This week I thought I would share with you a combined, blog post and POTD (photo of day) post.

This is model Nymlith who modelled at a recent “messy day” event at the studio.  As part of that event, we shot some moody art nude images using clay.  For this blog/POTD I want to explain some of the process involved in creating this and the other images in this blog.

Firstly the ‘clay’ that we are used is “Bentonite Clay Mix” which is used in the horticultural, health & beauty, detoxification and cosmetic industries.  The are a number of suppliers online, but I obtained my supply from (  The clay comes in powder form and requires to be mixed a couple of days in advance of being used.  Although the clay is made using warm water by the time it is used it has gone cold.  We stood the bucket of clay in hot water prior to use to try to warm it up for our model.  During the shoot, the clay was stood next to the radiator with a fan heater blowing on it to try to take the chill of it.

Because we want to capture the texture of the clay, it is important that the clay is not just smeared over the model’s body, but instead, it is patted on to create ‘peaks and valleys’ which will become the areas of shadow and highlight in the final image.

Regarding the lighting, we had two different lighting set-up for this shoot.  The above image and the image left used a single gridded beauty dish.  The dish we used was a 70cm dish.  Using different light modifiers will create different lighting effects, a softbox will make the shadows less distinct and standard gridded light will make the transitions light to dark too harsh.  A gridded beauty disk falls between the two.  For this type of effect, it is very much a ‘Goldilocks’ modifier – not too hard, not too soft.

As you can see from the set-up shot below the dish is placed above and slightly behind our model.  This ensures that the light passes over the body creating shadows due to the texture of the clay.

In order to get light on to the face of our model, it is important that she turns so that she is in profile.  This will allow the light from the modifier to reach her face.

The two images above used only the beauty dish.  In the set-up shot below, you can see the second variant of the lighting, which saw the addition of a rim light.  I am using the one set-up shot to illustrate both lighting setups.  The only difference between the two is that the rim light rear left was not switched on when the first two images were created but it was used when the final image, below, was created.

When taking the images in to post postproduction only a little tweaking is required.  Firstly the image is converted to black and white.  As part of this process, I increase the contrast of the images and bring up the clarity sliders.  The only other change I made was to decrease the shadows and the blacks slightly to ensure that in the case of the first two images the background is a true black.

I hope you have found this insight into creating these images interesting.  If you would like to try creating these sorts of images yoursel and would like some help with the process, I can provide the clay and all the necessary facilities as part of a mentored studio hire.  Full details of our studio hire prices can be found here: – mentored shoots are charged at hire price +60%  (+50% for flexible hire and academy members).

Shoot ref: FK1223A

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This photograph is (c) Ian M Butterfield. All rights are reserved. No use Is permitted (including non-commercial use) without prior permission. If you wish to use any of my photographs please ask first.