Nude photo shoots can be intimidating for both the model and the photographer. Here's how I embraced the challenge, overcame intimidation, and found my creative flow.
Back in 2013, when boudoir photography was just beginning to take off, I photographed my first boudoir shoot. Initially approached by a friend, I was surprised how much I enjoyed boudoir photography. Although I was still figuring things out back then and didn't have a ton of poses planned, my primary objective was to take photos that highlighted my friend’s amazing spirit, personality, and her body in a way that made her feel beautiful and empowered. The photos turned out better than either me or my friend expected. I loved this intimate style of portraiture. Little did I know, this shoot would mark the beginning of a series of boudoir sessions and eventually lead to boudoir photography becoming a prominent service on my website, perfectly complementing my main role as a wedding photographer.
As the popularity of boudoir surged, I grew increasingly comfortable with capturing boudoir photos and empowering women through these shoots. It proved to be a consistently positive and uplifting experience. I prided myself in talking elegant, tasteful photos that encompassed a sense of sexuality and beauty. For the most part, the majority of my clients were fully clothed in lingerie or artfully draped in sheets. Everything was very tasteful and implied.
Over the years, as my photography career progressed, I began exploring conceptual and fine art photography. I found myself increasingly inspired by the female form. Many of my artistic concepts and ideas revolved around full nudity. However, photographing someone completely nude intimidated me. With no elements to conceal behind, posing had to be precise, highlighting every curve to flatter the subject's body type. It was crucial to ensure my model’s felt confident, safe, and empowered. Posing nude exposed them in a very vulnerable manner, and I approached this responsibility very seriously, placing immense pressure on myself.
During my first nude shoots, I stumbled and doubted my abilities when it came to directing my models. I was so in my head. I became overly self-conscious and let the nudity affect my confidence. I was so consumed with making sure the model felt comfortable that my directing suffered. The level of assurance I displayed in other shoots seemed to waver. But I love a challenge, and I was determined to master fine art nude photography.
I started slowly, gradually building confidence by starting with topless shots. Once I felt completely at ease with those, I progressed to full nudity. My first nude shoots were with models who I felt comfortable with and had photographed before. Having that sense of trust already exist really helped. Continuously pushing myself, each subsequent shoot increased my confidence. Eventually, I reached a point where I could direct a nude shoot with the same unwavering confidence as any other type of photoshoot. I now think my nude images are some of my strongest.
It's important to recognize that any model who agrees to pose nude is a confident and powerful individual. As a photographer, it is essential to exude even greater confidence than they do. Regardless of how confident they may appear, the act of posing nude can inherently make them vulnerable. They are placing so much trust in you. So, radiating confidence while directing a shoot becomes paramount. For me, the key is to envision the person as if they were fully clothed and approach the shoot in the same manner as any other. However, I always make sure to follow these guidelines:
Share your vision for the shoot with the model. Provide them with an overview of the poses you have in mind and make certain they feel comfortable with the direction.
Use Verbal Direction
I rely entirely on verbal instructions during all of my nude shoots. By offering specific guidance, I ensure clarity for the model regarding their poses. If they struggle with a pose, I demonstrate it myself to help them grasp my vision.
Take Breaks and Check In
Throughout the shoot, regularly ask whether the model wants to take a break and consistently communicate with them. Ask about their comfort level and well-being, including aspects like temperature, and accommodate any adjustments necessary to enhance their comfort.
I believe in empowering models and valuing their creative input. Each shoot is a collaboration, and I always ask the models if they have any poses or ideas that they think would help achieve the vision of the shoot. I usually wait to ask this until after I have captured the most important shots. But I always like to leave some time at the end of the shoot to have some fun and try any new ideas that come up.
Use Empowering Language
During a nude shoot, the language you use is incredibly important. Use empowering language to cheer them on throughout the shoot and let them know that they are respected, appreciated, and doing an amazing job.
Robes for Comfort and Flexibility
To enhance the comfort and flexibility of models during shoots, I always advise them to bring a robe. This allows them to cover up between shots while we make lighting adjustments or when they desire a break. Providing the option for a robe gives models a sense of control over their level of exposure and helps create a more relaxed environment.
As a photographer, it is natural to have moments of intimidation when it comes to nude photography. Nudity has often been surrounded by a sense of taboo and can be intimidating for both photographers and models alike. However, I firmly believe that nudity has the potential to yield some of the most beautiful and powerful artistic images. It is essential to approach this subject with a heightened awareness of how the model feels, while staying true to your artistic vision.
Has anyone else been intimidated by nude photography? What worked for you?