Editorial Nude, How It Was Done
Tell The Story With The Form of The Body
One Light, One Chair Series
Camera: Canon EOS 5D
Lens: Canon 85mm f/1.2L USM
Aperture: Setting: f/11
Shutter Speed: 1/200
White Balance: 6000K
Camera Mode: Manual
Lighting: Hensel Integra Pro 500 w/20-degree grid
We were conducting one of our “Editorial Nude” workshops the day before our Glamour, Beauty and the Nude workshop in Atlanta. These are rarely done workshops where we teach how to photograph the nude body in various situations, usually with one light and a metal grid attached to the front of the light. The idea is to make the light very directional to accentuate the body.
The Story Behind The Photo
Just before the Atlanta, “Glamour, Beauty and the Nude” photography workshop, we conducted an “Editorial Nude” photography workshop. These editorial nude workshops are rare for various reasons and of all the workshops are the hardest for photographers filled with a “glamour” mindset.
In glamour photography, and for that matter sometimes fashion photography too, the idea is that the larger the light modifier, the sweeter, or more flattering the light is to your subject. With our editorial nude workshops, we teach how to light the body, as a whole and sometimes as body parts, but with narrow grids. This narrow light path, if treated like you’re shooting glamour or fashion, is too harsh of a light; this is what makes this workshop difficult, getting the photographers to forget about glamour, beauty, fashion and even glamour nude photography mindset of lighting.
Once out of that mindset, the photographer learns to “see,” the subject in a manner more of artistic “form” as explained in my article, Form in Photography. This type of lighting is easy to use, but difficult to comprehend at first because our minds are so programmed into glamour type photos. The beauty of this type of lighting is it allows you to create nudes of a fine art form, vs. cheesecake or glamour nudes. The idea is to tell a story with the form of the body.
The first challenge, as mentioned before, is to get your mind out of the glamour mindset. We are lighting the body, or body parts to illustrate form, not a cheesy glamour butt cheeks photo. We are after fine art and form, not pictures of just another sexy model.
The second challenge was that our workshops were located at the Atlanta residence of the late actress Isabel Sanford, aka “Weezy” from the television show The Jeffersons. Her house has beautiful light pink marble when you first walk in, but her living room carpets are white. So we made sure our shoes were off and placed cardboard under the light stand.
The light stand was a C-stand, more rugged and sturdy as our light was placed high, shooting down upon the front of the model. We used an “arm” attached to the C-stand with the Hensel Integra Pro 500 with an affixed 20-degree metal grid attached at the end of the arm to keep the light out of camera frame.
The third challenge was to find the shot. With editorial nude lighting, you basically have the model pose and then you light the pose. The angle of the light in relation to the pose is very important for the intended effect. Basically you place a light where think it will be more striking, then walk around your model to find the proper frame. Sometimes that frame might be the entire body, or just a body part. The key is to “look” not just at the big picture, but for small parts too.
The “Angle of Incidence to the Angle of Reflection” physics law applies here, so as you walk around the model, texture, shapes, luminosity, color, contrasts, etc., will change. This effect happens because as the photographer walks around the subject, the subject and the light do not move, thus light angles are being broken. At the right angles you can literally wind up with a black and white view, or photo, just from this physics rule.
In the end, we overcame our challenges rather easily and Shannon, our model, provided some great poses for us to capture her form. It also helped Shannon and I have worked together before, including editorial nudes, thus the more you work with a subject, the easier it is to capture great photos, especially when it comes to form in photography and editorial nudes.
There were no real safety concerns during the creation of this editorial nude form shot other than to properly secure the light stand to ensure it wouldn’t fall.
During all of our photo shoots we take every safety precaution including running electrical cables under the light stand legs so stands will slide if someone trips over an electrical cord. If you do not place your monolight’s power cord under the stand legs, and someone trips over the cord, chances are your light will fall completely over vs. sliding across the floor.