Media of nude celebrities fall into five main categories:
Film screenshots: Many actors and actresses have done nude or partially nude scenes in non-pornographic mainstream films. Screenshots from these films are circulated widely and can usually be recognized by the low picture quality (from video). Increased popularity of broadband internet access makes possible the distribution of actual video clips and higher quality images, usually copied from DVDs. Often screenshots of these scenes are displayed in several frames as tiles.
Paparazzi photographs: Occasionally, celebrities are photographed in revealing real-life situations. The most common scenario is a woman sunbathing topless, usually on a beach, yacht or by a pool. The photos are usually taken from a distance and rarely reveal more than breasts, although some celebrities have been photographed fully nude. Other types of paparazzi images of nude celebrities include 'nipple slips', in which low cut dresses, lack of a bra, an accidental fall of clothing or camera flash glares may reveal a celebrity's nipples.
A final form is the increasingly frequent occurrence of an "upskirt" shot of female. Most such images show underwear, but some situations (such as celebrities exiting cars) have resulted in snapshots which are claimed to show genitalia.
Nude photo shoots: Mainstream sex magazines such as Playboy or photographic art magazines such as Black And White routinely feature nude shoots of celebrities. Some celebrities have modeled for nude photographs prior to becoming famous. Such images are often later redistributed in digital form by the publisher, or by a third party.
Stolen private materials: Rarely, private sexual photographs or videos are stolen or obtained from a former lover/spouse and show up on the Internet. See celebrity sex tape.
Fake or doctored photos: Many images found on the Internet and in Yellow journalism are fake images, primarily made with various image editing techniques. These typically combine the most recognizable features of a celebrity, such as their face, with the nude body of a suitable lesser-known pornography actor. Unlike other forms of nude media of celebrities, faked photos can be produced with little effort or resources and do not require access to the celebrity, making them a popular option for amateurs. Another form of doctoring celebrity photos is known as "Celebrity X-Ray". This technique involves the use of digital image editing software to modify photos of celebrities dressed in skimpy, sheer or see-through material, in order to reveal what is hidden or obscured beneath the cloth.
On October 19, 1998, a website called ClubLove posted nude photos of Laura Schlessinger ("Dr. Laura"), which were taken in the 1970s by her then-boyfriend. The photos received a fair amount of controversy due to Schlessinger's conservative political beliefs.
Prior to becoming famous, Heather Mills worked as a glamour model and was photographed nude in a book entitled Die Freuden der Liebe.
Photos of actress/singer Vanessa Hudgens of High School Musical fame, appeared on the Internet in 2007. The photos included several of Vanessa in her underwear, and another with her breasts and genitalia exposed. Another set of photos, taken on a cell phone, were released later.
The commercial demand for images of nude celebrities has been known for many decades. Playboy magazine is renowned for offering famous women large amounts of money to appear nude in its magazine, and more downmarket pornographic magazines search far and wide for nude pictures of celebrities taken unaware — for example, when they are bathing topless or nude at what the subject thought was a secluded beach, or taken before the individual was well-known. These paparazzi photos are in high demand among sensational magazines and press.
In many nations, privacy law and personality rights can lead to civil action against organizations that publish photos of nude celebrities without a model release, and this restricts the availability of such photos through the print media. On the Internet, the difficulty of identifying offenders and applying court sanction makes circulation of such photographs much less risky. Such photographs circulate through many online photo distribution channels such as Usenet and Internet forums, and commercial operators, often in countries beyond the reach of courts, also offer such photos for commercial gain. Copyright restrictions are often ignored.
In some cases, when the depicted person is young and the photo is an actual photo, nude media of celebrities may fall under the purvue of child pornography laws, a legal regime with harsh penalties for distribution. When the photos are faked or doctored, the media is classified as simulated pornography.