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Nude photography tips

Nude photography tips - John Tisbury shares his nude photography advice.

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Category : Portraits and People
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Words and images by John Tisbury.
Nude photography advice

Working with models
  • Always review the images on the back of the camera, many models will suggest improvements or tweaks to shots where they can improve their pose or stance
  • Give feedback to your model whilst shooting, no commentary from a photographer, good or bad, creates self-doubt in a model wondering if they are doing the right thing
  • Discuss ideas however loose or unformulated, two heads are better than one
  • Choose your model carefully; look at their portfolio, evaluate their versatility, their creativity, their range of facial expressions and poses. Good models have the ability to change their looks and become completely different people giving you a wide range of looks and styles from a single shoot
  • If the idea or concept is not working, move on. Don’t be embarrassed to can it and say it’s not working
  • Use Time For or Collaboration session to try out new ideas, techniques or equipment, a paid shoot is not conducive to experimentation
  • If a shot does not look quite right, take the shot anyway and then show the shot to your model and explain what you don’t like about it, a picture is worth a thousand words they say
  • Your pre-shoot discussion with a new model is vital, often it’s as important as the shoot itself, you need to cover some essential information:
  1. Location and directions
  2. Themes / ideas for the shoot
  3. Clothing choice
  4. Make-up / hair choice
  5. Payment
  6. What the image will be used for
  7. Date and time
  8. Shoot duration
  9. Swapping of contact phone numbers
  10. Levels being worked to, topless, implied, full frontal
  11. Style or concepts you want to cover
  • For your first few shoots when starting out, it’s better to pay for a professional model so you can concentrate on the technical aspects of the shoot without also having to worry about posing the model too
  • Some models like direction on poses, others prefer to work through a range of poses, either way an up-front discussion to discuss your ideas and concepts will help the model to envisage and help bring your ideas to life
  • Ask permission before touching, moving or re-arrange an item of clothing on a model
  • Play music while you shoot to help you both with the creative process
  • Give the model a prop to work with to expand creativity and stimulate new ideas and creativity
  • Car boot sales are an excellent source of cheap and interesting props
  • Change your set-ups often, better to take 30 awesome shots with a setup rather than 150 okay ones where you end up binning 120 of them
  • Give model some edited low-res web images for their portfolio, it promotes your work and they end up marketing you
Female nude

Lighting advice
  • In lighting terms I find less is often more, learn how to master one light before adding a second or third. God uses one light and he does a pretty good job of lighting stuff
  • Digital cameras can make you lazy if you let them. If you find yourself saying ‘I’ll fix that later in Photoshop’ stop and fix it there if possible rather than in post-production. Often 10 seconds taken to move a stand, re-route a cable or straighten a stocking seam, can save much time in post-production when you have to edit 300 shots for the same thing!
  • Use different angles, lighting direction or camera heights to make your shots more interesting and appealing. Taking shots from front-on in the standing position has been done by everyone – look for new and interesting angles
  • Pre-heat the room/studio to ensure it’s comfortable for nude work
  • Remind your model to wear loose fitting clothing so they don’t get skin marks
  • If you are out on location, in the UK especially, pre-set up the shot and talk through the poses so you both know what to do. This makes the time in-front of the camera more proactive and you’ll get better shots, plus keep the model warmer for longer
  • On location, take frequent warm up breaks and bring along blankets, warm drinks and some food
  • Only upload your best work, be ruthless and show one or two images from a set, again less is more
  • Try out new lighting ideas and techniques, otherwise ‘If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always gotten’
  • Look at the work of people you admire, see how they have lit it and try to emulate it
  • By all means copy people’s work as a technical exercise but don’t upload it and then claim it as your idea and concept, however tempting it may be
  • Self-improvement is vital, invest in yourself. Buy a book, attend a training day, join a photography club, review some web tutorials
  • Darken the room or studio so you can see what the lights are doing on the body, if the room is too bright you won’t see the subtly of the lighting
  • Have a full-length mirror available so the model have see the lighting effect and allow them to fine tune their pose to get the best of your lighting
  • Before the shoot investigate a new technique, practise it and try it out on the shoot with the model – be up-front and say you’ve not used it before to allow a more collaborative approach to the setup
  • If you hire a studio, don’t rely on the owner to setup the lights. Learn how to adjust, move and light the subject yourself, it’s more rewarding and you can truly say you made the picture, rather than shooting what someone else setup for you
  • Once you’ve lit your subject, move around the light and explore the light from all angles
Words and images by John Tisbury.

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