Femininity. Sensuality. Originality…Tate is an artist with a great passion for capturing bold images conveying these ideals.

Tate Spencer PortraitApplying his background in fine arts to photography, he enjoys capturing those elusive moments where creativity and energies align. The results are most memorable and sometimes…even magical.

Being a fine art photographer specializing in artistic nudes and female portraiture, Tate’s sexy women photography wonderfully displays the combination of these genres.

Interview by Dan Hostettler

Where are you living now and for how long have you been a photographer?
I currently live in Raleigh, North Carolina. I enjoyed snapping “pics” like most folks, but it wasn’t until the past two years that I became a “photographer”.

Did you go to school to study photography?
I went to school to study business, with a side serving of art. My background is in fine arts, mostly drawing and painting, and it colors my work which ironically leans strongly to black and white images.

Feminine Nudes by Tate Spencer Photography

What was the first photograph that meant something special to you (by you or anyone else), and why?
Stephen McCurry’s photograph of the which was featured on a National Geographic cover in 1984. Everything about it from her haunting gaze, her raw beauty, the piercing nature of her eyes. She conveys the hardship, struggles, loss and even a wildness that really transcends time and yet speaks to so many.

The irony of that photograph is that she never knew that millions saw her on the cover and that she was an icon.

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How did you get started in shooting the beauty and glamour-oriented work that you are into right now?
I’ve always been fascinated by the female form and in my earlier art days I focused my work towards minimalist drawings, similar to Patrick Nagel’s work .
I love the angles and curves that the female body has and for the most part, clothing detracts from that.

So when I started shooting and had the opportunity to partake in a local meet-up with an art nude model named Ivy Lee, I thought, “what the heck let’s give it a try”. It was love at first shot.

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Do you prefer a certain style (like NudeArt, glamNudes) and what is your idea/vision behind it all?
That’s a great question, Dan. Part of what I love about photography are the endless creative possibilities and how, even in shooting nudes there are so many different styles. Personally, I am driven more by certain “principles” in my work than by a type of style. Femininity, sensuality and originality are cornerstone principles. I really strive to create images that showcase female beauty and strength with these ideals in mind.

Oftentimes, I find that my work unintentionally mixes “styles” and creates an interesting effect. For example, I recently shot an art nude model in which we incorporated elements of bondage, but in a very artistic and stylized manner – quite different from the more prevalent bondage photography.

Lastly, I very much try to incorporate each model’s unique personality into the images. This is a variable I can’t control for at all, but always makes for interesting shoots.

How do you find the models to work on your projects?
There’s actually a pretty good network of art nude models who travel and I’ve worked with some of them. A lot of models also come recommended by other models or through word of mouth, Facebook, Model Mayhem or through my website.

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Do you normally pay the models for a shoot or do you negotiate other deals like e.g. TFP (Time for Print)?
Each case is different, I suppose. I’ve paid for models in the past but I’ve also been paid by models to help build their port.

Increasingly, I’m moving to TFP or paid work. I really appreciate and empathize with models who need to get paid to make a living. Of course, if we can get them a stunning image or two, they’ll book more work and there’s a value to that as well!

How do models enjoy working in this style(s)?
I’ve been really fortunate to work with models who are very comfortable with their bodies and nudity in general. I also am super respectful and try to create a really great environment for them. I’ll make sure they have snacks, lunch, treats etc. Of course, they have to put up with my corny humor as well.

So the “white elephant” in the room is the fact that you’ve got a male photographer and beautiful female nude working together. I’m very candid and have actually discussed this dynamic with models I’ve worked with. It’s interesting because they all understand that this tension is what often motivates artists to do some of their best work.

That being said, my advice to photographers starting in this arena is to have the best intentions and to convey yourself with the greatest professionalism. Remember, models talk!

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Do you earn money with your adult photography?
It’s pretty expensive to get into this and to do it well, so the money I make is quickly siphoned off for shooting expenses, gear, studio etc. Like many other photographers, I have to supplement my income through other work.

Do you prefer shooting indoors, in a studio or rather outdoors?
For art nudes I prefer a studio. Down here in the south we’ve got lots of bugs and I’ve heard of an instance or two of mosquitoes carrying a model away during a shoot. See, there’s the corny humor.

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Many photographers would like to explore nude work but just don’t know how to get started. Do you have some advice for taking the first steps?
First and foremost, be the best photographer you can be. Know your gear, your lighting, post-processing etc. Be open to learning and know that great images require all of these things, your subject matter just happens to be unclothed.

Read and learn incessantly.

Dan, your guides are really helpful and straightforward for simplifying and demystifying the process. Practice as much as possible and if at all possible, have a few mentor photographer friends and keep picking their brains.

I was able to join a number of outstanding photography groups in North Carolina that had workshops and meet-ups with models (clothed and nude) which enabled me to learn in a low pressure and fun environment.

What are your next photography goals?
I’ve got a few long-term (secret) projects but for the short term, I’m working to develop more movement and dynamism in my photography. I’ve also had a lot of fun mixing styles as mentioned above and I’d like to keep pursuing that work as well as branching out into other areas including a few modern art projects (which is what got me into photography in the first place.)

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Tech QNA: Tate’s Gear DNA

Do you work solely digital or also analog these days?
Digital.

What type of camera(s) & lenses do you shoot with?
I shoot the 5D3 with the 24-70 2.8L lens and the 70-200 2.8L lens and occasionally a 50 1.4 (all Canon lenses). One quick commentary on this – for those starting out, lenses really do make a difference and even in my earlier work when I shot with a Canon 60D, I would typically rent “good glass” or nice lenses. I’m not a brand loyalist (at least until one decides to sponsor me) nor a gear snob. But I have found that good gear is really an investment in your journey as a photographer. I’ve never regretted spending the money on my gear, but more than anything else I need it to work properly, consistently and accurately every single time I shoot.

What lighting equipment do you set up for a shoot?
Paul C. Buff Einsteins – love the wireless adjustability

How important is Photoshop for your final images?
I try to edit as minimally as possible and really strive for great images in camera. However, I do use Lightroom/Photoshop to remove anything that might be distracting to the final image and in some cases enhance elements to create a more “finished” product.

Are you rather a Mac or a PC lover?
Mac.

Tate, thanks a lot for joining me and the time you dedicated to my readers!

Feminine Nudes by Tate Spencer Photography
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