Improve your nude and glamour photographs by being aware of composition. Composing nude photographs is no more difficult than other subjects.
The basics are explained in Beginners Guide to Photography Composition. This article looks at their application to the nude.
The human body is basically a long thin subject. Unless we start bending it, cropping and photographing parts of it, or setting it in its surroundings it is never going to fit with some of the rules of good composition.
At the basic level an awareness of composition helps us put together the elements of our picture in a coherent way and to concentrate the viewers gaze on the subject. At a more advanced level it can help us to add emotion to a picture or express our feelings about the subject.
The Rule of Thirds
The rule of thirds in generally recited as a basis for a good composition. This is generally true but does not need to be quite as precise as the example shown here.
The idea is that the eye tracks around the picture in an anti clockwise spiral and comes to rest on the main subject. The weight (not literally in this case) of the subject is then balanced against the lighter neutral space on the left.
Generally it should be the head or eyes that is on one of the thirds lines or at the intersection of two of them as this is usually the centre of interest – you were looking at the model’s eyes weren’t you?
So, there’s our first rule. But what if we want to strip a scene of all of its dynamic feeling and try and induce a sense of calm. Try placing the subject in the centre of the frame (see next picture). It all depends on what you want to convey to the viewer.
Controlling the Composition of Nude Photograph
Many photographers seem to forget that they have feet. They can climb up and look down or crouch or even lie down and look up. This change of viewpoint will alter the composition. See Photographing Nudes – A Different Point of View
In this portrait from my Personal Space Series the subject is surrounded by the chaos of modern life. Choosing a high viewpoint shows the surroundings and makes an interesting picture. The eye still tracks round the chaos in the left of the picture until it comes to rest on the model. Her direct gaze connects with the viewer.
Despite the low viewpoint and cropping the shapes of the models body still match the rule of thirds.
As a photographer you decide what to include in your pictures. Often changing from a horizontal (landscape) to a vertical (portrait) format creates a different composition.
Lines, visible or suggested within a picture draw the eye to the focal point. Here the lines created by join between the walls and ceiling and the receding door frames draw the eye to the subject.
A talented artist once taught me to draw the negative shapes surrounding the subject in front of me instead of trying to draw the object itself.
Here the strong angular shapes compete with and almost overwhelm the visible parts of the nude female shape but the soft, natural curves form a contrasting form that draws the eye.
Nude photography composition is not something that needs to be learnt by rote. With practice, it becomes something that experienced photographs apply almost subconsciously.
Simon Pocklington is a qualified adult education tutor. He provides online one to one photography tuition and runs workshops on portrait, glamour, art nude and boudoir photography in Norfolk UK.
Contact him on Info9@viewfinders.org.uk
Nude Photography: Think About Light, Composition, and Consent – Good advice and great photos by Vit Kovalcik
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Creative Nude Photography shows you how to go beyond the norms of conventional glamour. The book contains sections on the concept, but is it art plus practical advice on finding models and camera techniques. The final section shows examples of creative nude projects
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