Nudes & Centerfolds: How To Light Them & Get Paid Doing It

Nudes & Centerfolds: How To Light Them & Get Paid Doing It

Dean Capture, a professional photographer with over 20 years of experience behind the camera, has spent the last 10 years living in Los Angeles, shooting the most beautiful nude models and porn stars on the planet. He's shot covers, centerfolds, featured layouts for magazines like Penthouse and his work is regularly published on the largest, most successful adult websites on the internet. So, if it's always been a dream of yours to make a living out of shooting nudes and glamour then this post can help make that dream a reality.

It's no secret that I don't shoot nudes and have harbored a considerable amount of prejudice towards "those photographers". You know the ones? The guys who only pick up a camera so they have an excuse to get a girl's clothes off. So when Patrick suggested I do a post on Dean Capture my knee jerk reaction was, "Are you crazy? No way, forget about it." But in the spirit of open mindedness and because Patrick scares me just a little, I decided to look into it. And you know what I found? Dean, and many like him, are skilled, artistic, consummate professionals who are making a living doing what they love and I'm a tad jealous.

Dean recently posted the results of his Shyla Magazine Shoot in our forums, detailing his set up. He even goes a step further and provides us with an instructional ebook of the shoot. Download ebook.

In addition to his recent forum post you should check out Dean's ProGlamour Blog. Where you can find regular updates on his shoots, tutorials, industry info, T&A umm I mean Q&A video podcasts and more.  If your goal is to break into this market Dean's blog will no doubt be a wealth of knowledge for you.

From Kenn:
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Kenn Tam's picture

Been holding this damn camera in my hand since 1991.
Toronto / New York City

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Great Lighting! Some very good tips here. Many thanks, great work. P

nice lighting.. fstoppers just inspired me to get into porn

I thought you were always "into" porn Dave!

haha.. good one..

You think this is porn? lol....

What else can you do on the East Coast... ;)

I just had a conversation with a neighbor the other day... every time I mention I had a photo session with a female model he thinks it is pornographic related... and I'm like, yea, so what if it was porno I was shooting...?

He's stupid...
But you F-guys are the best!

This makes me laugh now that I think about it. This type of photography doesn't need this kind of lighting setup. Its not fashion, its not commercial, its PORN. The viewer is not looking at the light, or the mood or the proper exposure, they are looking at the woman's body. What would determine if this is a good photo or a bad photo would be public response. Would the viewer keep buying the magazine if it had a fat nude woman with great lighting? Only if its for those that like fat nude women. By contrast would a magazine do well if it had not fat women and pretty amateur lighting, maybe even a popup flash? I think you know the answer to that. Its not about all the small details, its about the nude woman with her breasts out. 

Simply silly this much lighting was even used.  Oh and I read Playboy for the articles. 

That couldnt be much more wrong if im honest...

Well, I suppose its all on personal preference and your niche... If you like amateur photos, sign upto a website that just has pretty girls taken with camera phones.

Having photos that are well lit with detail seperates them from the rest of the "Amateur" market.
Some people dont want to see any skank thats had 10 kids with bullet hole scars in her ass and taken on a camera phone - Some would like to see the more professional glamour model look. As in great figure, body, breasts etc.

A lot of it is subliminal too... Your right to a point that people just want to see the naked lady. But if everything else around her looks pretty too (background etc), it will give an overall pleasing image to view. Especially in print where every detail is scene. 

oh come on Michael, can't the same thing be said about fashion?  All people care about is the clothes not the lighting!  The reality is no matter what you are shooting, there is a desire to push it to the top level of creativity and quality.  Why do photographers spend so much time lighting automobiles?  It's all about the contours and the lines....and I guess this is no different either.  What Dean did here was make the set look like something out of Vegas which is probably a bit more flattering than if it looked like a dark grungy hotel room.  All photography is perception and if you can make people think something is classier than it really is (food, real estate, porn ha) then you are probably going to be more in demand than someone just making snap shots no matter what the subject is.  Come on you know this more than anyone else on this site :)

When I'm hungry I'll eat anything but given the choice between a garden salad beautifully arranged on a plate and one tossed in a paper bag I will take the plate every time.  If the salad in the bag is my only option, damn skippy I'll eat it but, again, given the choice of a better experience, which would you pick?

Regardless as to the subject matter, a better quality shot is a better quality shot.  Sure there are guys out there just pumping out, down and dirty frames but if it's your job and you're a professional, why not do the best job you can?  I personally really like the lighting.  Well done Dean, thanks for sharing with us.

I like your eating salad comparison...that really put it into perspective :)


you take what you can get... oh kenn what has NYC done to you

1: This is beautiful lighting.  I'd love to see your similar or better work.

2. If you call any shot that you're looking at a woman porn, I really don't want to know how you get off.  This isn't even remotely porn, even if you're blind you could tell the difference. 

3. This isn't an issue about being morbidly obese, being horribly scarred, or anything else you can conjure up to try and make it a black and white issue.  There will always be dopes (read: commenters online) who always have mis or uninformed opinions.  The fact that you call this porn lighting, is really not only enlightening when trying to figure out where you're coming from (no real photography knowledge at all) but also that you like commenting on things you don't have a good understanding of.

4. Playboy is not porn, it hasn't been classified as such since the late 80's by people who have no real idea what porn is.  You're like someone from the 1920's thinking a woman showing her legs is a harlot.

5. Feel free to post your work here, I'm sure it's as morally just as your rant against this photographer who actually has skill and is willing to share it with other people just so they can learn and improve their own photography.  I haven't seen you do that before.

Maybe you read playboy for the articles, but you don't really post here for the intellectual content.

now stop being silly and angry. Lightin' up (literally).

Stop being silly? Lawl that's funny comin from you bud.

"Would the viewer keep buying the magazine if it had a fat nude woman with great lighting?"

lol. Maybe if you could remove some stuff from your arse you'd "lighten up" and not be such an elitist hater against some work that's clearly better than your own (at least the work you haven't had linked on fstoppers, and are apparently pretty damn sour about). But then again, you seem to love passing judgement on something another person has done well, which you have yet to do with any skill, or intent to help anyone else.

I think your use of the word "porn" shows  just how sexually repressed you and our society is. Also your use of the word is totally wrong. A better term might have "erotica", but not porn.

Are you kidding me? I actually laughed when I read your post. You're that incredibly incorrect.

Of course the viewers are only interested in the attractive woman. Most of them don't care about the lighting and the little details. But its still a vital and important part of the mix. These photos could have been taken with a much more simple lighting set up and still have been good photos.. but this photographer is doing some cool stuff by adding that splash of interest. It's what separates him from the amateurs. 

Look at the highlights on her right and left side. That looks pretty sweet. And the gels that he used to get the purple and blue background, that looks great. Even just the simple warming gel on the hair light. All these things that are simple little details, but they add up to make a great photo.

But why not make it look like it is, class it up a bit, go the extra mile.

This is stupid and absolutely wrong but you know....I guess someone has to be both.

Really interesting read. Ive always shot anything and everything from Fashion to Glamour/Nude etc. And the main issue ive found so far, is SPACE!! I just dont have enough space to get 2 speedlights with different gells to light the background, another for a rimlight, and another as a mainlight.

Thats at the least 4 speedlights, and at the moment I only have 3!

Great to learn new set ups for this kind of work too!

Great post! - And I hope it doesnt bring in the "wrong croud" from it too!

great tits... oh the lighting was alright too

Okay, Seriously.  I know photographers enjoy shooting different types of subjects, but is nudity/human form/porn/etc. that controversial for us?  I couldn't possibly conceive photographing (nor the desire) Food or even a Rolex Watch, but one thing that Fstoppers has provided me is respect for the medium.  Kudos to Patrick and Kenn for the post and hope to see more topics that push the realms of what is "acceptable" and more importantly "Professional".

I guess some of us are just a bit cynical about porn because it seems many guys pick up a camera initially in hopes of shooting half naked or naked girls.  It's not so much that it's controversial but rather that there are a lot of creepos out there that sort of ruin the genre for many of us.  The human body is no doubt beautiful and we having nothing wrong with photographing's just that it seems like such a easy and cheap way to go sometimes to get people's attention.  That's why I like what Dean is doing because I see the actual craft in this and he seems like a nice enough guy.

All that being said, Lee and I along with the rest of the FS staff have always felt it important to keep Fstoppers and open community and resource for any type of photography you might be interested in shooting yourself.

Very true, I mean they're all over MM.  I see about 5 a day.  Even with that in mind, I (and I'm sure most of your readers) appreciate the tiered approach you have to showing us videos we might find educational or enlightening.  Keep it up guys, and don't give in to the sour grapes crowd, please. It's one of the things that makes you guys so awesome.

It seems like it just comes down to jealosy, half the people who usually can this type of work wish they were doing it themselves, (or creating any art someone gave a sh*t about).  TBH Dean's done a great job and he knows it, I'm sure he's run into a ton of these jealous killjoys over his 20 year career, they're all over the place.

The day I see someone with creative and worthwhile art panning someone else for "porn" is the day pigs fly.

Nah its silly because he used 7 lights for an affect he could have gotten with 3. Post that Tron series I sent you if you want to see epic nude photography. Also its no fun if I can't be the bad guy on some of the Fstoppers posts. 

Explain the 3 light set up version? haha.

Rimlights definitely needed. Hair light and the table light, could of got away without them i guess.

It's cool if you've got an opinion man. stop forcing it down everyone else's throats. I think the photographer did an excellent job, and I see no reason why he shouldn't have used seven lights. If that's how he works, that's how he works. Does Joe McNally really need 50 lights to light an aircraft? Probably not. He could do it with ambient. That being said, it's not the way he feels comfortable working, so he shouldn't have to work with ambient. At least, that's how I feel about the subject.

A while ago, I heard some playboy shots have had as many as 39 lights for one photo. (Correct me if I am wrong please)
anyone know Whats the most lights ever been used in one photo of a female? anyone?:) I like odd facts like this, just wanna know.

Crap, there was information about lighting in this tutorial??? Well, just gonna have to 'read' it again... 

Here's a link for the depraved individuals who call this porn.

Have fun with that and maybe you can take the time to stop being such haters.

Hi friends, I just wanted to stop by and thank the FStoppers crew for their support and for featuring us on their site. I've been an FStoppers fan for a while now so to see us featured on the site was a big thrill and an honor. And thanks to all who left comments here....positive or negative. 



Great work! Links that work.....?

Nice lighting setup thank you for sharing.. Should for any reason my wife finds out about this you guys (Fstoppers) will go down with me :)

we aren't shooting your wife with you...

..was that intentional?

You can say that haha

Thank you Dean for taking the time to write about the shoot (just downloaded the ebook)! Great lighting there!


I enjoyed reading the explanations for the lighting system, especially since they weren/t that easy to figure out at the first look, I also like the polished look and editing of the final photos. I also shoot nudes from time to time and although I don/t have as much experience as Dean I do know it is quite a bit of work to get a great nude image especially if you are shooting for a magazine or for print.
 The people that commented on the model/s body parts need to grow up and stop acting like they have never seen a nude woman before and also understand that both the model and the photographer are professionals working together to get the best results for a job that they are getting paid for. A lot of people forget that this is a career and people on both sides of the lens do it as a job and they all should be treated with respect.

I did an essay "Art vs. Pornography" in art school.  At the time the Attorney General's definition of pornography was "any image with a prurient interest" (or something to that effect).  The key word being "prurient".  There was no clear line differentiating the two, just the notion that it's porn if it makes you think dirty thoughts.  I think there is a lot of cross-over between art and porn.  Who says a portrait artist can't create beautiful portraits that spark a "prurient interest"?  In example the pin-ups of Glen Elvgren or Abercrombie and Fitch ads.

I thought abercrombie was a gay porn site? :)

I found the part about metering the main light for consistency especially helpful. Something I overlook, but an easy fix to expedite post-work.

Can't deny how nice the lighting is, and can't say I didn't learn anything. Thanks for sharing. :D

Those shots are incredible and not just the girl. It's not always about what is necessary but what you can do creatively with what you have. I use 2 speed lights currently as I'm relatively new and I'm a fan of the strobist methods. I use those 2 lights as creatively as I can. But if I had more to play with, I could see myself going absolutely crazy on how to light a shot. I could just as easily use only one light and never any more, never aspiring to build on lights but in time I would get bored and want to do more.  I shot this with 2 lights, had I had a third I would have found a way to incorporate it if it fit the shot. Disclaimer of course is you don't just use everything you have for the sake of, but if you can find away for it to fit and make sense, that's just awesome. Here is my shot if anyone wants to take a gander.

Oh and since this article I'm now following Dean and reading his blog. I love this site, keep it up staff.

I'm a fan of Dean's work and glad to see him getting recognition here.

guys i have photoshoot on saturday and need some kind of form to sign by my models that they agree with photoshoot and that they are over 18, and there will be pictures taking of them in underwear...can anybody send me some example please? :( will really appriciate

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