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You Needn’t Convince a Model to Pose Nude

Recruiting Tip #1

I’m often asked how I’ve convinced so many women to pose nude. The answer is: I don’t. There is no need to. The women I photograph are willing to pose nude before they even know I exist. The first nude shoot I did was a total surprise to me. The model just took her clothes off and stepped in front of my camera, ready to model. She simply assumed I wanted to photograph her nude.

The fact is, plenty of women want to pose nude for photographers, so you don’t have to convince them to. Not only have I photographed plenty of nude models, but they’ve shared with me their reasons for choosing who they pose for.

Some ideas to think about:

  • Almost all women who are comfortable with their appearance will enjoy being photographed.
  • The vast majority of the above women would be interested in posing nude at least once in their life.
  • Almost no woman would pose for something she considered truly embarrassing.

The observations above are based on my experiences and conversations with models. The notion that would surprise most readers is the second one. Among women who are physically fit, highly attractive, and enjoy being photographed, most would be confident enough and interested in posing nude one or more times in their life. The key concept is that they would do it at least once. So what about the rest of their lives? The times that are not one of those times they wanted to pose nude? Consider that women who model are being approached many times to pose nude; they sometimes say yes and other times say no. Although you don’t have to convince someone to pose nude, most models are discriminating about for whom they pose. You have to convince the model that you are worthy of working with.

Many women, many styles of nudes

Another reason a woman won’t pose is if she doesn’t feel attractive. Either she’s never felt confident enough to pose nude or she doesn’t feel attractive because of some temporary reason. Temporary reasons can come and go quickly or they can last a long time. For instance, if a would-be model is experiencing a problem with her complexion, she might avoid posing all together. It’s not that she doesn’t normally feel up to posing; but rather, her resistance is just temporary.

Sometimes external factors, such as what others may think of them, come into play. This could be judgment from religious people or family, or the envy of friends, for example. Worrying about the opinions and judgments of others is based on her self-confidence and feeling attractive. Many models are confident enough not to care that others may be judgmental or envious of them. Sometimes models are relieved to discover that their family or friends are supportive of their aspirations to model nude. Other times, they just choose to follow the beat of their own drum. This transition is usually a one-time event; once a model comes into her own and decides to pose nude, she has come to terms with outside opinions. So finding someone willing to pose nude is easier if you can find a model with nude experience.

Sometimes, a woman doesn’t know she’s ready to pose nude until she sees a fantastic image and is inspired to pose for a similar photo. Sometimes the image she sees is mine; sometimes it may be yours. In that case it’s likely she’ll seek out the specific photographer in hopes of getting the results she wants. Maybe it’s a sexy image or maybe it’s not sexy at all; maybe it’s deeply artistic or maybe it’s downright shocking. Different women don’t always agree on how they want to be photographed. A model’s self-image will not always fit with your assumptions of her, so you need to ask and listen. One woman may say yes to posing for sexy pin-ups and no to posing for more modest, artistic nudes. The point is your model imagines herself in the final image and that’s why she chooses to pose. However, if the model doesn’t think you can create the image or listen closely enough to her to understand her point of view, then she won’t pose for you. Hiring is a two-way street. Both employer and employee must have a common goal.

Having a varied portfolio can really help in this department. Stack the deck in your favor by showing a variety of your favorite nude styles in your portfolio. Remember your portfolio is intended to showcase the kind of images you want to continue to create. This will help recruit models that are amenable to your style and genre.

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What to Include (and not to) in Your Portfolio (for Photographers)

Many aspiring photographers ask me what to put in a portfolio. The answer all depends on your goals, but a pretty common goal is to recruit more models to shoot. Some photographers find it especially tricky to recruit models to shoot nudes, and often the portfolio is the weak link. I often see portfolios that indicate that the owners should have asked somebody for some advice, so this is for those who have not yet bothered to ask anyone.

What to include:

  • Recent photos (that usually means the photo is less than six months old when you add it. Try to remove anything that has been in your portfolio more than two years).
  • Photos that look like what you want to shoot. That means post models that you would work with again and in poses that you want to shoot.
  • Variety. If your portfolio is all of one model or one location, you will not look very accomplished or versatile. Show your entire range, within reason of course.
  • Consistent quality. Each shot should be as strong as the next. You can ruin nine good photos with one bad one. There is no need to include everything you have ever shot.

What not to include:

  • Stuff that is racier than what you normally shoot. If you normally shoot implied nudes, there is no reason to frighten off models by posting a bunch of full frontal or erotic shots.
  • Other people’s work. Only post your own work. Do not post other photographers’ images, saying that you would like to do “something like this.”
  • Tiny images. This offence is more common than it should be. Anything less than 600 pixels on a side is way too small.
  • Flash presentations. Unless you are trying to make your work unsearchable, stick to JPG images; not Flash.
  • The hardest shots to get; unless they truly yielded the best results. Just because you were standing on top of a flaming school bus, balancing on one foot, and tripping the camera shutter with your teeth does not mean that the resulting photograph will be interesting. Save good stories for story telling time, put good photos in your portfolio.
  • Self-portraits. Unless you are both a working model and working photographer, save the self-portrait for your “about me” page.


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The Stages of Recruiting a Figure Model

Recruiting a model for figure work can be tricky, even for someone who has been photographing artistic nudes for a long time. To better introduce the concept of recruiting, I explain the core recruiting activity in terms of five stages. They are:

  1. Establishing contact
  2. Building interest
  3. Overcoming objections
  4. Getting commitment

If you skip or rush through any step, you risk not getting the booking. This happens to many photographers and they wonder if it has something to do with the model. In many cases it is a matter of not completing the process. Many photographers fail to secure bookings because the skip directly from establishing contact to getting commitment.

Establishing contact means meeting the prospective model and exchanging contact information. Just handing out a business card is not establishing contact. It is important to have the model’s contact information so that you do not have to rely on her to retain your information and follow up. If you make contact online, the exchange of a return email address is usually automatic.

Building interest is an often overlooked step. This can be as simple as showing some portfolio pieces to the model but it should involve more. You need to let the model get to know you a little bit. Nobody wants to work with someone until they gain a comfort level.

Overcoming objections is something photographers often engage in, but seldom in the right way. Objections are usually requests for more information or confusion about what you are proposing. The faster you attempt to get a model to commit, the more confusion you will encounter. The first step to overcoming an objection is to recognize it. Then you need to let the model know that other models had the same question. Finally, you need to explain how you will make things work out.

For example, a model might object because she does not feel she would know what to do as a model. If a model says this to me, I let her know that this is common among many new models and more than half of the models she sees on my website expressed the exact same concern. However, once they did a photoshoot, they found that it was easier than they thought it would be.

Finally, you must ask a model to commit to booking a specific time and location. If you rush the model to commit, she may agree just to delay having to deal with you. You want a true commitment. A good first step in getting a commitment is to ask the prospect to come to a face-to-face interview.

I hope to write more on the above four steps in the future.


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Establishing Contact with a New Model

Establishing contact is usually the first step in recruiting a model. Contact can be established in a variety of ways. For example:

  • Cold approach (walking up to someone and introducing yourself)
  • A response to a casting call
  • A referral (someone you know, such as another model or photographer, suggests a new model)

The Cold Approach

The cold approach is often a very effective method (when done correctly, as many as half can result in a photo shoot). When making a cold approach make sure you select the location, a suitable candidate, and pick the right time. More of the selection process later, that is a different topic.

Continue reading Establishing Contact with a New Model

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How to Talk To and Direct a Nude Model

Nude photography entails more than just photographic technique. There is a huge interpersonal element, much more so than in any other kind of people photography. There are many articles on the photographic technique of nude photography, but herein I will address how to talk to a nude model. By learning these verbal techniques, you should be able to direct the action from behind your camera just like an expert.

Amber, nude model Charleston SC gymnastic floor pose
  1. Begin by introducing yourself or greeting the model if you’ve already met.
  2. Don’t be nervous, it’s contagious. The more natural you are, the better everything will go. Act as if you’ve done it a thousand times – even if you haven’t. Don’t be overly chatty or bold, just keep working.
  3. During the photo shoot, avoid physical contact with the models during posing; it is much more efficient to stay behind your camera and use verbal direction. Touching models can also come off as creepy. New models need to learn to follow verbal direction, and new photographers need to learn how to give verbal direction.
  4. Be professional. Whenever possible, use neutral terms instead of slang for body parts. If you want the model to turn her chest towards you, refer to her chest — not any of the popular vernacular terms for breasts. What you don’t say is as important as what you do say.
  5. One effective technique of verbal direction is to mention a body part and simply describe what the model needs to do to achieve the exact, desired pose.
  6. Keep verbal directions simple and clear. For example, it’s easy to say, “Place your right hand on your right hip, then move your right foot a few inches to your right.”
  7. Once the model has achieved the basic pose, suggest specific, clear refinements as needed in order to perfect the pose. Your choice of approach will be a personal one, but I tend to tell rather than ask. Phrasing instructions as questions can make you seem less experienced and less professional. By making clear and concise statements, you’ll keep the shoot moving with the poses you want and without any confusion.
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How to Get the Most from a Nude Model

This article is for photographers who want to get the most out of a photo session with a nude model.

1. Hope on redBegin with realistic expectations based on your experience, the models available to you, and your equipment. Expect that your work will evolve creatively and improve technically, but at a moderate pace as you learn and grow.

2. Make shooting arrangements with a model. Preferably choose someone who you’ve already met and who has experience modeling nude or at least has experience modeling.

3. Make sure the model understands specifically what you want to accomplish from the shoot. Show her samples of the kinds of images you want to achieve. Images speak volumes more than words can. Preferably these images are from your own work, but if you’re beginning you might want to use examples from magazines, etc. If you plan to publish or distribute the nude images, make sure the model understands and agrees to this.

4. Make your own notes about what poses, props, lighting, backgrounds, etc. you want to use.

5. Agree on a location for the shoot. Make sure to consider privacy for the model, climate control, and availability of electricity, natural light, or any other requirements for making your photographs. Make sure adequate backgrounds will be available at the location.

6. Agree on a time for the shoot. Make sure to consider time for travel, makeup, setup of equipment, or other preparations. Discuss preparation time with the model so she knows to allow enough time to arrive promptly.

7. When you meet the model at the shoot location, greet her and make sure she has everything she needs: a place to put her stuff, a place to check makeup and hair, water or other beverage, etc.

8. When you start shooting, begin with clothed shots to warm up. This is especially important if you’ve not worked with this model before, or if she’s not especially experienced with nude modeling. Progress slowly towards nudity to maintain the model’s comfort. Don’t progress too slowly, as this can be frustrating or seem silly to a model who is ready to pose nude.

9. Direct the model verbally; avoid physical contact and limit your proximity to the model especially when she is nude.

10. If your model is new to nude modeling, make the first nude shots side or back shots until she is comfortable with more revealing shots. There is no necessity to progress to more revealing shots unless both of you want to.

11. Keep shooting as you direct the model, even if the poses are not exactly what you want. This will help keep the model’s confidence up. Continue directing the model verbally and shooting until you see the poses you want.

12. Try a variety of poses. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Keep in mind that only the best shots need be used later. Refer back to your notes about what poses, backgrounds, light, props, etc. you want to use.

13. When you’re done shooting, have the model sign a release and get a copy of her government issued photo identification (including date of birth) if you plan to publish the images. Some photographers prefer to get the release signed before the shoot.

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Talking About Body Parts to a Nude Model

In general, I avoid using slang for body parts, especially if it’s considered vulgar. When talking to models or describing my photos in writing, I sometimes struggle for the right words. I’m not looking to be politically correct or please everyone, or I wouldn’t make nude photographs in the first place. However, it is important to show respect to your model and not make her uncomfortable. Of course the words that are considered acceptable or vulgar vary from person to person, region to region, and over time. Continue reading Talking About Body Parts to a Nude Model

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Comparing the Rule of Thirds to the Golden Mean

Some people are apt to assert that the rule of thirds is the same as the golden mean. The proportions are close, but not the same. In addition, most of the various golden mean methods emphasize a primary, off-center subject; the rule of thirds does not suggest an order of precedence among subjects. The rule of thirds involves only straight lines, while some golden mean offers the Fibonacci spiral for placement. The rule of thirds offers four points of interest and four division lines for the main elements; the golden mean can be used to proportion elements more deeply embedded in the composition.

In the following image, a 2:3 image, divided in vertical thirds and horizontal thirds, is shown in pink. A frame conforming to the golden ratio is shown in green.

Thirds vs. Golden Mean
Thirds vs. Golden Mean


You do not have to use either of these methods to construct your compositions. In four years of art school, not a single instructor or textbook mentioned either of these methods. They are relatively quick and easy ways to begin thinking about composition and the placement of elements. For this reason, many photographers benefit from trying them.

Also see: The Golden Mean

Also see: The Rule of Thirds


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Leading Lines

The use of lines is an effective way to add structure to an image. Lines are apparent in the distinction between light and dark, especially at the edge of the subject seen against the background and in the limbs.

Strong lines are powerful compositional elements that suggest to the viewer where they will look. A dominant line that draws our eye, such as a distinct horizon or roadway, is at times called a line of force, guiding line, or leading line.

In the image below, the lines of perspective converge on the model. Notice how the lines align with the lines of the body. The lower edge of the back railing lines up with the model’s arm and the upper edge lines up with her elbow. The edges of the slab on which she is lying line up with the interior lines of her figure.


More about lines

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Irregular Lines

In photographic composition, there are many kinds of lines. When two kinds of line segments join, it can be called an irregular line. For example, a straight line that intersects a curved line.

The image below contains examples of irregular lines. One of these is highlighted: the arms form straight line segments and the light falling across the clavicle connects these with curved segments.


Irregular Lines

More about lines


Learn composition from the book Exquisite Curves