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Art Nude On Location: 1-Light Setup

Composition. Forms. Modulation.


Classic/Art Nude Photography depicts the nude human body with an emphasis on form, composition, emotional content, and other aesthetic qualities. The distinction between fine art photography and other sub-genres is not absolute, but there are certain defining characteristics.

The nude figure becomes part of the overall composition and the aim is not to focus on the model’s nudity itself in a voyeuristic or alluring way but rather on her turning into an appealing but unagitated element of the scene. The model is not sexualized or arousing.

Photo Genre Characteristics - Art Nudes On Location - 1-Light Setup

What Makes An Artistic Nudes Look?

Look Cheat Sheet: “Classic Nudes On Location”
  1. Beautifying/Styling: Model should wear very natural make-up. Preferably go with an updo-hairstyle look to emphasize the neckline. Use no outfits and accessories at all.
  2. Lighting: Work with only one light to complete this full series.
    The light and shadow quality should be semi-hard and created by a smaller softbox. Place the box in a greater distance to the model.
  3. Special: The light has to be positioned deliberately and produce an intentional shadow with a light fall-off to the right side. In General: Stay away from flat lighting.
  4. Posing: The posing needs to be kind of statuesque, not too sexy and should be no interaction with the camera (= viewer). Neither any eye contact nor interplay taking place.
    Create a visual interplay between the static, straight lines from a location and the model’s curves: neck, upper body, back, legs and arms.
  5. Framing & Composition: Shoot in landscape and portrait format because – depending on where the images will be implemented – both orientations might be needed later on.
    Don’t become set on a certain angle or image orientation but rather take various shots while you are already at it. You will definitely be able to make use of them.

Composition, Lines, Body Shapes - Art Nudes On Location - 1-Light Setup
Photo Location Behind The Scenes - Art Nudes On Location - 1-Light Setup

Choosing The Spot: Compositional Aspects

This shoot is actually taking place in a staircase. I am placing the model into a niche on the first floor. There’s just enough space for having a good distance to the model. This will give me a chance to take full body shots even though I am quite close.

I mainly chose this specific “corner” because it allows me to combine the architectural lines with the model’s lavish curves. In the overall image composition the model is standing out, the shape of her body creates are really nice contrast to the given surroundings. We create a strong visual interplay between the static, straight lines from the location and the model’s curves.

Photo Light Setup - Art Nudes On Location - 1-Light Setup

Lighting Setup

My goal for this look is to create a semi-hard lighting that actually fits really nice into the scenery as a whole and matches the desired look. I use a relatively small silver-coated soft box. The light created with a lining like this one here, offers a bit a harder characteristic than the usual bigger boxes.

The light’s distance to the model is about 3m/10’. The given distance adds to the hardness of the light.

I put the light slightly behind a column and get immediately a shadow cast, while the model on the left is still nicely illuminated. This is supposed to also create a more dramatic effect due to the more sculpted light.

Photo Light Direction & Light Quality - Art Nudes On Location - 1-Light Setup

Posing: The „Complimentary-Concept”

In an environment with very clear, defined straight lines and a round arch I want to display the model as curvy as possible and also soft at the same time.

The model creates no glamorous pose at all and her pose also doesn’t have any sexual attractiveness. The pose is something like a “figurative representation”. There’s no interplay with the viewer. The composition concentrates on the scene, not the model.

Contact Sheets - Art Nudes On Location - 1-Light SetupContact Sheets - Art Nudes On Location - 1-Light Setup
Contact Sheets - Art Nudes On Location - 1-Light SetupContact Sheets - Art Nudes On Location - 1-Light Setup

Tech DNA: Lighting Gear & Specs Used

  • 1x Monolight 400 WS @170 WS
  • 1x Softbox 60x90cm/2×3‘
  • Camera: Fullframe
  • 18-85mm
  • f/11
  • 1/160
  • ISO 100
  • 4900°K

Lighting Setup Plan, Technical Details - Art Nudes On Location - 1-Light Setup

Tutorial “Women Photography: Style & Genre Blueprint”

Tutorial: ‘Women Photography – Create, Enhance & Improve Your Images The Easy Way’

9 Films. 138 Min Runtime. HD
Photographing Women: Your Comprehensive Portfolio-Building Blueprint. Starring Melisa Mendini.
Evolve your photography. Explore new styles. Enhance your portfolio. For the first time ever, Dan presents a completely revealing overview of 7 characterized looks. Each of these looks gets meticulously stripped down inside of the following three main categories: “Classic”, “Soft” and “Bold”. Based on a variation of setups, this tutorial series helps you to find the best strategy to purposefully build your imagery.


A traveler at heart, inspired by women, working along Swiss precision. Dan is a mediapreneur, photographer, author of several books and founder + Editor in Chief of Being a successful photographer for more than 15 years Dan got internationally published and featured on/in GQ Online, The India Times, FashionONE TV, FotoTV, GoodLight Mag, amongst many others. Dan is currently residing and working in Prague, CZ. Dan will talk about his projects, provide insights in shootings & concepts, produce webinars, create Academy content, explain styles, emphasize the importance of working with models and any other exciting topic he discovers along the way.

Have you ever shot Classic Nudes? What are the look characteristics you apply?

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This is a really great tutorial. I haven’t done a lot of classic or art nudes like these are but I should do some.

I shoot a lot of nudes actually though.

Ha ha ha… yeah. I’ve done them. I just don’t do them often. But it is funny how that seemingly minor detail makes all the difference between a glamour image and an art image.

Absolutely love your work and the videos you make.