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Introduction: True Confessions of Nude Photography

Nude female, Image by Eugene Durieu, 1855
Image by Eugene Durieu, 1855

The female body is a marvel of natural beauty that has inspired artists for thousands of years prior to the invention of photography. Although nudity has gone in and out of vogue over time, it has persevered as a subject for a multitude of artistic undertakings. The earliest nude photos were, unsurprisingly, produced shortly after the refinement of photographic technique, with nude daguerreotypes becoming prominent in the 1800s.

No prior experience with nude photography is needed to benefit from this guide. This book is aimed at novice to intermediate photographers. Although it covers the basics of the genre, this guide assumes that you have a camera that is more advanced than a point-and-shoot, and that you already understand how to operate your camera. Proper technique is an important fundamental, but nude photography entails more than knowledge of equipment. There is a huge interpersonal element—much more so than in any other kind of photography. The guidance people most often ask of me is how to find quality models. Most guides on photographic technique assume you have already found a willing subject. I assume that you are having trouble, or at least are having difficulty finding models that you feel can take your work to the next level. I will provide you with the system I have developed for scouting and recruiting. I also assume that you are unsure how to go about asking models about nude shoots or what to say to them once you have them in the studio. My approach shows you how to connect with models, ask them about nude shoots, how to talk to them, direct them in the studio, and how to work with them long term. Each model who has stepped in front of my camera came to me through one of the techniques that I share in this book.

I will also share what I know about lighting and posing, including 150 example poses. Each lighting setup includes a diagram ranging from basic, low-budget lighting to a full studio system. Finally, you will find some tips on what to do with your images after you shoot them, including post-processing suggestions and marketing ideas (if you are inclined to attempt a commercial venture with nude photography).

I did not fill these pages with general camera information. However, for your convenience, I have assembled a few fundamental tips that are of particular relevance to figure work or otherwise hard-to-find.

The guidance that follows is drawn from my twenty years of experiences with nude photography, some enlightening, and others humbling. I began working with nudes while earning an art degree. Starting with my first shoots, each session has provided valuable lessons. That insight, gained through working with hundreds of models, drives the content. I also draw from my career as a professional photographer, my stint as a photography instructor, and my work as a freelance artist to round out this guide.

I have not only learned from success, but also from my mistakes. My goal is to help you avoid the misconceptions and missteps that are common among novice figure photographers. I promise not to hold anything back on topics that many people are hesitant to talk about.

You cannot expect to improve your photography by the simple act of reading this book. You can only improve your photography skills by repeatedly practicing techniques;  this book describes plenty for you to practice. This guide contains the kind of knowledge I wish I had access to when I first started shooting. I hope it speeds you on your quest to capture the beauty of the body, increasing your technical skills while providing you with a thorough, well-rounded comprehension of the interpersonal side of the art.

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