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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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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How To Take Candid and Playful Nude Photos

What’s your first thought when you see this picture?

For me, it’s the “realness” of it. I’m struck by the authenticity of the shot. I think you’ll agree that a piece of the model’s true personality seems to come through in this image.

Shooting candid shots is certainly not difficult. Walk down any busy street and you can take 50 candid shots within a single block.

However, shooting candid nude shots is a far more difficult task. But on the rare occasion when you’re able to capture a model in a truly unguarded moment, the result is often quite charming.

Taking casual nude images is difficult because a nude photo shoot tends to have a certain structure to it; and a great deal of that structure usually involves some degree of posing by the model.

In other words, whether you’re shooting glamour, nude, or erotic images, most likely you’ll be directing your model into poses of some type.

Since I didn’t take this picture, I have no way of knowing what lead up to this particular image. For all I know, the authenticity I see when I view this shot might all be a ruse. Still, as ruses go, you’ve got to admit this would be a pretty good one.

But in this particular case, I don’t think it’s a ruse. I believe the picture represents an authentic sliver of time that occurred between the photographer and the model.

And though I don’t know the details of this specific shot, I can share with you the circumstances that have enabled me to capture similar shots during my own career.

For myself, shots like these tend to occur soon after finishing a specific set of images. Many of my sets consist of about 150 shots; with each shot featuring a different pose (requiring quite a bit of effort and concentration on the part of the model).

When I eventually tell the model, “Okay, we’re done,” she’ll inevitably fall into a comfortable body position and allow herself to relax, both physically and mentally. At this point, we may talk for a few moments before moving to the next set.

If you’ve developed a good rapport with your model over the course of the shoot, she’ll likely feel comfortable simply being herself while also being completely nude.

It’s during these “in-between” times that casual and candid shots like the one seen here are most likely to be captured.

 

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Are There Limits in Glamour and Nude Photography?

 

By almost any standard of glamour photography, this image is definitely unique. In contrast to the usual intent to portray models as attractively as possible, this particular shot presents a model in apparent anguish.

I find pictures like this one to be very interesting. It’s as if the picture is part of a story that the viewer knows nothing about. And since the viewer has no idea what’s going on, he gets to make up his own narrative regarding the shot.

But instead of trying to come up with our own explanation of the picture, let’s examine some of the techniques that went into making it such an effective image.

First, the mere fact that it’s in black & white adds a “documentary” style vibe to the shot.

Second, the contorted body position is also very different then what is typically seen in glamour work. The expression on the women’s face accurately conveys a true sense of despair (not an easy thing for a model to do).

However, what I like most about this picture is the unusual perspective of the model’s hand reaching toward the camera (with her arm creating an interesting diagonal to the composition). To get this perspective, use a low shooting angle and a wide-angle lens.

 

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How to Choose The Perfect Nude Model For The Job

This image is from one of my favorite nude shoots ever. Though the paint makes things appear a bit messy, it was actually a very simple shoot to execute. The model, Jubilee, is one of the most free-spirited and experimental nude young models I’ve ever worked with.

The scene was very simply lit. I simply used four flash heads bounced into four umbrellas to light the set very evenly. This was done so Jubilee could freely move around a fairly large area and still be well lit.

Apart from the lighting, all that was required was putting up some seamless white paper and making a quick trip to the art supply store to pick up some inexpensive paints.

I gave Jubilee the paints, a few foam brushes, placed her in the middle of the large white “canvas” and gave her the instruction, “Do whatever you want.”

From that point on, all I had to do was photographically document the proceedings.

With this type of shoot (one in which the model will be setting the pace), the most important thing you can do is find the right model. Preferably, one who is fearless in front of the camera, likes to experiment, has few inhibitions, and is willing to do just about anything it takes to get great pictures.

Since I had worked with Jubilee many times before, I knew she would be the perfect girl for the job.

From a purely business standpoint, this set of pictures has been one of my most profitable ever.

Not only did I sell the pictures from the set you see here many times over, I also sold images that I took immediately after the shoot featuring Jubilee in the shower and bath washing the paint off her body.

The most important lesson to be learned from this shot is that sometimes the most important talent a nude photographer can possess is the ability to choose the right nude model for the job.

 

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How to Use Only One Light For Dramatic Nude Pictures

I’ve always been very fond of this particular image.

Not only because it’s a very sculptural photograph of a nude female torso; but also because it’s a shot of my girlfriend, Penny.

This image was taken using a single tungsten hot light. My goal was to accentuate Penny’s muscularity and body definition as much as possible while using only a single light source.

When your goal is to emphasize detailed body definition, it’s a good idea to use hot lights. Hot lights are commonly used when shooting bodybuilders and fitness models.

The benefit of using hot lights when shooting this type of image is that the light stays on constantly (in contrast to flash lighting). This constant light enables you to easily move the light equipment around the subject and observe how different positions effect how the light falls upon your subject.

Side-lighting (or a position very close to side-lighting) will further serve to bring out details of your model’s body.

In this shot, I love the look of the deep crevice in Penny’s back. I was able to accent this area by positioning the light into a location that I felt was ideal.

As you can probably imagine, this would have been a drastically different – and far less dramatic – picture if the light had been positioned directly in front of her.

To further enhance musculature and body definition, a light layer of body oil was applied just before we began shooting.

Finally, a dappled dark grey muslin backdrop was used to give the background a bit of texture and to contrast sharply with her naked body. I remember this shoot like it was yesterday.

Thanks, Penny. Q

 

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The Importance Of Sexy and Unique Shooting Angles

I’m a big fan of searching for unique and interesting shooting angles when I shoot glamour and nude images. Though I believe it’s a simple thing to do if you’re aware of it, I think this valuable compositional aspect of photography is one that most photographers overlook.

In fact, I believe that an interesting shooting angle may be the simplest way for you to turn an average picture into a very good one, and a very good one into a great one.

If this is the case, why do so many photographers overlook this factor? In my opinion, there are two reasons. The first one is that photographers simply don’t realize the transformative qualities that unique shooting angles can have on glamour and nude photographs.

The second reason is that shooting in this way is far more physically demanding on the photographer.

To shoot from unusual angles, photographers have to be in constant motion and always looking for new perspectives. Sometimes these shots require quite a bit of movement by the photographer (climbing ladders, lying down on floors, etc.). However, in my opinion, the added physical exertion is well worth it.

I shot this photo while the model, Breanna, was standing on a ledge in my home. This allowed me to shoot from a very low angle and produce a very unique image.

Another important thing to note about this shot is the position of Breanna’s feet (up on her toes, feet pointed). If she and I had been less aware of the importance of the position of her feet, this picture would not have the same impact and allure.

In addition, the simple blue walls contrast nicely with the tone of her skin. Remember, you don’t need a lot of props (or any at all) to create striking nude images.

 

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Making Your Models Wet: It’s Easier Than You Think

It was only a few years ago that taking a simple nude underwater shot like the one seen here would have been an expensive and frustrating task.

Until fairly recently, the protective cases that allowed photographers to shoot underwater were cumbersome and a huge hassle to use. These cases could turn a basic 35mm SLR into a contraption the size of a shoebox.

However, today there are convenient underwater cases for virtually all brands and types of cameras (and for phones as well).

Now that the technical factors required for underwater nude photography have been reasonably dealt with, photographers are free to devote their energies to shooting creative, high-quality images.

In addition to casual shots like the one seen here, shooting underwater gives you the chance to take elegant and beautiful glamour photographs that would be impossible to pull off on dry land (check out zenaholloway.com for some great examples).

However, better cases alone don’t make taking great underwater shots a simple task. You’ll quickly discover that shooting underwater adds an entirely new set of variables to the photographic process.

For example, if you go the low-tech route, it’ll take some time for you and your model to get the necessary timing down. The two of you will have to coordinate your time underwater in order to give you the best opportunity to capture good shots.

Scuba gear can be very helpful for the serious underwater shooter; allowing the photographer to stay underwater for long amounts of time (however, I must admit that my nude shoots have definitely been on the low-tech side of things).

One warning: If you’ve never before attempted to shoot glamour images underwater, be prepared to take a lot of pictures. The ratio of total shots to good shots can be very disappointing if you’re not prepared for it.

While shooting glamour and nude underwater shots may not be something you’ll end up devoting much time or effort to, it’s definitely worth trying at least once.

Just enough to get your feet wet.

 

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The Best iPhone Tripod Adapter

I recently stumbled upon a nifty little gadget that you might find very useful. And on an unrelated note, I just achieved my lifelong dream of using the phrase “nifty little gadget” in a sentence.

And what is this nifty little gadget?

Hold your horses. Cool your jets. I’ll get to it. But first things first.

Though it’s still hard for me to believe, phones today can take extremely sharp, high-quality images.

While it’s certainly true they have definite creative limitations (no ability to control aperture or shutter speed, for example), they’re still pretty remarkable.

In fact, there may be times when you’ll want to use your phone to create an image beyond just a “snapshot.” And when that time arrives, the use of a tripod may be in order. After all, phones are susceptible to camera shake too.

You’re probably already aware that there’s an abundance of little tripods made specifically for phones. While these tiny tripods possess a high cuteness factor, their practicality is questionable.

This is where this nifty little gadget comes into play:

The Gary Fong Tripod Adapter for the iPhone 4 and the iPhone 3GS

The beauty of the Gary Fong Tripod Adapter is that it lets you easily mount your iPhone to your regular tripod and allows you to take stable shots until your fingers start to bleed (or until you’re done, whichever comes first).

It’s so simple and so ingeniously designed, you’ll wonder how you didn’t think of it yourself.

Check out what Wired Magazine has to say about the Gary Fong Tripod Adapter:

“…despite its basic design and almost complete lack of fancifying, it could be the most practical iPhone tripod mount we’ve seen. There is no need for suction cups, permanently-attached stick-on adapters or even damage-inviting dock-connectors. You simply slip the iPhone in when you need to take a steady picture. Easy…”

Would the good folks at Wired Magazine lie to you? Perhaps. But in this case, they’re right on the money.

If you’re interested, head over to garyfongestore.com and take a look (my detective instincts tell me there may be someone named Gary Fong involved in the operation).

(Note: I have absolutely no financial interest in this product. Even if the company sold a million units simply because of this post, I wouldn’t receive a dime. Which is pretty sad now that I think about it).

 

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Tears & Fishnets: Documentary-Style Glamour Pictures

 

I like the feel of this picture. It’s a documentary style photo that will definitely leave an impression on any viewer. Those who view this shot will inevitably come up with their own scenario for what may be occurring.

For example, my personal narrative involves a young French girl from the country who ran away to Paris, got caught up in prostitution, and is now having a breakdown in an extremely brightly lit alcove on the Champs-Élysées. Don’t worry, I’ll spare you any further details.

In spite of the tears and overall negative vibe of this image, it’s still a sexy and glamorous shot in it’s own way (torn fishnet stockings have a way of doing that). Certainly, the picture is staged (the reflection of the light on the wall gives the reality away fairly quickly).

However, I find images like this to be interesting. More than anything else, they remind me of still pictures taken during the process of making of a film.

If this style of photography appeals to you, an important thing to remember is to resist the urge to overly direct your model. Instead, encourage her to get lost in a role; in much the same way you would direct an actress.

There are two additional things to learn from this picture. First, be careful not to reveal your lighting setup. Second, it’s almost impossible to go wrong with a combination of fishnet stockings and smeared mascara.

 

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Naked Models: Deceptively Real or Really Deceptive

Was the image above “posed”? Since I didn’t take it, I really have no idea. To me, it comes off as a natural, candid, and spontaneous shot. To many people, including myself, those are very favorable traits for a picture to possess.

However, photography is a deceptive medium. It’s impossible for a viewer to know if this photograph was posed or not.

I certainly agree that the natural look of this shot is appealing. However, it’s impossible to know whether this shot was taken in a spontaneous manner or if the model is simply someone who possesses an ability to portray “naturalness.”

Ultimately, does it matter? In my opinion, no. I think it’s a good shot (no matter how it was obtained).

In my work, I’ve found that I’m most likely to capture images such as this one during the “in-between” times that inevitably occur during shoots. For example, it may happen while I’m making a lighting adjustment and the model uses the short break to simply fall into the most comfortable and natural position possible.

“Natural-looking” pictures like this one can be created in a number of ways. And there’s no doubt that they’re usually quite charming.

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