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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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Without Time or Social Status

Sometimes, just celebrating nudity and beauty is enough. Other times, artists choose to push the limits of taboo, imagination, and expression. The nude female form has been admired through art throughout the history of a multitude of human cultures. Whether revered as a symbol of fertility or aesthetic perfection, countless artists have endeavored to capture the divinity of the female form.

The nude figure is without rank, social caste, or economic class. Save for hair styles, the unclad form gives away little as to what time period she belongs. We may be able to deduce the era in which a photograph was created from the photographic technique and the choice of feminine ideal. But it should be the artist’s goal to transcend these tell-tale signs. Technique can be obscured to where digital images resemble oil paintings, pastel, mixed media, or, better yet, remain ambiguous as to what media was used.

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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.