Have you ever been with a girl so lovely that you thought it would be a crime not to document just how lovely she is? (Probably, because any girl is lovely, and the thought of possessing an intimate image of her most likely flits through your mind every time you see her luscious curves and dips.) How do you go about this, though? How do you convince her to let you photograph her at her most vulnerable, and in a way that makes the process an enjoyable experience for both of you?
First of all, don’t be a creep about it — seriously, don’t bring it up all the time if she’s hesitating. The good news is that most women do want to be photographed nude, whether they’re secretive about it or not (trust me, I’m a photographer). Even if we’re often critical about our bodies, we do want to have available proof that we were once sexy beasts. Still, if your girl persists in saying no, she probably has a really good reason, so leave it alone a while and think hard about whether this is going to be some kind of dealbreaker for you. If you’re determined to immortalize her, here are a few things to keep in mind.
Establish the rules
Rules help avoid future drama, in case you break up. I’d suggest even drawing a contract where you can outline topics such as: Is this for art (display) or purely personal enjoyment? Does she need to approve the prints first? What happens after you break up? Does she get to take some pictures of you in exchange (and if yes, what are the rules around that)?
Steal from the pros
Helmut Newton. Robert Mapplethorpe. Nan Goldin. Terry Richardson (if you can make intentional flash glare look sexy). There are thousands of fantastic blogs on Tumblr, where people post their favourite images, whether their own or from fashion mags or other sites. Simply search for key words like “girls,” “sexy,” “boobies,” “erotic,” “photography”… you get the idea, right? Look through those sites with your girl and ask what images and styles appeal to her.
Know your camera
This should be a given but, in case it isn’t, please at least read the manual. You don’t need a top-of-the line device to take great pictures but you do need to know how to use it. There’s nothing worse than a fumbling amateur photographer whose batteries run out or who forgot to bring film or a memory card. Also, before you shoot in the bedroom, practice with a less risky setup: Take some portraits or self-portraits first, that way you’ll learn about flesh tones and get at least a basic idea about angles and crucial shooting conditions such as lighting.
Learn what to say
First, read some online forums about how to make your model comfortable. Your girlfriend may be your good ol’ girlfriend but she’ll still freeze and go wooden in front of the lens without directions and positive support. One foolproof encouragement: “You look so beautiful.” Some of the more enthusiastic models will naturally know exactly what to do but others will prefer to be guided, which, in itself can be quite erotic.
Let her pick
This is a tough one. I dislike it when people demand to look through the pictures as I shoot. But you kind of have no choice: It’s her body and your privilege. Unless it happens to state in your contract (Establish the Rules) that she waives the right to see the pics before you transfer them to your computer, you must be fair and flexible because: 1. She’s not getting paid for it (and erotic modeling can pay a lot), and 2. You’re not a creep. Right?
Image courtesy of Jef Harris.