Male Art Photography

Michele Wanke
Male body

With mainstream media concentrating its attention on the sensual female photo industry, male art photography often gets overlooked. However, there's a lot to be said for nude images of muscular men. The impact that single shot of a man's ripped torso can have on an audience is in no way ambiguous or equivocal.

Male Art Photography Tips

The goal of male art photographers is not to incite lustful desires in viewers. Rather, the genre is designed to capture indelible images of the male physique. Exceptional male art photos mimic ancient Greek sculptures, which celebrated the human form in all its glory.

If you are trying to break into the business or you are simply looking to experiment with proportion and balance to create the ultimate male nude photo, there are several things to consider.

Accentuate the Positive

Most upscale nude photos of men are used as pieces of fine art that can be displayed in the bedroom or bathroom. Others use the pictures as inspiration in the gym. After all, staring at rippling muscles often serves as motivation to better one's physical condition. Given the focus on masculinity, it's best to accentuate your model's top features. Experiment with angles that create straight lines in the photo to convey a sense of roughness. For example, if your male subject boasts a well-defined chest, then have him turn so his pecs face the camera. If his waist is smaller, direct him to turn slightly to the side while keeping his thighs open a bit. By doing so, you will be able to snap a shot that keeps the viewer's eyes on the dominant feature of the photo-the model's chest.

Practice Poses

Capturing the perfect aesthetic of a man's body often hinges on the subject's ability to strike the perfect pose. However, it is up to the photographer to provide direction and advice should the model lack experience posing in the nude. Classic male art photo poses include the model's arms crossed over his chest or the hands in the pants pockets with thumbs hanging out. You shouldn't restrict your shooting to traditional poses. Instead, get creative and come up with unique poses, such as:

  • Have model transfer weight to one leg
  • Discourage model from bending over; a crooked back makes a model look stocky
  • Keep the model's chin from sticking out; rather have him lower his head and jaw
  • Disguise narrow thighs by shooting from the side
  • Lengthen a short neck by shooting from a higher angle
nude male chest

Learn to Manipulate Light

The key to snapping a stunning male nude photo is to illuminate the parts of your subject's body that are most exceptional. Do this with a three light studio set-up that will highlight curves and create soft shadows. Be careful not to flood your work space with too much light as harsh light can blow out a shot and completely distort the subject's body features. Also, consider using a diffuser, reflectors and a light meter to create subtle contrasts and add a warm glow to your subject's skin. Another option is to shoot in natural light only. Doing so will add a sensual feel, especially if you position the light so it gently illuminates your nude model.

Experiment with Black and White

To create fine art photography with your nude male model, experiment with black and white photography. By eliminating color from a shot, you are better able to isolate your model from the background, so the viewer's eyes focus immediately on the contours of his body. Monochromatic images also help accentuate form and tone. In the end, you create abstraction and highlight the primitive beauty of the male form.

Working Through the Challenges

Despite its awe-inspiring results, male art photography is not without its challenges. The number one issue most photographers cite when shooting nude males is comfort level. Depending on the experience level of your model, you may be faced with a nervous subject. It's your job to make your nude subject as comfortable as possible. Whether it means turning up the heat in the studio or adding soft furnishing to your work space, you want your subject to shed his inhibitions and not feel awkward or tense. Your photos will turn out much better if your subject is willing to open up and expose his vulnerabilities.

Another challenge is distance. Some models don't feel comfortable when photographers get too close. Try to be respectful of your subject's personal space. Use a longer lens or manipulate your camera focal length if you need to get close-up shots. If your model doesn't feel as though you are violating his space, he is more likely to relax.

Finally, nude photography doesn't always require that your subject completely strip down. Your goal is to create an image that leaves something to the imagination. You can stimulate your viewer by combining unique poses with partially covered areas that don't reveal all. This is the perfect shooting solution if you are met with a model who is not comfortable posing completely naked.

Male Art Photography