What it's really like to spend time photographing mostly naked women

Water Nymph

"Okay," I said, "now do you want to do some implied shots?"

We were not very far from one of the trails, but we were out of public view as the open space preserve defined it, which meant that clothes were optional. And we had already been photographing for quite some time... First with her bra off so you couldn't see anything through the low back of her dress, then with her bra so her chest looked better from the front, and so on. We started out making sure to not get the bottom of her dress wet or dirty and getting all of those shots, then we moved to shots that involved letting the bottom of the dress get wet from the creek. Now, I had some pictures in my head where I'd like to have her not have a dress on at all.

What's it like shooting mostly naked women? About the same as it's like shooting clothed women, except not every woman wants to be photographed with only a thong and her hands between her private bits and the camera.

I feel that every guy has this misapprehension that asking a girl to pose nude is like coaxing a girlfriend out of her clothing. Or that there must be a sexual connection between model and photographer. Really, the whole public perception of this sort of photography is very skewed.


A Brapod

There's a lot of folks out there who really want to be "glamour" photographers. They are usually armed with the latest and greatest in digital SLRs, love to take pictures of naked women, and folks seem to have settled down to calling them "GWC"s. They never do much with the pictures other than keeping them around to show their friends who they managed to get naked. I've seem some GWC portfolios that are singularly unattractive, complete with redeye effects. I've also heard whispered stories, generally from models, of what some photographers have tried on them.

This colors things from both sides. Models don't want to work with sketchy photographers. And photographers have to spend a lot of time trying to project the public appearance of being non-sketchy. I've heard photographers getting calls from irate boyfriends as well as models getting calls from irate ex-spouses.

It's generally a rule that photographers are never to touch the model.

Being involved in the shoot is a lot less erotic than you'd think. The greatest sin you can commit upon a model is to make her look unattractive. So being lost in the moment and enjoying the "scenery" is counterproductive because you need to get your shots together. Models tend to work best and therefore look more attractive when they feel comfortable, so when you aren't working on getting a good shot, you are making sure that SHE is feeling comfortable. Some models are able to dissemble their feelings so as to always look attractive, but you can't rely on that. And you don't want your model telling everybody that you are a sketchy, hard-to-work-with photographer.

Even after realizing that getting a model out of her clothing is very different from getting a girlfriend out of her clothing, I still find myself posing requests as questions. Generally, most of the negotiation about the content of the shoot happens before the shoot (Where the answers are usually "OK", "only for paid gigs", or "no, I don't do that"). The people who tend to be drawn to modeling also tend not to be shy about showing off what they've got, so it is very rare that this becomes an insurmountable, offensive issue.

I have a term I use that I find funny in a hilarious sort of way. I call it the "Mapplethorpe Rule". See, you can either show genitalia *or* a face, but neither both. If you show both, you tend to make your viewer uncomfortable. The reason why I call it the Mapplethorpe Rule is because he made a career out of breaking it. There's a huge peculiar set of associations with totally nude shots that skimpy lingerie (even a thong and a hand-bra) make go away.

There's no Austin Powers "yeah, baby" moments to be had.. at least for my shoots. All models tend to get out of me is small talk and self deprecating humor.

Cash and currency in the model-centric world seems to be your book. With a good book, models want to work with you. Some of my female friends have posed for me on account of the strength of my book. The problem, of course, is getting the initial shots.

Some folks ask me about how I "get away" with shooting while being married. My wife is actually quite happy to not pose, so that people other than her get to ham it in front of the camera. We talk about what I'm plotting to do and she sees how my pictures turns out. And she knows that I am smart enough to not do something stupid with a model.


Side notes:

I've been doing a lot more natural and studio lit work of late. I love doing my lightpaintings and that's not going to stop, but I feel I've branched out somewhat

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