Types of Nude Photography

by St Marc
October 30, 2006

A wide and confusing array of definitions, terms and limits are often applied to the work of a particular photographer or model.  In the interest of clarity, I have provided this list of definitions for the various forms of "nude" posing.  Please note that this is not an official list, and there is always some blurring between categories.  But if you read want sheets or portfolios carefully, and apply these definitions, you shouldn't go far wrong.  Of special interest is the term "Figure Study."  Many beginning models do not realize that this usually means the same thing as "Figure Nude."  You should assume unless told otherwise that a photographer who wants to do figure studies is going to expect you to be nude.

These are in a rough order of "increasing limits."  When models are hired for pay, as you go up this list, the rate generally increases accordingly, although not for each category-- for instance, the first four are typically at a comparable rate, then the next three, then the next two, although the model may or may not do any particular item in each category.  "Naughty bits" is a generic term which is itself subject to some interpretation, but generally includes the breasts, specifically the areolae and nipples, and everything from the top of the hips to the top of the thighs, on both sides.  The definitions are written from the model's point of view.

Types of Nude Photography

1. Implied Nude: I'm not taking my clothes off, but I will allow you to take pictures of me which don't show any clothing, implying that I am not wearing any.

2. Hidden or Covered Nude: I will allow you to take pictures of me not wearing any actual clothing, but with some sort of opaque drape or prop (possibly including my limbs) covering a given area including my naughty bits.

3. Sheer: I will allow you to take pictures in which my naughty bits are somewhat visible through a transluscent material, the exact opacity of the material to be negotiated.

4. Semi-nude: I will allow you to take pictures of me in which my breasts and possibly my behind are visible at the same time as my face.  Note that this does not go by volume of skin exposed, as a model wearing a bikini is a lot closer to nude than a model wearing a catsuit with the naughty bits cut out, but the first isn't even semi-nude and the second probably equates to at least "nude" on the rating scale.  Example: Early Playboy Magazine.

5. Artistic Nude: I will allow you to take pictures of me while I am not wearing any clothes if they are interestingly framed, strangely posed, or oddly lighted so as to not look like just pictures of me not wearing any clothes.  Example: Photographer Doug Lester.

6. Figure Nude or Figure Study: I will allow you to take pictures of me in direct lighting while I am not wearing any clothes, but my expression will be neutral and I will be wearing little or no makeup so as to make clear that this is a figure study and not meant to be provocative, erotic, or otherwise non-serious.  Example: Photographer Edward Weston.

7. Nude or Casual Nude: I will allow you to take casually posed, full-body pictures of me in direct lighting while I am not wearing any clothes.  Example: domai.com.

8. Erotic nude: I will assume provocative expressions and allow you to take pictures of me which draw particular attention to my naughty bits while I am not wearing any clothes.  Example: Modern Playboy Magazine.

9. Adult nude: I will assume sexually explicit poses and allow you to take pictures of me engaging, or suggesting that I am about to engage, my naughty bits in action while I am not wearing any clothes.  Example: Hustler Magazine.


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