Okay, so here you are an amateur photographer and you want to work with a nude model. Or maybe you are not really at the amateur stage, but you have not worked with a nude model before. Or maybe you have worked with one before and you felt all befuddled. Or maybe you are just reading this because you found it.
I wrote this because in my time on the MM forums and in working with photographers I have noticed a trend in some confusion and awkwardness in working with nude models. Of course, that is to be expected particularly given society’s apprehensions towards nudity and the mixed values placed on it. I think it is particularly sad that even those of us who shoot art nudes similar to work displayed in museums must often keep our art hidden from the general public and even friends and family because of the issues some people have with it. I also think those are some of the reasons people may feel awkward working with nude models.
Let us start with some basics, shall we? And please do not be offended with some of this. I am taking what I have read and experiences I have had and been told about by other models into account here. Not everything here applies to everyone.
1. Nude models are people too. Some of us are outgoing, some are very shy. Some are very comfortable with our bodies, some are not. Some can be very conservative, some are more out there. Just because a model poses nude does not mean she does porn, or is very sexual, or runs around naked all the time, or anything else.
2. While we are used to posing nude, we all have different limits in what types of poses we will do, what we would like showing in photos, and where we would like those photos to be shown. Please talk to us about these things before we shoot (preferably before the day of the shoot).
3. We may be a little apprehensive to you being really close or touching us while nude. Most of the really experienced nude models do not care, provided it is an appropriate situation, but please ask before you touch us. Trust me, it is appreciated.
4. Although we may pose nude, if you want to shoot us nude, please let us know that before the shoot. If you said you wanted to shoot fashion, we will come prepared to shoot fashion. Do not surprise us at the end (or at any other time) by randomly asking to shoot nudes if we have not already discussed it.
5. We are not perfect, and I am speaking of the physical. We have scars and little “flaws.” While it is perfectly okay to try to avoid certain angles, poses, or features, do not point them out unnecessarily. For example, if a model has a scar on her left hip and you do not like it, simply change your angle or ask her to turn. Some of us are aware of our flaws and will try to keep them out of shots for you, but that takes experience and knowing about them. Sometimes we already feel vulnerable (even though we are enjoying what we do) and having a flaw pointed out can put a damper on our self-esteem, if only for a moment.
6. If you need to refer to our “girly bits” please find appropriate terms to use. “Breasts” is generally preferred in place of “boobs,” “tits,” and such. “Butt” or “bum” or “rear” tend to be better than “ass.” And as for the genitals, sometimes it is just best to ask what we call it. “Lap” or simply saying “the area between your legs” also works quite safely if you do not want to ask. Some of us are totally cool with the slang words, but generally it is better to go safe than sorry until you find out what is good for us.
7. Understand there are different styles of nudes. Just because a model shoots art nudes, does not mean she will shoot glamour nudes (Playboy style, and others), or erotic. And just because a model shoots nude does not mean she wants all of her nudeness in the photos. Some of us prefer to keep our genitals out of the shots and there are plenty of easy ways to do that. Look at our portfolios, they are usually a pretty good indication of the levels we shoot. If you would like to shoot something else with us, please ask, and maybe show us some examples. Sometimes we will say “sure,” sometimes “no thank you.”
8. Please be aware that we are naked. That means we may get cold more easily. It also means we may not be comfortable with people going in and out of the shooting area, open windows if indoors, etc. Also, if we are outdoors, bugs may bother us more and things like that.
9. If you’re asking us to shoot outside, please let us know of the type of location. Is it private property? Is there a chance of us being seen by other people? And be aware of what can happen in that location if an outside person does see us (local laws, fines, etc, and if that will affect you and/or the model).
10. Please do not make weird comments. It makes you seem creepy even if you are not. Sometimes we like to joke around, even about being naked, but saying you would like to slap us on our butt or that we must be good in the sack is pretty generally unacceptable. I am not saying you have to only talk about shooting, but just use common sense.
Again, I know some of this sounds just ridiculous to even have to say, but I am trying to keep it light while giving you some helpful information. And I can promise you that for everything you just read and thought that there no way anybody has ever done that, that someone (probably more someones than you think) has in fact done or said that. Plus, many of those rules apply to most model photography anyway, just maybe not in those exact ways.
Nude modeling can be a lot of fun and can be a great way to create art and/or awesome photos. It also gives you a chance to capture details, shapes, lines, and curves that are sometimes masked by clothing. It can be sexy or erotic or artistic or abstract or any combination or all of those things and more.