Ep 126 How to photograph nudes as art

Some photographers are asked to shoot nudes – expectant mothers who want to document their pregnancy, couples who are celebrating an occasion, athletes and fitness models who want to show off their body in the best light. You get the idea. However, it’s vital not to cross over into tacky when shooting nudes. Challenge yourself to create art instead.

In this episode, Gina and Valerie discuss what you need to do from planning, setup and lighting to posing, post-production and much more.

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Show notes

Shout Out

From Benjamin King‎:

Hey everyone, I apologise for the long-winded post, if you read the whole thing, that’s awesome and thanks heaps, but if not all good!

I’ve been a relatively quiet member of this awesome community since mid last year. However, my girlfriend and I were down in Melbourne over the weekend and randomly spotted Gina at a store in the CBD, I couldn’t believe the odds!! After having a good chat with her, she encouraged me to be a little more vocal in the community. So here I am!

At 31yrs old (I’m 32 now) I finally realised my passion in life – photography and videography, and the last year has been a whirlwind but am loving every minute of the learning process.

I appreciate all types of photography and am still developing my own style. Here below is a recent shot of my girlfriend, Mel showing off the new Rimmel lipstick range (she’s a fashion and beauty blogger) and if you want to check out any of the work I do for her just go to http://melaniemay.me and you can see what we’ve been up to. I also do a lot of landscape photography and I built my website at the start of the year – http://blkmedia.com.au which I’m planning to add more fashion, product and video content over the next few months. Links to my Facebook page and Instagram are on the website if anyone is interested.

Anyways, hope to speak to you all more in the future!

P.S. Gina, it was so good to meet you, and thanks again for everything you and Valerie do for this community!

Above: Mel photographed by Benjamin King‎
  • The human figure has been painted, drawn and sculpted ever since cavemen first started story telling
  • Before the Victorians hijacked freedom of expression and suddenly the human form was taboo.
  • Nudes have been shot in many different styles over the years
  • There are many kinds of nude photography
  • Erotica and soft porn are whole other genres – I’m not talking about that here.
  • I shot my first nudes at university and was inspired by Robert Mapplethorpe and Herb Ritts
  • Black and White Magazine also commissioned me to photograph athletes and actors and I’ve photographed many bodybuilders and private commissions and calendars.

Types of nude portraits

  • Pregnancy
  • Portrait
  • Fitness
  • Couples
  • Human body as art
  • Implied nudes


1 week before the shoot

  • wax
  • tan
  • tan lines
  • bring a robe and slippers (so feet don’t get dirty)

Day of shoot

  • Hair and makeup
  • Oil for sheen/ coconut oil
  • Wet wipes for feet
  • Fan for hair

Plan your shoot, style, pose and lighting before you start

  • Check Pinterest and learn how to do these poses yourself.
  • If you are lighting your portrait have your lighting pretested and ready to go.
  • Your model will be nervous so this is not the time to be testing new lighting on them.

2. Closed set/privacy

  • Ensure you shoot in a space that is private
  • If hiring a studio look for a space that can be closed off so your model feels more comfortable
  • Have nice music playing

3. Heating is essential

  • Cold skin has a blue/red tint and goosepimples
  • Ensure the room is well heated and have a heater on set close to your model

4. Robes

  • Ask your model to wear loose clothing so there are no marks from socks and waistbands

5. Shoot long

  • Wide angle lenses can distort the body and you need to be on top of your model to get a good shot.
  • Long lens means you can hang back, give your model space.

6. Keep it simple

  • The human form should be the hero of the shot. Adding too many props, backgrounds can detract from the body as an art form.
  • Herb Ritts photographed his male models to look like Greek Gods and used sculptural and textural elements from Nature to emphasize this
  • Mapplethorpe use simple black backgrounds to accentuate his human forms
  • Poses don’t need to be complex.
  • Give your model lots of direction, based on your concept and allow them to interpret the shot their own way.

7. Create intriguing portraits

  • A great portrait should be intriguing. You want to draw the viewer in.
  • Tasteful nudes don’t show anything.

8. Keep it professional

  • Give your model a private space to dress and undress
  • Pass them a robe between shots

9. Attitude is everything

  • Your model will be feeling nervous and vulnerable.
  • Show kindness and respect, praise often but don’t be pervy.

10. Lighting

  • Keep it simple, this is not the time to bust out your 7 light set up
  • Front light flattens the image
  • Side lighting defines the image
  • Daylight
  • Hard sunlight can make human form look sculptural
  • Soft feathered lighting
  • Down lighting
  • Soft filtered light can be beautiful for female shots
  • If in doubt practise on a GI Joe doll and a lamp or torch.

11. Pose

  • Images that look candid and natural
  • Avoid taking inspiration from 1980’s playboy shoots

12. Soften your energy

  • If you are a male photographing female models, have a female assistant and female makeup artist on set.

13. Photograph details

  • Hands
  • Feet
  • Chest etc

14. Protect yourself

  • Don’t photograph underage models. This varies from country to country.
  • Always have an extra person or two on set
  • Ask model to sign model release before you start shooting and clearly define what the images can and can’t be used for.

15. Post-production

  • Desaturate
  • Tone images
  • BW
  • Retouch skin

16. Inspiration

10 Outstanding Artistic Nude Photographs

17. Finding Models

  • TFP Model Mayhem
  • Artists models
  • Friends

#ginachallenge #pgnude

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Gina Milicia is one of the most widely known and respected photographers in Australia. She is the master of capturing that ‘magical moment’... READ MORE