One of the top requests I’ve received as a test photographer is to capture updated body shots for a model’s book. Not to be confused with “digitals” that are done at the agency, body shots are exactly what the term entails; images that accentuate a model’s physique.
The parameters for a successful body session are very reminiscent of a basic model test; clothing is minimal, therefore the overall mood and styling need to make sense. This type of imagery can turn trashy in the blink of an eye, thus requires a bit more finessing for all involved.
A model is typically being considered for a specific brand or article in a magazine when this type of work is being requested by the agency. I will often inquire with the booker if this is the case and style the shoot accordingly in an attempt to help them book the gig.
Undergarments, swimwear and a good pair of denim
There will never be a shortage of pictures of models wearing only a pair of jeans with arms folded across their chest. Swimwear and lingerie are also key clothing items to choose when highlighting a model’s form, but photographers are encouraged to be venturesome with their vision.
The location also needs to match the clothing whether it be a bikini at the beach or a bodysuit in an indoor setting. The main crops for these images are:
- full length
- waist up
Women can be tricky as we seek an accepted balance between minimizing and emphasizing their natural curves as the dissidence of non-inclusion is on the rise. No matter the body type, however, lengthening a woman’s body remains to be a constant. In addition to curves, some key areas to highlight on a woman are their legs, the indent right at the glute (if applicable), and their neck.
Some looks are best achieved in naturally-lit situations, while others are better accomplished with a one-light setup in the studio. Choose the lighting that will do the model justice with a proper gradation that clearly defines their body.
Keep the posing natural and unforced. I will often start my shooting sequence with the model in a starting position and have them move slowly from there.
Please note that a model does not have to be completely stripped of their clothing for an implied nude to work. It can be achieved with strategic lighting and body/prop placement. Mario Testino’s towel series is a perfect testimony of this. Implied nudes can become T&A awfully fast if one is not careful.
These images are very delicate in nature and require a certain level of intimacy that can only be established with their trust. Take the time to build their trust in you, as this will deliver a certain level of authenticity. Then, direct the shot from the expression of the model all the way down to the overall look and feel.
As with women, the styling consists primarily of underwear and a good pair of denim. Body shots for men tend to be more arduous because they often have to flex their muscles for periods of time and still manage to have a non-pained facial expression.
Simply having men look down and away from the camera while flexing produces great results and still plays to the overall mood. It is one less thing to focus on. Having them in a more relaxed pose that naturally emphasizes their musculature is a great way to achieve a successful expression for images where seeing their face is required.
The focus for men is on their muscles, all of them; particularly the “V” and core. A fool proof way to achieve definition is by lighting them slightly from the side to cast shadows across their body. Popular crops for men are:
- from the “V” on up
- full body
There are a number of different ways that a body shot can be orchestrated. Simplicity often reigns supreme over an overcomplicated setup any day of the week.
Make sure to have a clear vision from the start and connect with the model.
For more on model test shoots and lighting check out the following: