1. Make your first shoot with a veteran art nude model … someone like Liz Ashley or Sie ist Idaho. They’ll shoot with people who are new or new to this genre. They’ll be professional, show up on time, won’t balk at getting nude. More importantly, they’ll coach you (if you ask for it), will generate their own poses, you’ll learn a ton of lessons and when it’s all said and one, you’ll actually have photos worth putting in a good portfolio. Even if every other nude shoot you do from that point on is TF with a complete amateur, start with a professional who does this for a living.
3. Check temps and especially for drafts. You’ve got clothes on, she doesn’t. Furthermore, it can be warm (and she’s working hard with some yoga or dance-like poses), building up a sweat…so a small draft can produce a chill.
4. If you’re new and she’s new, it always helps to print out some sample poses. Not to copy, but to show and say “we don’t have this kind of background but I’d like to start with a pose kind of like this”.
5. If she balks and says “I’ve changed my mind” then honor that (unless of course you paid her–in which case the money comes back). After the initial get-acquainted/show her the space/use bathroom/show sample pictures, then check ID, sign the release/paperwork, exchange money, do some test shots, then clothes come off and you start shooting. And if she’s not willing to pose nude you know it upfront and all the persuading/guilt-tripping efforts on your part are a waste b/c even if she relents, her poses will be stiff, her expressions dreadful and it will be 1-3 hours of your time you’ll never be able to get back.
6. Communicate clearly upfront. If you’re shooting multiple concepts, indicate the sequence prior to the shoot. Hint: I usually start with the nude poses (b/c I’ll tell the model to wear loose clothing to avoid bra/panty/designer jean marks and art nudes don’t require the kind of makeup we’d use for glamour or pinup or fashion or boudoir) and then move on to the clothed work. So make that sequence clear upfront. Many new models will want to know what you’re using the photos for (I think some secretly hope that they’re posing nude but no-one other than you will ever see the shots or they’re in fear you’re going to send them to a porn site). Make sure directions to the shoot are clear. Trade phone numbers. Before the shoot, identify any body mods that may be an issue for some of the ideas you want to try. If it’s a model’s first nude shoot, there are likely to be a higher case of nerves than normal so the more you set expectations upfront, the better.
7. For you, since you’re new at this, think through timing and sequence. Yes, be willing to be spontaneous. But plan prior…you can always junk the plan. But if you go in and improvise when you’ve never done this before, you’ll likely get nothing but weak results and a lot of frustration for all of the stuff you didn’t get to.
8. Shoot a little and then stop. Transfer images to your laptop. While this is going on, have a quick chat with the model about what is working/not working (instructions need to be clearer, there’s a draft, people are staring in the window, she’d like some water). You load the photos up and take a quick look. This is where you discover you forgot to check your exposure compensation b/c of your nerves. Or your ISO settings. Or there’s a big giant thumbprint in the middle of your lens. General rule: if it’s a new concept/genre for a photographer, always stop and check after the first couple of shots to be sure you don’t have some sort of catastrophic mishap going on that your nerves don’t allow you to notice.
… Partner with an experienced and successful local photographer and share a model (taking turns). Let your photographer friend go first, and watch what he does.
… Don’t blow smoke up the model’s ass. Don’t over-complement their looks, but do give them feedback, as in “I like how the light works with that pose…”. Don’t say things like “nice tits”.
… Be enthusiastic, and be friendly, but you are not there to forge new friendships. Once the session is over, thank the model and let her go about with her life.
… For your first session, it might be a good idea to be organized. Indeed, pick a couple of pictures that you want to try to recreate. Set up the lighting, have to props ready, know what you are going to try to photograph. I think a common mistake many newbie nude photographers make is that they don’t think past getting a model nude in front of their camera. Okay, she’s nude and ready — what do you do next?
… “Organized” also means being time organized — if I have 3-4 setups in mind to try, I make sure that we get to them, and I never (okay, very rarely) go over the time allotted for each session). I make it a point to get the model out of the session on time.
… Before you make your first exposure, make sure you’ve gotten a signed model release and a scan of the model’s ID and any 2257 paperwork you want to do.
… Background music can cover awkward poses, and sometimes, I need an awkward pose to solve a technical problem — most models accept this; they don’t need to be entertained constantly.
… If you want to do nudes, make sure you hire a model who wants to get nude. Trying to talk a non-nude model into it borders on the sketchy and can lead to remorse on the part of the model (“please take down the images because my boyfriend got mad”).
… Keep a respectful distance from your model and let her know if you are moving in for a closer shot. Most of my models have said they like to know when the big, fully dressed guy, is lumbering toward them while they have no clothes on.
… Always have that robe at the ready for when you take a break or want to show the model the some of the shots from the set. Some won’t mind standing there in the buff while you two chimp away at the shots but it can be taken as sign of disrespect.
… The best thing to do is to spend some time talking to the model, preferably before the day of the shoot. Discuss (with visual examples) the kind of nudes each of you like. If you already have your own portfolio, its a matter of finding out if she likes your work. If she wants to bring someone with her, position them where they can’t make eye contact or be a visual distraction to you or the model. She should have a robe or other cover up for breaks.
… Don’t use direct on camera flash. If you want to use direct flash for some artistic reason then wait until you have a bit of a portfolio built up.
… Be prepared for a clothed model to go into the bathroom and a nude one to come out. Or for a model to just take their clothes off upon entering your studio (that’s how you know its warm enough LOL).
… Dont shoot the model unless she is officially posing for you. Shots “behind the scenes” should be agreed upfront.
… Wear loose pants.