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This is one subject that means different things to different people. In many ways the difference is not even dependent on the photograph itself, but rather, on the attitude of the viewer to nudity.

There are those who would consider any depiction of a naked body to be pornographic and others who simply see the naked form as a thing of beauty, regardless of the intentions of the photograph.

In all honesty, it's probably impossible to entirely separate these two reasons behind nude photographs, either in the intentions of the photographer or in the appreciation of the viewer. However, for the photographer, it means an enormous difference in their entire approach to the subject.                            

Although there is a common denominator between a nude photo intended for titillation and one whose purpose is artistic. There is only the one, the nudity itself. In all other respects, these two types of photographs could not be more different.


I'm quite sure that by now the digital camera has taken over from the Polaroid when it comes to couples taking "private" photographs of each other. I'm also sure that the vast majority of nude photographs taken today are done in this context. This is much less to do with photography than it has to do with two people exploring their own sexuality. One thing is certain, there are no special photographic requirements for this type of photography. A good clear image is all that is required. On the other hand, creating an artistic nude photograph can be one one of the photographer's greatest challenges.


The main reason why artistic nude photography can be such a challenge is because it combines the techniques from three different genres of photography. That of portrait, still life and landscape photography.


First of all, it is a portrait and, even if the subject's face is entirely hidden, it still has to reflect something of their personality and character. The other great skill required of portrait photographers is that of helping their subject to relax. Unless your subject is a very good friend or a professional model, this may well be your greatest challenge.


Then there is the pose. A portrait could be just a head shot but that would be missing the point somewhat in a nude photograph. Clothing hides the real shape of a body and even skin tight clothing holds the body in shape regardless of the pose. In a naked body, the pose will dramatically alter the shape. For example, if someone sits down in a chair as they would naturally, their body will take the shape of the chair and will be pushed and flattened in all directions.


The effects of gravity on the human body are almost entirely masked by clothes. A pose that works perfectly on a clothed person could very well look totally wrong on a naked one. Another point is that the choice of clothing in a portrait subject will convey a large part of what the picture is about. Without it, you only have the shape of the body to make your statement.


The subtle control of lighting that is required for still life work is also needed here. No matter what colour someone's skin is, it will be the same over most of their bodies. It takes careful lighting to create emphasis, shade and depth to what is otherwise a very flat even tone.


The last skill required is that of the landscape photographer in creating compositions with shape and form. The same rules that govern good composition in landscapes also apply here. Only here you have to create them yourself, you can't just wander into the wilderness and find them.


It's not just the combination of skills needed that makes this such a challenging genre, it's also the fact that the art of the nude goes back hundreds of years before the invention of photography. Any work in this field produced today not only has to stand up against the greatest works in artistic nude photography but also the nude paintings created by some of the greatest artists of all time.


If you are interested in nude photography, I hope that none of this has put you off. I think that the fact that it is such a challenge is why so many artists, over the years, have worked in this field. If you try your hand at it, and succeed, you will be amongst some very esteemed company.


Whilst only a few people will be inclined to the artistic side of nude photography, many people are drawn toward this type of work for entirely different reasons. Not for the ones you might expect, but entirely for money. After all. there are more pictures of naked people actually bought than almost any other subject, and it’s not really artistic quality that is the most popular requirement.


A reasonable camera and basic photographic skills are all that is required and the market is, to say the least, huge. If you would like to learn more about this work, Mark Davis has written a comprehensive book on the whole subject of making money from nude photography, from finding models to selling your photographs. You can read more information about the book on his web site.


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Nude photography