Nude Photography: Why They Do It And Why I Don’t (NSFW)

Let’s talk about nude photography and the male photographer’s motivation…

Nude photography continues to divide opinion. While many view it as art, some see it as an opportunity for photographers to get cheap kicks. It’s fair to think that some men will only be motivated by the opportunity to see naked women, it’s also reasonable to accept the intentions of others will go way beyond that and come from a place of authentic creativity. Intrigued by the motivations, I wanted to explore the topic further – whilst also sharing my personal perspective on the subject.

Why I Don’t Do Nude Photography

I’m going to make myself vulnerable here by what I’m about to say. However, I believe in transparency in order to have an open and genuine dialogue. So, I’m a street and portrait photographer, they’re my passions and my main photographic focus. I’ve been asked several times to do nude or boudoir shoots, and I always turn them down. I have no creative motivation to do boudoir and nude photography. I appreciate it and I’m very much interested in the subject conversationally, but shooting it does not inspire me. And here comes the honesty: If I was to shoot some nude photography, admittedly the only motive I’d have would be the fact that I would likely be shooting a beautiful half/fully naked women. I do not apologize for finding naked women in potentially provocative positions attractive, for me and my own ethics, I do not think that is a strong enough reason to enter this genre as a photographer.

To be clear, if I were to do nude photography it does not mean my behaviors would be inappropriate. We’ve published horror stories (NSFW) before from models – I wouldn’t ever be part of that narrative. My actions would be no reflection of my thoughts, again the truth is I would be enjoying the fact that I had a beautiful naked woman in front of me. But that’s just me. And I know male photographers who I trust and know have purely creative and artistic intentions for the nude photography genre. So I decided to speak to them, asking them to open up about their motivation…

Phoblographer Editor in Chief, Chris Gampat

A Note from Chris: I haven’t done this in years and I personally don’t really have any interest in it. If someone does, then I’ll do it. But I don’t want to be known for shooting nudes.

How He Got Into Nude Photography

I honestly never really wanted to get into it. The women I’d shoot, who were either friends, burlesque dancers, or actresses, were interested in it. The reason for this is because I had their trust. In 2019, The Phoblographer turns 10 years old, I’d be in this industry for 12 years, and I’m 32. I understand that if I slip up really badly, I’m throwing away 1/3rd of my life. Now think about that, would you be stupid enough to throw away 1/3rd of your life?

The important things to remember are that you can talk about the idea with them if you want to initiate but I’d really read more into how they’re feeling and what they want. Because of the work, these women did and because they trusted me, it turned into some nice extra cash for me a while back. But I haven’t really done nude shooting in a while, at least consistently.

How to Behave on Set

Don’t touch. Instruct using hand signals and before you get into a steadier flow of the portrait shoot, always show the woman what their framing is. If you absolutely must touch, be very careful about consent and tell them what you’re about to do. Then ask if that’s okay. Explain to them why you need to move or touch them. Also, remember to be very careful to pay attention to their whole body. Sometimes things may look unflattering so work with a woman’s curves and the lighting to make them look flawless. Don’t do it in Photoshop.

Lastly, when you’re delivering your images, use something secure. Format has client proofing. Google drive can work too but make sure that you keep that private between you and the other person.

His Thoughts on Integrity

I think another thing that helps me though is that I’m legally blind, so I see the world as a painting anyway in different ways. But in addition to that, the women I’ve photographed I’m not particularly physically attracted to in a way that I’d want to have something sexual with them. And if you are, then you need to be really careful. I’d even say don’t do it unless you’ve proven to yourself and her that you’ve got flawless integrity and intentions.

Jamyia Wilson @jamiyawilsonstudio

How he Got Into Nude Photography

I was quite reluctant years ago to pursue nude photography. Most of my focus to that point had been beauty photography and I dabbled briefly with fashion photography. Although I appreciated those genres, I found myself bored with it. I wanted to create more provocative work as well as approach a different subject matter. I’ve always been comfortable with nudity, so I decided to give it a try. After doing some research on technique and various approaches, I booked a model and had my first shoot. It was nerve-wracking, challenging, and to my surprise, a lot of fun. Not because of the nudity factor, but just creating with the model. There wasn’t a large team, an art director breathing down my neck, or hard to please clients wanting me to shoot something to their aesthetics. It was quite a freeing experience and made me fall in love with photography all over again. I wanted to get better at it, so I stuck with it. I love the shape of the female form, so I photograph it.

How to Behave on Set

I think being professional in a nude photography setting isn’t nor shouldn’t be much different than any other photography environment. On my shoots, I like to make sure everyone’s comfortable. I play music, we chat, I offer to get people coffee/water, etc. Whatever makes people feel good and excited about the shoot. When it comes to the actual shooting itself, I just approach it as normal. A big no-no is touching models or saying inappropriate things(e.g., talking about sex). And in my opinion, that should be obvious no matter what the setting. Even shooting beauty, I don’t touch the models. If I need to adjust something, like hair, for instance, I tell her to do it or ask. Never assume someone is comfortable with how you approach them. Often times it’s just the photographer and the model. Put yourself in her shoes, she’s all alone in some random dudes place without clothes on. The last thing she wants is for the shoot to get inappropriate and she feels unsafe.

Additionally, I think it’s good to compliment your model (“Beautiful, hold that.” “That’s gorgeous!”), but don’t be a creep and start flirting with her. You can even take her comfortability further by allowing them to bring an escort. As long as they don’t interfere with the shoot, I’m always open to them having someone with them. I even had one model bring her mom. Mom just sat in the back watching Family Guy while we worked. She was cool and the shoot was fun!

On The Ethics And Motivations of Others

This may be controversial, but it’s just something I’ve observed. Many of the guys shooting nudes are sleazes. They turn to nude photography because it’s an outlet they can use to see attractive young women in the nude. You can often see from their work that they’re not in it for the art. Many are married and bored with married life so they want to be around a young, fun model in hopes of maybe, just maybe, she’ll sleep with them. So they’re inappropriate, stalkerish, and creepy. As a result, lots of models have lists of photographers they refuse to work with. And models talk. If you’re around here acting like a creep, she will tell others and no one will work with you. If you’re in it for the art and want to be the absolute best, then focus on the work and check your behavior.

If Someone Questioned His Intentions

Regarding someone questioning my intentions, it’s really not something I worry myself with. That is, my intentions when someone is viewing my work. Nudity is a sensitive subject for many people and many have their own issues with it. People feel lust, insecurity, jealousy, envy, and all sorts of emotions when they see a nude figure. I have some people who follow me on Instagram and never like a nude I post, but they always like beauty or a portrait. And some JUST like the nude pictures. I even show my work to people I meet at, say, an event and they jump to conclusions. You could do what people consider “tasteful” art and it’s deemed pornographic to someone else and it makes them uncomfortable. Or you could do the very provocative, erotic work and people love you for it. As with many genres of photography, you find your niche and then you find an audience for what you do.

Lastly, my nude photography tows the line between fine art and erotic. I like to think of myself as an artist who lets the concept lead my work. Sometimes I want to do fine art nudes with the model contorting in all sorts of shapes. And other times I want to do more suggestive work. People will interpret each their own way, I just create works based on what personally appeals to me. So have fun, be professional, treat your models well, and do it for the passion you have for the art.

What Are Your Intentions?

Be honest with yourself. What are your intentions? It’s clear female models don’t get into the genre because they want to meet hyper-sexualized men who perve over them. And it’s equally as clear the male mind has the ability to go beyond the initial excitement of provocative photography. So, are you an artist or a creep? Once you’ve found your answer, hopefully, you will know how to act on it.

As for me, maybe I would surprise myself if I entered this world of nude photography. Maybe my intentions would grow beyond initial human instinct and I could learn to be creative. Perhaps it’s worth me exploring and coming back to you with an account of my experience. What do you think?

Lead photo by Jamiya Wilson.

Dan Ginn is an internationally published photographer. Be sure to visit his website and Instagram.