Shoot a nude land­scape

With care­ful light­ing and pos­ing, you can cap­ture fine art nudes that take their cues from land­scape pho­tog­ra­phy. James Pater­son bridges both gen­res to ex­plain how…

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Make the soft curves of the hu­man body look like an un­du­lat­ing land­scape

With­out the dis­trac­tion of the face within the frame, you can trans­form the rise and fall of the body into some­thing that looks al­most like an ab­stract land­scape

With a clas­sic pho­to­graphic sub­ject like the fine art nude it can be hard to think of an orig­i­nal

idea. One in­ter­est­ing ap­proach is to fo­cus on the care­ful po­si­tion­ing of arms, legs and torso so that, when viewed in iso­la­tion, they form their own sim­ple com­po­si­tional lines and shapes. With­out the dis­trac­tion of the face within the frame, you can trans­form the rise and fall of the body into some­thing that looks al­most like an ab­stract land­scape.

When shoot­ing nudes there’s al­ways a fine line be­tween art and erot­ica, but this is one ap­proach that gives you the free­dom to cel­e­brate the form of the body, whether fe­male or male, with­out stray­ing into the seed­ier side of nude pho­tog­ra­phy. Of course, it helps if you have a sub­ject who feels nat­u­ral in their own skin and noth­ing be­sides, but it’s equally help­ful if they know how to pose and shape their body in a way that looks both nat­u­ral and vis­ually in­ter­est­ing.

Light­ing plays a huge part here, al­low­ing you to sculpt the body by re­veal­ing only the parts that you want. Just as a set­ting sun fleet­ingly kisses the top of a moun­tain, we can lift the edges of the body by back­light­ing it to show the peaks and troughs in the fig­ure as a pat­tern of light and shade.

When it comes to choos­ing your light­ing, the sim­plest ap­proach is of­ten the best. For our shoot we used a couple of stu­dio soft­boxes, oc­ca­sion­ally sup­ple­ment­ing the light with an over­head beauty dish. Al­though we shot in a stu­dio, you don’t nec­es­sar­ily need one for this kind of set-up. A home-stu­dio kit and any de­cent-sized space with enough room to hang a dark back­drop will do.

A project like this is a chal­lenge for your light­ing and pos­ing skills, but rather than think­ing about it as a nude shoot, it can be just as help­ful to see it as an ex­er­cise in the sub­tle power of sug­ges­tion. When it comes to­gether it’s pos­si­ble to trans­form the body into beau­ti­ful, min­i­mal­ist art.

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