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Fine Art Nude Photography Tips From Damian McGillicuddy

Damian McGillicuddy's sharing his secrets on shooting fine art nudes.

| Digital Cameras
Fine Art Nude Photography Tips From Damian McGillicuddy: Charlie Edwards - Primevil 1   Fine Art Nude Photography Tips From Damian McGillicuddy: Charlie Edwards - Primevil 2
Charlie Edwards - Primevil 1   Charlie Edwards - Primevil 2

I’m really enjoying sharing this "glimpse" into my professional life, photography is such a great pastime and career. I am aware though that people assume if you’ve got "all the gear" your creative photographic life is made so easy to the point that thought and design need not go into the process!

So I thought I’d share a couple of images with you that were all about concept and creativity rather than kit, just to reinforce the fact that as expensive as photography can be, it's really not what you spend that determines the results.

Location:   The McGillicuddy camera room
Subject:   Charlie Edwards
What was in the bag:   Nikon D700 fitted with Nikons 85mm f/1.8
2x Nissin Di 866 speedlights
1x McGillicuddy 19 inch “classic” beauty dish
1x McGillicuddy 72 inch reversible panel
1x Ficus tree
Elinchrom Universal Skyport
Sekonic L-758D light meter
Camera settings:   Image captured in RAW
ISO 200, f/5.6 @ 1/200 sec
RAW file processed through Aperture 3.1

So what did I do and why did I do it?

The concept behind this image was a study in shape, form and texture. I wanted to shoot an image that was a slight "take" on the natural world style photography of newly discovered tribes, I know... I’m not even sure where I get it from!

Any how I wanted to take my beautiful and rare "Amazonian" and almost create a "fine art" inspired study.

Now in order to create the extra texture within the study and sell the "tribal" angle on the image, we simply covered Charlie in mud! Now contrary to public opinion I didn’t just take her down to the banks of the Mersey and push her in! This is how the subject earns her living so her skin is one of her assets and as such needs careful protection. So we simply used a lot of face pack mud, an expense yes, but I fully believe the end justifies the means. Once applied, dried and cracked I now had texture!

To make the most of the texture was my next aim. I used my 19 inch classic dish as my "key" light using the silver-sided deflector facing the output of the speedlight. I wanted the most specular and contrasty light I could produce. The advantage of using a dish type design with the speedlight means that the negative of the small flash tube in the flash unit is negated. By pushing the light through the dish the often harsh and contrasty character of the light natively produced by the speedlight is "grown", directed and softened thus making it a more versatile and pleasing quality of light.

You can see from the close up image of the dish that the speedlight is simply shot through the bottom of the dish, as long as its out put hits the deflector... job done!

Using the 19 inch to light a 3/4 length study also means that the subject to modifier distance is going to give me those crisp shadows with almost instant shadow to highlight transition, just what the doctor ordered for this shot! The light was placed about 6 to 7 feet from the subject to camera left. It was high enough and "feathered" back enough to give me that Rembrandt triangle of light on the opposite side of the subject's face to the "key" -  beautiful!

Again you can see from the equipment image that once married to the dish the speedlight completes a small versatile modifier that's easy to transport and creates a really sumptuous light. The dish is also uber efficient, the flash was set in manual mode at a 1/4 power for this shot, so plenty more juice in the tank if it were needed or desired!

Just out of frame to camera right is a 72 inch reversible panel, black side to the subject. This “soaks” up any light spill and has the added advantage of adding density to the shadows keeping to the theme of the crisp contrast to make the most of the texture.

Finally my last light was placed to camera left, slightly behind the subject, it's a very simple bare speedlight with its head slightly “zoomed”. It was fired through the foliage of a ficus tree and trained on the background directly behind the subject to offer separation from the grey vinyl background. The idea of firing the speedlight through the plant was to add the scattered shadow on the background, a further layer of texture within the picture. A very simple approach that has resulted in Imagery greater than the sum of its constituent parts.

Fine Art Nude Photography Tips From Damian McGillicuddy: McGillicuddy 19 inch “classic” beauty dish Fine Art Nude Photography Tips From Damian McGillicuddy: Nissin Di 866 speedlights Fine Art Nude Photography Tips From Damian McGillicuddy: McGillicuddy 72 inch reversible panel

Primevil 2 (Charlie in colour)

I thought I’d take this opportunity to show you how my ideas develop organically during a shoot. The initial concept for this image was to produce a beautifully toned monochromatic image. However the colour image I could see on the back of my camera was also appealing but needed a little "more".

I "acquired" one of my children’s cakes of water colour paint and set about scratching the solid block with a stanley knife to create a fine, intensely blue powder. This was then scattered around her neck in a “tribal” design. This gave me the extra dimension I was after... wooooot!

I also decided to turn off the second light so this really is a one light wonder! I did have to reverse the light panel to its white side though, just to raise the detail and create a little separation on the shadow side. The bare, mud-less patch on Charlie’s torso really helps to sell the 3D separation lie here.

Any post production?

Again all blemishes retouched away, stray hairs tamed, the compulsory dodge and burn and the final output sharpening. A black and white image courtesy of the amazing Silver Efex Pro by Nik. Job done!

Image 2 just has the "tidy up" and a tweak of increased colour saturation and that really is it!

Fine Art Nude Photography Tips From Damian McGillicuddy: Charlie Edwards - Primevil 1   Fine Art Nude Photography Tips From Damian McGillicuddy: Charlie Edwards - Primevil 2

Damian McGillicuddy

You can read the other parts to Damian's guide here:

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paulashby Avatar
paulashby 15 10 1 United Kingdom
15 Oct 2011 1:20PM
The B&W one looks like she's falling backwards and she looks scared for some reason.
paulashby Avatar
paulashby 15 10 1 United Kingdom
15 Oct 2011 7:12PM
The colour one needs more of the rim light at the back as only the elbow has caught a bit of it and the hair needs it to lift it from the background, just an opinion/comment.
tomcat Avatar
tomcat 18 6.4k 15 United Kingdom
15 Oct 2011 10:51PM
I haven't a clue what this has to do with fine art nude photographySad

The guy from Rushden as this off to a fine art (excuse the pun)
paulashby Avatar
paulashby 15 10 1 United Kingdom
16 Oct 2011 12:30PM
Have to agree Tomcat

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