How to Create a Confident Tone on Set – Sensual Vs Sexual

Sensuality can often translate into sexy, but the same is not always true in reverse. There are a lot of factors at play that determines the outcome of the shoot. A sexually charged shoot from the start will always be just that. Sure, there’s a time and a place for it that works. However, that’s often not the desired result and it leads to a feeling of being objectified all too often. Regret can ensue before, during, and after the shoot if you don’t choose to focus on sensual over sexual. Below are some tips that can be used all throughout the shoot and leave clients feeling empowered and confident.

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Meet and Greet

Take the time to greet your client at the beginning of the shoot. Offer them a drink and start talking about logistics. Working models usually have had their booker communicate the details beforehand. On the other hand, new models or clients for more intimate shoots benefit from setting the tone together upon arrival.

Go over their various garments and formulate a plan. If there is an article of clothing they aren’t very comfortable with, either find a way to layer it or scrap it. The most impactful images will be created when they feel confident. Plus, they may very well come back to it on their own once you have won their trust.

Provide a Safe Space

Make sure that clients have a safe space to change their clothing. I also make sure there is a mirror to get it styled almost perfectly on their own. This cuts down on clothing adjustments that need to be made on set.

If something needs to be adjusted, ask them if they’d like you to get it for them or if they’d prefer doing it themselves. Both men and women have boundaries here, and it’s important to respect them. They will let you know what is and isn’t okay.

Choose Your Words

A safe space will develop trust that often builds a natural rapport and connection. Use words of empathy instead of expressing sexual feelings. Connecting with a feeling of sensuality through the lens will create an entirely different image than the image created from “That’s so hot! Do more of __.” The choice of words can be the difference between a beautiful implied or suggestive image and full frontal nudity that falls short and lacks substance.

Using sexually charged language creates images that are precisely that. Once that theme has been established, it can be difficult to walk back from that detour. It’s awkward as hell, to say the very least. A lack of confidence and sometimes regret result when communication breaks down and creates a feeling of objectification.

Instead, choose words that are confidence builders to paint the mood with a sensual focus. Use words like beautiful and stunning. “Wow!” is often fantastic once the client sees how impactful it is. Then ask them to bring more of that to the camera and see what happens. Learning to communicate positively and effectively builds trust.

Something magical can and often happens once a solid foundation is established. The ability to connect and feed off each other without speaking a word is incredible. The images created are more beautiful, empowering, and sensual than anything created with words. True moments and connection are being captured.

Final Thoughts

We’ve seen our industry shift from a sex sells mentality to wanting to feel a connection with the person selling it. Pushing a sexually charged theme makes both men and women feel insignificant. Although men haven’t had as grand a scale as women in this case, they have also felt objectified. 

At the end of the day, people want to feel confident and beautiful. Focusing on sensual over sexual is a great place to start. Tapping into sensuality guides clients to feel sexy in a way that is empowering. When they feel like a million bucks, they will exude confidence. Confidence is sexy.

Brittany Smith

Brittany is a commercial fashion and portrait photographer working in Montana and NYC. When not behind a camera she can usually be found at a local artisan coffeeshop, writing for photography education sites and publications, teaching fitness classes, or baking something fabulous.