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Christopher Greyʼs

Lighting the
Evocative Nude
20 Techniques a

All material ©2010 Christopher Grey

Lighting the Evocative Nude

Photographs of the nude, should you wish to define
them, come in many flavors, with each having its
own set of “rules” that govern the look. This eBook
will investigate the “evocative” nude, a word
defined in some dictionaries as “expressive,”
“impressionistic,”
Type to or images
enter text that “tend to promote
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an emotional response.” Images made under this
mind-set tend to be “inwardly-directed” by the
model, which is to say that they deal with an idea
the model is directed to explore, rather than a pose
that will appease the viewer. Evocative nude
images, unlike those that are lit without emotion and
represent the body in relatively flat light, are
accented with shadow to help make the point. To
my mind, lighting evocatively usually means to not
light everything.

Evocative nude photographs rarely show the model
making eye contact with the camera. Eye contact
assumes a familiarity with the viewer. If youʼre
attempting to produce a work of art with the widest
possible audience appeal, you may wish to pose
your model with eyes averted. One other
consideration for evocative nudes is that the
modelʼs face might be hidden. Viewers tend to
associate visible faces with people they know or
facial types they like or donʼt like. Itʼs not an
indictment of anything, just a fact of how people
look at nudes as art.

Aside from that, evocative nude photography deals
with line, form and emotion, is not age specific
(never should be) and, more often than not,

is dependent on light and shadow to trigger an
emotional response.

Smart photographers of this subject matter will
spend time before each session, pre-visualizing
lighting scenarios and their effects on a body long
before a model walks in the door. Smarter
photographers will rough-in the lighting, check basic
levels, and be ready to go with minimal tweaks as
soon as the model is ready.

Lighting can be simple or complex - thatʼs up to you.
Producing what could be termed by others as
evocative is, well, also up to you. In my opinion,
simple is usually better for what most people term to
be evocative, and many of the images in this eBook
were produced with only one light and, possibly, a
simple modifier.

You may have many clients who approach you to
produce works of art just for them. You donʼt need
to exactly duplicate what Iʼve done (although you
can if you want to), but you can use my train of
thought and lighting diagrams as points of departure
to create great images on your own.

One more thing: Your model, whether he or she is
working for free prints/files to build your individual
portfolios, or has hired you for a private shoot, is
looking for a great experience. These sessions
represent several hours out of both your lives.
Make them count.

1.
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I used a small, 2x2, softbox as the source for this first image, setting it four
feet from the modelʼs side. The small size meant the light would be soft but
contrasty, and not broad enough to wrap around the modelʼs body. To
minimize any bounce-back from a wall or other studio feature, I placed a
black bookend gobo at camera right and within a few inches of her body,
effectively sucking up any stray photons that might have lit more of her side.

Bookends are two pieces of black or white foamcore (or a combination of
the two), taped together along a common vertical spine. When unfolded,
the V shape will stand on its own on any flat surface. Black bookends will
subtract light from the subject while white bookends make excellent fill
cards.

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. to bounce light back to her front. and placed about four feet from the model.2. To minimize specular highlights. 3x4 softbox was substituted for the smaller one. except that a medium. a white bookend was set enter text about three feet from the modelʼs shadow side. This is essentially the same setup as the previous image. the most noticeable being the one on her shoulder. Further. You can easily see a T difference in the quality Typeoftolight. I deliberately underexposed by 2/3 stop under the meter reading.

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2010). I wanted to produce images with soft focus and minimal depth of field so I placed a small circle of white “underskirt” material onto a UV filter. I demonstrated a number of ways to use small pieces of cloth to produce terrific soft focus effects. The image was underexposed by one full stop by setting the manually controlled aperture to f/8. 3. For this model.6. pressing it flat to the glass with a retaining ring. I shot with a 70-200mm zoom at f/5. 3x4 softbox on a boom above the model. Christopher Greyʼs Advanced Lighting Techniques (Amherst Media. . Light came from a medium. Type to enter text In my book.

©Christopher Grey .

4. The light was placed above the model in a position that would create attractive shadows no matter how she turned her head. as I wanted more drama. An 18ʼ Beauty Bowl and 25 degree grid were combined and placed on a boom. . To fix this. I was not especially happy with the falloff. It was also placed close to her head. even with the light as close as it was to her. about 20” away. The more dramatic falloff was just what I wanted. so the light would fall off dramatically. I taped a sheet of -1 stop neutral density gel over the light and cut out a circle about an inch larger than the baffle in the reflector.

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Garage sales are great places for finding photo props. and at a great price. allowing the background to show a degree of gradation in the shadow. Lighting here was a medium softbox on a boom above the model. and most of the light is directed to that space. The softbox was angled about 30 degrees toward the model. there was plenty left to light the modelʼs back and side. . It normally lays in front of the studio stereo but makes a great background when clamped to a pole and hung from a couple of heavy duty light stands. One could angle the softbox more deeply.5. Even though most of it is wasted light. changing the degree and angle of gradation even more. I found a great faux oriental rug a few years ago. but if I think it through properly it will never look the same from shot to shot. Among other things. Thereʼs about four feet of space between the modelʼs platform and the rug. Iʼve used this prop as a background fairly often (see photo 2).

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if the meter read f/8 at her shoulder. although thatʼs not a “rule. so it would feather its light across the expanse.” The primary softbox. but powered to match the other lightʼs strength at the edge of the frame. Positioning the light at that distance meant the light would fall off more gradually across the full expanse of the background. is light thatʼs applied to both sides of a subject at the same strength. The second light was angled to the paper background. In other words. This positione beautifully contoured her shoulder and collarbone while allowing a little spread of light onto the top of her right breast. note the slight kiss of light onto her jaw. the modelʼs softbox.6. although in an unusual way. it also read f/8 at the edge of the frame. gradually losing strength. . Also. was set slightly right of her position and aimed at her back. It was aimed several feet to the right of the edge of the frame. Two medium softboxes were used to create a form of crosslighting. Crosslight. generally speaking.

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a beautiful design. if the middle of her back was in shadow I could use the symmetry of her body to create a lovely shape. Rather than aiming them straight into her. I set them slightly closer to the backgound.7. Both lights were powered to the same f/ stop as measured at her sides and at her lowest rib. . and I wanted to use it as a visual element but did not want it to dominate the image. with the meter aimed at the lights. Further. As I frequently do with moody nudes. I was intrigued when I saw the tattoo on this modelʼs back. highlight and tattoo. a mixture of shadow. I underesposed the image by -2/3 stop from the meter reading. so the wraparound effect would be minimized. It is intricate and symmetrical. Strip light softboxes were positioned at equal distances and heights on both sides of the modelʼs body.

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You should also be watching how she looks in ambient light. then recreate whatever you see that you like or shoot it in situ. no matter where that mioght be in your studio. . should always be aware of what the model is doing when sheʼs under the lights. as the artist.. This lighting scenario proved to be just as dramatic for non- symmetrical poses. as it appears before you.8. When my model took a break and rubbed her neck. The point here is that you. the soft lines of her body combined with her casual gesture to create a beautiful image.

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visually successful. . This proved to be a creatively versatile. I put two more Type to enter text strobes on the floor. Unlike the previous example. 10. I wanted just a tiny amount of light to graze her body on its way up to the ceiling. lighting scenario. where the lights were placed symmetrically. 9. these were separated by about a foot. I also wanted a scenario Type tothat would enter text change as she moved. so one lit her about six inches in front of her center while the other was aimed about six inches behind her center. one on each side and fitted with 10 degree grids. I wanted to to evenly light her head and shoulders but did not want more than a little light to spill over her unless she tilted her head up. Both of the lights were aimed at her outstretched arms rather than her body. I began this scenario by placing a strobe and a beauty bowl on a boom. centering it over her head but slightly behind it.

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but f/16 gave me enough power to hold depth of field over her entire form. just slightly above the model. extending the camera with my arm to get it directly over the model. equally powered to f/16. so I modified a standard medium softbox into a strip light by clamping a piece of black cloth over the face of it. long and narrow boxes that are primarily used for accent light. No light from the softboxes was allowed across the top of the lace. creating a 12x48 softbox from a 36x48. Two of them were strip lights. My model for this image was lit with three softboxes. especially when used in an unusual manner. Type to enter text . With the model in position. I stood on a small stepladder. Unfortunately. All three boxes were on the floor.10. a piece of black lace fabric was clamped to stands at the top and bottom of the set. Working with cloth can produce evocative and sensual imagery. I only have two of them. I knew the cameraʼs auto focus would read the lace.

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while the distance between the strobe and the bookends will determine the sharpness of the shadow line. Doing so will change the color of the gelled light slightly but will give you the most neutral light on the subject. preferably bare-tubed (no modifier of any kind). but be sure to do it with both lights firing. Moving the bookends closer together or further apart will determine how much light falls on the subject. Take a strobe with a basic parabolic reflector and cover the face of the reflector with a deeply colored gel. This takes a little preparation but is worth the time. Type to enter text . When both lights are evenly powered. Rotate the tube to the 11:00 position and place it behind two black bookends so that a sliver of light falls on the model. Set up another light. Pose the model in front of a white background so it will show the color.11. use a neutral target to Custom White Balance the light from the unmodified strobe. Moving it further back will increase sharpness. It also assumes you have a neutrally colored (white is best) ceiling. Aim it at the ceiling from a point behind where the model will stand and about halfway between her and the camera.

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giving me one stop over the main and two stops over the background. I set a medium softbox in front of her and powered it one stop less. or another softbox.6. as the model will have more room to move around. wrapping the model in white light and overexposing beyond that. I intended to overexpose by one stop. A medium will work but larger is better. guaranteed to blow out any detail in the piece of cloth she would be working with. For this image I used a very large softbox. which meant setting the cameraʼs aperture to f/5. To get a blown out background you can use a HiLite. if the background metered to f/11 the softbox would read f/8. a Lastolite HiLite behind the model as her main light. as I did. In other words. . An interesting and evocative way to represent your subject is deliberate and controlled overexposure. Once that light was metered and noted.12.

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with the recorded image ending at that point. is most noticeable on the edges of a subject but works on both sides of an edge. . An interesting thing can happen with overexposed digital imagery. The images youʼll get are quite amazing and not obtainable by any other in-camera method. Any brightness over Level 255 will aways be pure white and unable to retain any detail unless you can put it back somehow (quite difficult when dealing with a complex texture like skin). Level 255 can be acquired on both sides of an edge. and you may be able to use it to your advantage. Try taking the camera off auto focus and racking the lens to an out of focus position before you shoot. Soft focus. Try the same background/ foreground lighting arrangement as in the previous chapter. whether achieved by a commercial filter or a simple piece of cloth.13.

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Use shadows and negative space to create dynamic form. This image uses straight lines to complement the curves.14. and the triangle formed from her legs to her underarm mimics the traingle formed in the negative space of the background. .

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A little splash of light on an otherwise silhouetted body can be quite beautiful and moody. . Itʼs also important to keep the model engaged with direction or conversation so that she doesnʼt get bored while you get everything set. Even though her facial features are not clearly defined.15. itʼs obvious from her body language that sheʼs not just waiting for the strobes to go off.

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even though the strength of each light is equal. Place a light behind and on each side of the model. This is effective whether or not you put additional light on the model from the front. Even with the grids. with the net result being that some parts of her body will reflect more brightly than others. The angle of incidence will change as the model moves around.16. you may have to flag off the lights to avoid flare at the lens. .

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Even when using flatter light. like that from an umbrella or softbox. the same guidelines apply to light placement that would apply if your subject were standing. . Bear in mind that. In other words. when shooting down on your model.17. unless youʼre going for a specific effect (and can control it). place the light to get the same shadows on her face that youʼd get if she were upright. you can still build drama into by using black or dark props.

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: Donʼt forget black and white! The surrealism of black and white is a perfect counterpart to photojournalistic imagery. I used the Fuji Neopan 1600 settings on Alien Skinʼs Exposure 3 software to produce this look. If you follow my columns at www. However. youʼll know that Iʼm not a big fan of built in on- camera flash as a way to achieve professional results. www. .ProPhotoResource.com or read any of my books.18.com. my somewhat sporadic blog. This is also a great time to say.ChrisGreyLighting. they are good for producing images with a photojournalistic quality and you might wish to investigate the evocative nude from that standpoint if youʼre looking for something different.

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creating a darker background by flagging the light will make your shots more dramatic. add a bounce card to reflect some light back. direct sunlight. to create a look much like strong. Doing so guarantees there will no additional reflection from the back of the unit or the metal ring that encircles most tubes. Rotate the tube to an (approximate) 11:00 position so the tube is angled toward the model. Use an unmodified strobe. If thereʼs not enough behind the model. If too much shadow on the model.19. Bare tube light flies everywhere but is especially annoying when it hits the lens and flares. Conversely. replace the background flag with a translucent scrim (either manufactured or a piece of white bedsheet. you may wish to flag the light off the background as well as the camera. A few tests will tell you if the remaining bounced light is too much or not enough for either the background or the shadow side of the model. . I also directed a fan to the model. to add motion to her hair. When using such a tool. Place it high over the model. but to one side or the other to contour form and shadow. bare tube.

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Please note that hard light like this next example. Your retouching time will increase. be sure to represent your clientʼs face as beautifully and artistically as possible. and prosper. Defy convention. I stated at the beginning of this book that most evocative nudes show only minimal identity. Shoot well. will show or shadow every skin flaw or blemish. the same scenario as the last image. When this happens. but itʼs worth it for the quality of the light. a point thatʼs echoed by many other photographers as well. The majority of my fine art nudes show only enough of my modelsʼ features to give the viewer a rough idea of what ehy look like.20. . The fact is that you will not always be producing images for public consumption but be hired to produce your vision for paying customers.