I was aiming to create a candid, energetic series within a carefully designed lighting setup. The one and only true concept pillar here was: “Let the girl move and we will see how it turns out in the results achieved”.

We had a somewhat hard time to get into that extroverted free flowing craziness at first. Loosening up to this extreme was not easy but we got there. So, what did I do?

Results - Expressive Nude Photography - Motion Creates Emotion - Czech Model Nikolart
Results - Expressive Nude Photography - Motion Creates Emotion - Czech Model Nikolart

My Implementation

Music, the right one, is key. The “right” one ultimately depends on the taste of both you and your model. First of all, you want to create a pace and mood. A light rock guitar play, a fancy fast pop song or heavy metal drums (if the serve the purpose and you both like them) are certainly better suited than a piano concerto from Rachmaninov.

Good Action Radius. Another important factor is to provide an adequate action radius for your model. The action area is the space available where she can act and freak out. She will need a certain amount of spatial freedom for the performance of her moves. Fulfilling this requirement basically comes down to a suitably planned lighting design. The illuminated area needs to be wide enough or else the result would be a model that steps out of the light and falls into dark areas all the time.

Background. I have chosen a black color to make the setting appear more dramatic. Now black was not exactly my first choice, gray would have been perfect. Yet shortly before the production, I found out that I did not have any grey backdrop in stock (must have been used for some previous shoot).
Gray would have been perfect for two reasons: You can either make it appear black, or – when strongly illuminated – (almost) white. So, my original plan was to darken the gray (dramatic, remember?) but now I had to go the opposite way: Brighten up the black quite a bit. This leads to the fourth important point in my implementation: Speedlight power.

Lighting Issues. Strong power, slow recycling time. Because I had to use the black backdrop, the power of my speedlights had to be increased quite a bit in order to get a brighter scene. Now basically this was no problem since the speedlights were strong enough. However, this approach is not very economical. Boosting (much) more power not only drains the battery faster but also makes the recycling time much slower. This in fact is exactly the thing you will not want when shooting an “action” sequence: slow recycling time.

The outcome was that I had to wait (2 secs) until my strobes were back to full power before I was able to fire them again. No chance to take continuous snaps of the ongoing performance. This is super-annoying when you are not able to pace the action yourself. But this is the situation I was in and that I had to deal with…

Behind The Scenes - Expressive Nude Photography - Motion Creates Emotion - Czech Model Nikolart
Behind The Scenes - Expressive Nude Photography - Motion Creates Emotion - Czech Model Nikolart

Lighting Concept

The setting consisted of two lights and some helpers. We had a key light and a fill-in which acted as an edge-/effect light.


The key light was used in combination with a midsized octobox with an attached fabric grid.
Although I wanted the black backdrop to be brightened up to a certain degree, I needed to control the key’s light beam and actually work with a more directional light. Without the grid, the beam (spill) would hit the background too strong and create a grayish area while fading into dark towards the edges.


The side light that provided the edgy effect from the left was pushed (bounced) over a V-shape construction which job it was to act as a reflecting tool. So I just used my panels yet again for the purpose of acting as a large reflector. Luckily they were still present in form of a backdrop on the other set.

V-FLATS (for Side Light)

Why did I bounce the light? Well, everything is owed to the very limited space we had left and right of the backdrop. Shooting in a limited space like my home, sometimes requires one to become quite inventive when it comes to the best possible lighting setup.

In a larger room, I would have most likely used a striplight, flashing directly through a grid on the model’s left. We would have gotten a very similar effect: A lit up side, and depending on the light’s strength, an even more distinct white body line. This setting though presumes that the light source is placed in a farther distance from the set, not just the 70 cm/2.2’ that were available here. Note: We designed this set for a full-length shot.

In order to achieve a similar result in this very short distance, I had to reverse the concept. I needed to create the full-length side light via a bounce. A disc reflector would have been too small of a surface, while the large panels I had on set were just perfect to be used again (economics & shooting turnover…!).

Why V-shape?

If we were simply bouncing the light off a plane flat surface, the volume resulting from this approach would spill all around. This means the background on the left would appear rather grayish to the lens and gradually dissolve into black towards the right. Remember that I attached a grid to the key’s octobox in order to keep the background’s darkness under control? Well, I certainly did not want to destroy this effort by now blasting an uncontrolled light source all over the place.

And there is another reason for the V-shape: When boosting light in a less wide v-shaped area, the panels themselves start to reflect each other’s light and perfectly bounce the volume back and forth between them before sending a stronger lighting back to the left side of the model. Therefore, the strobe needed to emit much less power to deliver the same effect. Due to the V-shape, we produced much less uncontrolled bouncing light. This is highly economical for your speedlight’s battery and the recycling time.

Behind The Scenes - Expressive Nude Photography - Motion Creates Emotion - Czech Model Nikolart
2D Plan Lighting Setup - Expressive Nude Photography - Motion Creates Emotion - Czech Model Nikolart

Posing Is Based On Trust

Energetic joy, movements, body act and genuine moments. Yes, “being genuine” is key!
Once your model is relaxed, at ease and loosened up in space and music, you start snapping away. You are capturing all the kind of crazy feelings, all the ecstatic expressions. The hunt begins and your task is to kill it…

My experience shows that this concept works best with extroverted personalities yet this attribute does not at all guarantee a successful shoot either. Everything comes down to trust, to feeling secure on set – speaking from the model’s perspective. Most of the hesitation (= feeling clammed) comes from the vague feel that she could look ridiculous, that others would find her behavior stupid. This is actually the situation (= her feeling) that you need to resolve: To clear out her anxiety that she (her acting) will be perceived as ridiculous.

Once you have assured your subject of the fact that anything goes when it comes to her act, that there are no “stupid” expressions, no ridiculous poses, she will most likely feel safer and more confident.

Your Model Has The Final Say
One big thing that you (could) offer is to give her an overview of your selections and reassure her that she will have the final say.

If your model has the right to make the final decision, then she knows that she could potentially stop an image from being published/used where she classifies herself as “looking stupid”. These steps and the concession of having a final say will convince most potential candidates to feel safe, relaxed and finally help them to transition into a playful mood.

Results - Expressive Nude Photography - Motion Creates Emotion - Czech Model Nikolart
Results - Expressive Nude Photography - Motion Creates Emotion - Czech Model Nikolart

Tech DNA

  • 1x 360 WS Speedlight
  • 1x 180 WS Speedlight
  • Key Light: Octobox Ø4’ (Ø120cm), powered @around 220 WS
  • Fill/Side Light: Bare bulb bounced over V-Flat, powered @around 180 WS
  • 85mm
  • f/7.1
  • 1/160
  • ISO 100
  • 4850K

Photo Production Team

Creative Nude Photography On A Budget by Dan Hostettler

Creative Nude Photography On A Budget

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