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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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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Glamour Photography: The Art Of Naked Deception


This is a deceptive photograph (even more deceptive than most glamour photographs – and that’s saying a lot).

At first glance, it has a very casual feel to it. It succeeds in giving the impression that the shot was made in a very spontaneous manner. A nude woman simply lying amongst the sheets of a bed.

However, getting shots like this is not as simple as this picture makes it appear.

In other words, you probably won’t have much success if you stake out the bed of your wife or girlfriend, wait for her to open her eyes, and start snapping away.

Closer inspection of this picture shows that it wasn’t taken quite as spontaneously as it seems. For one, the white background provides a great contrast to the model’s skin. Also, there’s no clutter in the shot: no drapes, no clock radio, not a single distraction to be found. Not many actual bedrooms would provide such a clean “canvas.”

Add the beautifully soft and even lighting, the perfect manicure, the professionally applied makeup, the tousled hair that probably took an hour to get just right, and suddenly you have a glamour photograph that isn’t so casual after all.

 

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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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Tips For Photographing Very Young Models

This image includes two factors you’ll want to know about if you’re going to shoot glamour and nude  photographs of young women.

I took this shot as part of a set for a magazine that features younger woman (primarily 18 and 19-year-olds).

When shooting nude images of models this age it’s important not to style the shoot in a way that makes them  look even younger than they actually are.

Believe it or not, it wasn’t long ago that publications featuring young models had them posing with teddy  bears and lollipops. Fortunately, that style is very rarely seen these days.

However, you’ll still want your pictures to portray young models as having a sense of youthful innocence. To  help do this, I instructed this model to apply minimal makeup. I also supplied her with accessories that  convey a relatively youthful style (pink hairband and bracelets).

Along with the youthful styling, there is a second important factor in this image that is often overlooked by  many photographers.

At first glance, it appears that the model is resting her head on her left hand. However, in reality, she’s holding her head up so it barely touches her hand. The reason for this is that if she were to actually rest her head on her hand, the left side of her face would – for lack of a better word – have a “squished” look to it.

This potential problem is something you’ll have to keep an eye on no matter what style of photography you’re doing or what age model you’re shooting.

 

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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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The One Unbreakable Rule Of Nude Photography

While looking through some old files, I came across this shot of a girl named Kitty. When I saw it, I knew it would be a good idea to include it here. Not because there’s anything special about the picture itself, but to use it as a visual reminder to those of you who do nude work.

As I’m sure you’ve already noticed, Kitty looks very, very young. Though I can assure you that she was 18-years-old at the time of the shoot, she certainly doesn’t look like it. That’s why I went to great lengths to confirm her age before I even considered picking up a camera.

When it comes to nude models, there’s only one type that you should absolutely never work with. Quite obviously, that’s the underage girl.

Never photograph anyone nude who is under the legal age. It’s impossible for me to stress this enough. Before you even consider setting up a shoot with a model, make sure she’s of legal age.

You’ll need to find out what the minimum age is for your particular location. This advice also applies to those of you reading this who live outside the United States. The legal age differs from state to state and country to country.

Photographing an underage girl is a mistake you never want to make. As I’m sure you’re well aware, the legal ramifications can be extremely serious.

 

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An Interview with Erotic Photographer Michael Charles

 

Gram Ponante is a leading voice in the nude photography industry. He is the Senior Erotic Consultant at Fleshbot.com. Since launching his own site, GramPonante.com, in 2005, Gram has appeared online, in print, and on-the-air in media around the world as an articulate and engaging commentator on all aspects of the adult-oriented industry.

 

An Interview with Michael Charles

By Gram Ponante

For many years, Michael Charles has been working at the highest levels of the nude and erotic photography world. He is the creator of InsideGlamourPhotography.com, a leading website devoted to the art of glamour, nude, and erotic photography.

Michael has recently completed a very informative—and, in my opinion— excellent eBook regarding the tools, tactics, and temperament required to be successful within the fields of glamour and nude photography.

I recently sat down with Michael at his home in the Hollywood Hills to discuss his new book, SKIN: The Complete Guide to Glamour & Nude Photography.

 

Gram Ponante: Let’s begin at the beginning, how did you get started in photography?

Michael Charles: My first interest was fashion photography. That’s the style of photography in which I learned a great deal and sharpened my techniques. It’s also where I learned how to handle the various aspects regarding the business of photography; factors like dealing with models, art directors, agencies, and the million and one other things that come with being a professional photographer.

Gram: But fashion photography implies the presence of clothing, while your work definitely celebrates the absence of it.

Michael: That’s true. I soon realized that what had actually drawn me to fashion photography were the models and the very unique and creative ideas that the top fashion shooters consistently come up with. Though I spent quite a few years assisting some top fashion photographers, I never had much interest in the actual “fashion” part of things.

Another realization I eventually came to was that I don’t have the type of personality that enjoys presiding over the dozens of people that are required to make serious fashion shoots work.

Gram: You prefer a one-on-one interaction?

Michael: Definitely. Not only does nude photography take the variable of “fashion” almost entirely out of the equation, it also allows me to do my work on the smaller scale I prefer. In fact, the great majority of my shoots consist only of me and my model.

Gram: Now, I’m a pretty lousy photographer…

Michael: So I’ve heard.

Gram: …and yet even I realize there’s a kind of power thrust on someone with a big camera. One thing I found especially useful in your book was the information about how to keep the proceedings professional and comfortable.

Michael: Definitely. While there’s inevitably going to be the need for some improvisation during shoots, having a structure in place that’s consistent with what you want from the shoot and setting things up in a way that allows you to achieve your goals helps everything flow much easier.

In fact, I’ve never had a shoot in which I wasn’t able to get the shots I wanted; and I think that’s primarily due to taking care of as many variables as possible beforehand.

Gram: In the book, you talk about how to handle things when a model brings her boyfriend or husband to the shoot.

Michael: Yes. Fortunately, that situation happens very rarely. However, when it does, it adds another variable to the equation. But if you know how to deal with it, it’s really no problem at all.

Gram: Your book covers a lot of ground. Not only do you go over the specific skills needed to work with nude models, you also devote time to some basic photography techniques that will help the new, DIY photographer.

Additionally, you detail the process of approaching potential models. And you don’t shy away from addressing the potential for sexual scenarios arising between model and photographer.

Michael: It’s important to keep in mind that if a photographer is doing his job well, both the photographer and the model will be enjoying the process. It should be a fun job on both sides of the camera. Sometimes things happen. That’s just the way it is.

Gram: In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Ford Prefect defines flying as throwing yourself to the ground but missing.

Michael: From a photographer’s perspective, I can appreciate that concept. There is definitely a Zen aspect regarding how a shoot plays out. I go in with a basic outline regarding the images I want to capture; but I also make an effort to stay in the moment and be open to changes along the way.

Gram: I’m curious about why you would write such a comprehensive book and talk about how “doable” your job is. Don’t you worry about competition? Won’t you anger the Brotherhood of Erotic Photographers?

Michael: Well, if that Brotherhood exists, I’ve certainly never been invited to their parties. Besides, there’s plenty of work to go around. It’s a big world. In fact, I even include a bonus eBook that provide readers with direct connections to the industries biggest publishers and buyers of photographic images.

Gram: Finally, in line with the type of personality required to pull off this job, can you address any misconceptions people might have about glamour, nude, or erotic photographers?

Michael: All I know is that I’ve had a great deal of success doing this kind of work without having the type of personality that many may think would be required. In other words, I don’t have the brash, aggressive personality that might come to mind if one were asked to envision a typical “nude photographer”.

I think the most important thing a photographer can bring to this type of work is authenticity. Models know when a photographer is trying to fool them; it’s like they have a sixth sense. I would advise aspiring photographers to be themselves, have fun, and not take things too seriously.

After all, there aren’t many activities that so perfectly blend creativity, moneymaking opportunities, and beautiful women. To me, that’s always been an extremely attractive trio.

 

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