Body Photography: 8 Essential Tips
The body is a creative masterpiece. The fascination about the body dates from cave-paintings about hunters and gathers to graffiti about genitals plastered on your local schools’ walls.
This fascination never ceases to stop.
To tell you the truth, it’s because the body can be represented in literally hundreds of ways. Let’s take you back to one of history’s greatest periods, the renaissance.
The renaissance is especially known for its vivid artistic history. Michelangelo, one of history’s greatest artists sculpted the artistic masterpiece in the early 1500s known as David. David carved from marble towers at 17ft. – he is a representation of the bible story David and Goliath. Not only is this masterpiece of religious significance it is a symbol of the artistic marvel of the human body.
Moving forward to Dali’s famous anatomical art, the “Métamorphose de Narcisse” is based on the ancient Greek tale of Narcissus, a man enthralled by his beauty. This is yet another example of the representation and beauty of the human body.
Even up till now, we marvel at the human body with the addition of new art-form photography. Thanks to modern technology we can picture the body in thousands of new forms, forms which this article will take you through to help you get a new perspective on photographing the human body
Using light to highlight
Light is a photographer’s best friend; it can differentiate a good photographer and an amateur. If you can master the usage of light you can use light to emphasize certain parts of the body or the opposite.
There are a variety of types you can use, from our favorite natural light to artificial light. Both have their pros and cons.
Natural light is good because it requires no equipment, it’s reliable and quite marvelous. The drawback to natural light is that it is hard to control and sometimes too harsh so you may not be able to represent the body in a way you’d like, for example, if you’d like to create an emphasis as they do in studios, keeping a part of the body dark and another bright.
Artificial light on the other hand can be more readily controlled in a studio setting to a higher degree, ranging from its harshness to its temperature to even color grading. Unfortunately, neither is perfect, studio light can be extremely expensive to obtain equipment for, as well as not having the same qualities of studio light.
There’s no right answer to art but there are different ways of achieving the image you want. Therefore, we like to use a combination of ways to pain the body in different ways as if it is a canvas.
How do you highlight the body with light?
As you may know, there are several ways of highlighting the body with light. Light can be used to hide or accentuate certain parts of the body.
Using light, you can accentuate jawlines by using harsher lighting. An example of this is taking a photograph in a dark room with a bright flash, the surrounding parts of the image will be dark, but the focus will be on the jawline of the subject.
Alternatively, you can use the light to hide parts of the body you may not want to highlight. Think of a face of a person, you can use light in a way to shine one part of the face yet leave the other in the dark.
Another example is to think of a women’s body, taking a picture for a boudoir shoot from the side you can use the light to highlight only the side of a women’s body but hide the front.
Shining light directly onto a body part can create a shadow on the wall. For example, below, where you have the person sitting and a shadow is projected on the wall.
Colored lighting is quite popular in the creative community, a lot of photographers base their entire photos on colored lighting. One example is neon photography. A lot of photographers tend to slide towards this and base their entire portfolio’s shooting models near funky signs at dark hours.
Using soft light, it’s possible to give the eyes of your subject a nice glean and bring out their eyes. In the ever-busy life, a photographer doing everything right the first time reduces the time spent on editing and fixing images; getting the initial phase correct can be a massive time saver.
Positioning the Body
Positioning the body in certain ways is also important when photographing the body because it lets you understand the body from different perspectives. It’s also deeply related to abstract photography.
Abstract photography has no solid definition, it varies from person to person but the end objective is clear, it is a method of representing emotions, ideas, and concepts without the intent of associating a traditional hard and fast idea or image.
The body can be contorted in various ways to create interesting artistic depictions. For example, the fetal position can be used to convey a sense of vulnerability and openness or even innocence.
Asking the subject to lay on their back is another powerful pose that not only looks great in photography but has a symbolic undertone like representing the body at rest but still being engaged.
A standing pose
The standing pose is a very powerful one, it can be used to speak to the person about the context of an image. It can be used to demonstrate the message you want to send actively because standing represents movement. For example, you would like to take a photograph of a person on a mountain, them standing on a mountain top would represent the idea of conquering or completing a great action.
Black and White Photography
Black and white photography is huge amongst hundreds of photographers, some of which solely use this aspect of photography in their portfolios.
Because it’s powerful.
Because it’s deeply intertwined with abstract photography.
Because it connects emotions in which color doesn’t.
Because it removes distractions such as clothing color, the color of the background, color temperatures, hue, etc.
Because it can provide a striking contrast that traditional color images cannot.
Take for example the idea of a crow sitting on a porch. The photo will convey a more serious undertone when you use black and white. Moreover, it seems to remove other aspects from the image such as time of the day giving us a sense of timelessness.
At the same Black and white photography can change the tonalities of a photograph – it can give something a more serious mood or even lighten the mood.
Asking a subject to move during long exposure photography can create a flurry like a motion blur. This blur allows you to portray the subject in motion as if time is slowed down. To do this you simply find the right exposure level and slow shutter speed down.
Movement is also used in voyeurism, to create a sensational photo as traces of the body are left in the image with a layer of mystique. One example could be a seated subject where you ask the subject to move their arms up and down in a wing-like fashion to create an image where it looks like they have multiple limbs similar to an Indian goddess.
Angles are photographers’ best friends – they can give you a fresh perspective thing and spruce it up.
Taking photos to the bottom up can make the subject look bigger and mightier than they are, giving a majestic effect. Think about when people are photographing buildings, they always look bigger when taken from the bottom upright?
Photos taken from the side of a person can give you an interesting perspective too, giving a two-dimensional effect on the person’s body in a 3-dimensional space.
Framing is another option; this is where you draw focus to a subject by blocking other parts of an image with something in the scene. For example, taking an image through leaves or having a part of the building blocking a part of in image to give focus to the participant.
Top-down images can have a bird’s eye-effect making it feel as if you’re eagle watching from above. This technique is particularly popular in landscape photography because it makes the subject look smaller and puts them in striking contrast against the environment which as result looks a whole lot bigger.
Lenses can also be used to portray subjects in different tones as they manipulate the image similar to how you would be using distance/angles.
What type of lenses manipulate perspective?
Several lenses can do this. Fish-eye lenses or wide-eye lenses warp the center of an image making it seem much larger than it is.
Telephoto lenses on the other hand create a serious concentration around the subject blurring the foreground and background together especially on lower apertures.
Despite the length of the article, this is by no means an exhaustive list of body photography.
Body photography is a whole topic in itself. It goes further than being physical and symbolic. It is virtually a boundless art-from with hundreds of perspectives that is ever-growing and ever-evolving.