Anne Darling Photography

Sensual Portrait Photography

In sensual portrait photography, the human body, both male and female, is raised to the status of art object in a way that is reminiscent of the masters of paint and sculpture who loved to explore the relationship between light and form and have used the body as a medium for doing so. The field of photography lends itself well to this exploration.

The subtle art of sensual portrait potography is exemplified by great names such as Herb Ritts and Robert Mapplethorpe, to name just two. It is a very beautiful form of photography as you can see from the photo below.

The couple in the picture show such tenderness and love towards each other as they are about to kiss. The appeal is to the senses, particularly the sense of touch, which is brought out by the wonderful skin tones and soft lighting.

sensual portrait photography Left: Photo by Andreas Reh

With couples, getting the pose right is the most important thing in sensual portrait photography. Usually one or the other is facing towards the camera. This heightens the sensuality of the photograph.

A photograph like this makes a wonderful momento as most couples only have images of either one person or the other but if you are taking the photograph allow plenty of time to ensure they are totally relaxed with the camera for best results.

This probably means making the photograph in their own home so make sure you create a warm, relaxing mood before you start by using the right lighting, music and so on. You can also try this kind of shot with your own partner if you have a tripod and use the timer on your camera.

sensual portrait photography Right: Photo by Giorgia Gruizza

Great sensual female photography relies a lot on imagination. It is important to leave a lot up to the viewer.

In the photograph to the right, the woman may or may not be dressed. Likewise, we don't know why she is about to kiss her reflection - is it purely narcissism? Is her reflection in a dark mirror or a deep pool of water?

Sensual body photography like this relies heavily on the photographer's imagination and his/her ability to create a sense of mystery.

Sensual male photography is more common today and the next photograph is a great example. This kind of photography is mostly about male physique, so the shoulders are a good part of the anatomy to concentrate on in your images (see also Body-Builder's Back by Jeff Strauss further down the page).

Photographing just part of the body, without including the face, works well if you want to make pictures that show off the sculptural qualities of the male body.

sensual portrait photography Left: Photo by Helice Studio

In fine art photography sensual images are often enhanced when working in black and white as skin tones are emphasised and the use of black and white gives the photo an artistic feel.

The beautiful shot below is also enhanced by good lighting which helps to 'model' the muscles of the body-builder's shoulders. You can almost feel the hard work that's gone into creating that amazing body!

If you want to study a master of the genre, you can't do better than Robert Mapplethorpe. His work is unmistakably steeped in the classical tradition and often borrows heavily from the conventions of such masters as Michelangelo. Although separated by the centuries, each artist has helped shape how we view the world today.

sensual portrait photography

Despite the political controversy that surrounded some of his later photographs, Mapplethorpe was an artist obsessed with the human form first and foremost. No collection makes that as clear as Perfection in Form , which pairs his brilliant figure studies with Michelangelo's studious renderings of the human body. This book is a must for Mapplethorpe fans, as well as anyone else interested in the way the body has changed, and stayed the same, through centuries of Western artistic tradition.

Try searching for "portrait photography" on Amazon using their search box - there are some beautiful picture books!

Mapplethorpe's Perfection in Form explores the connection from both academic and aesthetic perspectives. Serving as exhibition catalogue for a May 2009 show at Florence's Accademia, this volume shows how these two artists used the body to illustrate the human experience and contains valuable commentary by curators, as well as analysis from art and photography historians.

More recently, Herb Ritts created black-and-white photography and portraits which draw on classical Greek sculpture for inspiration so some of his most famous images are in the realm of glamour photography. He was probably the greatest master of celebrity and beauty photography. Until his death in 2002, the Californian genius created and developed an iconic brand of glamour across the worlds of both editorial and advertising.

sensual portrait photography Left: Work by Herb Ritts

This retrospective presents the full range of photographer Ritts' work, with 240 signature images, many published for the first time.

There are portraits of Hollywood stars, (Pfeiffer, Cruise, Loren) notable artists, (Hockney, Haring, Martin) and world leaders, (Reagan, Mandela, Gorbachev), alongside fashion shots, erotic nudes and African scenery. Appreciations by contemporary art experts and chroniclers of fashion put the work in context.


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