Tom Nutter Photos & Motion | Personal Work — Right Now It’s Figure Studies

Personal Work — Right Now It’s Figure Studies

October 17, 2013

First of all, a large part of this text is from the last entry to my blogger page, which is now closed.  The comments will be edited, re-arranged, and likely added to….but, I decided that in the interest of continuity, I would start where I last left off:


This is a recent figurative portrait created in my studio with a Nikon D700, using Dynalite strobes and Photoflex modifiers.

     Every time you read or see an interview with someone who is successful in the photo industry, you hear over and over about the importance of personal work. You hear that if you do the work you want to do, and show that, then you will get hired to do that sort of work. I don’t take that advice at face value. Instead, I see it as a way to push forward into a persona that is evident in all of my photographic work.

This is a figure study shot with available light using a Nikon D700, and no light modifiers.

    The work I am most interested in lately…at least over the past three years or so, is the figure. Sure it’s a controversial subject for some people, and a mundane rehash for some others. I work in a small market, and I sometimes wonder if my clients might see my personal work and think of it as inappropriate…and I am sure some do. This is beyond my control; it’s a leap of faith to commit to the image-making you feel passionate about.

     I also hold myself to a certain creative standard with my images that I hope sets me apart no matter what the subject. This creative and technical standard, to be only held steady or raised higher in a photographer’s career, is at least as important, if not more important than any one image or body of work. Creating personal standards for yourself as a photographer is what becomes your guide.

    Hopefully, as a photographer progresses through a career in image-making, he or she  will find some common threads and a unique perspective about the world that shows in all of the work they create. These threads, and the personal standard the photographer sets are what make his or her  work unique, and what makes a creative vision marketable.

     This is not to say that a photographer’s interests will never change….figure studies today, documentary photography tomorrow, red sports cars another day…..well, maybe never red sports cars….the point is, you don’t have to stick with the same thing forever, but be the best you can at every image you create.

     Being the best image-maker you can, and approaching it as a unique, individual problem with each assignment that comes your way is a daunting endeavor to say the least. Sometimes the 359th time you are asked to make an interesting picture of a ribbon-cutting can be just too much to bear professionally. This is where personal work comes in. It is there to recharge your batteries…to provide a creative retreat into the quiet wilderness for you to be alone with your thoughts. It’s the time to grow.

This pair of Figurative Studio Portraits was created using a Nikon D700 with a Nikkor 1.8G 85mm lens, Dynalite Studio Strobes and Photoflex light modifiers.

     So what can a photographer learn about his craft by photographing nude studies?  What is the creative value of convincing an attractive model to take it all off for another photographer and his camera?

     First of all, if you have to spend a lot of time “convincing” someone to pose for you, outside of proving to them you are professional, then you are probably photographing someone you shouldn’t. A reluctant model is not going to make excellent images. It’s as simple as that. And that is the first point here I guess…you are forced to learn how to communicate as both a person, and as a professional, even before you pick up your camera.

     For me, in recent times, I have found in figure studies, the culmination of all of the elements necessary to make a person into an effective, confident and competent portrait photographer. The figure presents a challenge in many ways: Learning how to better communicate with people, learning how to be and act professional, and also learning how to deal with potentially awkward and stressful situations, for both the photographer and the model, and still come up with quality images, just to name a few.

This diptych was photographed with a Nikon D700 and a manual focus 50mm f/2 AI-Nikkor lens. The camera was on a tripod. There were no lighting modifiers used in these image

     I think photographing the figure “ups the ante” for a photographer. When a person you have never met walks into your studio and gets naked, it just makes everything that goes into making a good photograph and a good portrait even harder. That is skill-building. That is confidence-building. That builds professional practice.

    Those three things are a part of the larger picture in this creative field. In my opinion, they are what improve me a photographer by leaps and bounds. Each individual picture that is a successful image is just icing on the cake. A lifetime of good and cohesive imagery is the Holy Grail.

Reclining Figure in Available Light —This image was created using a Nikon D700 with a manual focus AI-Nikkor 50mm F/2 lens.

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