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Fine Art Nude Photography

Lesson 7 of 15

Sculpting with Light and Shadow

Lindsay Adler

Fine Art Nude Photography

Lindsay Adler

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Lesson Info

7. Sculpting with Light and Shadow

Lesson Info

Sculpting with Light and Shadow

Lighting, if you've seen any of my other classes, you know, Lighting 101 and I had Location Lighting 101, and I've had so many classes on here. This isn't going to be how to use studio lighting, it's instead paying more attention to how lighting affects the form, which so often we don't pay attention to because we're paying attention to other things. And so I'm going to demonstrate on both of my subjects, but let me go through this. This is the the thing that you want to keep in mind. Shadows sculpt the body. So I can use it to make the muscles look more defined. I can use the shadows to carve out the chest, to make it look fuller. It adds more dimension to the shape. And highlights help define things and separate from the background. So we're going to use them in tandem. Shadows sculpt and add dimension. Now, one of the things that you have to know as well is that doesn't mean I can't shoot an image that is super flat light, high key, glowing, 'cause at that point it's not really nece...

ssarily sculpting and defining but that's the mood that I want. Like, you gotta balance it. You gotta set the mood, but then you gotta emphasize the form. And it might be, you know what, this shot I'm really going to rely on the posing because I'm going to use flatter lighting because it's the mood I want. But, then in another shot, you're going to be like, you know what, I'm gonna use the shadows here to help make his muscles stand out more or whatever it may be. These are the main ways that you can sculpt and add dimension. So the first one, we're gonna see all of these, you can move the light. The further the light is off to the left or the right, the more shadow it creates, the more dimension it creates. So that's one way. The next way is you can actually move your subject. This is the one that I didn't get. That I did not see until I shot nudes. And it makes all the difference in the world. The next one is you can actually move your camera, which has been so helpful, I never though that like, in a studio space for example, that I could move. And you do, and it completely changes the light. And then, also you can change the height of the light. So when you raise the height of the light, that will carve out muscles or carve out the form. Alright so, for example, I'm just gonna show these diagrams, I'm gonna demonstrate on them. For example, on each one of these, I move the octobox further behind and around my subject. And so what you'll see is, watch her stomach and her chest. The first one it's pretty flat. I mean obviously you see her chest and her stomach, but as you move it a little bit further off to the side, there's more shadowing on her chest, her stomach looks a little tighter, when I move it even further to the side, there's so much more form, and then at some point the light's so far behind, I've actually gotta turn her, but that's when you see the most of her form. It's just the picture on the right is lower key, and it's darker, so it's that balance between what sets the mood, what carves out the subject's form. So moving the light, position of light's the first one. This is the one that I didn't realize. The position of the subject. In the first shot she's facing towards the light. Second one, she's towards the camera. The third, she's away from the light and look how it rakes across the body. Now, if I'm shooting a bride that's a little bit fuller, there are times where I'll turn the bride away from the light, and then turn her face back towards it, because what that does is it carves the body more and it puts part of the body into shadow. And I didn't realize that until I shot nudes. I think her body looks so much better on the right, because I've used shadows to sculpt. She turned her body away, and then just angle it back towards the light a little bit, so it can rake across her form. Huge difference. So, we can move the light, we can move the subject, we can also change the height of the light. In the picture on the left, the light is lower. Picture on the right, I've elevated it. Look how much fuller her chest looks, because as you raise the light up, the higher up it goes, the more shadows it casts. The more shadows you see, the larger something looks because it looks like it's towards the camera more. So the picture on the right, the higher light, is a lot more sculpting. So if you're shooting a nude, you don't wanna have your light too low, 'cause you're not benefiting from the shadows that you get when you raise the light up. It's a balance. Sometimes, if I've got a guy, where I want to carve out the muscles more, I don't worry about the light on the face. I'll raise that light up so high, that it carves out all the muscles, and then I'll raise his face to the light, or I'll pose his face to the side, so you don't even notice the dark shadows in the eyes, 'cause it's not about that, it's about how it changes the form. Or, I could pop another light just on his face, to better light his face, but leave the form so that it's top-lit, so there's a lot more curvature there, sculpting there. And this last lit picture, the model doesn't change, the light doesn't change, I move around her. I had no idea that me moving would change what the light looked like, but in the first one, I mean, as I keep going around her, I'm seeing more and more of the shadow and less and less of the highlight. So sometimes if you're looking at a pose and you really like it, you might just move around just a little bit, to see how the light's changing. And of course, you can then move the light, to match it. Like, you can actually move it. It's quite similar. Alright so, let me start with that. And notice, this is just as a note, I say his name often, right? Just letting him know, like, the connection with subject. We're super connected, okay, good. I feel very reassured. Okay, so, let's do direction of light. So John I will have you move the light slowly off to the side. On this first shot, let's put, we'll see which one I want, I think probably this one. Right leg up for me, and bring your arms just around to this side like this. Alright, great. And lean your chest back just a little. Perfect, okay. So turn your chest towards me. Right there's great, alright. So we're gonna start with the light here. Each one of these shots, we're just gonna move the light a little further off to the side. So I'm just gonna have you hold the same pose. (camera clicks) Okay, great. Little further off to the side for me, John. Perfect, and just stay right here. There's two Johns here. Oh, I gotcha, ya. (audience laughs) Realized it after you said it. Cornicello. Yes, please, that's great. So we've got light little bit off to the side. What you're seeing in the sculpting in his stomach is from the height of the light. 'Cause it's that light down that's carving out. So same pose, just hold it real still for me, great. Chest back up just a little, right there, good. Light off to the side a little more. Hold it for me, keep going. (camera clicks) Let me see. (camera clicks) Alright, great. So I'll start there. So it's the balance. Somewhere flat on towards camera, this is all from the height of the light, as you move around it puts a little shadow on the side, so something right here, you start to see the muscle a little bit more. I'm gonna have you bring the light around to the front again and let's take a look at the height. Just going to have you lower it, so it's just barely out of my frame. Right there, yeah, good. Good, same pose for me. Actually go a little lower, right there, okay. And turn your chest a little bit towards me, good. (camera clicks) Alright, great. And so you see muscle on that side, but let's watch as I raise it up and you'll see the pecs a little bit more. Yep. (camera clicks) Good. Keep going. Keep going, great, and chest up a little. (camera clicks) Great, that was good. So each one adds a little bit more definition, so if you notice, just his chest looks, or his pecs look larger. There's a shot in my go-to lighting that you'll see, it's the next segment, where we actually have the octobox directly above his head and that's where you see the most definition in his arms and his abs, but then his face was really dark, so I had him pose with his chin up. It's kinda that balance. One more thing. I'm gonna have you pose this way, so just turn around and use this one, as well. I'm gonna have you bring it into short light. So short light, is when the light is actually coming from an angle behind your subject, so left foot here for me. Great. And turn your chest back towards me, great. Perfect, and bring it a little bit further over John, right there, okay, great. So if you want to use the most shadows possible and the most sculpting possible, the further you have the light off to the side, the more shadows you get. At this point, the light is casting the shadows towards me. So if you look, these are the shadows here. So shadows are closer towards camera. This is going to be the point where you see the most sculpting from the light. So if you wanna strike that pose again for me. Right there, great, perfect. Oh, nope, good catch, good catch, good. And chest up just a little, and torso towards me a tiny bit. Right there. (camera clicks) Great. So, take a look at how drastically different this shot is going to be from the first one. Totally, he said, "Whoa." (laughs) Totally different because the shadows are towards the camera. In this instance, they're very few shadows because the light was flat and it's away from the camera. So if you want definition, short light is the way to go. If this side of the body falls to shadow, we're going to talk about that in the next segment, of what we can do or the next person to separate that out. So real quick, questions on that, short light, light behind the subject, shadows towards. I want you to pay attention real quick to the fact that it's not just the lighting, it's the pose, 'cause if you pull up straight, relax your, okay, so he relaxed his abs, and then, turn your body a little bit to the right. That sculpting's gone. Because I had to turn him enough so that the light would rake. Right now his torso is mostly towards that light. I've actually got to turn it away from the light so that there will be shadows to cast. Otherwise it's straight on. So when he turns back towards me, that's where I see the sculpting and then now tighten your stomach, now the muscles pop out. That's the difference. So that's why, I will often, for guys, have them tighten and twist, 'cause I'm making everything a little bit tighter and firmer. So let me take those two shots and then we'll move on. So face straight towards the light and just put your hands kinda there, great, so I'll show you the difference. 'Kay, now turn towards me and relax your stomach, great, and now tighten your stomach. Okay, perfect. So no shadow, no definition, more when he turns towards me. A lot more when he flexes. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, he's happy. Great. And now of course, taking a look, the light on the face is not ideal. All I have to do is turn his head a teeny bit back towards the light and it will catch, and for those of you that are new to lighting the reason that it's not ideal is this little shadow just catching between his eye and his nose, it's kind of a dead pocket, and you want there to be a little bit more life and catch lights. So I'm going to take one more so we have that great shot of you, and then I'll wrap you up to go get painted. Okay, great, chin this way, little bit more. Let's go right, actually come back, right there, perfect. And super tight, perfect, chin back. Chin right there, look your eyes up, great. (camera clicks) Perfect, love it, okay great, thank you. Thanks. Okay, and I would do, I'd probably do something in black and white. I would do something kind of like that. Cool. Nice and sculpted. But you see how different it was from the first shots. And the first shots. It's a really big different, but notice with this pose, lot's of triangles, lots of sculpting. Okay, you guys all good? Alright, perfect. So, can I have Opal? Great. So let's take a look at this, the same concept is completely true with a woman, but we're gonna go a little bit further with the idea here. In the next section, I have more than 10, I think it ended up being like 12 or lighting setups that aren't complicated but are really useful for photographing nudes. Some with one light, some with two lights, some with three lights. And so, a lot of them are short light to carve out, but some of them are higher key. Hi, Opal, will you come out here. And when you come out here, you can just pass John your robe. Thank you so much. Quick drink. Alright so, again, posing and lighting have to work together. So let me show, I'm gonna have you turn to your right. And John can I have the half-apple for her to put her foot up on. Great. And I'm gonna have you put that knee up and then put the hand here. Great, let me just lower it a little, let's take a look, alright. So I'm going to have the light so that it's close to her, so it's still soft. Let's see. Thank you, alright perfect. Great, so hand put real soft there, perfect, right there. And then hand put it, like let's see, yes, great, alright. So I'm just gettin' my pose right to build it. Alright so, here's when she's turned towards the light. Stay right there and lift your chin at me. Great. (camera clicks) Alright, well she has already has a beautiful and slender figure, and we've created some nice curves. Of course, as I told you before, we can emphasize this. I could have her arch her lower back, emphasize that arch, lean her chest forward and make the chest look fuller. So let me just arch your back a little, lean your chest forward, right there, and relax your shoulders, relax, relax. Remember relaxing. Perfect, just like that, and chin towards me. Alright, what do we got? Okay it's okay, though. So watch just a little bit more emphasis to the curve, everything popped up. Okay, so, here's the thing. Right now, she is turned towards the light. I can move the light further off to the side, is one approach, but also I can switch her. So I'm gonna have you do that exact same pose, but face that direction. Great. And now I'm gonna have you do the same thing and just turn your chest back towards camera, or back that way, just a little right there. So now watch, she turned away from the light, and watch her midsection. It'll just look a little tighter, a little bit more muscular, and I didn't move anything myself or the light. So my go-to, if I want a little bit more sculpting, I don't face the subject towards the light, I face them away, and then slowly turn the body back towards it. What I'm watching for is, if you turn, turn a little bit further right, yeah, good. If she turns too far to the right, there's two problems I run into. First of all, this is not the most flattering for her pose, because she turns to the side, it's not showing as much curve, everything is a little more straight up and down. But also, her stomach, I've lost a lot of that shape. So what I'm watching for is I'll have her turn, turn, right there, tighten everything, perfect. (camera clicks) And so you'll see her form, but it's still sculpted, significantly better than the first. Okay, so the next thing, can you go back this way again? Alright so I'm gonna take a shot like this, and then we'll do short light. So same pose, perfect, and look your eyes to me, chest forward just a little, arch your back. Great, and relax your shoulders. (camera clicks) So John, can you move this light further to the side? Keep going, great, right there. And turn your chin to your right. (camera clicks) Okay, so as he moves the light to the side, there's more sculpting. See how the chest looks a little bit fuller even because there's more shadows cast by it. But it becomes a more dramatic picture. Alright so, do one more, can you put it all the way behind? Thank you. Perfect, like right there is good, I think. And so same pose, same thing. Now if I face her straight towards camera, I've lost a lot of the light. But I'm getting some of that shadow that's gonna be really sculpting, so I have to adjust her pose, or me. 'Cause I can, can you turn to the right just a little more, right there. Perfect, right there's great, and lean your chest towards me just a little, beautiful and chin to your right. So now, I just rotated her back towards it just a tiny bit, and watch how I can see her stomach and it looks even tighter and better lines. Like her stomach looks great there and her chest looks fuller and it's very dramatic. So it's not just one thing, it's where you put the light, but then you have to pose them to work with the light. So if you look at one of my diagrams later and you're like okay, Lindsey had the light here, and then you're like posing them and you're like well this looks like crap. 'Cause you gotta work the two of them in tandem.

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.