A quick side note about the image above. As a rule I tend not to be a big fan of selective color. The photo above, from 2009, is one of only two images I’ve applied selective color too in perhaps the last 10 years. Even so I think it works here and I like the effect so in the end I went with it.

High Contrast Nude Photography – Success and Failure

By success and failure I basically mean are we getting the results that we want and are we using the best approach? Are we getting the shot in camera the way that we want or are we spending hours in Photoshop and post production? With that in mind we’ll start with failure and some common mistakes. Before we start it’s important to remember that no matter what anyone tells you there is no right or wrong way to setup the light. If it works for you then it works for you. There are however better ways to reach your goal and ways to get the shot in camera with no need to post process the photos. I’ve been shooting my high contrast nude photography the same way for about 7 years. If however I learned a new and better technique tomorrow I’d switch in a heartbeat. There’s little point in hanging on to old techniques that aren’t effective. With that said I have found two main problems people have that severely limits their success.

Big Light and Greek Gods

First they use way too much light. Sometimes they use umbrellas or large softboxes. Sometimes they blast their model with huge amounts of light. Often they will do both. Look at it like this. None of us are Greek gods and You’re certainly not Zeus so there’s no sense in throwing lightning bolts at your model. Lighting up the sky isn’t the answer. What we want to do is just “kiss” the model with a touch of light. Just a soft little touch. Turn back the power and use a small softbox or striplight. A strip light is great and allows us complete control over the spill of the light. If you don’t have a strip light a small soft box will work fine. Depending on how much wrap around we want a small softbox could be preferred. As stated above you also want to light your model from behind rather than the front. The light should just graze across the models skin. For that reason you want the light to be low and pointing back at you rather than shining down on the model. This will create the deep shadows and pull out muscle detail and shape of the models figure.

Video – How to Light and Shoot Bodyscapes

Below you will find my video on how to shoot and setup the basic lighting for bodyscapes. There is also a bit more information tossed in here and there. For the most part we use a simple one light setup with the light behind and slightly above our model.  We also use a very light coat of oil to make the shin shine and a touch of water to create beads similar water on a freshly waxed car.

Video: High Contrast Nude Photography – How to light and shoot bodyscapes.


This tutorial video shows how to light and shoot bodyscapes. The technique can also work for other types of nude photography or simply high contrast photography in general.

Black and White high contrast bodyscape of Carly Shae from the tutorial video above