Zivity Artist Guide


This guide covers techniques that anyone can master, regardless of photo equiment. We've purposefully tried to keep this guide non-technical, because we believe that mastering color, composition, and mood by far outweighs the importance of gear when it comes to creating beautiful work. Although much of this advice seems photographer-centric, a lot of it applies to the model's craft. For example, understanding negative space can help you come up with more interesting poses. We hope that this guide serves to illuminate and inspire. Have fun!


If a pose looks comfortable, it will probably photograph well; if it feels uncomfortable to the model, it will probably photograph even better. Now, that’s not to say that you should make the model stand on her head…. What that means is that sometimes you’ll need to position the model so she’ll photograph better in light with the specific scene and focal length – even though the model feels it looks funny. For example, tilting the head in a chin-to-shoulder posture angles the chin toward the shoulder closest to the camera. Tilting the forehead away from that same shoulder, then, creates a natural diagonal of the face. While this type of pose looks great for a vertical image, it often feels awkward to the subject.

Posing Techniques for Glamour Photography by Rolando Gomez

Men (and women) are attracted to women who are genuinely enjoying themselves; that quality matters more than any individual physical attribute. Although this seems simple, it’s often neglected. Have fun! Enjoy being admired. Be playful. Have fun while strutting around. Especially during a photo shoot, it’s important to remember not to take ourselves too seriously. After all, we’re posing in our underwear. Make sure any doubts or concerns take a backseat to having a good time.

The Art of Boudoir Photography: How to Create Stunning Photographs of Women By Christa Meola

Study your art! Believe it or not I actually studied to prepare shoots. I constantly search the internet, studying the pictures of well-known models such as Crystal Renn, Tara Lynn, Candice Huffine, Robyn Lawley lean and Marquita Pring; watching the way they pose, move and how they are confident and comfortable with their bodies.

Philomena Kwao

"Imperfection is beauty. Madness is genius. It's better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring."

- Marilyn Monroe

Outdoor locations offer inspiring though ever changing backgrounds. The time of day is as important as the weather. Without control of the angle of light or diffusion, it becomes a completely different game. Practice shooting outdoors to get used to the constantly changing light intensity and harshness that can come and go on a cloudy day. The mid-day sun is not desirable photographically or in terms of personal comfort. Although you might get the fast shutter speeds and small apertures you want in bright sun, you will be photographing a squinting model with harsh shadows. Although you can cope by putting the light to the model’s back and using fill flash, it is better to shoot late in the afternoon or wake up before sunrise. If you are forced to shoot in the middle of the day, a shady area with a reflector is another way to make do. Have an assistant to hold the reflector, or bring clamps and lightweight stands.

True Confessions of Nude Photography By A. K. Nicholas

We take photos all over our little hometown! We are constantly on the lookout for new and different background options. The first thing you need to keep in mind when scouting outdoor locations is lighting … the important thing to know is that if it’s a sunny day and you’re taking a photo outside, you always want to look for shade. When you’re looking for outdoor backgrounds, pay attention to color, patterns, natural tones, and textures. You might spy the coolest background in bright yellow, but if your subject is already wearing yellow, this may not be the best choice for your photo. The background should complement, not compete with, your subject. You want a backdrop that makes your photos pop but doesn’t distract from the focal point. Textures and patterns add interest to an otherwise boring picture, but be careful of overloading your photos with too many patterns.

A Beautiful Mess Photo Idea Book: 95 Inspiring Ideas for Photographing Your Friends, Your World, and Yourself by Elsie Larson, Emma Chapman

With natural light, many people assume there is a single source of light. This is rarely true. Although the sun provides your main light, there is fill light reflecting off sources such as the sky and ground. Just as in your studio, light outdoors bounces off many surfaces, even the clouds. On a cloudy day, the fill light is more pronounced, and the sun is more diffused – this lowers the contrast ratio on the model.

True Confessions of Nude Photography By A. K. Nicholas

“You don't make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved."

- Ansel Adams

Shooting Indoors

So what happens if it’s too cold or rainy to take pictures outdoors? Don’t worry, because you still have all sorts of options. You can create an indoor backdrop out of all sorts of material. Paper, for example, is an ideal material for photo backdrops: it’s lightweight, inexpensive, disposable, and it comes in a variety of textures and colors. Try making a backdrop from vintage wallpaper, large panels of brown craft paper, or old newspapers. Use whatever you have on hand or seek our pretty papers at your local craft or paper store. If your papers are inexpensive or you don’t mind throwing them away after the photo shoot, why not draw on them?

A Beautiful Mess Photo Idea Book: 95 Inspiring Ideas for Photographing Your Friends, Your World, and Yourself by Elsie Larson, Emma Chapman

One of the most flattering types of existing light you can use is window lighting. It is a soft light that minimizes facial imperfections. Additionally, the light flows in only one direction and usually from one source. It is almost always diffused, as well. Despite its beauty, window lighting presents several notable challenges. Since daylight falls off rapidly once it enters a window, it is much weaker several feet from the window than it is close to the window. Therefore, great care must be taken in determining exposure, especially in group portraits. Another problem, common when shooting in buildings that are not designed for photography, is that you may encounter distracting backgrounds, uncomfortably close shooting distances, and a corresponding need to shoot with wide-angle lenses.

Existing Light Techniques for Wedding and Portrait Photography by Bill Hunter

"All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt."

- Susan Sontag


“I spend a lot of time preparing. I think a lot about what I want to do. I have prep books, little notebooks in which I write everything down before a sitting. Otherwise I would forget my ideas.”

- Helmut Newton

Studio Lighting

How many lights do you need, anyway? You might be surprised to learn that you can do an exemplary job with very few lights – often only one – provided you understand your equipment and why it works the way it does. Understand I’m not talking about an on-camera flash; those smaller, specular sources that throw hard shadows and bright highlights. Ideally, you’ll need at least one studio strobe and at least one quality modifier like an umbrella or softbox, and the larger the better.

Lighting Techniques for Beauty and Glamour Photography By Christopher Grey

"Eroticism is something that is mysterious, that makes you dream. It’s a little bit forbidden, it’s exciting. Pornography is, what you see is what you get."

- Ellen von Unwerth

Rule of Thirds

Students of basic graphic design are taught about the “rule of thirds.” To apply this rule, we can draw imaginary lines to divide the frame into thirds, both vertically and horizontally. Some cameras even have an option to display grid lines in the viewfinder that illustrate the rule of thirds. It is unfortunate that this principle is referred to as a rule, since it is no more than a suggestion. While the principle generally works, calling it a rule gives it more weight than it deserves. One successful way of working with the rule of thirds is to use the image segments, whether vertical or horizontal, as containers. For example, if your sitter is in an outdoor setting, you might frame the image so that the sky occupies the top two-thirds of the frame and the ground occupies the bottom third. Looking horizontally, the sitter could be positioned so that most of the body occupies the middle third.

The Naked and the Lens: A Guide to Nude Photography by Louis Benjamin

"The more pictures you see, the better you are as a photographer."

- Robert Mapplethorpe

Cropping and Framing

Closeness can be read as either intimacy or abstraction, depending on how close the framing is and whether the face appears or not. If the model’s face is not visible, the shot will tend more towards the abstract or the erotic. Posing, expression, and use of lighting further help to establish the tenor that framing creates a context for.

Cutting the top of the head with the frame accentuates the emotional dimension of an image, especially if the sitter fills most of the frame. [On the other hand], “amputations” are a special case. Sometimes, a hand, foot, or some other part of the body collides with the frame so that just a part of the extremity is cut. Such framing usually looks like a painful amputation and is distracting. The viewer’s attention is focused upon the missing body part, instead of whatever else you are hoping to put across. Such unfortunate framing can be avoided by intentionally running your eye around the edge of the viewfinder before you trip the shutter.

The Naked and the Lens: A Guide to Nude Photography By Louis Benjamin

"Photography is about a single point of a moment. It’s like stopping time. As everything gets condensed in that forced instant. But if you keep creating these points, they form a line which reflects your life."

- Nobuyoshi Araki


There are two ways to judge the effectiveness of color correction. You can look for what you know should be black, gray, and white areas of the image, and assess how well the color correction has rendered them as pure black, gray and white without any other colors mixed in. Alternatively, you can look at the flesh tones of the image and decide how convincingly “real” they look. For nude photography, it’s more important to get the flesh tones as you want them to be (which may not necessarily be “realistic”) than to have the grayscale tones technically correct.

Digital Nude Photography: A Step-By-Step Guide to Creating Perfect Photos By Roderick Macdonald

In figure photography, careful exposure is important to make sure the skin tones and other elements of the composition have the effect you want. The lighting of curved features requires more care on an unveiled model than when clothed.

True Confessions of Nude Photography By A. K. Nicholas

“There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept."

- Ansel Adams


All of the people in your life have special details that make them unique: interests, likes and dislikes, shared stories with you, features they are proud of. These are the things that remind you most of each person - why not capture them in photos? For example, our mother has always been the biggest champion of creativity in our lives, so we love photographing her in her art studio. Having a photo of her messy paintbrushes means something to us and makes the picture special.

A Beautiful Mess Photo Idea Book: 95 Inspiring Ideas for Photographing Your Friends, Your World, and Yourself by Elsie Larson, Emma Chapman

"During the work, you have to be sure that you haven't left any holes, that you've captured everything, because afterwards it will be too late."

- Henri Cartier-Bresson


Any easy way to create or boil down the overall, “vibe” of a shoot is to create a story. Even if you are not shooting with props or elaborate scenery, by inventing a back story or motivation for both you and your model, the poses will be filled with emotion and inventiveness. Before offering this story to your model, it is advisable to have some conceptualized postures at hand that you can recommend to her. For example, if you want a sultry, mysterious mood, provide tear sheets or suggested postures that reflect these emotions such as closed or secretive body language. Depending on you and your model's comfort level, you can create the back story or concepts more or less specific. The vaguer the idea, the more room there often times is for the model’s own personal interpretation of the mood. This is a good thing if she is feeling confident in what she is doing because the poses delivered will be charged will real, deep emotions

Impactful, Athletic Nude Poses: Motion Creates Emotion by Dan Hostettler

“In photography there is a reality so subtle that it becomes more real than reality."

- Alfred Stieglitz

Negative Space

Visual elements that are close, touching, or overlapping are interpreted as being part of a group, even if they are not similar. Positive/negative space refers to the relationship between the subject and the background, also called figure/ground relationship. The subject is positive space and the background is called negative space. A thoughtful composition considers compositional elements in both positive and negative spaces. The impact of your subject depends on how it stands out from the background. A light-skinned model will blend with a beige background, but she will jump out from a dark gray one.

True Confessions of Nude Photography By A. K. Nicholas

Graphic designers often speak in terms of negative space. This is a way of thinking about the visual problem from the standpoint of shaping the space that surrounds the figure, rather than the figure itself. Emphasizing the negative space can create powerful sculptural effects, or enhance the abstract qualities of an image. When the model places her hand on her hip and pushes her elbow away from the body to create a diamond-shaped space between her torso and arm, we are dealing with a specific type of negative space, namely, trapped space.

The Naked and the Lens: A Guide to Nude Photography By Louis Benjamin

"A picture is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you, the less you know."

- Diane Arbus