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Fine Art Nude Photography

Lesson 3 of 15

Fine Art Nude Posing Essentials

Lindsay Adler

Fine Art Nude Photography

Lindsay Adler

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Lesson Info

3. Fine Art Nude Posing Essentials

Lesson Info

Fine Art Nude Posing Essentials

So the first thing behind posing is let's talk about right and wrong posing for fine art nudes and the cop out answer is there's not. There isn't technically right or wrong because let's say one of my best friends, Brooke Shaden, okay, she shot some nudes and if you look in her nudes often the subjects are curled up in a ball, they're writhing their backs, their hands are gripped into their body and it's technically a completely wrong pose, but technically it's completely perfect for the shot she was going for. If it was meant to be something that's expressing anguish or it's meant to be fear, there's not a right or wrong pose, but for the purposes of this presentation, I'm going to talk more about creating structure, about creating curve, flattering the nude form, but no, like, if you don't wanna create a curvy subject 'cause that's not what you're trying to do, then don't do it. It's fine, but I'm gonna show you those essentials. Alright, so John was also our subject on the preshoot ...

day. I'm gonna have to raise this up 'cause you're nice and tall. Perfect, alright, first thing is, while there are similarities normally to shooting men and women, like there's some lighting you can do similar. Nudes is totally different. Most of the rules completely don't apply anymore and then as you see me posing here, again, both of them are covered for the purposes of this day, however, when I pose, I don't show the bits. Guys or girls, that's just for me 'cause I think if that's in the shot for the way I shoot, you can't help but look there so I always pose so that it's hidden. It's not wrong to include it, just I don't. You can set your robe wherever you would like. John, on the chair, maybe? Thank you. And I'm gonna shoot tethered. I wanna tell you about the different shapes for posing men. Okay, so when you pose guys, most of my inspiration that I have for male posing is from Greek statues. I went and looked it up and I was like, let's just do that one. But the next thing is for guys before I pose them, you don't need to do this, so don't worry, but I usually make guys do sit ups, push ups, whatever, because you're looking at the form and it plumps everything up. It makes muscles look bigger, tighter, everything. Next thing is there are two main shapes I'm trying to create when posing men. There's other rules, but the shapes are typically C and a V. Alright, so let me explain. First I'm gonna have you turn around real quick, great. And then turn a little bit to your left, a little more, great, and now I'm gonna have you put your left foot in front of your right foot, there, and now slide it to the right, perfect, okay. And now turn your shoulders back towards me and your hips about like that, alright. So reason I have this whole shape is typically for guys, if you want them to look very strong and you wanna show their physique, you have it narrow towards the knees and then become wider at the shoulders. Can you stand completely to your left and just like this? Alright, if he just stands to the left like that, everything is very flat and he looks very diminished. Shoulders are used to determine the width of your subject and typically the strength for a guy so you really wanna avoid them being completely off to the side unless they're very broad and very muscular and you're actually trying to make them look a little smaller. Did it work this time? But if I can turn you back around, the other way, sorry. Put your foot in front again and then turn your shoulders back towards me just a little bit and turn your hips just a little. It's giving me a little bit of tension in the muscles. Do you see how before there was no tension? Because of I've kinda wound him up and turned him, everything becomes more taut. Everything becomes tighter. So instead of, just stand flat foot and then turn to the back, it's not there anymore. So I'm actually kind of winding him up but on purpose and then when he puts his foot in the front, it gives a little bit of narrowing. So that's the V shape. The other shape that you create is a C. So for the C shape, there's many different ways to do this, but I'm gonna have you put your right leg up, great. So what we're gonna do is we're gonna create a C from his leg to his torso to his face. So what I'm gonna have you do is I'm gonna have you lean forward and lean on your left arm and now I probably, lift your chest up just a little bit, okay? And then lean this way a little bit, okay. So basically something roughly like that A, hides the bits, but C, but B, but C in this case, I have the C shape of his body. So what I'm actually following is this line from his face to his torso through his leg. Or the other option, can you switch your arms? Can you put the other arm, there, great, and pop up the arm in the back, great, and pull up a little bit so you're not quite as slouchy and turn away from me a little more. Same exact thing. So now, following his face, his torso, his thigh. So let me shoot that so you guys can see the difference since I think our tether is up. Perfect, okay, and can you raise your chest up just a little more and then turn away from me a little more 'cause I'm making his back look broader. If he's turned totally to the side, he looks narrower. Let's see. And I'm gonna move my light 'cause it is not in a position that does what I need, alright, perfect. And can you, instead of being down so much, point down your toe just a little bit? Great, and then turn, pop out your back elbow even more. No, you're good, that way, yeah, perfect. Turn to your, away from me, turn, yeah, good, right there. And now rotate even more, keep turning away, away, away, away, away, perfect, right there, great. So, alright, so you'll see. Next shot, he's a little more diminished. You turn him to the side even more and it creates more of that C shape, but let's do the other one with your right knee up and then face towards me, great, and then up on your toes so you're not quite as slouched, perfect, and then bend that front arm, great, perfect. Good, so both of these are basically creating a C. That's what you're following. So in that one, C, this one, C, same idea. Now I'm gonna have you do your V shape, so I'm gonna have you face the back again so I can take that picture. Thank you, great, and rotate your body this way, great. Perfect. And so you'll see how this pops out the muscles in his back so it kinda wraps around that way and you follow it from his legs up to his torso, perfect. So for guys, the rule that you're looking for is typically you stick with V or C shapes. There are other shapes you can have, but you avoid curve, which is the exact opposite 'cause that's what we do for women. But in the thinking of curve, and thinking of for guys, create structure, triangles, and negative space. So if you take a look at these shots, structure, strong lines, triangles, negative space. I once heard a photographer refer to posing as architecture. If you think of masculine architecture, you think long, very straight lines, right angles, triangles, structure. But if you think of feminine architecture, you think of curves, you think of lines that lead you eye, so it's just very different so I think of the body as body architecture. So in the prefilm day, or the prefilm shoot, the next thing that you would be watching is going to be on men's go to poses. So I've got the five poses that I use most often for photographing fine art nude men, but in this case, it's more inspired by classical Greek posing, and so you'll be able to see those. Of course, remember how I mentioned Solve Sundsbo? It was one of my inspiration? He did a men's fragrance ad where the man is nude and it doesn't follow any of these rules and he's kinda just sitting there with his leg up and it was a huge fragrance ad, so just notice I'm giving you my suggestions but they're not the steadfast rules. So I'm gonna have you take a break for a minute, perfect, and I'm gonna bring out Jen. Thanks, John. Yep, thank you. Alright. Alright, so there are a lot of different ways that you can pose the female nude form. I also have my go to poses for that. Jen's going to be our subject for this instance and I'm going to tell you, going back to that Michelangelo pose, but more exaggerated, okay? Will you pass your robe to John for me? Alright, so contrapposto. Contrapposto is called counterpose. That's what it means. I didn't ever get why until I actually started to study what's happening, so I'm gonna stand in front of you and have you mimic me and then we'll do it, do that together. Basically, this is what counterpose means or contrapposto. In old statues, here's my legs, guys, alright. In old statues, the legs were always very straight, the hips were very straight, so we're talking about pre-Greek and Roman sculpture, so Egyptian and beyond that. But all of a sudden when you got to Greek and Roman, there was a sense of movement and a little bit of cool to it and how they did it is they no longer had everybody flat foot. They did is they shifted the weight to one leg and this is called the engaged leg. That's what it's called in art. So it's the engaged leg because all of the weight is on that leg and then the other leg, dependent on the sculpture, sometimes the foot was stepping forward, often the knee was kind of curving in. Did you see how naturally when I did that? If I just put all my weight, the knee automatically kind of comes in. But the part that you probably didn't notice is my shoulders, so watch this. Take a look at my hips. If you draw a line from hip to hip, it's a straight line. If you draw a line from shoulder to shoulder, straight line. When I put my weight on this hip, that line goes up, right? It's kind of an upward pointing line now. But at the same time when I do that, my shoulder drops down and so that's what contrapposto is. So if you look at Michelangelo's David, he's got his weight on one foot, this one's turned out instead of turned in, but it's turned out a bit, and he's just dropping his shoulder a little bit. Okay, so for the purposes here, what we do for posing women for fine art nudes is we exaggerate that contrapposto. That's the most basic of a shot. So what I'm gonna have you do is put your weight on whatever leg, okay. Cross that knee way, way, way over and try to stick that hip out as hard as you can, perfect, okay. So her hip's raised up and her leg's crossed over. Now she's leaning her shoulders even further that direction a little bit more. So what this does is you've got the line from shoulder to shoulder that goes down, the line from hip to hip which goes up, the closer that they meet to the body, the more exaggerated the curve. The further that they meet, the less exaggerated the curve. So if you're thinking of it for guys, they do real subtle. Like that line from the shoulders and hips are meeting way far away. For girls, it's really exaggerated. So let me take a quick shot here and I'm gonna lower this just a little for ya, perfect. Great, and can you put that hand to your chest? Perfect, and bring that hand forward just a little bit. Little bit back so it's kinda sitting, right there, perfect. And lean your chest forward, lean, lean, lean, and chin down. Great, perfect, great. So you'll start to see that you can pop hip up, shoulder down, and that's like the very basic. If you look at the Venus de Milo, basically the pose she's doing. She's got her leg and she's kinda leaning. It's the same thing. Alright, but this is the most basic of fine art nude pose. One of the things I like is if anyone watched, I know that this class will be standalone, but I taught a class on photographing for curvy women and one of the things I talked about was something called a narrowing point. If you look here when she brings her knees over, it actually narrows at the bottom of the frame. So very bottom of the photograph here, her legs come together and what that does is it makes you follow the line of her chest, the line of her hips, and you do an hourglass in your brain, right? So that's one of the reasons I like that pose. Alright, so I'm gonna pop on besides contrapposto, which is the basic, and I was also gonna say, can you just rotate around real quick? Can you do the same pose? Great, and I'm gonna have you bring your hands above your head, perfect. And stretch, stretch, stretch, and then lean to the right and put one hand over the other, kinda, what do you call it? Cross them on top. Wait, hold on, I'm gonna have to show you without turning. This way, do this, okay? A lot of boudoir in poses like this. If you were trying to accentuate the bottom, this is a perfect one because they're putting the weight so the bottom sticks out and they lean forward a little bit and as they push it closer to camera, everything looks fuller and larger. So if you are doing this for purposes of fine art nude or boudoir, contrapposto but from behind looks awesome. Okay, you can relax. Rule, so for women, the rule that you'll hear me say over and over again is if you can bend it, bend it, if you can curve it, curve it, if you can arch it, arch it. All of the above. Can I turn you to the side real quick? Okay, you're not gonna like me for this, but stand to the side flat footed and that is the worst 'cause there's no curve, everything is straight up and down. She's like thanks, Lindsey. I really appreciate it. So everything is just vertical. So what I do is in my head as I say, okay, what can I bend? What can I curve and what can I arch? So for example, I know I can bend the legs and so what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna have her bend her front leg, great. Now, when you're having someone pose where they bend the front leg, I recommend for nudes, it is always the front leg 'cause if you bend the back leg it exposes the bits so I have everyone bend the front leg. But it's actually more important than that. Can you put your hands up just for a second? What I'm gonna do is I'm not gonna shoot full length so I'm gonna have you put your foot on this apple box 'cause it's much easier to pose 'cause one of things that I find is when I pose my nude subjects, often the poses are not comfortable at all 'cause you're exaggerating everything up on toe. The reason I have her up on toe is if I get her leg, her muscles are much more engaged. So the muscles are flexed. You see the musculature there. Everything tighten up which is one of the reasons that ladies' bottoms look better in a tight dress when you're wearing heels. 'Cause you're on toe and you're engaging everything so you're calves look real good, you're squeezing your butt even if you don't want to. So it's the same idea. I'm finding ways, like I never have my subjects standing flat foot. They're always on toe in some way. So I have her on toe here. But the next thing I wanted to show is bending. Okay, so when I bend this front leg closest to camera, it gives me this bend so I get one curve for the eye to follow. But it also gives me this curve that wasn't there before when she was flat foot. If I raise the back leg, can you switch? I only get one curve instead of two. So that's why I do the front leg. Switch back again. Alright, so I said, if you can bend it, bend it, can curve it, curve it, if you can arch it, arch it. Next thing, arch. But when I say arch, I usually tell people arch the lower back 'cause what'll happen if you tell someone to arch, sometimes they'll push their stomach out and they lead with their stomach and then that doesn't look good. So arch in the lower back is a polite way of saying stick the butt out. So now take a look at this curve. Major curve, major curve, major, like I've got all of these curves. So I'm just gonna have you pull that elbow back real quick and then kinda up a little higher. So I've got curve, curve, curve, curve, curve everywhere now in this pose. So let me take a quick shot. Great, perfect, great, lean forward just a little bit and shoulder that way, yeah. Perfect, I'm in the way. Right? Like curve, curve, curve. Now just do the exact same thing and stand flat foot. Great, yeah, yeah, just like that. She's still leaning and she's still arching but you lose that front curve. It's not wrong, but it's so much more exaggerated when she raises her leg there, so I generally prefer it. Next part of this, can you go back to the super curvy pose? Remember to invite them to relax and repeat the pose because if they're holding and they're arching and they're pushing, you'll see in their expression and you'll see it in their hands, so what I'll do is I'll say, okay, what I want you to do is push it harder, arch harder, great, okay relax, alright, now remember that pose you just did? We're gonna hit it again. So we'll relax and repeat. Alright, so I'm gonna have you do that same pose but bring your chest up. I often talk in posing about the part that people forget which is perspective. Remembering that whatever's closest to the camera looks largest. So I mentioned in the contrapposto from behind, if I have her lean her chest forward and bottom back, now the bottom will look much fuller and much bigger. So if that's what you're trying to show in your fine art nude photograph, if you want the bottom to look big, bring it closer to camera. In this case, if she leans back, bring your chest back. Okay, something like this. I've lost my curve and her chest and her face are further from the camera. So perspective, whatever's closest to the camera is largest, I'm gonna have you lean forward, that way, arch, great. And now her chest will look much bigger and that curve in her lower back is gonna look much, much more defined. Now, one of the things I want you to notice is in these photos that I'm taking, this is just flat light. I'm not doing anything with this. Posing is actually an interplay between light and pose. You can't do one without the other 'cause they work together so this is like flat, boring light. This is not what I would do for this shot, but I just want you to see without any lighting distractions exactly what the form does. So I'm gonna give you just a couple other tips but know that I go into posing more in depth and a few other tricks in the prefilm day. So a couple other things. Your eye looks at wherever the hands tell it to often. I mean, there's other things, but if I have her pose and I touch the hand to the chest and I touch the hand to the stomach, that's where you look. You can't help but look there. So if there's a place you want the eye to go, consider using the hands to do so. If it's a photo where you're supposed to look more at the face, you could pose with the hands more near the face. If it's all about the chest, you pose the hands soft and around the chest. So just keep that in mind, hands direct where the eye look in the photograph. Next part of this, and I go into it more in posing 101. A lot of these are really the essentials. The next part of this is in perspective is elongating your subject. If I have my subject pose on the floor, I'm not gonna pose her in any way with her body coming towards me. It's always going to be side to side. I wanna do anything that makes the subject look longer. If arms are coming at camera, so just do that same pose but with your arms towards me, great. If arms are coming towards camera, they look shorter and they look truncated. It's more of the up and away and then give me a little higher, give me a lean, now it looks more proportional. As soon as the arms come in, anything towards camera looks cut off and shortened. Same thing as if I have someone seated. If I have someone seated and their legs are crossed and towards me, everything looks short. I need to pull it to the side, so I'm gonna do one shot like that real quick with the chair. So if you're posing a nude with a chair, and I'll demo first if you don't mind, if you're posing a nude in a chair and you have them do something kinda like this, everything is boxy. So you actually need to make them uncomfortable and everything does need to be literally out to the side. Everything nice and long. So I'm gonna have you try to do that and you're tucking the top leg over. Perfect, great, and then put, yeah, exactly. But super uncomfortable. Put your top ankle and try to tuck it, yeah, great. So now put your hand soft on your side, great. Lean everything towards me, perfect. And so everything is looking, if your camera can see this, everything looks much longer. Now can you do one where you're seated? Just sit like this. It's very hard to create curve and shape, so elongate with everything out to the side. Alright, so very last one is just a notice of negative space. I teach negative space all the time. You can stand up again. Negative space would be if you have the hands on the hips or hands on the waist, in my fashion posing, all the time I do this. I have the hands on the waist, hands on the hips, it's big triangles and big negative space. But sometimes for nudes, that doesn't work 'cause you're trying to create a real soft curve and so instead of right angles or acute angles, often you want them to be obtuse or long, basically this softer negative space. So let me just show one example of that and then we'll wrap that up. Can you take one step forward or two steps forward, perfect. Can you do the, cross your leg over, perfect. Arch your lower back, great, just like that. Now put your hands on your waist. Alright, beautiful, so you take a look here. This is a great pose for a woman in a dress, a form fitted dress. I'll have a nice curve of her lower back, narrowing point at the bottom of the frame, she looks nice and strong. But I get really stuck in that negative space because everything else in the shot is not right angles. It's not strong structure. Strong structure is guys. So instead what I'm gonna have you do is can you put your hands on your thighs, right, and roll 'em up just a little bit. That back arm, tuck it behind, perfect, something like that. And chin down. This will appear much curvier and a little softer. It's having that more subtle negative space. Or instead of that hand on the hip in the back, let's put it to the chest, oh, sorry, other one. Great, put it right here, 'cause that's where your eye's gonna look, perfect. And put your hand flat and then pop it out just a little bit, good, great. So hand will now look more towards the chest instead of the underwear or midsection, but I've still got that nice curve visible.

Class Description


Fine Art Nude Photography is about capturing the beauty of the human form. Using light, shadows, posing and creative expression, you can bring out the beauty of your subjects and the human body. Since communication is of the utmost importance when photographing nudes, Lindsay Adler will discuss the etiquette of preparation, setting expectations, directing and working with your subjects. She’ll cover posing techniques and tips on what to emphasize and what to avoid, and discuss the importance of lighting and how it affects the body form. Lindsay will also discuss how to push yourself creatively while maintaining a tasteful and artistic vision.
You’ll learn:

  • Common posing mistakes and what to watch for in your subject while directing 
  • What modifiers and lighting setups work and how they impact the appearance of the human form 
  • How to accentuate muscles, shapes, and lines with light and camera angles 
  • Exploration of creativity with the use of body paint and fabric and other props
Whether you are pushing yourself in your boudoir photographing, offering a unique portrait session or exploring your personal fine artwork, this class will elevate your creative process, both technically and artistically, when photographing the nude form. 

Included with the purchase of this class are videos that were not aired during the live broadcast. These additional lessons will continue to further your fine art education. You can download all additional videos by clicking on the "Class Materials" tab.



Amazing speaker, instructor and great photographer. The lighting and posing technique is imperative but she gives a lot of small tid bits and tricks that have already set me apart from other photographers. I love her work but I love her teaching style more. I recommend all her classes!

user 0256e5

It is a delight to watch someone who has so much passion for her art and Lindsay exudes passion and accompanies that with a great teaching style. She shares her knowledge and has a lot of great tips. I think this class makes a great intro to the subject. For me, this was time well spent.


I love Lindsay's teaching style and all the insights she gives. I did my first fineartnude photoshooting applying everything I learned on this course! Thanks Lindsay you are a true inspiration and a great help during my photography journey.