Over a year ago, I started an adventurous project shooting with speedlights only. I set myself the task to produce various impactful series that can be used in a portfolio or for any other occasion (like commercial publishing).

But I was not only striving to use simple tech, no, the outline was to find strategies, solutions and takes on how to shoot “on a budget” in general.

My ‘Starter/Hobby/Aficionado’ Take

Shooting simplified and “on a budget” includes, besides the tech aspect, (no) studio rental fee, ideas for shooting at home, DIY gear solutions, and – of course – model fees. Or let’s rather say, “no model” fees!
I was trying to identify and produce styles that allow you to work with your partner, newcomers, and even with models on TFP basis for specific concepts.

After a year, I can confidently confirm that creating a stunning portfolio/series of images the inexpensive way is totally possible!

Impactful Photography, Minimal Post Production - Creative Nudes

During my adventure, I was able to develop ideas and strategies how to define styles that can be realized with your friends/partners, any newcomer and of course models.

In the following few paragraphs, let me present you with a first brief report and insights from some shoots done in a studio and at my home.

What Means ‘On A Budget’?

Being ‘on budget’ can actually have a whole different meaning for each one of us.

  • It is a balancing act between your time investment (= time costs are expenses) and your economical status in sexy women photography (= hobby to pro).
  • It also depends on how complex versus fast versus usable the outcome is that you go for/need.
  • Plus the cash that is involved when buying items/services for a specific shoot is actually yet another big factor that you have to take into consideration.

My own goal for this adventure was to keep costs predictably low and adjusted to the purpose of the imagery: Commercial usage for SWP (like the article here) and my latest (yet to be released) educational training.

Studio & Home Shoots - Creative Nudes - Speedlight Adventure

Low Budget Does NOT Limit Your Creative Outcome!

You need to prepare yourself well beforehand in order to receive most versatile series. This “costs” you some time yet it is a fun time and an awesome rewarding process.

This preparation time helps you to find the concepts that suit your budget and the (free) talents you strive to find. But trying to lower shooting costs to the max does not hinder you in creating impressive images because there is one ingredient that strongly influences the creative output: the “Narrative Concepts”. These concepts not only determine the visual outcome, but they will rather also help you in precisely steering costs.

Imagine you have “not much to shoot with”. No big scenery and staging, no bombastic location, a rather “boring” setting, simple styling, probably not much space at all. OK? Then let me give you two narrative/compositional examples that are excellently suited to provide impactful imagery:

Left-Outs: Regardless of shooting in a large studio within small sets or in your home with very limited space, visual concepts and stories that are built on Left-Outs work wonders and actually create most intriguing results. This imagery is always very tense, emotive and – depending on your lighting design – artistic.

Left Outs - Creative Nudes - Speedlight Adventure

Use Negative Space to compensate small locations/settings. Negative Space is the area which surrounds the main subject in a photo. Visually enhance a “room/space” provides you with awesome image messages and literally “costs” you nothing at all. You do not need a bigger action radius; just a few more square meters on the back will do it.

Negative Space - Creative Nudes - Speedlight Adventure

Speedlights Only! And Modifiers, Of Course.

In order to proof to you that very simple and somewhat inexpensive gear most excellently works for extremely different settings (= concepts & mood), I decided to shoot all series for my “starter portfolio” with basic speedlights.

  • ‘Basic’ because the flashguns have no TTL function, no fancy tech, nothing. They are just bare-bulb built strobes that simply blasts and spills-out light in an uncontrolled way.
  • The beam’s volume is then tamed and shaped with light formers (modifiers) or with any other imaginable tool that is used to influence light characteristic and fall off.
  • If you are interested in additional aspects and insights about this type of system read my article “My Small Flash Unites: A Very Portable Lighting Kit”

My Speelight Gear - Creative Nudes - Speedlight Adventure
Light Modifiers - Creative Nudes - Speedlight Adventure

YOUR Speedlights Are Fine!

Just to get all potential uncertainties out of the way: Rest assured that you can execute all the showcased images here with any of your speedlights you might have in your arsenal!

Your units most likely has a fixed diffusion panel integrated which can result in a less harsh/sharp light characteristic. However, in 98% of all cases you will not run into any problems to replicate any idea you might get from the article here.

Simple Speedlights - Creative Nudes - Speedlight Adventure

Model Fees: Pro Models Will Always Cost Money, But…

Truth be told: I do not really have many words to sugar coat the aspect of rather high model fee costs.

Most of the time, you simply will not find an experienced glamour model that is willing to go completely nude “on a budget”. The simple reason for this is that professional, full-time glam/nude models work in this business to make a living.

Glam & Art Nude Model - Creative Nudes - Speedlight Adventure

An experienced model definitely knows how to pose, interact, and express herself. She brings in her own ideas, flow and suggestions. She makes the shoot very productive, pleasant and helpful.

But no worries, as said in the intro paragraph there are great strategies that support you in getting newcomers/friends/models for very little to no money!

Low/No Model Fees: Image Style Determines Fee!

Photo Model Fee Chart - Creative Nudes - Speedlight Adventure

While shooting for the full nude glam & tease genre will cost you regular model fees, there are other conceptual strategies and starting points that provide relief. In the following you will find a brief overview about styles and twists within our genre that allows for no/low cost model fee collaboration:

Artistic & Creative Photo Styles
When you map out your shoot as a very artistic (and/or creative) project, you are able to potentially avoid costs by finding a model on TFP basis or for very little money. Sometimes models are willing to contribute their artistic side and personality to the project.

Note: The more you move the style towards a glammy appearance, the more likely it is that models will be asking for higher (standard) model fees.

Artistic, Creative, Beauty Nudes - Creative Nudes - Speedlight Adventure

Granting Anonymity
Another conceptual approach that potentially allows you to convince women to participate for free is when you depict body parts and forms, but no faces at all.
In addition to the fact that the concepts are classified as an “artistic” photo style, the true advantage is that your subjects stay in anonymity.

When granting anonymity, you can potentially shoot with newcomer models – or any model – that need these styles for their own portfolio. You are most likely good to go on a TFP contract basis.
On top of this (and even better!), you can ask your partner, friend or wife to pose for you. They will stay anonymous and will not have to fear that they may get recognized. Friends and partners are fantastic helpmate to exercise with.

Anonymity - Creative Nudes - Speedlight Adventure

Select Newcomers
Last but not least: If you are generally willing to work with newcomers, the chances are good that you get lower fees for all of the styles seen in this article (artistic nudes, glam nudes, portraiture non/nudes).

I recommend a collaboration with those models when your concepts are set to be more about depicting a scene rather than when you need strong expressions and acting.

Acting vs Depicting - Creative Nudes - Speedlight Adventure

Low Cost Strategies Are Within Your Power!

As you can see, it is all about balancing between economics, creative outputs, and your time investments. I hope you got a good first impression on all possibilities and levels that can be applied to produce your imagery “on a budget”.

It is your decision about creative concepts, working pace and thorough preparation that finally determines your take and level of costs.

Tip: Get a complete insight into one of the shoots I have executed at my home for my creative starter portfolio, called “Red Breeze: Artistic Glamour”.

Red Breeze - Creative Nudes - Speedlight Adventure

Creative Nude Photography On A Budget by Dan Hostettler

Creative Nude Photography On A Budget

Speedlights Blueprint. Simplify Anything! Be on budget! Versatile gear for everyday use, saving money with low cost model fee strategies, creative & magnificent imagery despite any limitations, endless side notes & complementary references, 12 extensive case studies. 350 pages strong! + $500 Bonuses.

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