I’ve been photographing and creating video for over twenty years and absolutely love what I do. My name is Michael, also known as the photographer for PixelFried Photography. My work allows me to meet and work with men and women from all walks of life and I’m constantly learning along the way. Likewise, I like to do everything I can to help models get started and grow to their utmost potential.
One of the questions that I am often asked is about how a prospective model should prepare for their first nude shoot (or any nude shoot for that matter.) Rather than send something out every single time I thought that I would post this on the site so that everyone could gain from my experience. Most of the people that I work with seem to share at least the majority of these thoughts when working with nude models. Some of these suggestions will apply to the preparation for any shoot, but some of the considerations will be unique for the nude model. Obviously, specialty shoots like body paint, underwater, UV/blacklight, etc have some additional parameters, but hopefully this will provide the basics to get you started.
What You Should Know Before You Start – Legal Considerations
More and more often I run into models that don’t think twice about the legal aspects of their modeling career. They’re a model, they pose nude or they don’t, and they don’t think about how the images that are taken may be used. Something things that you should consider before any shoot – especially a nude shoot:
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) grants the creator (e.g. photographer) of an image the full rights to it – however, as the model, you often need to grant permission for the photographer to profit from your likeness. Therefore, a typical shoot will require a model release or agreement which grants the photographer the right to distribute, display, and/or sell images containing the model’s likeness, and sometimes will grant the model a right to use some number of images in their portfolio. The model typically does not have the right to sell or license the images, and in some cases the model does not have the right to display them.
Be aware that the model release is a binding legal agreement and unless set up for a specific term it is typically not easily cancelled. If you’re concerned about photos or nude photos with your likeness being distributed, do not participate in a photo shoot that creates those images.
New record-keeping laws require photographers to give legal proof of age for any model posing in sexually explicit content – even if they are not nude. If the project meets certain guidelines, you may be required to provide multiple forms of identification and sign an affidavit attesting that you are of legal age in your state.
You (and/or the photographer) have the right to stop the shoot at any time, however, if you do this it is the equivalent of quitting a job on the spot. You may not get your full payment (or may not be paid at all).
It is the photographer’s responsibility to know the laws regarding public nudity, but as a model it is important that you know those laws as well. You need to be aware that many cities have strict laws against public nudity – even in the name of art – and ultimately the crime isn’t against the photographer but the person modeling nude. Decide for yourself whether you’re comfortable taking the risks.
You have the right to safety and to take precautions to protect yourself. Many models bring assistants or escorts with them to shoot. If you decide to do this, be conscientious and alert the photographer ahead of time that you plan to bring a chaperone with you. Make sure that your escort will be completely professional and that he/she knows to be quiet and unobtrusive throughout. As a general rule, it is a bad idea to bring your spouse or significant other.
Know What You’re Shooting – Details Matter
Before any shoot, you’re going to want to get information from the photographer to make sure that you’re comfortable and clear on what is expected. This is more important when you’re working with a photographer on a nude shoot – always trust your instincts. Some questions you should be asking up front:
What is the basic concept of the project? Is this a simple art nude in a studio or will you be a zombie princess?
Is the shoot implied nude, topless or fully nude?
Does the concept include any adult material or erotic photography? Sometimes the easiest way of comparing these is by clarifying whether we’re talking about Maxim Magazine, Playboy Magazine (nude but not spread), Hustler Magazine (nude with spread/exposed genitalia) or Fetish (feet, bondage, etc.)
Will there be other models?
What is the intended shoot timeframe?
Will you receive money, images, or both? Money should change hands on the spot, either before or after shooting. Images might be delivered on the spot or emailed at a future time. If the images are coming in the future, make sure to get an idea of how long editing will take.
Where will the shoot take place? IF the shoot will take place in a home or hotel, or on location, an escort is often recommended. Again, trust your instincts.
Be Ready – How to Prepare
If this is your first time modeling nude or modeling in general, make sure that you are mentally prepared. Taking off your clothes for a stranger, even in the name of art, can be a little intimidating. Even nude, modeling is still art and if you are uncomfortable with it or not ready, it will show up in your eyes and comes across clearly on camera. Make sure that you are truly ready. While thinking about this, if there is someone in your life (parent/spouse/significant other/ family member) who may object to you modeling/modeling nude, make sure that you have discussed it (or are prepared for the consequences) beforehand.
Modeling is demanding work and the number one secret for looking your best is simple – make sure that you are fully hydrated. All modeling is strenuous, and outdoor work and other “active” types of modeling are worse. Proper hydration will keep you from getting sick, looking pale on camera, and most importantly you won’t have major lines.
As soon as you decide you want to work as a model you should begin thinking about how you can achieve your goals – start practicing facial expressions in the mirror. If you have a full-length mirror, stand in front of it nude and note how your body moves and pulls with different poses. Try to understand what is flattering for your body and work with it. Use the internet to learn about different expressions and poses that can flatter your body. Even really skinny girls (and men) get lines and folds when they don’t focus on the right way to stand. Knowing how your body works will help. In most cases the photographer that you’re working with will help you with posing, but same practice beforehand will help immensely.
What Should You Wear to Your Shoot?
When going to your shoot, you should wear very lightweight clothes and nothing that is tight or likely to leave lines or marks on your body. The biggest culprits are underwear, bras, socks, jeans and tight fitting workout pants. If you are large busted and live far away, you should plan on being able to remove your bra at least a half hour before you are set to arrive to help reduce the marks. Generally sun-dresses, large t-shirts, loose sweatpants and flip-flops work best, but be aware that even some of these can leave marks that take to go away or edit after the shoot. (Fun photography fact: when you see a series of photos in Playboy or another magazine they are often shot in reverse. The model starts out naked and puts on the clothes/corset/bra so that there aren’t red lines and skin wrinkles in the shoot The photos are then posted in reverse.)
Should You Do Your Own Hair/Makeup?
Whether you wear hair or makeup is shoot specific and should be clarified at the beginning. If the photographer is hiring in someone to do your hair or makeup, no, come clean faced with your hair washed. If not, you can do LIGHT, NATURAL makeup. Many women want to do glamor-style makeup, but when you’re nude (especially if you are shaven down below), excess makeup can make you look really head heavy which can unbalance the photograph.
Recent changes to makeup have brought more and more glitter and aluminum based products to market. This is true with foundation and antiperspirants. These two products create a reflective appearance that is invisible to the naked eye but very obvious when photographed. These products should be avoided whenever possible.
What Should You Bring?
Most important, regardless of whether you are modeling fully clothed or completely nude, bring a legal, government issue ID. If the only ID you have is expired, we cannot work together until you have a current, legal identification that clearly states your name and age. For paid work exceeding $700 in a calendar year, a social security number will be required. If you have them, bring props! Gave a favorite hat, lingerie or even a special teddy bear, bring it along. We may not use it, but those fun, personal touches often make the difference between good and great. Finally, bring a good attitude. This may be a job, but if you’re not having fun, why bother? If you’re in this for the money alone you should probably consider an alternative career.
Generally speaking, I am not a fan of the group photo shoot. For those that are new to this, a group photo shoot is basically any number of photographers and a model or models taking photographs over timed intervals. From the perspective of the photographer it’s often difficult because there are so many people around it’s often difficult to connect with the model let alone tell your own story on camera. From the model’s perspective it’s hit and miss as to how good the results are and most participant photographers can be somewhat demanding trying to get the most from their few minutes of time.
However, from time to time it’s possible to get some great results from even a few simple snapshots. It just takes more time and more effort and in some cases you may walk away with nothing that you’re really happy with. Some recent examples of captures that I actually like include:
As an organization focused on both the business and creative side of photography, it was important for PixelFried.com to have an environment that would allow both business and creative tendencies to flourish. As part of that, we’ve established an studio presence in downtown San Jose that offers an environment to create images that would be impossible to create in the traditional studio environment.
Located on the 13th floor of an historic Bank of America building, the attic studio maintains the rustic charm that one would expect in an attic while offering all the modern conveniences needed to capture quality images and video. From professional and natural lighting to top-of-the-line camera equipment, the attic studio offers all the modern conveniences with street-sense charm. Over 2000 square feet of space, including a fully appointed dressing room, this space is a model’s delight. And as with everything we do, the goal of maintaining this space will always be to continue the tradition of providing quality work with creative value.
See below for some pictures of the space; to help you imagine what you might be able to do for your project. As you look at the commercial/rustic design of this attic space, keep in mind that some natural light from windows and skylights is supplemented by storbes and LEDs that are combined with backdrops and drapes to create traditional studio images as well as green-screen video on our HD equipment.