Nude photography lesson one, back to basics

April 4, 2011 by  
Filed under Lessons

Nude naked and undressed

How natural is it to be nude?

This photo tutorial actually came about as a response to all the male amateur photographers that have asked me how start taking nude photos, how to get hold of models. I also saw it as an opportunity to educate and help hinder future model abuse from photographers. I personally know and have met many booth male and female models that have been exposed to various degrees of abuse from photographers.


Before getting in to the hands on practical stuff I would like to get back to the basics and address some primary things that are not talked about at photo school or mentioned in the photo magazines.  You need to first understand where you are coming from to be able to identify where you want to go and how to get there.

You have a huge responsibility as photographer, whatever level you are on. There are unfortunately a lot of photographers that inflict suffering and insecurities… and sometimes even sexually abuse their models…without even realizing it


By understanding yourself and your models better, you will be able to establish a relaxed atmosphere and a platform of trust, from where you can be infinitely creative…without hurting anyone.


Even though all of us start our journey here on earth naked, fact is that most people have a charged relationship to nudity. …Booth their own and others.  It normally stems from the type of family, society and religion you had in your childhood and what type of experiences you had about nudity. A person that grew up in a nudist family will often  have a far more relaxed attitude about nudity than a person that never saw a naked body in their childhood.

Your relationship to nudity often stems from the type of upbringing you have had.



Photo: Huỳnh Công Ú

Huỳnh Công Út, known professionally as Nick Ut, born 1951 in French Indochina, took this photo of  9-year old Vietnamese girl Phan Thị Kim Phúc who was running toward the camera to flee a South Vietnamese napalm attack on the Trảng Bàng village during the Vietnam War, year 1972 . Despite the conservative times of the early 70-ties especially  in the US…. The photo was at first  rejected by an editor at AP  (Associated Press) because it was showing a naked girl front on…..did not only made the headlines, it turned out to become of the most important photographs in photojournalistic history and has won the  Pulizer Prize.


It shows that a great photo, no matter how shocking or provocative it might be,  will at some point probably  get recognized and accepted….maybe even praised, … if the cause/issue/subject is important enough and stirs enough emotions that is.

(Right after he took the photo he brought the girl to the hospital…she now lives in Canada and they are still in regular contact.)



Nudity can evoke a myriad of different feelings and associations in the observer

From freedom, joy, back to basics, feeling at one with nature to feelings of vulnerability, physical complexes and insecurities, to sexual feelings and fantasies.  It can remind you of things forbidden, maybe suppressed feelings and desires or even fear and repulsion, sin and evil.

Not everyone assiciate nudity with freedom and the outdoors



The sight of a naked female body often arouses sexual feelings in men and both sexes can easily appreciate the beauty of the female curves.  As for women, the male body can often be perceive as unattractive, threatening or even funny in photos.

I can easily take flattering photos of any woman, but find it much more challenging to portray the male body in a way that I find attractive. Old fat and hairy is by many considered to be unattractive, but for my dear Brazilian male fiend (which I can mention is commonly regarded as very handsome by booth sexes) these type of men are the sexiest, most attractive and desirable…the bears!

For women, the male body can often perceive as unattractive, threatening or even funny in photos.



The flasher is forcing his (almost alwas male) nudity  on to others.  He is using his naked body  to  inflict fear, feel in control and superior. Very often, contrary to common belief the flasher is often a rapist as well.



Soldiers and prison guards sometimes use nudity to torture and humiliate their victims,  inflicting fear and a sense of vulnerability, but contrary to the flashers they use the nudity of their victims instead of their own naked bodies



What can possibly be more disturbing than the image of the naked body of a suffering child? It evokes strong emotions and clearly sends a message of suffering, vulnerability, helplessness and victim…a reminder of the things that are wrong with our world. Maybe a memory trigger or a wake up call.



Nudity can successfully be used to protest or demonstrate for or against something or draw attention to an issue



Nudity as a means to enlightenment. Yoga, spirituality, liberation, freedom, shedding material things and breaking free from the idetification with clothes, belongings and masks. Also experimentation and group belonging




Some people like to be naked all the time; nudists and different native tribes for example.




Others just take their clothes off when they go to work; here you have photo models, a prostitute, porn actors, two different types of art models, the bodybuilder…in this photo the legendary Arnold and last but not least the crusher




Some people are just looking for attention, to do a dare, be brave or naughty…nudity in public gets reactions




Nudity in art has existed for as long as mankind itself. Photographers like like Spencer Tunik and David Blasquez has taken it to another level and uses the naked body to make complex installations.





Sometimes nudity is used in advertising, to provoke, stand out and sell more




Naked celebreties on magazine covers often creates discussions, publicity and extra numbers purchased




ATTITUDE, How do you feel about nudity in general? Are you comfortable being naked at home by yourself? What about being naked with your family, in front of your children or partner? In public change rooms and showers?  Have you ever been to a nudist beach?

How would you feel being the only person naked surrounded by dressed people? For some it is a dream… for others a nightmare.

How do you feel when you are dressed in front of a naked person? Uncomfortable, comfortable, aroused, in control, powerful, or wanting to also get your clothes off?

Think about how your upbringing has affected your view on nudity and sincerely ask yourself if you have a healthy and relaxed relationship to nudity. It’s ok if you don’t…most people don’t, but to be aware of it is the first and most important step. Once you know that you have an issue with nudity, you can work on improving it and start from where you are actually at.


INTENTION, Once you have identified how you feel about nudity and your thoughts about and relationship to it, you can then start to ask yourself why you want to take nude photos. Be as honest as possible even though it might be hard to discover that what  you really feel and think deep down, doesn’t always correspond to how you want to to be…or the idea that you and others have about who you are.


RESPONSABILITY, Everyone has their story, their background, issues and hang-ups. What you might think is fun and exiting can be uncomfortable to your model. You might get sexually aroused while your model gets scared or disgusted. Be as open and transparent with your model as possible when planning the shoot and always check with him/her that they understand what you want and if he/she is comfortable with it. Show photos for your model during the shoot so that he/she knows what’s going on and can see how it’s turning out. I always try to create as a relaxed and safe environment as possible, keep showing them what the photos look like and making sure that they are comfortable. Many of my  models have asked to take their clothes off  themselves, without me having asked them, because they feel comfortable, like how the photos turn out and would like to have some nice nude photos of themselves. For most of my nude models it was their first time naked in front of a camera.


I will round it up for this time, hope I  got you to reflect a bit…or a lot.




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2 Responses to “Nude photography lesson one, back to basics”
  1. Awesome article Ami!

  2. aelsius says:

    Thanks dear!

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