Knowhow: Your first figure shoot

So you’re seriously considering your first figure shoot. The first thing to remember is that your shoot is pretty much exactly that – a model shoot, which happens to be without clothes.

Shapes and Shadows
The thing is, a fine art nude shoot is not about being nude. It’s about being uncomplicated. My photographs are carefully planned to focus purely on shapes, lines, shadows and highlights. Take this photograph for instance. Yes, the model is nude, but the focus is on the angles of the legs, the line created from her foot down to her elbow, the verticals,against the horizontals. The lines and shapes aren’t complicated by clothing or other distractions. It’s just plain simplicity.

Of course body shape comes into it. I try to always show the muscle tone and features of the body as components with which to add balance and depth into an image. With this in mind, as with every hobby, some models are suited to figure photography, while others excel more in fashion, portraiture, runway or other areas.

Light is the heart of photography. Good light will highlight some components and subdue others. It often takes me quite a while in a shoot to find the “perfect” light for a particular pose, and once we get it, the image sings.

There are dozens of resources on the net about the practical side of modelling – so I’m not going to repeat that stuff here, other than to say, any makeup should be minimal – natural looking. Nothing dramatic. To emphasise the neckline, hair should be in good condition, tied back in a simple pony tail or up in a bun. Take care not to have too many scratches or bruises and try to avoid dark tans, whether natural or from Superdrug. I tend not to work with a dedicated makeup artist so rely on models to use their own knowledge of what works best for them.

Body Mods.
Simple stud earrings are fine. Big dangly ones can be good, but become a feature of the picture without having an outfit for them to accessorise. Same goes for body piercings, but those are usually not a problem. Tattoos generally become the focus of an image, which can be a good or bad thing. They’re often very personal to the wearer but mean little to a viewer unless they are artistic in themselves. Often, I will either turn a model to minimise large tattoos and photoshop out what remains visible, or feature them, albeit my preference is to hide tatoos. If you are able to conceal them with theatre makeup, so much the better.

Remember, you are part of a creative team. You will know your own best features and can work with the photographer to use them to your advantage. Practice your poses in front of a mirror – preferably in an evening, with a table-lamp providing a single light source.
There are poses which show more of the body, and poses which are better for hiding certain areas, but the mindset that some areas “need” to be hidden should be discouraged. Of course, a models most intimate features will always be hidden either through posing or deep shadow.
You will see a number of posing ideas in my portfolio, so try to replicate them yourself before coming along to the studio. Eventually, “muscle memory” will make each pose almost automatic.

What to Expect During your Shoot
If you’re a studio newbie, then best to make that known well ahead of time so I can answer any questions or worries you might have:
A photographic studio is a place where light is always carefully controlled. For some shoots that means it might be light, white and airy but for some darker feeling shoots I’ll often cover up some of the windows in the shooting area to control the ambient light.

My first priority is always for you, the model, to be completely comfortable.

When you arrive, I will introduce you to the layout of the studio, show you the shooting area, washroom and kitchen area. Feel free to freshen up at your leisure throughout your shoot. We will then have a chat about the plan for the shoot. We can have a look at a mood-board (some inspirational images which give us an idea of the style of picture we are after, perhaps a few posing or lighting ideas, and generally give us some direction for the shoot). This is when you need to share anything particular you want or don’t want to work on. The mood board might contain around three or four “looks” per hour of shooting time. A “look” is a set of photographs which share a common style or theme. We might have one look which is lying or sitting on the floor, another look which is standing, another which uses a prop like an apple-box or stool and another which makes use of a particular jacket, or other item of clothing.

If there are any makeup or costume requirements, then now is the time to change. There will be a screened off area for you to get changed. If you are posing nude, then you should now undress and can put on a robe or loose overshirt if you have brought one. Don’t worry if not though. Many models don’t bother.

To maintain privacy during the shoot, I generally close and latch the studio door while you’re getting changed as a matter of course. This is a routine precaution to prevent interruptions, but let me know if you are more comfortable with it open.

Once we have a clear direction to start, we will set up to work on our first look. You can keep your robe on while I do any minor adjustment to the lights, and then we will get started.

All in all, we should aim to start shooting in earnest within about 15 minutes of your arrival.

We will move as seamlessly as possible from look to look thoughout the shoot, taking breaks wherever we feel the need. Remember too that not everyone will be able to completely recreate the look in the mood board, and different people ALWAYS have strengths and weaknesses in different areas. If we are trying something that doesn’t work for your body type, then let me know and we will move on. If a particular look isn’t working for whatever reason, I’ll let you know and we will move on.

At the end of the shoot, you should get a chance to review the images on the back of the camera and I will either settle-up in cash or I’ll confirm when I should be able to send your images. Let me know if you have a preferred way of receiving the images. Generally you should expect a couple of edited images per look., so with three looks over an 1.5-2hrs shooting time – you could expect perhaps ten or so. The actual number will depend on the quality of the results and the amount of work that goes into editing.

Often, photographers prefer not to allow chaperones in the studio, but I will repeat what I said earlier…

My first priority is always for you, the model, to be completely comfortable.

There are generally only two people needed to create the images – that being the model (you), and the photographer (me). That said, you are very welcome to bringing a chaperone, on the understanding that they don’t distract either of us from our work – don’t try to direct the shoot. My experience is that models feel less comfortable if accompanied by a partner or parent, so often a same-sex friend or sibling is more appropriate.

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