Nude photography is one of the most intimate and difficult styles to master. CNET Australia provides a beginner's how-to guide to get the most artistic shots.
We attended a workshop run by French photographer Marie Brokensha at Sydney's TAP Gallery. Marie is an award-winning photographer who has received commissions from the French Government, and was a finalist in the 2008 Moran Contemporary Photographic Prize.
Marie runs workshops on nude photography, for both amateurs and professionals in Sydney — all information can be found on her website.
To get the best shots in these situations you'll need to invest in a dSLR. This is because it will give you greater control over your shots, as you will be able to adjust exposure, shutter speed and aperture. You will also be able to interchange lenses to deal with different shooting scenarios as they occur. All shots here were taken with a Nikon D700 with a 24-120mm lens, which is a wide-angle zoom that has a good focal length for portraiture.
Setting the scene
Marie's workshops all have different themes. This particular session was Harem, with model Julie and a classical guitarist.
This shot shows how lighting is crucial to achieving the desired mood. There was a studio light positioned behind the set, shining through a white sheet, and softer lighting thrown on the face and upper body, creating a warm tone. Also, shifting the camera's orientation to portrait helps frame the body without unnecessary clutter.
Adjust your ISO
In low-light situations, set your ISO to a higher value (400 or above) to help capture the most light when holding the camera in your hands. Alternatively, invest in a tripod to stabilise your camera. Most of the shots here were taken at 1/40, handheld, at ISO 800 with an aperture value of f/5.6.
Marie suggests that if you plan to convert your images to black and white after the shoot, it's best to expose for the shadows so there is sufficient contrast and detail in the monochrome shots. Alternatively, if you're sticking with colour, expose for the highlights.
Balance the whites
Setting your white balance for these shots is particularly important. With studio lighting, Marie suggests using the Tungsten (or light globe) setting on your camera. If you're more keen to adjust the balance manually, we suggest using what's known as the Kelvin scale of colour warmth on your dSLR. In your white balance menu, scroll along to the "K" option, then it's a matter of adjusting the level and reviewing on your LCD screen until the shot on-screen appears as it does in reality. To achieve a particularly warm tone that would flatter the model's skin, we set the colour temperature to 5260K.
Learn from the old masters
Positioning is everything. This shot, which was taken from ground level, shows just how effective changing your perspective can be. At this angle, both the model and lighting look like something out of a Caravaggio painting.
Only one light illuminating the model can create a brooding atmospheric effect, completely shadowing the background and allowing the striking form to dominate the frame. Adjusting your exposure accordingly is essential to adapt to changing light conditions.
Adjustable studio lights will give a much warmer skin tone especially with no backlighting. We also suggest using a diffuser if you are controlling the lights, to make sure there are no harsh shadows falling over the scene.