When I first started to shoot artistic style nudes, every shoot was a self-contained shoot. While I might have changed the lights around a bit, it could hardly be suggested that I had a plan or theme running through my work. As a result, my work as a whole lacked any sort of coherence.
But, as I became more aware of the work of outstanding art nude photographers in my area, I started to discover that their work had a consistency of theme throughout multiple shoots.
Create A Consistent Theme
The idea of a consistent theme, tying together the work you do with several models, is not too hard to achieve. The theme or concept does not have to be complex. It does not have to be intellectual. Rather, it merely needs to be a common element that ties together multiple photo shoots to form a coherent body of work.
Search Inspiration By Famous Photographers
A good example of a well-known photographer who has tied together numerous shoots together to form a coherent body of work is Andreas Bitesnich .
If you study Bitesnich’s work closely, you begin to realize that geometric form is a consistent element or theme in his work. Regardless of whether he uses a dark background or a light background, regardless of the particular lighting technique(s) employed, Bitesnich’s models pose in a manner that emphasizes the human form as geometric shape.
Another photographer concerned with geometric shape was Czech photographer Frantisek Drtikol . Drtikol was active as a fine art nude photographer between World Wars I and II. Drtikol employed geometric shapes as cutouts that his models interacted with on set.
Use Different Props In A Meaningful Way
The use of props can often serve as a unifying element for a series. For example, I came across a couple of interesting African Masks in a museum gift shop. I used those masks in multiple shoots over a period of about two years. I gave my models total freedom to use the masks as they thought fit, with the idea that each model would bring something new to add to the series.
Another “prop” that I’ve used over time is fabric. In these images, the fabric acts as both clothing and a design element. But the possibilities with fabric are endless. Fabric is easily manipulated to show motion, color contrast, and geometric shape.
Window & Chair
One of the studios that I’ve had the privilege of using has a very big and unique window. That has been the setting for one of my longest running and most successful series, titled “One Window and a Chair.” The concept is simple. The window provides the light, and is usually an element within the image. The model poses with, on, under the chair.
Hungarian photographer Andre Kertesz gained recognition for a series of nudes shot using mirrors to produce distortions of the body. While, it’s probably difficult for most of us to get access to fun house mirrors, a similar effect can be achieved by placing something in front of the lens to create the distortion.
I’ve used a glass ash tray, a flower vase, and, believe it or not, a plastic lunch baggie, to achieve the distortion effects shown below. To do this, use a simple, one light set up and manually focus your lens.
Placing something in the path of a light can lead to interesting shadow patterns on the background or on your model. In an art nude approach, this can emphasize geometric shapes, but in a boudoir or glamour genre, it also could be used to establish a mood, or even develop a signature “style” for the photographer.
Coherence Helps To Present Your Work
In the art nude genre, developing a coherent body of work that can be presented in the form of a book or a gallery exhibit is something that can really serve to get your work noticed. This coherence can be achieved in a number of ways; lighting technique, props, or settings, both indoors and outdoors.
Of course, repetition can be boring. I try to stave this off by shooting more than one theme at a time. For example, at the same time that I was shooting my African Mask series, I often shot another set with the models using fabric. But after a while, there comes a time when you need to move on to the next idea. Nevertheless, what you are left with is a collection of work that has more consistency and balance than if you try one thing on one shoot, then move on to something else on the next and something completely different on the third.
Themes & Art = Attracting Models!
An added bonus to the integration of themes in your work is that it often attracts models. When art nude models see a consistent theme running through your work, they are often eager to become part of the series. If your work is of sufficient caliber, it can even induce them to offer to shoot trade in order to get your images in their portfolio.
More than any other genre of nude photography, artistic nudes explore more facets of female beauty than just the sexual allure of a beautiful woman. Emotion, geometry, line, form are all there for you to tap into and convey meaning to those who view your work.
Take Your First Step Now
Take some time, develop some simple themes to bring out in your work. I’ll bet that you’ll find that more and more people will start to take notice of your work. And as you gain recognition, you might even start to sell a print or two.
Thanks for reading!