Nude Photo Shoots: Sometimes You Get Lucky

In my previous post, I wrote how shoots rarely come off exactly as planned.

Every glamour and nude shoot is unpredictable and takes on a life of its own. There are simply too many variables involved in a photography shoot to know for sure how things will play out.

Almost without exception, each job will present you with at least one problem you’ll have to solve if you’re going to get the pictures you want.

But as I mentioned in my previous post, this situation doesn’t need to be viewed as a negative.

Instead, simply approach each problem that arises as a puzzle to be solved and an opportunity to learn something new. Taking this view will quickly make you a better and more efficient photographer.

Furthermore, since things rarely go exactly as planned, a bit of uncertainty going into shoots is a feeling you’ll need to get used to if you’re going to shoot high quality glamour and nude images.

 

BUT SOMETIMES YOU GET LUCKY…

On extremely rare occasions, you’ll find that the stars line up just right and a shoot flows perfectly from start to finish. You never know when a shoot like this is going to take place and you can’t really do anything to make it occur.

Sometimes it just happens.

Of the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of jobs I’ve done, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve experienced this type of shoot.

The shot seen here is from one of those rare times.

Though it may not look like it, this image is from Lily’s first ever photo shoot. Without question, she was an absolute natural: Fearless in front of the camera, completely uninhibited, and possessing great natural modeling instincts.

I met Lily through another model I had worked with. That model mentioned that she had a friend who was interested in trying nude modeling. I agreed to meet with her friend and the next day Lily showed up at my door.

I quickly saw that she had a very interesting look and immediately arranged to shoot her for a website called MoonAngel. MoonAngel is a cool website that focuses  on Asian women. The site succeeds in pulling off the often difficult combination of beautiful, yet still very sensual, images.

The owners of MoonAngel like to have a lot of color in their pictures – colorful sets, colorful clothing, colorful makeup, colorful everything.

When I spoke to Lily on the phone before the shoot, I briefly explained the job and asked her to bring a few colorful things with her. A fairly ambiguous request such as that will usually not get great results. However, this particular time – thanks to Lily – it worked like a dream.

She arrived at my house on the night of the shoot carrying three shopping bags of new clothes that she had bought specifically for the job. She told me she had spent the previous few hours on Hollywood Boulevard, “Looking for colorful stuff!”

Considering the requirements for this particular shoot, the world’s best stylist couldn’t have done a better job. Not only did Lily succeed in getting colorful stuff, she also succeeded in getting unique and fun items that worked perfectly.

Her shopping bags contained panties, T-shirts, skirts, stockings, knee socks, leggings, lingerie, shoes, and much more. Additionally, everything was in bright pinks, oranges, lime greens, and yellows.

Along with the clothing, she brought a selection of very cool accessories: bracelets, anklets, rings, necklaces, and even a pink lollipop.

She was also extremely skilled at doing her own makeup and hair in ways that perfectly matched the colorful themes. She put together three different looks that night; and every one of them was spot on.

And to top it off, Lily had the rare ability to come up with some amazingly unique poses that were…well…you just had to be there.

The pictures I took that night are still some of my all-time favorites.

As I said, sometimes you get lucky.

Sometimes it just happens.

 
 
 
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Warning: Glamour Shoot Troubles Ahead!

There are two things you can count on when it comes to photo shoots: 1) No two are alike; and 2) At some point, something’s going to go wrong.

Nearly every shoot will present you with an unexpected situation that you’ll have to deal with in order to make the shoot work. That’s just way it is.

No matter how much time you devote to coming up with a pre-shoot plan, there are simply too many variables involved for things to come off perfectly and without a hitch.

The hard truth is just about every shoot you do will present you with some sort of situation that you couldn’t have possibly anticipated. And if you’re going to make the shoot work, you’ll have to find a way to deal with this unexpected situation. That’s the nature of the beast.

Sometimes the problem will be a significant one (such as your entire lighting system breaking down). Sometimes the problem will be smaller (having to take time recharging a battery, for example).

But whether the unexpected circumstance is big or small, you’ll need to temporarily stop being a photographer and become a “problem-solver” instead.

And here’s another factor to keep in mind: When you’re shooting glamour or nude images, the potential problems are multiplied.

Let’s face it, if your goal is to capture an image of a tranquil lake at sunrise, you don’t have a great deal to worry about. You need to bring the necessary equipment. You have to compose the shot in the way you feel works best. And, most difficult of all, you have to wake up early enough to arrive at the lake before sunrise (this is the reason I don’t take too many pictures of tranquil lakes).

It’s true that you may run into unforeseen circumstances even with this type of shoot. For example, the weather may not be what you were hoping for, or you may find yourself chased up a tree by a grizzly bear.

However, even the grizzly bear problem pales in comparison to the multitude of unexpected situations that can arise when working with live models (especially nude or nearly nude ones).

Trust me, working with models opens up a seemingly endless array of potential problems.

Here are just a few of them: personality clashes, late arriving models, makeup and wardrobe issues, posing problems, and various versions of model meltdowns.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

But here’s the good part:

The inevitable difficulties you encounter during shoots shouldn’t be viewed as negatives. On the contrary, every problem that arises during a shoot presents you with an opportunity to learn something new. And learning something new is always a positive.

The ability to solve unexpected occurrences that happen during shoots is an important talent for every photographer to possess.

And since every glamour and nude shoot is completely unique and takes on a life of it’s own, you’ll have the opportunity to learn something new on every shoot you do.

The bottom line:

Every problem you run into will have a solution. If you allow yourself to embrace the challenge of finding that solution, your abilities will greatly improve.

And best of all, when you face a similar situation in the future, you’ll be far more capable of dealing with it quickly and efficiently.

 

 
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The Case For Tightly Cropped Images

 

This shot is a good example of eliminating extraneous subject matter from an image, leaving only what is absolutely necessary to make the picture work.

I imagine that many viewers of this shot would consider the extremely tight crop to be a bit “claustrophobic.” However, it’s obvious that the photographers main desire was to emphasize the model’s face and breasts as much as possible. Using that standard, the tight crop serves the image well.

A case could certainly be made for showing a bit more of the model; and I have no doubt that the set of images that this picture came from included shots that did just that. However, there’s nothing wrong with reducing an image down to it’s most important parts.

Another aspect of the shot to take note of is the tack-sharpness of the model’s left eye (the eye closest to the camera). The focus on the model’s left eye causes the shot to “read” as sharply focused, in spite of the fact that the rest of the image is noticeably “soft.”

Unless you’re intentionally putting the focus somewhere else for creative reasons, it’s nearly always a good idea to make sure that the eye of your model that is closest to the camera is the most sharply focused area of the composition.

 

 
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Stunning Nude Photographs: Using “The Magic Hours”

This is an exquisite picture of a young model. Even if there was nothing else in the shot to make it special, the simple gesture of her grasping her wet hair makes for an interesting image.

However, what really makes this particular image stand out is the lighting. Fortunately, it’s not difficult to figure out how the lighting was achieved. In addition, it’s relatively simple for anyone to get similar results.

The most important thing is shooting at just the right time of day. However, it’s also important to know that this window of time is very brief.

From the trees in the background, it’s obvious that the picture was taken outside. From the golden glow of the light, you can be certain it was either taken very soon after sunrise or just before sunset (when the sun was low in the sky).

These two times of day are often referred to as The Magic Hours.

However, to get a picture like this, you won’t have an hour. In reality, you might have just a few minutes.

From the highlights on her hair and the rim of light on her body (most visible in the bottom right corner of the image), you can be certain that she had her back to the setting (or rising) sun.

To fill in any shadows on her face and the front of her body, a gold reflector was used to bounce light from the sun back onto her (further enhancing the golden glow).

 

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Top Glamour Photographers: Ellen Von Unwerth

 

This is the first post in a series that will highlight some of the world’s top photographers.

As a 10-year-old, I spent most of my free time trying to emulate Walt Frazier of the New York Knicks (though I had the Puma Clydes, I couldn’t quite keep up with the Rolls Royce, fur coats, and basketball talent).

Fifteen years later, I found myself spending hours upon hours studying the images of photographers such as Gilles Bensimon and Peter Lindbergh.

Those are two examples of how to dramatically improve at anything you have a passion for: Identifying the artists of work that excites you and then putting in the time to figure what makes them so special.

Guitar players study Jimmy Page, architects study I.M. Pei, and photographers study Ansel Adams.

However, when it comes to Ansel Adams, if your desire is to improve your glamour photography, studying his groundbreaking nature images might not be all that helpful (and learning the opening riff to “Whole Lotta Love” might help even less).

Fortunately, there are many excellent photographers whose work you can learn from.

Not all the photographers that I’ll highlight in this ongoing series will be known primarily as “Glamour Photographers”. However, each photographer I feature will have a style that incorporates a sense of glamour and sensuality in his or her work.

As an example, top fashion photographers are known for shooting very glamorous images. However, at the end of the day, their primary job requirement is to make the clothes look good.

Still, fashion shooters are some of the most talented photographers in the world.

And without question, one of the very best is Ellen Von Unwerth.

Strictly speaking, the German-born Von Unwerth, would be defined as a “fashion photographer.” However, her work transcends the typical definition of that specific style.

And best of all for us, photographers of any experience level can benefit from studying the techniques and shooting methods used by Von Unwerth.

To give you a bit of background, Von Unwerth made her living in front of the camera starting at the age of 20. She worked as a leading fashion model for ten years. However, the gift of a camera from a boyfriend dramatically changed the direction of her life and career.

Simply for fun, she took the camera to a modeling job in Africa and simply snapped pictures of the local people and environment. However, upon her return to Europe, her pictures were promptly purchased and published in a magazine called Jill.

And just like that, without a shred of formal training, a new career was born.

Today, Von Unwerth is one of the most sought-after photographers in the world. She shoots fashion and editorial spreads for leading fashion magazines, celebrity portraits, and some of the worlds biggest ad campaigns. Without question, Von Unwerth is firmly entrenched at the top of her field.

And she deserves to be.

But here’s the important question for you and me: What’s in it for us? What can we learn from the work of Von Unwerth?

Fortunately, quite a bit.

Of course, the point of studying the work of other photographers is not to steal their styles. Rather, it’s to study the details and characteristics of high quality work and take note of what makes certain pictures and certain photographers so special.

In the case of Von Unwerth, what stands out most is the vibrant sense of sexual spontaneity that appears in her work.

The models in her photographs convey a sense of movement and freedom that sets her work apart from the majority of other leading fashion photographers.

Von Unwerth’s style didn’t come about by accident. And it didn’t come from a conscious decision to set herself apart from her peers.

The truth is that her style came from her time spent modeling. As a model, she didn’t like the static nature of traditional fashion photography. Holding poses for long lengths of time and having photographers make tiny changes to these poses was the way fashion photography had always been done.

When she embarked on her own photographic career, she rebelled against that style.

She’s known for creating interesting environments and then inserting the models into them. Once there, the models are encouraged to enjoy and interact with the environment in a playful, curious, and natural way.

Without using explicit direction, Von Unwerth is there to capture the results in an equally spontaneous manner.

She allows her models to simply be themselves during shoots. This is a drastic departure from the way most fashion work is shot.

She has an uncanny ability to put both models and celebrities at ease. She is more interested in giving her subjects the freedom to express their emotions than she is in capturing technically spot-on images.

Whether shooting in black & white or color, her signature style revolves around the idea of women embracing their sexuality and their femininity at the same time.

Her fashion and editorial work manages to incorporate a stunning sense of eroticism, role-playing, and even sadomasochism. Obviously, quite different from typical fashion photography.

But whatever the subject, Von Unwerth encourages her models to freely express themselves in any way they like. Most likely, this is the reason that no matter how exposed her model’s bodies may be, they never appear objectified in any way. Von Unwerth allows her models to show their true personalities as well as their nude bodies.

You might want to try this way of shooting. I think it would be a worthwhile exercise for any photographer (especially for those who like to keep tight control over their shoots and their model’s poses).

My advice:

Give it a try, you have nothing to lose. I think you’ll be quite surprised by the results.

 

 

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Glamour Photography: The Importance Of Wardrobe

Whoever it was who came up with the slogan, “No Shirt, No Service!” never ran into the woman in this picture. I strongly believe if the two of them had ever crossed paths, the model seen here would have undoubtedly received excellent service.

In truth, this image is a great example of how a model wearing clothing can often result in a sexier and more striking image than a model who is entirely – or nearly – nude.

Admittedly, this isn’t your average picture of a clothed model. While it’s technically true she’s wearing a long sleeve shirt and jeans, she definitely has her own take on how to wear them.

Often, styling a model’s clothing in a unique way – such as seen in this picture – can be the key to creating compelling images.

Once you get your styling ideas just right, you can turn to the other variables that can help make an image truly stand out. As an example, something that makes the shot seen here so special is the relatively hard lighting that comes from left of the camera

The placement of the lighting is what causes the glistening curves and crevices of the model’s nearly nude body to be accentuated.

In addition, this lighting placement is what enables the droplets of water on her skin to be far more visible than they would have been if a softer and less directional lighting setup had been used.

 

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What Can You Learn From A Naked And Annoyed 19-Year-Old?

The story behind this picture can teach you a valuable lesson. Trust me, I was there.

I took this shot many years ago. In fact, it’s from one of the first three or four nude shoots I’d ever done. I wish I could tell you that I was in complete control of the shoot and impressed this model with my expertise. Unfortunately, that’s not how it happened.

Like all new photographers, I was struggling to juggle all the variables that a nude photo shoot requires. However, unlike the models I’d photographed before, Tara was very experienced and had little patience for my frequent confusion regarding what to do next.

During one of the many self-caused delays, I looked over at her and she was staring at me with a look of disdain that 19-year-old girls seem to do so well. Still, I couldn’t help myself. I quickly snapped off this shot.

In spite of the circumstances, I really like this picture. It’s not posed. It’s honest. It’s authentic.

Looking back, I wish I hadn’t added the extra grain and the purple tone; but it was during my early days with Photoshop and I couldn’t help myself. Unfortunately, I’ve since lost the original slide.

So what’s the lesson to be learned from my experience?  Simply this:

If you’re new to shooting glamour or nude images, don’t worry about things going wrong during a shoot. Trust me, things are going to go wrong. Simply accept that fact and move on.

And don’t worry about being nervous before a shoot. There’s nothing wrong with a little nervousness. Nerves are proof that you care (or so I’ve been told).

But here’s the good news: Not only can I guarantee you’ll survive the shoot, I can guarantee you’ll learn a lot in the process.

And before you know it, you’ll be the one with the experience.

 

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Glamour Photography Secrets: The Art of Shallow Focus

This is a classic glamour shot. In fact, it doesn’t get any more “Classic Glamour” than this: A blonde woman with red lipstick and black lingerie lying on a bed while seductively eyeing the camera.

To many, this shot would be close to the very definition of “Glamour photography”.

However, what I want to do is take a look at a specific aspect of this particular shot that will greatly help you in all your glamour, nude, and erotic photography (whether there’s red lipstick involved or not).

What I’m referring to is the concept of “depth of focus.” You’ll notice that in this shot there is a very shallow depth of focus. By this, I mean that the model’s face is in sharp focus, but nearly everything else in the image is soft (or “blurred”).

This technique can be used to add emphasis to certain areas of an image. When a viewer looks at a picture, the viewer’s eyes are drawn to the sharpest areas of the image. In most cases, you’ll want your model’s eyes to be the sharpest part of the image.

Using the technique of selective depth of focus will often result in much more interesting images. In today’s computer age, it’s possible to add “softness” to certain areas of images in post-production.

However, if you’re going to be a “true” photographer, I think it’s critical to know how to create selective focus in-camera at the time a photograph is taken (call me old-fashioned).

To put it as simply as possible, your camera’s aperture setting will determine the depth of focus. More specifically, the wider the aperture, the more narrow the depth of focus; the smaller the aperture, the less narrow the depth of focus.

And it never hurts to have a blonde model with red lipstick and black lingerie lying seductively on a bed nearby.

 

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