offer many opportunities to showcase your models. The beach, open spaces, forests, mountainous terrain, desert like landscapes and so on can not only let you photograph in relatively comfort but can accentuate the overall scene.

Good to know before you start a nude shoot is to have a clear idea of what it is that you want to accomplish. Not only should the photographer be clear about what it is that he or she is after but this should also be made very clear to the model(s).

It can become apparent very quickly once the shooting starts that one is not in sync with other if expectations are not discussed before hand. You may have a concept for tasteful nudes while your model gives poses that are in reality too erotic or downright “pornographic”.

Look at sample poses in books or websites to get a better idea of what poses work and which ones fall under some other category.

It may seem redundant but we often forget that a nude model may not feel comfortable with the ambient temperature. Try to make the room a bit warmer so that your models don’t clam up or “freeze”.

A longer lens allows you to capture details just as much as with a short lens but being too physically close to the model may make her or him feel a bit uncomfortable. Using a longer lens gives the models some personal space and your photos will be just as good.

Discuss with the model whether or not remaining anonymous matters. A model who knows that the face will not be included (thus making her recognizable) tends to be more relaxed and can make the shoot that much more smoother. Remember that your viewers will not be that interested in the face shots as much as the rest of the body in the first place.

Other useful tips are:

Before the shoot even starts, make sure the model is comfortable with what you’re going to do by discussing the shots.

If your model has never done a nude shoot, start with very basic poses perhaps with lingerie and move on to full nudes.

It is never a good idea to touch the models. Much better is to either show them sample poses or mirror them.

Make sure not to use a wide angle lens, especially if your background is cluttered as a wide angle may include some unwanted elements if you are not careful.

Be careful and try to avoid poses that elicit sharp bends and angles. These can create unsightly creases in the skin and may be uncomfortable. Having a model pose in natural forms is better that to get too crazy with the poses.

Nude shoots are not that easy to set up so once you are ready , experiment with the light and try everything.

Try various angles like high angles where the photographer is set up above the model. Low shooting angles where the photographer is set lower than the model as well as unusual angles.

In short some of the best practices are:

  • Find a model and better yet one who has done nudes before
  • Find a location and take some test shots without the model
  • Have a private changing area with a mirror
  • Have some refreshments at hand
  • Keep track of any props and keep them close at hand.
  • Keep a sample of poses close just in case and discus new poses before you actually photograph them.

Keep in mind that nudes have been photographer extensible so think about what is it about your photos that will set you apart? Keep this question at the top of your mind at all times and you should do rather well in the end.

Ask your model to be discreet with her undergarment. You will be surprised how elastic bands can leave imprints on the skin and these can usually last for several hours.

Fine art nudes are apparently easy to shoot, right? Not so. With fine art nudes the viewers are looking for the artistry essence in the shots. They are satisfied with insinuation.With erotic nudes the viewers are looking for beautiful faces and body parts and how it can arouse someone and they pay less attention to the art behind the shoot and with porn photography all the viewers want is to see how big some things are or how deep something goes in.

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(CC BY-ND 3.0
(CC BY-ND 3.0 | Source

Can this theme/style be done tastefully?

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© 2011 Luis E Gonzalez


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    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida

      debbiepinkston: Thank you

    • debbiepinkston profile image

      Debbie Pinkston 5 years ago from Pereira, Colombia and NW Arkansas

      The human body is one of the most beautiful and amazing creations, isn't it? I have not done nude photography but I can see how it could become a great passion for many photographers. Thanks for some great information and insight.

    • profile image

      Daphne Shadows 5 years ago

      Nude photography is absolutely gorgeous. Not perversion as some would say. I've always loved the aesthetic quality of the female body.

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida

      prasadjain: Thank you

    • prasadjain profile image

      Dr.S.P.PADMA PRASAD 5 years ago from Tumkur

      Photographs given as examples are extremely artistic.The tips in the hub are really useful

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 6 years ago from Miami, Florida

      barbergirl28: I wish that more people thought like you did and we all wouldn't walk on "egg shells"

    • barbergirl28 profile image

      Stacy Harris 6 years ago from Hemet, Ca

      I think that nude photogrpahy is absolutely breath taking. The problem is that too many people look at the naked body and deem it in means of sexuality. The human body is beautiful, regardless of size or shape. I wish more people would see that.

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 6 years ago from Miami, Florida

      Cashbackshopper: Thank you

    • Cashbackshopper profile image

      Cashbackshopper 6 years ago

      I totally agree with you. Nude Photography is art and should be taken as art only. I love Nude photography with ice black and white shade

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 6 years ago from Miami, Florida

      Kiwiwi: thank you. Unfortunately due to the stigma associated with the human body and nudity many other great articles cannot be posted, but the body is a subject worth photographing and many great shots can be accomplished if some sensitivity is used.

    • Kiwiwi profile image

      Kiwiwi 6 years ago

      The greatest art of all, the human body.I remember the scene from Titanic when Leonardo"Jack" draws a nude picture of Rose.I found it quite interesting and beautiful.All in all great article.

    • Captainausume profile image

      Captainausume 6 years ago from New Jersey

      It can be difficult to explain the line between pornography and a nude study. One has to be an artist (or educated in art) to truly understand the difference. If a women is standing around, nude, pouring a cup of coffee, that is not pornography (even if it does excite you.) Porn is very obviously meant to be provocative in the sexual sense.

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 7 years ago from Miami, Florida

      PierAllegro: I had to walk a fine line when publishing this hub due to HP rules, therefore I purposely deleted some parts, but thanks for the comments.

    • PierAllegro profile image

      PierAllegro 7 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Very informative, althought a bit simplistic.

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 7 years ago from Miami, Florida


      Thanks for the observation, and you are probably correct in your assumption. It's a little disturbing that hubs such as mine, can offend anyone. Although I understand why the adds are disabled as a precaution by HP staff, it seems that some articles or topics cannot be touched, even in a private venue such as HP. But as I have said before, I think that HP staff rather err in the side of caution than risk hurting the community, therefore although I am not pleased by the adds being disabled, I have to support HP staff decisions.


    • SweetiePie profile image

      SweetiePie 7 years ago from Southern California, USA

      Now there is nothing wrong with tasteful nude art photography. Even artists learn how to draw the nude, and this is the foundation for all drawing. If you have people coming to your hub to get upset about nude photography, then you have to wonder why they came over anyway. It might be that they actually look at porn on the sly, and feel guilty about it because of their religion, so they have to look at others and point fingers. Who knows, but no one makes them look at websites and articles that are objectionable to them. There are plenty of other things too look at on the web.

    • FCEtier profile image

      Chip 7 years ago from Cold Mountain

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 7 years ago from Miami, Florida

      Same here, the money is good but I write for other purposes, and many thanks for sharing. I just wish that some hubbers would not be so fragile and understand that many topics can be touchy but can still be entertained so long as it is done with taste.

    • Randy Behavior profile image

      Randy Behavior 7 years ago from Near the Ocean

      The ads fell off eventually. Sometimes even if my hub is ok, the comments can get racey and the ads get pulled. But for me its ok as I gave up on the money part a while back.

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 7 years ago from Miami, Florida

      The adds were disabled even before I published it, I guess as an automatic precaution derived from the language. As of now the hub is under review and un-published. I was told that there was inappropriate material on an email from HP staff. Since the email message was not explicit , I had to guess that some of the photos could have been offensive to some, therefore I removed what I thought to be the offensive photos and I'm waiting for a reply since the language did not contain profanity or innuendo.

    • FCEtier profile image

      Chip 7 years ago from Cold Mountain


      I did a hub on the "Nude in Art" and like you got some interesting comments.

      Just curious, for both Randi and Luis, did HP disable the ads on your hub because it was about nudity?

    • Randy Behavior profile image

      Randy Behavior 7 years ago from Near the Ocean

      I meant wether! lol.

    • Randy Behavior profile image

      Randy Behavior 7 years ago from Near the Ocean

      Very informative! I did a hub called Nude vs. Naked inviting people to discuss what they believed to be the difference between art and erotica and weather color made a difference. It was very interesting. What I discovered is that some people are too distracted by nudity to see the art in it. Thanks for sharing your perspective!

    • Cogerson profile image

      UltimateMovieRankings 7 years ago from Virginia

      Great photos....I think people that read your hub...will understand the art behind nude photography....voted up


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