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Natural light is probably the best and most appealing for nude work, just as it is for many other types of portraiture. The easiest starting point is to work indoors and reasonably close to a window where the light is indirect, diffused and directional. Light levels decrease significantly as distance from the window increases, so move the model around the room and observe how highlights, shadows and tonal gradation change. Bear in mind that regions of deep shadow create mystery by concealing detail, and can be more atmospheric and suggestive than fully lit areas of the body. Exposure latitude is likely to be a problem very close to a window, particularly if working in colour without any secondary light source. A second window on the far side of the room might provide enough light to fill shadows, otherwise use a reflector placed close to the model.

Nude in natural window  lightWindows, doors, curtains and blinds sometimes cast interesting shadows on adjacent floors and walls. These effects can be beautiful in their own right, so use them as features of an image wherever possible. Shadows seen as straight lines on a plane surface emphasize form as they rake the torso or legs of a model and are transformed into intriguing curves.

Natural light outdoors has many changeable moods that we cannot control Nevertheless we can learn to work in a flexible manner and use the prevailing circumstances to our advantage. On a sunny day, strong directional light can be used to produce striking highlights and shadows, but the location and pose of the model must be arranged so that attractive shapes are formed. Exposure must also be handled carefully to ensure that detail is retained in all areas, and that the film's latitude is fully utilized. Alternatively, work in diffused light or limit contrast by using substantial fill for shadows. If fill-flash is employed it is worth fitting the head with a small softbox and a warm flash filter such as an 81A. This produces a softer, more flattering light and warms the model's skin tones.


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