Nude images have been a staple of fine art since well before photography was invented.
Some of the most famous and revered works of art in painting and sculpture have been of the unclothed human body.
In photography, the fine art aspect of nude photography separates this art form from other, shall we say, lurid genres of clothing-optional photo imaging.
That doesn’t mean that fine art photography isn’t sensual. In fact, it can actually be more sensual than sexually based images. That’s the beauty of fine art nude photography.
Many nude photography tips come from the world of portraiture and include ideas about composition, lighting, and focus techniques.
Keep on reading to find out how to get the best nude photos!
21 Nude Photography Tips For Better Photos In 2023
1. Previsualize your photos
As with all fine art photography, previsualization is the key to getting the results you desire.
What is previsualizing? Simply put, it’s deciding what you want the outcome to be and then working within your chosen art medium to accomplish that result.
All other tips, tools, and techniques come secondary to this. If you want a high key, black and white minimalist, abstract nude image, for instance, then you will employ whatever tools and skills are necessary to achieve the finished work of art you have in mind.
A master in the art of previsualization was Ansel Adams. Many are very familiar with his amazing landscape photography.
His methods and approach work with all genres of photographic art, from architectural to wildlife to portraiture. He helped develop the Zone System, a method of applying previsualization to film photography.
The fundamentals of the Zone System apply equally well to digital photography.
For some of us, they actually seem to apply a little bit better to digital photography because of all the advances in imaging technology we have come to enjoy. Along with previsualizing, two other basics must be considered.
2. Know what the camera is doing
It can become second nature to an experienced photographer, hobbyist or pro, to work with our equipment and make all the changes we consider necessary.
When engaging in fine art imaging, we don’t want to take anything for granted. Control over our art is vital to create good art.
This goes beyond the basics of photography. A good photographer wanting to branch out to different types of photography already fully understands the Exposure Triangle, the relationship among Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO.
The same photographer is also well aware of the ‘rules’ of composition.
Being completely familiar with our camera’s controls can give us an edge in confidence, too.
Nude photography can cause some anxiety when starting out, so removing any other issues will help the session be more enjoyable for both the photographer and model.
3. Be familiar with post-processing
This is another basic nude photography tip. Some sort of post-processing is going to be necessary for fine art nude photography.
If we are shooting in-camera RAW, we will use our program to create an image file that can be shared. We may need to add color correction or convert to black and white.
There’s also image touch up that is often needed. In film photography, skin flaws or other problems were air brushed out.
Digitally, our programs (like Lightroom/ Photoshop) let us fix things from a minor skin blemish to evening out skin tones. We can even alter facial features and other features if so desired.
No need to go overboard on anything, but basic working knowledge and familiarity with our programs will allow us great freedom in achieving what we have previsualized.
4. Be professional
The nude photography session is not a bunch of snapshots. It’s not a date, either. It’s a serious attempt to create fine art. Not saying that it can’t be fun.
It should be fun. A professional approach helps inspire confidence. Both for the photographer and for the model.
If a model is uncomfortable with the photo shoot or the photographer, the results will not be as outstanding as we may have wished.
That’s why we discussed the first three tips above, since having those things down will inspire confidence that the photographer is creating art as opposed to merely taking naked pictures.
5. Relax and enjoy
Being in complete control of the photographic process will relax the photographer. A relaxed photographer will help keep the model relaxed.
When both are relaxed and enjoying the photoshoot, creativity will ensue.
Making art should be enjoyable. We say we enjoy the art, so why not the process? For some, this could also mean making it fun.
Fun and enjoyable are not necessarily synonyms, but the photographer can make that determination as they see fit.
For some people, a subdued atmosphere is proper, for others, maybe a little bit of silliness. Or somewhere in between.
Similar to a portrait sitting, being professional and in control of the art and craft of photography should actually open up the enjoyment of the process.
That’s why the first five nude photography tips have been pretty basic!
6. Use a posing guide
Posing guides exist for several good reasons. Many models are not completely aware of the possibilities of poses.
Even professional models may need coaching in order to position themselves as the photographer is intending.
Verbal skills are helpful, too, but the posing guide avoids any confusion about intended directions.
How to place the legs, what to do with the hands, what angle to tilt the head, how much leaning or back arcing, all of these are instantly communicated by a posing guide.
This helps keep the photo session professional and enjoyable. It also avoids any issues involved with unwelcome physical contact.
With some models, especially a first time nude model, to have something happen as innocuous as brushing hair out of their eye or touching a shoulder to indicate direction of motion could make them extremely uncomfortable.
With other models directions given by touching won’t make a difference at all, but even these models will benefit from the photographer using a posing guide.
7. Sign a contract or model release
Since nude photography is so personal for the model, you will want to make sure you have permission to show the resulting images as you were intending.
Maybe you plan to submit them to a contest, put them up for sale in a gallery, or just post them to social media. Any way you look at it, or have others look at them, you need to know you have the freedom to use them.
With amateur models, even if you have a model release, if the model changes their mind about displaying their nude body, you might consider their wishes and adjust things accordingly.
Of course, if dealing with professional models or any kind of payment, try to ensure you are legally covered for various contingencies.
Model releases also help you confirm that everyone involved is a legal age to enter into contracts. Check your local municipality for details about that. This is also a good place to start.
8. Try black and white
As with other genres, shooting in black and white opens up a whole world of creative opportunities for nude photography.
Some of the fun things to do in black and white are high key and low key photography, contrast studies, and abstract nude imagery, in addition to making beautiful photographs of the nude model.
Any lighting technique or composition you have for portraits or nudes, try it out in black and white also.
What was a pretty nice image in full color could become an outstanding image in black and white. Conversion to monochrome won’t save a poor image, though.
You can shoot in monochrome mode in-camera or shoot as normal and convert to black and white with a program.
I actually like to shoot in RAW and use a processing program for the conversion. I have a lot more control over the final image that way.
9. Keep them moving
When posing the subject, try not to keep them in the same position for too long. That makes the model feel stiff and uncomfortable.
Instead of shooting the same pose several times in a row from different angles, have them go through a few different poses as you shoot. Then, change your position and have them go through the poses again.
If you have a specific camera angle in mind for a particular pose, get your camera positioned and then direct them into the pose.
Working this way keeps each pose fresh. Since you have your craft and technique down, you can give your model the freedom of posing comfort.
10. Use selective focus
Selective focus is best-accomplished in-camera by using a wide enough f-stop to ensure limited depth of field.
It can also be done with a post-processing program, but I find it tends to take a fair amount of time to have it not look fake.
In-camera, all I have to do is know how to focus on what I want and have short depth of focus.
What selective focus, you can isolate a specific aspect of the form of the nude figure. Another great use of this technique is to have the model’s face in focus with their nude figure softly out of focus. Or, the other way around.
A part of the figure in focus with the face blurred. This technique also lets you isolate the subject from a busy background.
11. Smooth out the background
You can use a photographic background, many are very portable, or you adjust camera position so that whatever is in the background doesn’t detract from your subject.
Alternatively, you can incorporate aspects of the background as part of the composition.
Different lighting techniques can give you a type of background too, either light or dark.
Overpowering the background by strong lighting on the subject can darken the background, shooting into a bright background and exposing for the subject creates a bright background.
12. Shoot in silhouette
One of the ways to emphasize the form of the human figure is to shoot in silhouette.
By adjusting the exposure and contrast, you can end up with just a shape defined or you can have the subject illuminated a little bit, but mostly in darkness.
This can create a very beautiful image without showing a whole lot of a recognizable subject, making this a perfect lighting method for beginning models that may be a little shy.
13. Use Rembrandt lighting
Rembrandt lighting is a technique that emphasizes shadow and contrast. Technically speaking, this technique refers specifically to short lighting applied to a portrait.
For figure photography, you can utilize this set up to emphasize certain aspects of the human body, whether in close up or full figure.
It’s a very basic configuration, utilizing two lights or one light and a reflector. The light can even be sunlight, maybe through a window.
The main light is positioned at a 45 degree angle and slightly higher than subject level.
It is the stronger light, and is on the other side of the subject than the camera position.
The second light or reflector is placed 45 degrees from the other light, on the camera side of the subject, and is about half the power of the main light.
This is not a soft lighting technique. It looks great in black and white, but can be used with effectiveness in color as well.
14. Diffuse the light
Another simple lighting configuration is called butterfly lighting. With this set up, you have the light behind and slightly higher than the camera position, and a reflector lower then the subject to fill in some of the shadows.
If the main light is a softbox, the effect can be very soft lighting which is often flattering to nude subjects.
It’s still a direct light, just not a harsh direct light. This lighting configuration still gives good contrast, but without emphasizing texture overmuch, the opposite of Rembrandt lighting.
15. Fill flash is your friend
Shooting nude photos in natural light is a good way to make the outing enjoyable. Employing on camera fill flash will make the results enjoyable, too.
What fill flash does is open up your options in posing and camera vs subject position by ensuring that you can get a good exposure of the primary subject.
Essentially, you’re filling in your own light where the primary light source isn’t falling. Many modern digital cameras can do this in auto exposure flash modes, or you can do all the calculations yourself.
I prefer to use a flash unit with automatic mode options that allow the fill flash to blend in with the ambient lighting for a very natural-looking exposure.
16. Keep it warm
I am referring to air temperature here, but this also applies to color temperature.
As far as air temperature, if the model is uncomfortable, then they won’t be posing effectively.
Being chilly can cause some physical reactions, too, which will be very evident in the photos. Of course, you may be interested in capturing this reaction. In that case, chill it down!
If you are doing your nude photoshoot outdoors, consider having a big, loose, comfortable wrap of some type for your model to wear between posing sessions.
17. Keep the light warm
For most skin tones, warm color temperature light produces a healthy, attractive glow. Sunlight is about 5600K color temp.
Outdoors but not in direct sunlight is a cooler color of light. Skylight, like the sky itself, trends towards blueish tones.
You can go too warm on the light, though, causing an unnatural appearance to your subject. Indoor lighting is a common source for very warm color temps.
Most photo lights are color balanced to the 5600K daylight standard. Flash units are, too.
A lot of photographers consider daylight color balance to be neutral in tone. It’s the standard for a good reason, things look natural viewed in daylight.
You can play around with your camera’s color balance, or you can play around in post-processing. Either way, you can change, at least somewhat, the basic tone of your images.
18. Normal range zoom lenses are a versatile choice
While you might think a short telephoto would be our lens recommendation, I actually like the versatility of a normal range zoom.
A focal length range (for Full Frame format) of 24-70mm or 28 – 105mm is what I have in mind.
A kit lens may fit the focal length range, but most kit lenses are rather slow, especially at the short telephoto end of the zoom. In order to take advantage of selective focus, you need to have a relatively fast aperture.
Normal range zoom lenses include short telephoto at one end of the zoom range, so you can use that for the pleasing perspective rendition of facial and body features.
Having the rest of the range, including a wide angle at the short end of the zoom, allows for the photo session to flow smoothly.
You aren’t slowing things down by choosing and changing lenses, keeping your nude model comfortably in the flow of the photo session.
19. Use props
Figuring what to use as props can enhance your nude photography.
From holding a fan to wrapping a sheer piece of fabric strategically around the model’s figure to having a chair for use in posing, props add to the fun factor of keeping your model comfortable.
The number of poses available by using a simple chair are numerous. The model can sit in various positions, lean on the back of the chair facing the camera, or lean into the chair facing away from the camera.
This is just one small example of how props can add to your fine art nude photography.
20. Scout out your location with privacy in mind
Especially if you are planning on nude photography in an outdoor setting, you will want to have good privacy.
Primarily for the sake of keeping the model comfortable, but also keep from causing any concern from local officials or the neighbors.
Even if you aren’t anywhere close to violating any local decency standards, it can ruin your day to have offended people crash your photoshoot.
It’s also generally a good idea to stay on the good side of your neighbors, including if we’re talking about hikers in the wild accidentally stumbling on your session.
Abandoned urban locations are also desirable photographically, the same things about privacy apply. In either type of outdoor location, you’ll also need to have your mind on safety.
21. Rent a room
If you don’t have a studio of your own, or a good home location to do the photoshoot in, renting a studio or a room in a nicer hotel can work out.
A studio available for rent might have basic charges for certain periods of time. Many studios will also have some studio equipment available for use, such as lights and backgrounds, if it’s not listed with the price, be sure to ask.
Assuming leads to disappointment when it isn’t what you expected.
A room or suite at a nice hotel will give you a whole day to schedule your session, maybe book several sessions in a row.
You probably won’t get much use out of a budget hotel room, as the confined space can hamper camera and lighting placement options.
Check with other local photographers to see what places have sizable rooms for reasonable prices.