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Submitted on
July 17, 2008


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I am not quite sure how I ended up a nude model.  Some days seems as though I just stopped concentrating for a few months and when I next noticed, I was naked in the rain in a not quite abandoned alley.  I have worked as both model and photographer in Artistic Nudes and have shot a great many first time nude models, so as part of Project Educate Artistic Nudes Segment Week, I have attempted to create a guide for shooting first time nude models.  Here it goes:

As a photographer about to shoot a first time nude model, you are burdened with a massive responsibility.   Naturally, you always have a responsibility to the model when ever you shoot but think of it like this: perhaps you are shooting the next Shy-Too-Shy, but, if that model does not leave your shoot with a positive experience of working with art nude photographers, they may never pose again.  I believe you also have a responsibility to your fellow artists to show just how professional, non-threatening and enjoyable a nude shoot can be.  If they are a first time nude model, you are in the position where you could either introduce a stunning new talent to the AN world or could put them off modeling for life.  You will be their first impression.   

Amber - Perched by silverystars   :thumb86104213:  Moments III by koukei  male athlete by artdibujar  Uncontrollable 16 by amelkovich

Respect, attitude and some basics of human courtesy:

No matter how many nudes you yourself have shot in the past, it is vitally important to remember that getting naked requires a lot of bravery and anyone willing to do so deserves your respect.  It certainly gets easier each time you pose but, no matter how experienced your model is, you must constantly remember that, in getting naked for you, they are placing a massive amount of trust in you.  

Reminding yourself of this at all times will help set the tone for your entire shoot.  

In addition to this, basics such as ensuring that the model will be comfortable help show that you respect them.  As a model, I can not tell you how much it is appreciated if the photographer has given some thought to your comfort.  Photographers have a habit of asking extreme things of nude models.  You have all seen the photos of nudes in icy lakes, lying across water falls or in the mud as storm clouds brew above them.  If this is your style, so be it: the model will know what they are getting in for but try to make them as comfortable as possible.  If you are inside, provide a heater.    If you are outside, bring blankets, a thermos of hot chocolate or anything that acknowledges that you appreciate the discomfort they are putting themselves through for you and your art.  There is nothing worse than seeing a model blue with cold, trying to appear elegant at sunrise on a chilled winter morning while the photographer, rugged up in copious amounts of jumpers, shouts instructions from inside their cocoon of comfort.

A Minute Wtih My Soul by l0zt-S0uL  music2 by Elrisha  Forward to reflection by photograjph

Starting out:

Do not dash towards the nudes!  If at all possible, only shoot nudes after you have worked with the model on previous, clothed shoots.  If you do not produce good art together clothed, it is doubtful that you will be able to produce it nude.

On the day that you plan to shoot nudes, still take your time: work through some clothed sets and, once you get to Nude Time, do not rush straight to your Shot Of The Day.  Perhaps there is a particular pose or image which you wish to capture but it will be undoubtedly be better when both you and the model are relaxed so do not try to capture it first.

(Hint:  I always start with a 'light test'.  I usually don't need it, as I've been shooting them clothed for some time before they undress but it gives them a chance to see that you are working on your side of the camera and are not just along for the ride.  More importantly, it give me a chance to say 'This is just a light test so pull your worst face possible.'  which is always my favourite part of the shoot.)

I usually start with some back shots and let the model decide when they want to turn around and be shot front on.  

Amelies light III by AlexanderB  :thumb63013722:  ,,,,, by TomasRucker  

Give them something to think about!  I cannot stress how much this step has benefited my shoots.  There is nothing harder for a model than just being told to 'look pretty', particularly if they are nervous.  Give them a way to engage their brain so that 'oh heck! I'm naked!' isn't holding a monopoly over their thoughts.  

(Hint:  The best trick I have found is to give them a prop and tell them to experiment with different ways to relate to it.  I recently completed a series on my other account (TeamHyphenPants) where we gave the models a picture frame.  They could peer through it, step through it, frame a part of their body, drape over it and so on and so forth.  The instant someone started to look a bit uncomfortable we would pass them the frame.  It worked a treat.  

Another good object is a piece of material.  If they need to, they can even wrap it around their body and reveal as much or as little as they need to.  Most will slowly let more and more show until they can pose without it.)

roket IV by mehmeturgut  :thumb87432010:  :thumb90796594:   :thumb58744528:

Compliments are a difficult thing, particularly for an inexperienced photographer shooting a nervous nude.  Does it go without saying that it is vitally important to keep compliments clean?  That you never compliment a models breasts?  Keeping compliments above the neck line is usually a good idea.  Hair, eyes and smile are nice, safe things to compliment.  Female photographers shooting female models can usually get away with a 'damn, if I looked like that, I would never put clothes on again' but really, just be careful, respectful and professional.

:thumb80308210:  another moment of boredom by graemo Breathless. by jennipenny  :thumb66384797:

This leads me neatly to the final tip:


I can not stress this enough.  As I have already stated, with a new model, you have a duty to show them just how professional and positive the world of Art Nudes can be but with any model, photographer, lighting assistant, MUA, stylist or casual observer, you must maintain a professional attitude!  I am going to go out on a limb here (and irritate quite a few prominent photographers on this site) by saying that I consider photographers sleeping with models they have met through photography (as opposed to a partner that models for them) appalling.   As a photographer, particularly shooting a new nude model, you are in a position of power and responsibility.  Act like it.  DO NOT touch a model, even to brush hair from their face without first asking permission.  They are not there to be objects of sexual desire but to help you make art and, if you are looking them at them as a sex object, how on earth are you going to be able to make good art?

Believe it or not, there are photographers out there who 'specialise' in shooting first time/new nude models and sleep with many of them.  

This leads me to have a few words to say to models, wanting to test out the art nude world:

For your first nude shoot, YOU PICK THE PHOTOGRAPHER!  There is time enough later for working with people who have approached you but, for the first shoot, select someone on the basis of their portfolio.  Once you have made contact with them, send them examples (from their own and other's portfolios) of what you want to create. You control the shoot.  You decide how much to take off when.  

So summing up, I hope that helps one or two people!  There are stunning photographers and models out there looking to make amazing nude art.  Take a risk and contact some of them.  Just remember to be respectful, professional and relaxed.  Your work will grow as a result!

Wycked laughs .. by JimYoung  Your smile makes me high by hydlide  Hope Has Come You Are Saved by lepersabstain  

Support Project Educate Artistic Nudes Segment Week!  Go and check out Helewidis journal for more information on how to get involved.

BTS 2 by photograjph  :thumb71425460:
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Scrotorr Featured By Owner Sep 23, 2011
Great article Halohid, well done. I organize twice weekly life drawing sessions here in Amherst, MA (a college town). After years and years of scheduling models, I always remind myself that an atmosphere that's very normal for the participating artists is a whole new bag for people posing for the first time, and requires a lot of thoughtfulness and sensitivity towards models/muses. I'm always intrigued to read the ideas/observations of people who've worked on both sides of the easel (or lens in your case), and there's always more to learn!
Thanks again for a good read!
Halohid Featured By Owner Sep 26, 2011
Hi Sean and thank you! I'm delighted you liked it!

I modeled for a life drawing class once and to me it felt very different to being a photographic model. It was made easy by just how regular it was for the people involved. In a way, its much easier to model for a group than a single person. The time I went, it happened to be someone's birthday so at the end we all ate cake. They were a beautifully welcoming group. I think provided you pick the right people to model, it can be as simple as creating a happy, non-judgemental atmosphere, providing some heating and just treating it as a very normal event.

I hope the classes continue to go wonderfully! Life drawing is such an outstanding thing.
MacsImage Featured By Owner May 8, 2011
As a sport photographer i would like to try some nude work i have done some weddings and racing events , Helpful article
Halohid Featured By Owner May 9, 2011
Thank you! Glad it helped!
lethargicpoison Featured By Owner Oct 1, 2009
Wonderfully written, and a great help! I just contacted a local artist about some nude photo shoots, so it's great to get this advice before I make a final decision! :)
massalo Featured By Owner Aug 7, 2009   Photographer
articles like this are what makes this place great..thank you :)
spectralband Featured By Owner Jul 3, 2009  Hobbyist Photographer
Great article....wish I'd known about before i started dabbling in nudes...would've saved me some stress.

Still haven't branched out beyond taking figure and landscape nudes of my wife but I hope to soon.

My advice (to save someone the same mistakes I've made) is to 1) work with your wife/girlfriend/partner first, as long as they are willing. The fact that you've seen her without clothes removes some of the tension between the two of you (but not all of it!) so you can concentrate on the shoot. 2) have a CLEAR and focused idea of what you want. After a few hit/miss studio sessions with my wife and trying to do TOO MUCH in each session, I started gathering some figure photos of specific poses and simply worked on that SINGLE pose/lighting until I got it right...and then moved on to the next pose.

We've now left the "safe" studio environment and are trying our hand at some landscape nudes. Again it was a matter of staying focused and not trying to do too much, as if this was our only chance at outdoor nudes.

One mistake I made last time was that I had a particular pose in mind from a photo that I showed my wife before we went out in the wild. When we got there, I remembered the shot one way, she remembered something quite different...and she was correct (as usual) once we got back home to view it again! It was then I learned the lesson...upload some example photos to your iPhone/smartphone so when you're on location, you can just pull up some sample photos and go to work. NEXT TIME I'll try and remember that!

davidroman Featured By Owner Jun 17, 2009
cool tips! Can't wait to work with the next model!!
TheHarlequinsMask Featured By Owner Mar 2, 2009  Professional Photographer
I hadn't seen this before. Well written article! :clap:
Halohid Featured By Owner Mar 21, 2009
Thankyou! I'm glad you enjoyed it!
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