Naked Truth

(everything except text by Rachel Lewis)

Photography is very various, its diversity of styles enables people to choose whatever they like most to enjoy this particular type of art. It also gives the artists – photographers - lots of options to choose as their specialization. Some photographic ideas from the particular style, when properly carried out, can be more interesting for the audience than the others. One of the 'special' kind is Artistic Nude Photography.


What is so interesting about Artistic Nudes? One could tell 'nude bodies, of course!'. Well, it's not so obvious. Artistic Nude is the piece of ART, the art that touches very delicate and intimate spheres of human beings – nudity, breaking the barriers of embarrassment, showing what is normally covered and hided . It is about to show how beautiful, unique and various the human body can be. There is always the danger of loosing the borderline between something that can be called art and something that isn't art at all. But this is us – both watchers and photographers - who decide where actually this borderline should be put. What nude photographers want to show in their pictures is not porn, like many can think. It is about body as the piece of art. It doesn't have to be strictly sexual image, but it can be, of course. Yet, showing naked people doesn't have to be automatically associated with that rude, nasty and exaggerated visual version of sex that porn presents. One of the biggest problems for all Artistic Nude photographers, both young and more experienced, is to make the distinction: where the art ends and porn starts. This distinction is very difficult to determine and we could probably write few-hundred words essay about it but it's not the point now. The point is that you, as the photography audience, should be able to distinguish what, in this case, is art and what is not. It will then let you to draw extensively on the real Nude Photography's beauty.


How young students, without having the professional practice experience, but with their obvious talents and abilities, can cope with doing this one of the most specialized type of photography that is Artistic Nude? For sure, their situation from the start is much more difficult than for the experienced 'old troupers'. As unknown artists, photography students are not popular within the 'model world' and they don't have money to pay for the session. They often don't have lots of super expensive equipment. Sometimes they don't feel really comfortable and sure about their abilities... But they have fresh and stunning ideas, enthusiasm and will to do what they love to do! And this is what can make a difference between them and experienced photographers.


Lots of people like to watch Artistic Nudes (no, I don't mean the lads watching naked girls in 'Nuts'!) and, surely, lots of photographers like to create it. Unfortunately, this is not that simple. Don't believe? Lets try to do some (very!) rough plan of the artistic nude session. Imagine that you are the photographer.
Firstly – you need to find a model. The more professional the model is, the more professional the pictures would be. Secondly – money. And here it comes – how the poor student can find money to pay the professional? So, the best would be to find not only a good model, but also the one who agrees to take the part in the session for free or for really small money. It means that automatically, the already small circle of potentially available models is getting even smaller. You also need to find somebody who will do the make-up and prepare the clothes and accessories ( nude shots often need much more clothing than you think!). If you're lucky, your model will be prepared and have his/her own make up done, maybe can even have some accessories and clothing. If not – you need to provide them. How many and what type? - it depends only on your idea of the session. So, the more interesting, various and complicated session you want to have, the bigger problem you have to solve... The next issue is arranging the session. Where? When? How? As Thomas, 2nd year Photography student says: 'asking someone to get naked in my home equals asking to have sex with me. Studio on our Uni isn't the best place to take nude pictures (it's not impossible though). Especially because of lack of changing rooms and screens to hide the setup from rest of studio. Models don't like unnecessary audience'.


Ok, now we all know that it's not a piece of cake... What to do next? Give up? No way! There is always the way out. The photographer needs to learn how to face all of these problems, and I can assure you that there is a lot more of them than just these listed above. So, we can start from finding some hints in books, articles, Internet... Still, it won't have anything to do with practice. No, I don't mean that firstly you have to screw up few sessions before you start making some great ones, but... there are surely some people who have already done it before and maybe they can help us to find the way how to avoid some of the possible problems. 'Certainly, some advises from professionals would be very useful – about lightning or how to treat the model and also about some formal matters, like permissions etc.' said Anna, 3rd year Photography student.


The interest in Artistic Nude can start just at the beginning of your photography adventure or it can come later. Anyway, beginning is always the same – tough and difficult.
“I've never tried to photograph nudes because I assumed that I will not find anyone to pose for me... Generally, it would be cool to do something like this but on the other hand I think that I would feel uncomfortably having a strange naked person in front of my camera... it can be a bit embarrassing...' - said Anna – 'If you ask about my ideas, I like pictures showing only shadows of the body, I don't know why but this type of nudes I can only see with the black background and simple spotlight'.
All right, so the first that comes is the IDEA of the session and the way you plan all your actions. That's where everything starts and that's also where everything can end... of course, we can avoid it.

The most important thing is to just get out there and do it. The second most important thing is to have an idea of what "it" is - what you are trying to accomplish. I've seen a lot of photographers get stuck because they can't decide if they are shooting conceptual art, or fine art, or glamour - the terms are irrelevant, really, but you need to think of the effect you want your work to have on the viewer.

Marcus J Ranum, photographer

'First of all, I haven't got money for hiring models from models agency. I'm not that good looking and charming man to ask my friends to get naked for me in the studio as well. But seriously it's sometimes a matter of confidence as well. I just think that when I eventually ask some girl "hey, i think you are really beautiful and inspiring woman. I'm a photography student. Would you like to model for me?" she thinks that all I want is just to see her naked... It's a big issue. It's easier to say "hey I'm famous photographer and I will make a photo session with you as a model' said Thomas.
So, what about the models? How to treat them to make everybody feel comfortable and happy during the session?

I got interested in shooting some artistic nudes but was a bit too timid to ask the models I was shooting. But one of the models had become a good friend because I shot her so much. SO I got up my nerve and asked her if she'd pose for me. She was actually thrilled that I asked.
Shooting nudes was initially tough because I didn't want the models to think it was just a ploy to get them naked or because I was just being a pervert, LOL. The number one priority in a nude session is the comfort of the model. That means they can't be cold, hungry, tired, hot, or without a bathroom near by! I always try to find a characteristic about a model that I know she prides herself on and compliment her on it. Being naked in front of a camera is a truly vulnerable position so it is VITAL the photographer lets the model know she is safe and her comfort is paramount. Making passes at a model or saying suggestive things is the fastest way to kill a session. ALWAYS discuss the boundaries of the models. Are they comfortable with full frontal nudity? What angles are they NOT comfortable with? It is important to remember that one person's "art" is another person's "porn"... so the type of imagery you want to shoot needs to be discussed before the photo session begins.

Michael Helms, Artistic Nude Photographer

Money always seem to be the biggest problem for students. What about financial matters, then?

You don't need fancy equipment, it just all depends on the photographer and how they work with what they have. Most models, including myself, won't be doing nudes for free unless the nudes are something completely unique to add to their portfolios or for a tear sheet. In short, if a photographer had a really great idea and knew how to produce great images despite the lack of experience and equipment, I would go for it.

Mosh, model

With the Internet, it isn't near as hard to find nude models as it was when I started.
There are many web sites ,that have MANY models that are willing to pose nude. ESPECIALLY the ones who are relatively new will want to "test". This means they don't charge the photographer and the photographer doesn't charge them. It's a win/win situation. It isn't vital to have super expensive equipment either. I once did a whole series of nudes shot with those little cardboard throw away cameras you can get at the pharmacy. MANY of the low end digital cameras are good for starting out. So it is important for people to know, it isn't the expense of the equipment that makes a good artistic nude....it is the eye and creativity of the photographer.

Michael Helms, Artistic Nude Photographer


I'm sure that nude photography is still as difficult as it was just before you read this article, but maybe it looks a bit more clear to all of you now.
What's very important to stress is that all young artists, not only from our University, but from any other place in the world, need to be noticed and motivated to do their work. Both photographers and photography fans should know that it is not so easy to do Nude Photography while being a student, but it IS possible and, if the attempts are fulfilled and succeed, it can really give stunning effects!

The most important thing I can say is simply "shoot what you love and love what you shoot". Everything else will fall into place.
Michael Helms


the article was published in student-assignment magazine done by rachel lewis ---> blog, the girl from illustration course.
many thanks to mosh, m.ranum and m.helms for their help.

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