Working with Nude Models: Part 2
In part 1 we talked about keys to successfully creating a strong artistic image with nude models. In this post we’ll talk more about the nitty-gritty.
Personally I work with only a couple of models. That way we build a working relationship through photographing together over time. Those models understand my working techniques and my artistic aesthetic and as a result we are very efficient in creating images. With Mara, who you can see on the previous post, I almost have a psychic link. She understands my work on a very deep level and knows what I am looking for before I can say it. When you have that type of working relationship with a model, creating art becomes almost easy! But it takes some effort to get there.
As I mentioned previously, I had the pleasure of co-teaching a workshop on Lighting the Art Nude at the SOPHA in Manchester, NH earlier this year. One part of the workshop was a round table discussion with the day’s nude models to get their input on successful collaborations with photographers. Trust ranked number one on the list of things that make for a good shoot. If a model and photographer feel they can trust each other, then all kinds of good things happen artistically. A universal sentiment for maintaining that trust- there is no reason to touch a model- EVER! If you need a model to change their pose or adjust something, there are lots of ways to get that across without touching someone. As one model put it “I’m pretty smart and pretty creative. If you can describe or demonstrate it, I can do it. If you can’t describe it, point- as in, put your leg here”. To really work well with a nude model requires trust and touching someone without permission- even innocently- is a sure fire way to destroy it.
I usually ask a model to hold a pose while I work around them. That can sometimes mean that I am coming in very close to isolate a line or curve in the image. Even when working with models that I know very well I ask them to tell me if I am too close for comfort. This does two things. It establishes that I am concerned for their comfort and safety. It also frees me somewhat to concentrate on creating art- since the model has agreed to let me know if I am too close, I can think focus on composition and lighting. I also let the model know if I am about to move or change position. This is especially important with physically strenuous or vulnerable poses. I also let someone know if I have to move behind them where they cannot see. Clear communication about your actions and intents goes a long way toward establishing and maintaining trust.
Understand that everyone has boundaries. That applies to shoot concept obviously, but also to minor things. Sure, the model is about to be completely naked in front of you, but give them space while they change clothes. It’s about respecting moments of vulnerability. Likewise, there will be poses that accidentally “show too much” especially if your model has expressed boundaries such as not showing their genitals in photographs. Show respect and delete those. Understand that your relationship is a working one and don’t intrude on your model’s life outside of the photoshoot. It keeps your interactions professional and there is less chance of someone accidentally getting “outed” to folks who may not know about their nude work.
Speaking of getting outed. I always ask how, when and where it is OK for me to credit a model in images. Yeah, I have a model release but I also respect people’s personal lives. A lot of models use stage names, but even so they may not want some images linked to something like Facebook. By the same token I publish under a pseudonym to keep my professional and artistic lives separate. I always make sure models are clear how to credit me if they post images.