Etiquette and Preparation
So, let's talk about preparing for a fine art nude shoot. Couple things. I would say about half, maybe 60 percent of the subjects in my presentation, maybe more, were not nude models. It's not like they do it for a living, or-- Many of them had never posed nude before. But it was a lot of people that had been interested in it, and interested in exploring their body as an art form. And I guided them through it. A lot of them were actually ballerinas or dancers. Their body is already their art. They already perceive it as such, so it's just taking it to the next level. I'm gonna talk about finding models, my suggestions for that Let's talk about preparing for your very first nude shoot or a nude shoot if you've never done it before. I was a little bit intimidated the first time, but I think one of the most important things is showing your own confidence. People can read -- as soon as you're unsure, or you're nervous, they think, "Oh, they're nervous, "I guess I should be nervous too." If...
someone's comfortable with it, and you're nervous, it's like, "Oh, alright, now you think I should be." It's all about confidence which means taking classes like this and being prepared, having those go-to poses ready, so there's not that: "Oh, what do I do now?" You don't want that mood. Same thing with the lighting. So it's as much preparation as possible. The first thing I say is you need to have your concepts. And that doesn't mean-- your concept can just be: a nude form there studying the light around it. But you need to know the direction you're going. You don't wanna stand there uncertain. So we're gonna talk about the concept. Cause that helps you plan your posing, and your lighting, and inspiration, so I always have a concept. Determining your models and model requirements. There's no right or wrong fine art nude model, at all. But you should be specific so you're getting someone that fits the concept that you have. Finally reaching out to the models: what's the etiquette for that? Let's take a look. Developing your concept: What is it that you want to say in this shoot? There are so many great places for inspiration. I'm actually gonna provide you in a slide a list of, I think it's like 20, people that have shot nudes or do fine art nude photography that I get inspiration from. And I think it really helps -- the key is: take what you like and what you're inspired by without reproducing the shot. That's always a challenge that we as photographers face. Inspiration places: I get inspiration from Pinterest and 500px and Behance, and art galleries, this is what I said, I travel and have been very lucky to do so. Model society, modelsociety.com is a website and magazine that's dedicated to the study of the nude form. Their idea is they want to remove taboo from the nude. And they want it to be appreciated as an art form. So there's a lot of inspiration there, it's a really good, I've had positive experiences with that community, so I would check that out as well. What I personally do, every shoot I ever do, fashion, portrait, fine art nude is I build a mood board. An inspiration board. Granted, in this, you're not going to have clothing. Usually my mood boards have: a picture of what the lighting should be, a picture of what the posing should be, any other props or things that I need. So my fine art nude, it usually has lighting-- like my mood boards-- lighting, if I need to acquire props ahead of time, and then a bunch of inspiration poses so I can use as a springboard with my subject, so we have a way to move. For example, the mood boards here. And the preparation for these shoots would be drastically different. The picture on the left is an abstract of a nude. And I didn't really need to do anything, but I had inspiration like that, cause this was-- she had her arm on a chair, and we'd go "one two three" and bring the elbow up. But I had to have inspiration of how I wanted to abstract it But I was letting her know: this is the direction I'm going. So when I reach out to models, I let them know: Is this a figure study? What is the concept of the shoot? If it were more boudoir or more erotic, you would say and explain. And so the images you attach let them know so there is no mixup on the day. That's the worst thing is if someone shows up and what you're doing is not what they thought they were doing. That's why I do mood boards so everyone's on the same page. Keeping everyone comfortable is paramount for this more than any other type of photography. The picture on the right, just something to think about, This shot I actually did after a commercial shoot. I got hired to do this commercial shoot where we had big budget for tons of flowers. I knew the shoot was set to wrap around 6 o'clock, so at 6:30 I had my fine art nude model. As soon as everybody left, I did my fine art nude shoot. I'll do that if I've got a cool location or a cool set and I know I have more time to work with it. So it might be something you would consider. But again, mood boards very different, and I had her bring a gray wig, a silver wig for the shot. Here's my list of inspiration. There obviously are a million more people on this list. Some of these are fashion photographers, because I'm a fashion photographer, but for example, if you look at the fine art nude work of Herb Ritts. It's so beautiful. It is absolutely stunning, and his posing is incredible. He has these beautiful male nudes in Africa where they look like trees. There's a guy who's holding almost like a tumbleweed, and he has this like-- it's so beautiful. So many of these are people that I'm inspired by in fashion, but they also explore nudes. And I appreciate that because so do I. So I can see that they're drawn to the same thing. Some of these people, some people go a little bit more in the erotic realm. He's a fashion photographer. I'm gonna say this wrong: Dani Olivier, we'll say that. His work, he does projections, that's all he does is project onto the nude. He does videos, they are so cool. You should check him out on Instagram, he's great. Then we have this guy over here does really clean and graphic compositions on white backgrounds. This woman down here is a fine art photographer who does these kind of paled out gray nudes. It's so trippy and it's wonderful. I just say start here. Search some of this work. I guarantee you something's going to inspire you. And then when you go online and find these images, it-- it's the endless search for inspiration. This list: definitely a great place to start. For example, this shot is one of them that I do for the class. This was shot on the pre-shoot day. And I show you the tools that I use and a couple different ways to do this photo. This is inspired by a fashion shoot done by a photographer called Solve Sundsbo, who's probably one of my biggest inspirations. It's a fashion shoot with beauty, and he had projections on the skin, so I just took it my own direction with projection. But I had inspiration. The next thing would be determining the shoot needs. What do you need for the shoots? We're gonna talk about model in a second, but do you need a location or hair and makeup? Or what is it that you need? And then the model requirements. For the skin, figuring out what you wanna do, I've got some shots that I'll do with cracked clay. You put the clay on the skin and it cracks, and it's interesting to do abstracts of the body, or make them look like a sculpture or study the texture. Or maybe, I like collaborating with body paint artists. Cause you know with body paint artists, they bring their own ideas, and it's fascinating. There's a shot I did for the pre-film day that was done with a body paint artist. Another thing that I recommend is good old baby oil. When I do a lot of figure studies, oiling up the skin, it picks up the highlights and emphasizes them even more. Baby oil, Vaseline, and then the other thing is Pond's Cold Cream. Specifically the one with the green cap. It works really well. Baby oil looks really wet, whereas the Pond's Cold Cream is just a little bit dewy. It just makes the highlights pop out on the clavicles or on the chest. Those are things I always have in my space, we also have coconut oil. A combination of those, one of them will give you the right amount of shininess for the skin depending on your shoot. Obviously, for this one, appropriation was, we just had to have flour or talcum powder. But we had to prepare it ahead of time. Alright, casting for a model. As I said, there's no right or wrong answer. They key is: be specific. It is completely fine if for your concept you specify what race you want. Cause guess what, some shoots I need a dark-skinned subject. Some shoots I need a pale-skinned subject. It's okay to say if you want lots of tattoos or no tattoos. You need to be specific. You could describe the type of build: slender, a dancer build, fit, muscular, curvy, rubenesque, each one of those is gonna be a slightly different body type And it's okay to specify what you're looking for. I also, starting off, I do recommend you try to shoot with somebody with some previous experience, so you're not nervous and also they're nervous. Have somebody who knows how to work in front of the camera a little bit. And this is why sometimes I specify for the build: I would love someone with dance experience. Because dancers, they already know how to move in front of the camera and curve. And they're not-- they're body is their art, so it's a good place to start. For example, for casting, for this shoot, this was a cross between fine art and fashion. So my subjects are completely nude. I needed to have a darker-skinned subject for this to work. And that on their body is Vaseline and baby oil, and they're really really lubed up so it's nice and shiny. But I was very specific: I want someone that's fit or very slender, and I want someone with darker skin. The girl on the right, we'll talk about agencies. You can get some subjects through agencies for nudes, but it is very seldom, so we'll... So finding models. Most of the time I find models on Model Mayhem. Model Mayhem is a social network that has photographers and makeup artists and models, so it's a good place to start. But also, there's a lot of communities, and you have to look where you live. There's lot of online communities, Facebook groups or forums based on those types of interests. So for example, burlesque. I've photographed burlesque performers. Their body is their art, they're fine with performing, it's great, they're gonna be very confident. So you can reach out to burlesque performers, but a lot of times they have communities online. Facebook groups and forums and-- so that's a good place to network and meet people as well. Figure models for art classes. But the one that I've had the best luck with has been dancers and ballerinas and gymnasts. Now what I have done in the past, my approach, is instead of just reaching out to someone and saying, I'll say it like this: "I'm interested in shooting some figure studies. "I see that you're a dancer, I understand "that your body is your art. "Would you be interested in being my subject? "If not, do you know someone else you "may be able to recommend me. "I'm happy to show inspiration of the "type of shoot I'm planning to do." Just very professional, I don't say to the person, "Are you comfortable getting naked in front of the camera?" It's much more, "Here's my concept, your body's your art." And so what I did, the reason I've had so many incredible fine art nude subjects to photograph this past year, past two years, has been because I found one dancer that agreed to do fine art nude studies with me, and then her friends saw the pictures. And I said, "If any of your friends like the pictures and "be willing to model for me let me know." And then that friends, and then that friends, and then-- and so then I basically had this large dancer community that I had available, which is ideal. It was wonderful. As I said, agency models. If you reach out to an actual model agency, it's unlikely that they will allow their subjects to be nude Part of their job, generally, for fashion model agencies, is to control the models' reputations and their brand. So usually they don't let the subjects pose nude. So I'm just letting you know, if you reach out to an agency it's usually no, but you can also show inspiration and if they're cool with the idea, they might be fine with it. And then also yoga. I photographed yogis, people that are really into yoga. Fit, their body is their art, all of that. For example, this subject had never posed nude before. Ever. And she's the subject, this is the same shoot as the one with all the flour and the powder. But, no problem, her body is her art form. And the same thing here. Picture on the left, she was a dancer, had never posed nude before. Girl in the middle, did yoga, never posed nude before. Girl on the right was a girl I went to high school with. And I just put out on social: "Hey, I'm looking to do figure study, anyone interested?" And she sent me a private message and said, "Sure." So I can't tell you exactly where you'll find them, but just being professional about it. Details for casting. If you're casting for a model, if you're calling out and saying, "This is what I'm interested in." Be specific about all those things: the build, whether you want tattoos or not. If you don't care, then just don't say that point. But I would be very specific if I were you. Compensation, we're gonna talk about that in a second. Because compensation for nude models is usually different than it is for portrait photography or testing. Say if it's studio or location, what's your concept, and then how long the shoot is. Be very open about everything in the shoot. Typically I've found for fine art nude models is it is much rarer, much less likely that someone will shoot in exchange for photos. Meaning, they don't require to be paid. This doesn't mean it doesn't exist. I've shot several of those dancers that I didn't pay, it was pay for photos. Or they're trade for photos. But, if you wanna work with an experienced model who does it as their job, if you found one who, that's how she makes her living, typically you're looking from somewhere between 25 and 125 an hour for their time. So just expect that. Of course, there's always negotiation. If you wanna say, "I wanna do a five hour shoot and I'll give you images, what's the rate?" Just be open about it. But know that typically it's harder to get people to do it just for photographs. So let's say you're going to contact the model now. In it you wanna put all of the casting details, mood board, what they should bring, and then this last part: personal grooming. Let's talk about etiquette about this. Personal grooming is how do you want the body to look. And I'm just really professional about it. I just say-- I'm gonna read you what the description of an email that I sent looks like. Basically I would say natural means however things grow, let it happen. Manicured means clean it up. And then shaven means it's gone. So this is the type, I'm gonna read you the type of email. Here's what I say: I say, "Good morning, "I'd love to confirm you as the model for my shoot and I'm "looking forward to collaborating with you on this project. "I've attached an inspiration for this shoot to show you "the type of concept we'll be working on. "In preparation for the day I have a few requests "to help everything go smoothly. "First of all, please arrive to the shoot wearing "loose-fitted garment-- loose underwear or no underwear, "loose socks, no tight jeans, "perhaps more sweatpants-type clothing. "This ensures there will be no lines in the skin "so we don't have to Photoshop anything out." So I'm getting them all set for that. Next, "As you can see by the concept board," And this is just an example, "As you can see by the concept board, "we're going to be creating an image with body paint, "and I don't have a shower at my studio." For example, think of this stuff ahead of time. "So please bring clothing that you feel comfortable "changing back into even if the body paint "doesn't come off completely. "For the day of the shoot, I will be providing a robe, "but you're welcome to bring your own. "Please bring any items that you feel will help you "be comfortable on the day of the shoot: "Slippers, flip flops, bath robe, snacks. "Do you have any dietary restrictions?" Cause I always have snacks available. "Finally I'd like to discuss personal grooming. "Please ensure that the legs and armpits are cleanly shaven. "It's very difficult to Photoshop these things out. "Next, however you choose to groom yourself, "make sure it looks purposeful. "If you go for clean-shaven make sure it is such. "If you go for a more natural look, "that's fine, just be sure it looks purposeful. "In other words, I don't want the look to be "sometimes I shave but in this case I forgot." This is what I would say to someone. "We're going for fine art, so there should be nothing "distracting us away from that core concept. "Should you have any questions, I'm more than happy "to help answer them, if you have any concerns, "you wanna bring anything to my attention, "you're more than welcome to. "I look forward to creating beautiful art with you. "I've included the final details of the shoot below." What to bring, the location, how long, all of that. So this is an example. This is literally what I sent to the models for Creative Live. It was this, but I just talked about Creative Live a little bit in the filming part, but this is the same thing every single time. So that's why I said make sure they bring loose-fitted clothing, cause otherwise you're gonna have to Photoshop it out. And also, I know our audience can speak to this, it's kinda hot in here. It's hotter than usual. Part of this is you gotta remember your model's comfort. It's okay if you're hot, cause imagine: they don't have clothes on, so they're gonna be cold. So this is an example of I definitely have got to let my subjects know if I'm going to be painting like this, cause I actually don't have a shower at my studio. And these were both done at my studio. You gotta let them know these types of things. Nudes on location. Just a couple other things for consideration. If you're gonna shoot on location, how is shooting on location helping your concept? Why are you shooting on location in the first place? Are you going to mimic the environment? Is it just because it's an interesting environment? Are you adding something graphic to mimic a shape? And I also remember the model's comfort. If you're shooting in a place where nudes are probably not allowed, they better know that. On the day of the shoot, being like, "Oh, you know, we're just gonna run and gun." You discuss this beforehand. But, thankfully what you can do is you can check a lot of the rules and regulations cause there actually are quite-- depends on where you live, of course-- there are quite a few parks and places that actually allow people to be nude. You just have to read up on that. Of course the easiest thing is just on your own property if you have it. I live in New York City. So there actually are some parks where you're technically allowed to be nude, but I don't really want my subjects to be harassed So, model comfort comes first. This is an example warehouse that I had permission to shoot in. But it was freezing cold. So we brought along space heaters. So they were just on either side of her for both of these shots, for all the shots I did. This was in a creek on my parents' farm. It's just all natural light, it's the overcast sky from above. I love the texture of the water against the smooth texture of her skin, I think it looks really beautiful. In here she's posing to mimic the shape of the tree, again on my parents' farm. It was funny, because my model showed up and "Bye mom and dad, we're gonna go shoot nudes, "so if you just come to say hi, "just so you know what we're doing." It was funny. Next important thing: Get a Model Release and get it before you shoot a single frame. Get it right up front. And in the description, all these Model Releases, they have a place to describe the shoot. Make sure you mention nude so they can't claim that they didn't know that was the direction the shoot was going and try-- it needs to say it in it. Usually I take a photo of the subject holding their ID. You're verifying, "Yes, it's them who signed the ID, "and they're above 18." I get the Model Release and the photo, the photo with the ID All of those things. Some photographers put in their model release if it's nude, they put a line like this: "The model agrees to be aware "of the nature of the photographs and provides consent "to appear fully and/or partially nude "in the resulting photographs." Now, I am not giving you any legal advice, look this up on your own, but throwing that in there, it doesn't hurt, but most model releases are supposed to cover everything If it's not sexually explicit. Look it up yourself, just telling you what I do. Model comfort. If your model's uncomfortable, the shoot's not gonna work. You have to make sure they're comfortable. Have a clean robe. Meaning if everyone used the same robe and it's getting kinda stinky, clean robes. Slipper or flip flops. I've got a bunch of slippers and flip flops. And then I have light snacks. You know, some of us ladies wanna look good on the nude shoot day and so then they don't eat. I've had this happen, they didn't eat cause they wanted to look good, and then midway through the day, I see them looking like they're gonna faint. So I try to keep light snacks: fruit granola bars, water, things like that. Also considering the room temperature. Goosebumps are impossible to Photoshop out, like impossible. It's so much work, so don't even bother with it. Here's another interesting one, it's a little bit different. I know my subject is going to be standing nude in front of me. We all know this. But when they take off their robe, I generally turn around. And if they're changing into their robe, I don't just say, "Hey, change into your robe here." Cause there's something different about taking off your clothes. That's different than being nude in front of someone. Taking off your clothes just in our brains it's a more sexual act. So, I generally will say, "Here's your robe, "you can change in the other room." You might think, "Well that makes no sense, "I'm gonna see you nude in minute." It's fine. Change in the other room, and then I say, "Okay, if you wanna set your robe over here, just set it "on the apple box and let me know when you're ready." And I'll fiddle with my camera "Okay great." And then I turn back around. It's an etiquette thing. Other than "Let me just watch you." You might not think that it's awkward, but it ends up being. Also, I tend to say nude instead of naked. Just personally, I think naked is a more vulnerable word than nude. Nude for me, I think of nude photography, nude art. And I think of someone being naked. So I'd say nude a lot more commonly. Terminology. There's other terms that are not on this list, but I tend to say, for butt, I tend to say bottom or butt. For the chest, I don't say breast. I get it, like there's certain times where like "Can you turn your chest to me, "you're trying to see the curve." I just personally say chest and bottom. Chest and butt. I don't really need to be more specific than that most of the time. So that's what I've found. Those words, people aren't gonna be offended by, everyone's fine. If you get into more slang or trying to be playful, don't risk it. Stick with chest, butt, and bottom, it's fine. Or torso, sometimes I'll say "Can you rotate the torso towards me?" Sometimes if somebody hasn't posed nude before, I'll have them transition, eventually get to the nude shot. We'll start with sheer fabric over them, cause it just feels more protective even though you can see through it. Then I'll do just the top part of the body visible, and then the full body. Sometimes it just makes it a little bit easier. For example, in this shot I have her actually pulling through the fabric. And that was a dancer. This was just a stretchy piece of fabric with a single beauty dish to the right. And so I thought that was cool, but again, it's little less vulnerable. Or for this shoot, this was her first nude shoot that she'd ever done, so she's partially concealed. This was a fine art nude shot that I really enjoyed, and this one is a professional nude model. So she was comfortable with it, but we took a sheer white fabric, wrapped it around her body, and through it up behind. So this part is actually done in post using smoke brushes, free smoke brushes you can get online, Photoshop smoke. Really easy. Some people are fine with their tops being exposed, but not their bottom. So they sell these sticky coverup underwear that don't have the straps on the side. What you can do is you can tape it to the front, tape it to the back, and you can do most nude poses, cause often you're not seeing those parts anyway. And they're just gonna feel a little bit more comfortable standing on set. I have them around my set in case I end up seeing that someone just looks uncomfortable, and I can just tell. I'm like, "Oh here, if you wanna cover up with this, "but I'd rather not do that." It's just if I feel like they need it. I've also done where I've photographed dancers before, where they're kickin their legs and movin all around, and they're just like, "Can I put?" And I'm like "Sure." Cause I'm not shooting that anyway. Also some people, if you're doing an implied nude, if you're not doing a full nude shot, putting pasties on can make someone feel a little bit more comfortable. And then if later on, they're totally comfortable in front of the camera, you can take these things off. Other etiquette, and for the flow of the shoot. This is a big one: don't touch for any reason, which sounds obvious, but even if there's a hair in the way, like there's a hair that's fallen, I'll say, "Can you just get the hair off of your neck?" I just don't think there's any reason to make someone feel like I'm coming towards them when they're naked, I just let them take care of everything. When I'm complimenting, I always compliment their posing, I'll be like, "That's a great arch, perfect now turn. "The posing's looking beautiful, great expression." I don't compliment body parts. So I don't say, "Oh, your bottom looks really nice in this shot." It's fine, if I show them the picture they'll know it does. I don't need to compliment specifically, but I compliment the pose and the interaction. I'm also very cautious of wider-angle lenses. There are artistic reasons to use wide-angle lenses. When you get a wide-angle lens you gotta come up real close. And I don't want people to feel like their space is being invaded. I tend to use zoom lenses more often than I do fixed. Because I don't wanna be moving in and out towards the subject, I'd rather zoom and do less moving so it feels a little bit more stable. So I would recommend that as well. Also, getting to know your subjects. What's your subject's name? What do they do, what are they passionate about? Anytime that there's a lull in the flow of the shoot, I'll ask them, "So you're a burlesque dancer, "how did you first get into that?" And then let them talk. Or "I saw on your Facebook you've got a dog. "I love dogs, tell me about yours." And I let them talk. The more you know about them, the easier you can have the flow of the shoot go. A question I often get asked is "Can I bring a chaperone? "Can I bring someone with me?" Cause if they don't know you or if it's their first nude shoot they might not feel comfortable showing up and having no clothes. I get it. But, I generally advise against it. Because let's say that it's a girl and she's-- it's her first fine art nude shoot, and she says, "I'm gonna bring my boyfriend to watch. "To just make sure I'm comfortable." But then he's sitting in the back of the room, and it's different dynamic cause all of a sudden she's feeling uncomfortable cause she's taking her clothes off and there's more people in the room and he's watching. If they bring someone that they want to feel safe, I'll tell them that person can be there, but I'll ask them to be-- for me, it's the Starbucks downstairs across the street-- in the next room, at a coffee shop nearby, typically I don't recommend in the same room. It just changes the dynamic and how you're directing the subject. I'm going to talk about some of the essentials of posing a nude, but before I pop into that, I wanted to see if there are any questions from you guys on this very first part. Anything, etiquette, finding models, any of that. Yeah?
How often do you have the model look at the back of the camera?
Good question. So this is a personal, based on the photographer, personal choice, I absolutely have them look at the back of the camera. But I typically don't shoot tethered. One of the reasons why is there might be an angle that I caught something I didn't intend to, and I don't want them to think that that's what I'm going for. So I usually will show them the back of the camera when I'm getting closer to something that I want. My exception is when I shoot with dancers. Because dancers are so particular. I know, I'll have a dancer where everything's perfect, and I'll be like, "Oh I love this shot." And they'll be like, "I didn't point my toe." And I didn't notice, but they don't like the shot anymore. So a lot of times, I'll shoot tethered, and then I'll turn her around and be like, "Is this what you were looking for with your body position?" And it may be, "No, I need gentler fingers." It's things that I'm not even paying attention to. For the average person, I don't shoot tethered, but when I get something good, I show them like, "Look at this, I love the curve, I love the shape." Or if I am shooting tethered, it's not towards them. Just in case. And I've learned this from fashion photography, you get a bad shot, and it happens to be the one that they look at, and then they're just moody and you're like, "That is not what I'm going for, "we're getting there." But they don't know. I had one more comment before I go on to the next posing essentials part. One of the things that I did wanna say is I'm not a fine art nude photographer for pay or for my job or for my career, so I don't want you to think that that's what I'm trying to say with this class. For me, it's personal creative expression, and I enjoy it, and it's fun and it challenges me and there's no rules. And so that's kind of why I do it, but really it's a lot of what I've learned from it is why I'm passing it on to you guys. It's more of creative expression and concept.