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Alluring Glam Nude Look: 2-Light Setup (+ Natural Light)


In glamour/nude photography here in Europe the subjects are still portrayed in alluring and exciting ways ranging from fully sexy clothed to nude.

Glamour is primarily meant to tease and flirt with the viewer. GlamNudes are not crossing the borders to pornography and erotica at all! Tasteful glam displays maximal full frontal nudity. More explicit shots (open legs) already fall into the category of erotica.

Images are generally composed of a subject in a still position. The subjects of “glamour” photography for professional use are often professional models, and the photographs are normally intended for commercial use, including mass-produced calendars, pinups and men’s magazines; but amateur subjects are also used, and sometimes the photographs are intended for private and personal use only.

What Makes a Glam Nude Look?

Glam Nude Look with Melisa MendiniGlam Nude Look with Melisa Mendini
Look Cheat Sheet for Your “Glam Nudes”-Style Shoot
  1. Beautifying & Styling: Has to be bold, accentuated and colorful. Depending on the places, series and messages you are shooting, you for sure have to adapt the hair (voluminous, elegant, wild, etc.) and outfits (bedroom juice = lingerie / baroque gloom = corsage & stockings / evening glam = robe & high heels / etc.). Note: It’s all relying on the message you want to send.
  2. Lighting: Create a crispier, edgy light by using a beauty dish. Incorporate at least one additional light like a hair or side light. This gives the overall image style a more gloomy and accentuated look. A side light helps to separate the models body from the background or just to better highlight her curves. A hair light is necessary to modulate the structure in a more appealing way (in this set done with the ambient light). And if you are up for a 4th light: Illuminate a location’s background in a manner that adds some more characteristic to the full story (here in my set I’ve used the ambient light to do this job).
    Don’t forget to pinpoint catch lights.
  3. Posing: Alluring, playful, seducing. Let the model interplay with the camera (= viewers), let her act appealingly sexy. Hands, lips, and expressions are important, too.
  4. Composition: If shooting on location, integrate the features and atmosphere into the series and story. Every little additional detail helps you to lead a message without having to create it on your own. Take advantage of your set! Shoot loose, crop tight.

Beautifying & Styling

Glam Nude Look with Melisa Mendini

The character applied is pretty special and distinct in this case. We tied up the hair on purpose; thanks to this styling we expose a long neck line, a very nice décolleté that we nevertheless beautifully cover up with sexy lace fabric.

Glam Nude Look with Melisa Mendini

In total, we have 4 lines – or visual breaks – that make it all very exciting. We have the décolleté followed by the repetition of the styling line before the straps begin. The corset itself provides a very nice overall form anyway. The bright ensemble as contrast to Kristina’s tanned skin is just gorgeous.

In order to support the styling lines with the makeup, we work with a relatively dark, strong and signaling lip color that corresponds very nicely with her finger nails. To top it off, this red is a very nice complementary color to Kristina’s eye color that ranges somewhere between blue and green.
The whole setting is very juicy!

Lighting Setup

The lighting design is arranged to accentuate the styling ensemble and most of all highlight the colors.

Effect Light First: In this set, I am starting with implementing the effect light first. I am doing this so I can judge this light correctly – I need to see whether the effect is too strong or smacks the model’s face too much from the side. I must ensure that it does not burn up her face.
For the effect light, I am using a standard reflector, a close-meshed grid to further limit the light beam and an orange gel (CTO film foil). The orange color cast is a beautiful complementary color to this rather greenish surrounding here.

Glam Nude Look with Melisa Mendini

Key Light: On this set, I am using a silver coated beauty dish as key light, not a softbox. The light becomes crispier with a dish; it simply fits the glamour look better, it defines shadows more accurate. Want to learn more about lighting characteristics, modifiers and lighting in general and in depth? Consider to buy my comprehensive guide “ESSENTIALS. Studio Lighting for Nude Photography“.

Just as with the effect light, I have attached a honeycomb grid so that the light beam does not illuminate the whole room – the beam is focused on the model.
The illumination is good for a three quarter shot. The key light’s beam is rather narrow and the model’s freedom of movement is not too big. I will shoot along the same axis as the key light’s direction towards the model.

Glam Nude Look with Melisa Mendini

Balancing Key Light & Ambient Light: In this series, I have the advantage to make use of a spare ambient light provided by the windows on the side and in the back. Now it is important to find the correct volume of the key light in balance to the ambient light as well as the orange effect light.

Glam Nude Look with Melisa Mendini

Catch Lights & Plasticity: Another important point of the glam look is the reflection (catch light) in the model’s eyes. This is the main feature; this is what the glamour look is all about! Liveliness must come across – there’s got to be something going on.
For this reason, I am placing the key light coming from the front. At the same time, the axis is slightly to the side. This creates certain shadows, meaning a dimensionality. The result may under no circumstances be flat light.


Since the styling shows strong lines, the model does not need to do too much in the beginning. We start with S-curve posing. Then we will work more distinct with hands or arms. As said, the overall interplay with the camera, the model’s facial expressions and striking alluring poses are now key.

READ: C/S/I-Curves – Learn How You Can Plan Model Poses

Glam Nude Look with Melisa MendiniGlam Nude Look with Melisa Mendini

Even though it should not simply look like a striptease (the posing and undress order) – but at the very end it is just that: performing a striptease. However, you can break-up a boring “get-rid-of-the-clothes” by implementing different compositional elements.

Lighting Gear & Specs Used

Glam Nude Look with Melisa Mendini

  • Key: Monolight 400 Ws @280 WS / with Beauty Dish, Silver Coated, w/Grid, Ø70cm/27’’
  • Effect: Monolight 400 Ws @90 WS / Standard Reflector Ø 18cm/7’’ + Orange Gel (CTO)

Camera Gear & Specs Used

  • 1x Full frame
  • 18-200mm focal length range
  • f/4.5-8
  • 1/100
  • ISO 400
  • 4900°K
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    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.

    Glam style means selling the model.
    What’s your strategy to make a model look tantalizing?

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    Hi Dan! Thanks for another interesting tutorial. I’l like to ask about the very last pictures of Melina in the article – just above the lighting diagram. She is wearing just a necklace and white stockings. In the photo with her back completely to the camera there are some folds in her skin on her upper back. Other glam/nude photographers have said these creases in the skin are not acceptable and the pose needs to be change or (if necessary) Photoshop should be used to eliminate them. I have never found them that disturbing, and apparently you do not, either.… Read more »

    Hi Dave, Happy New Year! Thank you for the observation and your question. 1) I guess poses are up to a personal taste/expression. Sure there are poses (and framing) one shouldn’t do. But the shot here showing Melisa’s back, she looks back over her shoulder, the curvy lines and her strong butt – works just perfect for me. Yes this creates some folds but it’s rather not that dramatic (yet probably not super smooth & sweet). 2) Retouching: As I would not change the pose (or selection made from the series) I could have soften (slightly removed) folds in that… Read more »


    In your videotorial, I notice you are using the beauty dish with grid for that extra edgy light. Works well in the session you just illustrated. Have you ever used the beauty dish + grid + diffuser sock? In this image of Tiffany, the diffuser slightly softens the light for a somewhat wrap-around effect. The grid and position of the light provides key illumination from her neck to her hips (the focus of the image was the lingerie instead of the model).


    Hi Winston, Thanks for posting the shot and your explanation. BD & Grid & Diffuser: I’ve never used this combination because in my opinion the aim to use/combine a BD and a grid is to have the light beam very controlled and restricted (+ a more sparkling/edgy light). Putting a diffuser in front of that will reverse that approach (partly) as light is spilled/scattered more. On your photo the effect looks very cool (“glow”) and I think I have to test this once. Until today I used for that approach (similar results) a smaller silver-coated octobox (= soft) with a… Read more »

    Great post Dan. I have a large Beauty Dish with two diffusers (PCB stuff) but have rarely used it as I like large octo-boxes, but maybe I should rethink that option… Bigger question..nomenclature..!!! You say a full frontal nude open legged with Vulva exposed is “erotic” style and a full frontal more closed leg with perhaps only a pudendal cleft exposed is more “glam or simple nude style”. Is this correct? Yes I know when deliberate vaginal shots slide over to the porn side..trying to use correct anatomical terms here..My query is where do you, as a master of nude… Read more »

    Thank you for posting, commenting and your question, Winston. That’s a thing with the nomenclature… – for me (and also bcs being based in Europe) here my definition: – Glam: non-nudes – glamNudes/Nudes: tasteful, frontal nudity, Playboy-style manner (well until March 2016) – Art Nudes: Exploring scenery or body forms. About lines, shapes, forms. The model is not teasing, no tense interplay with the camera. – Open legs: explicit – “Erotic” (not to confuse with porn): Anything that evokes an “erotic moment”. This even can happen with non-nude portraiture. – Pleasure toys & fingers: border to porn/porn Your shot is… Read more »

    Hi Dan,

    Thanks for the new post.

    Did you use a white or silver beauty dish for this shoot?

    There’s part of the post that says the following:

    “Want to learn more about lighting characteristics, modifiers and lighting in general? Get ESL here”

    Is there supposed to be a link to the “essentials studio lighting eBook” on the “here” part?


    Hi Ray,
    Thanks for reading and the hints! I read the post 5 time but just overlooked that sentence. And of course a specific coating remark is helpful…
    I updated the link & modifier info.

    I was using a silver coated beauty dish. I only have this one in my arsenal. I shot a few times with a white coated one but for my type of glam(portraiture) I like the silver coating better. Bit harder (deeper) in accentuation.


    Hi Dan,

    Do you recommend a 70cm beauty dish?

    I have a 44cm one which I find is a bit on the small side and thus I don’t use it.

    I hope you have a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.


    Hi Ray, thanks for your question. Well 44 cm diameter produces a really hard light (silver coated). To get that rather soften a bit you would have to come close to the subject (or put a diffuser fabric in front of it). When positioning the light close you will get a tremendous light fall-off and that setup is only suitable for a kind of tight portraiture (when shooting people, of course). Such small modifiers are great for moving around & attached to speedlights but they are really limiting you in what you can do in influencing the light’s character and… Read more »