For all you young Picassos out there just tryna capture the beauty of the human form, here are some useful pointers from the pros.
AGE– make sure your model is legally able to be photographed nude. Some states, like Tennessee, do not permit nude photography of minors, regardless of your artistic and unprovocative intent. Always be sure to get a Xerox of their ID to ensure age appropriation of your subject.
FORMS– get a release form signed prior to shooting. Some states may require a separate release for nude photographs.
THIRD PARTY– make sure a neutral (not a friend of the photographer or the model) third-party is present for the duration of the shooting as well as all prior conversations regarding distribution of the photos, etc. Should a dispute arise, this person will verify you did (or did not) play by the rules.
PRIVATE/PUBLIC– if a stranger can see your nude model, then they can get offended by your nude model, too. Best bet is to do it indoors or on private property. If you can’t, check your city’s laws on indecent exposure (San Francisco’s is surprisingly strict). And just know, even if it is legal (like in NYC, for artistic purposes) you may still get arrested.
SLIP INTO SOMETHING MORE COMFY– make sure you have some easy-on/off pieces for your model to wear during downtime. They signed up to be photographed nude, not to spend the day as such.
NO TOUCHING– it’s always tempting to reposition your model by hand, especially when they’re so close to that perfect pose. Nonetheless, DON’T DO IT. Model the pose yourself, and let them mirror you.
KEEP THE ROOM WARM– for obvious reasons. No need to make your model uncomfortable.
USE LONGER FOCAL LENGTHS– your model is already in a vulnerable state, so don’t get your lens all up in their grill. Give ’em some space.
MAKE SURE THE LOCATION IS PRIVATE– in other words, don’t do the shoot in your room at 4:50 when you know that your roommate gets home at five-o’clock and is known to barge in without knocking.
TRY BLACK AND WHITE– we’ve all got blemishes we’d rather not see in print. Try (at least at first) doing B&W to smooth those out and make your model comfortable seeing themselves in the nude.
NO SHARP ANGLES– asking your model to make sharp angles or bends with their body may lead to unexpected (and unwanted) creases of the skin. Ease up and do something more comfortable.
DON’T DO THE HAND-BRA SHOT– just don’t, okay?
NUDE DOESN’T HAVE TO MEAN NUDE– sometimes the best nude photography is that which implies nudity. A shirt unbuttoned one button too many can sometimes do just the trick.
Now get out there and capture some homo sapiens in all their raw, captivating beauty.