I recently did an artistic nude photo shoot with a talented photographer and now friend of mine. At the end of it, he asked me what was most surprising about the experience. I couldn’t articulate it at the time, but as I thought about it more, I discovered it was the profound realization that beauty really is only skin deep. I came away with a greater appreciation for my body and truly have never looked or felt more beautiful. This, however, was accompanied with the uncomfortable truth that physical beauty is simply that. Nothing more, nothing less. It is a visual depiction of what a certain group of humans have deemed appealing. It represents only a tiny aspect of a person and has very little bearing on self-worth and confidence. This was both a relief and a disappointment. I expected to awaken every morning thereafter like Botticelli’s Birth of Venus from her giant clamshell. But I didn’t. I woke up every morning wishing I was still sleeping, as per usual. It was comforting though because the next time I’m criticized for my looks, I’ll know it’s a reprimand for like 0.0001% of who I am on something that doesn’t even really matter. That being said, it was a fantastic experience that I look forward to doing again. If it’s something you too are considering, here are some things to know before you go:
1) Get rest. Drink water.
Contrary to what you might think, these two imperatives are immensely more important than working out and dieting. Your photographer wants the photos to look good just as much as you do so he or she will choose flattering poses and enhance your assets during the editing process. Energy level and expression cannot be Photoshopped, so that’s why it’s important to be well-rested and hydrated. Minding your weight is more of a mental tool in this situation, so if that helps you feel more confident and photo-ready, then by all means do it.
2) Do your research.
Sadly, there are lots of dudes with cameras who just want to take pictures of naked girls. They call themselves photographers, and well, you know the deal. Google your photographer and look at his or her past work and reviews. If this person is not your friend and has no portfolio, move on.
3) Correspond before your shoot. Meet in person if possible.
The photographer should always have your comfort in mind. He or she should let you know prior what sort of shots you’ll be taking and how many. You should have multiple emails and/or phone calls about hair, makeup, and what you need to bring. And to repeat: the photographer should always have your comfort in mind. This trust is not only needed to ensure good photos, but is the mark of a professional.
4) Know what you want to look like down there.
Brazilian, bejeweled, bush. Do whatever you need to get done the day before so your skin is not irritated. Do not wing this.
5) Bring a light robe.
You’ll start out a little shy at the idea of being naked. Then you’ll LOVE being naked and contemplate walking to town naked for sushi. Then you’ll be like, “OK I’m done being naked.” A light robe is here to see you through all of these phases. Plus, you’ll likely take breaks and look at some of your photos mid-shoot, in which case a robe would be comfortable without leaving any red clothing marks on your skin.
6) Make a pseudonym.
Because, the Internet.
7) Get your agreement in writing.
Work out with your photographer what the compensation will be. Are you getting paid to model? If so, it’s OK to ask if you’ll be getting any of the images, but do not expect it. That is like getting money plus goods and services. If you are paying the photographer, then you should agree on how many final (edited) images you’ll receive, plus how many raw images. For a collaboration or trade agreement, you’ll be exchanging your modeling services for photos of yourself. Decide together if your face is to be used, and understand that both of you can publish these anywhere online and in print. Make sure the paperwork uses your pseudonym and get everything signed.
8) It is way more clinical than you’d expect.
“Jack, I want you to paint me like one of your French girls.” No. It’s more like: “Arch your back. Point your toes. Look up. Relax your forehead.” There is a huge divide between what feels natural and what looks good on camera. A good photographer combines the two by studying your mannerisms and incorporating them into the poses.
9) Do not plan anything afterwards.
You will be tired. As fuck. Modeling is really hard work. It requires an awareness of every hair, movement, muscle – known and unknown – in your face, body, elbow, everywhere that most of us just do not have. Go home afterwards and bask in the knowledge of your most flattering angles.
10) Relax, you’re still you.
After my first nude shoot, I thought I’d be walking around like Beyoncé. Even after I got my super sexy pics, I still felt like the same old goofball I always was. But now I was a goofball with a little bit of Jessica Rabbit in my back pocket … of my bootylicious jeans … that contain my hot ass.
Follow Kristen Lem on Instagram: @kristenlem_
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