Photographing the nude, a modern extension of a traditional art, is significantly different because it is totally honest. A photograph arguably brings us closer to reality than any other depiction of the human form, and so into more intimate contact with the body of the model. Notions of artistic licence can no longer offset lingering self-consciousness. A conventional photograph is a statement of fact, a frozen instant of time, and there is no escape from its revelation. Some models find this difficult to handle, particularly in an age of mistrust and closely scrutiny. They are justifiably afraid that at some point in the future their nude images may fall into unscrupulous hands and be misused.
We all feel vulnerable when naked and inevitably even more exposed when facing a photographer. For this reason it is worth developing an open, trusting relationship with the model before embarking on anything too ambitious. Initially, it may seem tempting to work with friends, relatives or amateur models. However their reluctance to pose naked, perhaps because of lack of confidence in their ability or appearance, may reveal itself in images as insecurity or self-consciousness. Professional figure models therefore provide a better introduction to nude work. They are expensive to hire but relaxed, confident, and skilled at adopting graceful poses.
The environment must be private and suitably warm – probably warmer than the photographer would like. Ideally it should include a private changing room with good lighting and mirrors, a toilet and an area for refreshment and relaxation. Photographic studios and domestic interiors are commonly used for this sort of work, but all sorts of other locations can be found. The photographer should remain sensitive and tactful, and the model should be afforded appropriate consideration. Music chosen by the model breaks silences and helps to establish a relaxed atmosphere.
Good nude images are possible only when the talents of the photographer and model are properly combined. The photographer needs a great deal of skill and judgement, and must search for inherent beauty and grace rather than simple clinical exposure. Few models have perfect bodies, so individual strengths must be identified and revealed while concealing imperfections. The model should be encouraged to contribute creatively and concentrate on subtle and graceful movements. She will need confidence, natural talent, and a rounded body with unblemished skin.
The line that separates fine art from simple exposure is surprisingly narrow. The nude figure is always sensual and erotic and small changes of position, expression and lighting can transform beauty into banality or even vulgarity. Consequently it is extremely easy to get things wrong.