Actress Mae West is known for many things, not least the quote “I’ll try anything once, twice if I like it, three times to make sure.” That’s pretty much my approach to photography as well; you never know what you’ll like (and, for that matter, what you don’t).
One of the many challenges photographers have to consider dealing with is that of nudity; many of us live in frankly ridiculously puritan societies (don’t get me started on how American films don’t think twice about showing someone murdering someone else – which is frowned upon in real life – but god forbid you show a nipple or two…), and yet; nude photography is a long-standing tradition in photo world.
I recently got an email from a reader on Photocritic, Ken, who shared his story of his first steps into nude photography – I figured it was worth sharing…
Go ahead, Ken, the stage is yours…
I have been an advanced amateur photographer all of my life. I’ve been published in magazines, newspapers and books but had never taken nude photographs until 2007. I friend asked if I would take some nudes of her and I agreed since it had been a life long dream.
She was in her mid-thirties, beautiful blonde hair, slightly overweight but willing to learn. I have read articles over the years of how to take nude photography but this was my first chance.
Since my model was willing I was over the first hurdle but I found that most everything that I had read was useless when it came right down to the shoot. The two of us worked together well and since I was shooting digital and not film the shutter button was almost worn out that day.
In the end we had well over 200 shots in the camera and, together we looked over the pictures on the computer. It was a learning experience for both of us. She was very happy with the results as was I.
We trashed about 40 of the pictures for various reasons but what was left was a nice group of excellent quality pictures.
She was so pleased that she entered ten of them in an on-line photo contest and won third place out of probably 800-1000 entries, not bad if I do say so myself!
What I learned from the experience is most of the stuff you read in books is common sense; lighting, composition, etc. You really get your education from doing an actual shoot and then being objective about the results. Having a willing model is a big help so find someone who is comfortable with their body.
A little coaxing may be needed at first but you will get there. My model had a thing about keeping something on but when I finally talked her into getting completely nude she was thrilled with the feeling and said “This is the first time I have ever been naked outdoors and it feels wonderful,” as the warm sun bathed her body.
So don’t sit around reading books and dreaming! Find a lady who is willing and learn together! It’s just like any other hobby. You can read every book written on a subject but until you actually do it you aren’t learning anything. Learn by doing.
Good luck to all you want-to-be’s out there. Keep the pictures tasteful and learn from your mistakes but remember you aren’t going to get those nudes in the camera reading books.
Get out there, take pictures and LEARN!
I couldn’t have said it any better myself. Great work, Ken!