Starting out in the field of nude photography is never easy. The naked human form arguably presents a photographer with more challenges than any other type of photography. The starting point is undoubtedly to understand very clearly what you are trying to achieve and hence why the photographs are being taken. Getting in to nude photography because it seems like fun is not a route likely to lead to success. Many amateur photographers photograph friends and acquaintances to obtain fashion or beauty portraits, and some of the subjects are subsequently asked to pose naked. This approach can work but more often than not it fails to produce worthwhile images - at least initially.
The creative contribution of the model is very significant so an inexperienced photographer working with an equally inexperienced model, both of whom will also probably be apprehensive, is not a promising combination. A better approach is therefore to find a model with some experience and confidence, if necessary by hiring a model from a reputable agency. It may seem a comparatively expensive way to start out in the field but given that the photographer needs the images for a particular purpose, and the model is likely to help deliver at least some worthwhile work, it is surely a reasonable approach.
It is important to know how a shoot will proceed from the outset. It is also reasonable for a model to want to know, prior to the shoot, what is involved. Some photographers provide models with a schedule for each session that specifies in a reasonable amount of detail what locations and poses are to be explored. The model then has a chance to ask questions before the shoot and is more likely to be adequately prepared. An inexperienced photographer is well advised to spend some time studying a few books or magazines featuring work of the type proposed. Examine the poses and lighting in detail, but never expect to duplicate an image. A different model photographed in a different location will always result in a fresh image.
Don't attempt to do too much in a single session. It may be tempting to try all the ideas available but this is unlikely to work. Choose two or three ideas and explore each one in some detail. Try lots of variations on the chosen themes, and don't keep the model working too long without a break. After an hour, suggest a comfort break. The model may appreciate covering up and relaxing for a few minutes. Intervals such as these also provide opportunities to discuss concerns any and how the shots might be improved.
Make sure that the model's environment is warm and as comfortable as possible, and that a private area is available for preparation and dressing. Indoor privacy can be provided by using screens if a separate room is not available. For outdoor locations, something has to be improvised. It s important not only to a model but also to the final images, that the subject feels relaxed. Choose a warm day or, if necessary, turn on the heating! Inexperienced models may also be unsure how to present themselves in a photographic studio. The best advice is to bring a simple bath robe as a cover-up, and to put this on in the private dressing room. When everything is ready, the model can them just remove the bath robe.
Indoors, simple set-ups often work the best. Try simple standing and seated poses - perhaps just one of each. All that is required is a plain background and, for a seated shot, a basic stool or chair. A chair can be covered with a plain bath towel or sheet to hide unwanted detail. Keep the lighting simple as well. Start by working with a single light to one side of the model and add another, or a reflector, if fill is required. Modest poses work the best. Ask the model to turn away from the camera, look down or avert the eyes. In nude photography, less is more! What is hidden is often more powerful than what is revealed. An element of anonymity may also help a model to relax, so try some shots with the model's head turned away from the camera. Finally, make sure everything is ready before asking the model on to the set, and never keep the subject hanging around while you fiddle with equipment or settings.
Using a portraiture lens with a focal length of about 85mm is a good start, but a 50mm standard lens may also be appropriate. For close-ups of parts of the body, a 105mm macro lens is useful. An inexperienced model may feel more comfortable if the photographer steps back a few feet and remains outside the area of personal space that surrounds us all. An experienced professional model is less likely to be concerned about this.
Once the pictures are ready, go through them with the model and listen to any comments or concerns. Also make sure that a model release is signed for any images that it is agreed may be used for a particular purpose. Even the best of friends can have misunderstandings at a later date. Ideally, a model release should be signed for each individual image that is to be published in any way.