How Do I Find Nude Models?
Model agencies still exist, and they’re a great place to hire professional models who will make your job much easier. And that’s fine, a lot of photographers love that, it’s just not my preference. I personally like to start with ladies who have never modeled before and have no training. I find it much easier to pull natural expressions out of them. The ones who have been modeling for a while tend to develop their bag of tricks, go-to poses and looks, and it can be hard to break them of that. I like moments of authentic vulnerability and genuine reactions. That kind of stuff is infinitely more interesting and powerful to me. So in a way I’m lucky, because the world is filled with women with zero modeling experience. So that’s my pool to draw from. Now the question is how do I get them interested in modeling for me without any clothes on. Funny enough, it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. Most, if not all of my previous assumptions about people, have been totally wrong. Turns out a lot of the women you might expect to be put off by the idea are actually intrigued and warmly receptive.
Based on my personal experience, this is a list of the things that have helped me connect with great ladies to work with.
1. Regardless of your current skill level, the fact that you’re trying to create inspiring and high quality work is what matters most. That’s one of the things that attracts them to working with you. They want to be a part of something special. If you make that your goal you will find plenty of willing participants to work with.
2. Be confident about the subject matter of your work. I’m mostly referring to being shameless about what you do. If you’re shy about it that will come across as though you’re ashamed, and that simply won’t fly. This is probably the most important factor in the list. With nude photography I’ve found that I get better reception by being bold about it, which is counter to what one might expect. It’s actually imperative that you do so. At some point you will have to defend your work. You need to be prepared for that.
But fear not, this is just a test to see if you will stand behind your work. Some of my biggest opponents have turned into my biggest supporters – my mother being one of them. And if they don’t come around, that’s fine too. Fuck em. This is about creating what you want to create. I wasted too many years letting other people’s opinions dictate how I live my life. Don’t make the same mistake.
3. Be very clear about what you want. This is the secret ingredient. Be brutally honest about exactly what you are trying to accomplish. If you want to do close up artistic images of vaginas, you need to specifically say that in very simple language. Don’t try to pretty it up. Lay it all out for bare and then shut your mouth and wait for their response. You will be SHOCKED by how often they enthusiastically agree.
Don’t make assumptions about who will be interested. In fact, I highly recommend starting with the ones you might expect to say no. Of course, some will decline, but many will be in awe of the fact that you put it all out there and didn’t sugar coat it, and at the very least they will take you more seriously. And it may lead to them being more inclined to work with you. The very last thing you want to do is downplay it or wait to reveal what you’re really after. That will backfire, big time. If you were too shy to tell them you want nude models, so you told them lingerie and bikini, hoping that eventually they’ll be open to nude modeling, here is how that will turn out: They come to the session expecting to do a certain kind of shoot, and then after a while you ask them if they’d like to do nudes as well, having never mentioned it before. Their spidey senses start tingling. It feels like a bait and switch and their trust in you plummets.
Trust is such a HUGE part of building relationships with models. If you destroy it, not only will you not get to work with them again, but they will talk to other people about it and word will get around. So, plug this into your brain right now. No matter what, you must be COMPLETELY up front about what you are looking for, regardless of how you think they might react to it. Especially with nude photography. They generally have their guards up all the time, and the best way to reassure them is to be completely transparent. Put nudity on the table first, and then navigate the conversation from there. It seems counterintuitive I know, but this is how it works. Just like in sales. If you lead with your cheapest product you will likely NEVER sell your most expensive product unless you just get lucky. But if you always lead with the big kahuna, you will sell more of them than you expected to. So start out with full nude and if they say no but they would do lingerie /implied, that’s fine too. The door is still open if they decide later that they’re comfortable with it. And that’s the part that’s important. I’ve worked with some models for years before they were finally comfortable enough to shoot nude. That’s how it works out sometimes.
4. Get on Instagram and post your work. Occasionally post about looking for models. Be social. If you see a gal you’d like to work with, start with a comment first. Messages from someone they don’t know will get ignored 99.3% of the time, regardless of what you say. Take the time to build things up.
5. Local Facebook photography & modeling groups are a good place to look if there’s one in your area. The one we have here does regular meet-ups. They pick an interesting location and the models and photographers come together for a good time. Group settings are a great way to make initial connections that can turn into private sessions later.
6. Strip clubs. If you want to cut through all the bullshit quickly, there’s no better place to start than strippers. These are women who get naked for a living and nude photography is a natural extension of that. The only caveat to add is that they’re geared for being sexy and provocative. If that’s what you want them to do, perfect. They’ll knock it out of the park. But if you have a different vision, you’ll have to give them guidance to get them on the same page. That’s where #7 comes in.
7. Create a collection of images you’d like to emulate. A Dropbox folder or something similar is perfect and easy to share. This will really help them see what you’re going for, which is especially useful if you don’t have much work of your own to show yet. But again, be honest about where you are in your abilities. If you don’t know how to accomplish it yet, tell them that. This is a learning adventure that you’re going on together.
8. Keep a folder of your best images that you can access quickly on your phone. I’m talking about a very refined list. Not a pile of similar images, one after another. Your absolute best work only. More often than not you’ll meet a potential model in a setting you weren’t expecting to, and you need to be able to present a short, sweet, highly concentrated set of your absolute finest work ever.
If you haven’t worked with a model yet and all you have is landscapes and action shots of your dog, that’s fine. It just needs to be the best representation of what you can do at this moment. Continue curating this collection as you progress, but always keep the number at 30 or less (hey that rhymed). Nothing new goes in the list unless it’s better than something already in there. And if you put something in, something else always has to come out. Use this as a tool to check your progress. If you haven’t been able to put anything new in for a long while that means it’s time to step up your game and take some chances.
9. Another important thing I want to mention is how important it is that they be fully comfortable with the idea of nudity before you even schedule a shoot. If they’re apprehensive, don’t do the shoot until they are firmly committed. The last thing I want to do is talk them into it. In fact, I like to try to talk them out of it a little. I have a little talk with them about how these images will last forever. 20, 30 years later they will still be floating around. They need to know what they’re getting into and make a commitment to that, having fully thought it through.
10. Get a model release. I say this because I know the frustration of having a model come back 5 years later asking me to remove all of her images from the web because she found Jesus, or her current boyfriend/husband doesn’t like the idea that her naked pictures are out there for the world to see. Give them the talk, and if they’re still interested, you’ve got a winner. I would gladly cut my prospects in half to ensure that I never have to deal with that situation in the future. It’s a pain in the ass for one, and then there’s the pain of having to take down all those images that I love and worked so hard on. How’s the saying go? An ounce of prevention will save you a pound of trouble? That seems about right.
11. Focus on building relationships. New models are great, but there are a lot of benefits to working with models over and over. You learn how to work with each other over time and become more relaxed with them. They get better as you get better. They know what to expect and how to respond. And it’s pretty great looking back over several years of shoots that you’ve done together and seeing how things evolved.
Also, they have friends, and they share the images with their friends. Occasionally one of their friends will want to get in on the fun too. This is ideal. I would say that at least half of the models I’ve worked with were the result of their friend bringing them in on a shoot. It’s great for them because they already know that their friend is comfortable with you. But it’s also great for you because she basically just vetted a new model for you. The likelihood that she’s a full on psycho is extremely low in this case.
Well that’s pretty much all I have on the subject. I feel like I’ve covered quite a few bases. If there is something specific I didn’t touch on, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll be happy to address it. I hope you found this helpful. Please share if you got something out of it.