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Build a Professional Relationship with Models

The Model/Photographer relationship is key.

Many photographers fail to book a model because they try to book too soon in the process. Stay aware of the prospective model’s emotional response to the conversation. Don’t just listen to what she is saying; pay attention to how she is saying it. Never try booking a shoot when a prospect is Continue reading Build a Professional Relationship with Models

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How Many Shots Make a Shoot?

If I’m working with a new or first-time nude model, I shoot plenty of frames. I might end up with 800 or 1,200 from the shoot. Why so many? There are a number of reasons:

Better Selection

With more to choose from, it’s easier to pick the cream of the crop. If I choose the best 10 of 100, it’s the best 10%. If I choose the best 10 of 1,000 it’s the best 1%. Which one sounds better? Newer models are more likely to blink, have an odd expression, or insert some other small detail that ruins a shot. Not to worry, since another shot is a few seconds away.

Model Motivation

Popping flashes are like applause to a model. It’s instant gratification and keeps her mood elevated. A model who feels great looks better. Newer models can need more of the approval and will be set at ease by a photographer that keeps shooting. Long pauses can be awkward to the inexperienced model, so you naturally end up with a lot of exposures.

When Less is More

With more experienced models, especially ones that I have worked with before, I am more inclined to try something out of the ordinary. Going on location or preparing for more elaborate shoots lowers the shot count.

Regardless of what you are shooting, its good to add some variety; you don’t need 1,000 nearly identical frames to select from.

First time model : 200 shots per hour

Experienced model : 100-150 shots per hour

Working medium format in studio: 60 shots per hour

DSLR out of studio: 80 shots per hour

Medium format out of studio: 25 shots per hour

So if I’m working with a new model and just getting to know her, I can easily have over a thousand photos to choose from. On the other hand, if I’m shooting medium format and going for something very specific and special, I may only have a hundred carefully planned images after a couple of hours of work.


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Don’t Fall in Love with Your Artistic Creations

Whenever I look at one of my images and think, “I love this shot,” a little red flag goes up in my mind. Falling in love with your own work is a path to stagnation. If you stop being critical of your work, you grow blind to your shortcomings. It can happen for valid reasons. The shots are probably pretty good, with superb models, expert poses, and well-crafted lighting. There is nothing wrong with being proud, but don’t fall in love with your own photography. Revel in success briefly, then resume the self criticism. It can be a tortured existence, but an artist can’t be their own fan.

I love this shot, and that could be a problem.
I love this shot, and that could be a problem.
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Overcoming Creativity Killers

To be creative you must take risks. Many people are risk averse and have a fear of being judged. Once you learn to ignore the risk of being judged, the consequences are small and the possible returns are huge.

Its natural to fear breaking away from the herd. Doing your own thing can make you feel vulnerable. But following the crowd runs a bigger risk, that of habitual output.

Not everyone appreciates what I produce. Not only am I content with judgement, I think it is splendid. One of the most important things about any creative work is the discussion that surrounds it. Art should not be something that is produced just to please as many people as possible.

The allure of mass recognition is seductive, but it is also a creatively hazardous. It would be easy enough to simply distill a menu of classic poses, competent photographic practices, and then apply Photoshop effects that are commonly admired. Such images would be consumed, applauded without criticism, and then quickly forgotten. For me, success is drawing the viewer in and engaging them emotionally or intellectually, whether that response be positive, negative, or inquisitive.

Overcome your fear of being judged and embrace the opinions of others. One way to do this is to find a peer group that can offer educated, constructive criticism. You can’t benefit creatively from criticism unless the criticism has merit based in knowledge of aesthetics. Groups meet online and in person (they don’t need to be photographic artists) as artists guilds, student associations, and informal discussion groups.


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Common Problems with Nude Model Release Forms

I was just reading some advice about nude model release forms and unfortunately, a number of misconceptions are being perpetuated. Here are the most common ones I’ve seen recently and my take on each:

  1. Get the release signed before you shoot. What is wrong with it: The model would be releasing photos that don’t yet exist. A release that is written as an agreement requires both parties to agree on the same thing. Agreeing on the photos you recently created is easier than agreeing on what you might do soon. This practice has been perpetuated by nervous photographers who fear that models will balk at their images being used. As long as you properly built the model’s expectations, you shouldn’t have trouble getting the release signed afterwards.
  2. The release says nothing about nudity. Why you need to change this: Use a release that describes the shoot. That means including the word nudity somewhere. This is especially helpful if your images could be construed as candid rather than posed, such as a model laying nude on a beach.
  3. The release covers more than one shoot. The pitfall: If you ever do have someone contest a release, do you want all the shoots in question or just one? This applies to many publishers too, who won’t want to see a release that specifies more than one shoot. Keep it simple, one release per shoot, per model, per day.
  4. A statement that the model read and understood the release. Why this is unnecessary and counterproductive: These statements seem to be aimed at models who did not read or understand the release. In some places, this practice is discouraged or banned. A better way is a notice (verbal or written) that the model should read and understand the release, and ask any questions before signing it.

There are many forms of model release for various purposes. They may be perpetual or might expire. They can allow for a single publication such as a book or magazine or be unlimited. Many model releases are written as contracts (two-party agreements) but some are written as a grant of permission. The most important thing is that both you and the model have a plan for what you are going to shoot and how it’s going to be used. The two of you should be in agreement on this before you begin shooting. The model release form documents this agreement. Follow through by using the images only as described in the release.

Happy shooting and enjoy good rapport with your models, knowing that both of you are on the same page and everything is clear.

I’m not an attorney and I’m not giving legal advice. I review this topic with legal counsel at least annually. You should consult your own attorney for specifics.

Model Release

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Qualities that make a Beautiful Nude Photograph

Someone recently asked me, “What makes a figure photograph appealing?” I didn’t answer that it was the model’s face, body, or any particular part. My job is not to document an exceptional specimen of humanity. I collaborate with the model on creative expression. Here is a list of qualities that I feel make a beautiful photograph of the body. A particular photograph may have only one of these qualities and some are mutually exclusive.

Unity. All the elements of the image seem to belong together through color, shape, repetition, and balance of visual weight.
Unity. All the elements of the image seem to belong together through color, shape, repetition, and balance of visual weight.


Pattern and variation. The repetition of shapes has inspired artists for centuries. In this image, the clouds, oyster shells, and cloth all contain patterns of undulating curves.
Pattern and variation. The repetition of shapes has inspired artists for centuries. In this image, the clouds, oyster shells, and cloth all contain patterns of undulating curves.



Simplicity. Sometimes just a few visual elements is all it takes.
Simplicity. Sometimes just a few visual elements is all it takes.
Energy. Nothing quite captures the imagination like high energy.
Energy. Nothing quite captures the imagination like high energy.
Symmetry. Although static composition can lack dynamism, perfect symmetry is captivating. Beautiful faces often feel perfectly mirrored.
Symmetry. Although static composition can lack dynamism, perfect symmetry is captivating. Beautiful faces often feel perfectly mirrored.


Transformation. The feeling of change, either happening, impending, or recently transpired is a powerful concept.
Transformation. The feeling of change, either happening, impending, or recently transpired is a powerful concept. Dance is a prime example of transformation.
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Camera Clubs in the Early Days

In the 1950’s, more prudish times for America, there existed secretive “camera clubs” in cities like New York. Photographers like Arthur Fellig (a.k.a Weegee,) Gordon Parks, Rudolph Rossi, and James Wong Howe, worked with models like Bettie Page in full nudity. In the New York Post, photographer Dick Heinlein explained that “nudity back then was very unusual”.

Police raided one club in 1952, with guns drawn. They arrested the photographers and charged them with disorderly conduct. Bettie Page was charged with indecent exposure, which was reduced after a legal battle. The cops attempted to confiscate and destroy the film, but some of it survived and can be seen in the 2014 documentary film, “Bettie Page Reveals All” created by Mark Mori.

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Why to shoot in RAW

A worthy digital camera will allow you to capture in RAW mode, an image file format that contains 100 percent of the data your image sensor captures. RAW images do not lock in a particular white balance or color space but take up much more space than JPEG (JPG) compressed images. When your digital camera creates a JPEG, some of the image details are lost in the process. A JPEG conversion commits to tone and contrast adjustments based on a best guess of what image information is important. This results in lost detail in shadows or highlights, color shifts, and loss of color information. The camera’s conversion to JPEG also makes assumptions about sharpening and noise reduction, both of which alter fine details and cannot be undone. You may be satisfied with the JPEGs your camera produces, especially if it’s a high-end camera and you are careful to light and expose your shots correctly, but you will have more latitude to correct minor imperfections or otherwise improve on an image by shooting RAW.

If you shoot in RAW format, you have some options to control contrast in Camera RAW Import in Photoshop (You can also use Lightroom, GIMP, or other tools).

The above is an excerpt from True Confessions of Nude Photography.

If you are serious about your photography, shoot in RAW format. Your images do not record color data, at least not as you would think of it. They just have the electronic data from the image sensor, three grayscale images of red, green, and blue. Therefore, they are not sRGB or aRGB. There is no color space associated with a RAW file. Color space only comes into play when you open the file in image editing software and a profile is assigned to it.

So what if you do not want to agonize over all of that? Well, many photographers deal with their images in sRGB, ignore other color spaces, and never look back. If you are not much of a perfectionist, you probably will not even notice the difference. What you see is what you will get. Plus, you can always learn color management later when you want to hone your skills.

I recommend that you shoot in RAW mode so the white balance and other settings can be decided later after you finish shooting.

The above is an excerpt from Exquisite Curves.

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Large Close Light

A common mantras is to use as large a diffuser as possible, and to place it as close to the model as
possible. The desired result is for the light “wrap around the model.”  A diffuser is a translucent material placed in
front of a light to soften and reduce its intensity.)

With a small umbrella, the light coverage is narrow and the contrast is a bit harsh. You will see quick light falloff across the torso and the length of the body. With a medium umbrella, the light is a bit softer and coverage is wider. With a large umbrella, the transition from light to shadow is more gradual. This is evident in the floor shadows and on the body. This smooth transition between lit and unlit areas is why it is referred to as wrapping the subject in light.


The previous is an excerpt from the book, Lights, Camera… Nude!

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Recruiting Nude Models: Tips for Website Design

To recruit figure models, its essential to put your portfolio online. You can create an effective Web presence with
your own domain, a major model-centric networking site, and a signif icant photo-sharing site.

Here are some do’s and don’t for designing your website:

  • Make sure you discuss, in depth, where you are and what you do; this will increase the frequency by which you appear in relevant search engine results.
  • Keep adding interesting content to your site.
  • Keep your model recruiting goal in mind throughout your site design. Some additional information to express your
    personality is wonderful, but make sure it makes sense in the context of recruiting.
  • Keep your site focused. If you also shoot weddings or sell kitchen storage containers, do that through a separate website.
  • Get right to the point with a strong image and overview information. A few strong images are better than tons of mediocre ones.
  • List your unembellished accomplishments
  • Include testimonials from past models.


  • Be careful what personally identifiable information (yours or the models’) you place for the world to see. Things like models’ e-mail addresses and last names are a no-no unless models are already publicizing them.
  • Don’t upload images that are larger than necessary to demonstrate your abilities.
  • Don’t try to game or trick the search engines. Search engine companies are extremely savvy to this.
  • Don’t include excessive personal details.
  • Don’t describe yourself as a guru or expert; if you are one it will be obvious in your work.
  • Don’t copy someone elses format. Be original.

The above excerpt is from Up to My Eyeballs in Nude Women. The book is about recruiting and working with models and has 5 pages on creating a web presence.

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