1) Those who shoot nude/glam commercially, i.e., for pay, and
2) those who do so for fun, entertainment, personal photography interests, recreation, or any and all of those latter reasons I’ve just listed. (And there’s likely more reasons I’ve neglected to mention.)
Of those two general categories, the former represents a fairly small group of shooters within the wide world of shooters in this genre. It’s always been that way and for many more genres as well. (e.g., fashion comes to mind.) The latter group, however, represents a much larger group of photographers. A really big group! An overwhelmingly huge group when compared to that first group of shooters. (Those shooting glam and nude for pay.) My guess is it’s been that way for quite some time, certainly for longer than I’ve been doing it and I’ve been doing it quite a long time.
I have no idea how many photographers among the latter group are hoping to shoot glam and nude
commercially, but I’m guessing it’s not the majority of those who enjoy shooting nudes and such. I mean, I’m sure plenty of photographers would like to make a living shooting beautiful women but everyone who is passionate about photography, regardless of the genres they enjoy shooting, aren’t working at going pro other than in their day dreams while working at their day jobs. (I should also mention that old saying about the grass being greener.) Sometimes, especially on social media, it sure seems that everyone wants to go pro but my guess is that millions of photographers world-wide remain happy as clams being hobbyists, with or without the daydreams. (Assuming clams are happy which none of us will ever know, leastwise not in our current lives as humans.)
Decline in the Commercial Nude/Glamour Biz
If you’re unaware, commercial glamour and nude photography has been in decline in recent years. (Playboy, for instance, recently announced it will no longer feature nude photography! How’s that for an indicator???) I’ve experienced the decline first-hand and it’s taken a slow and steady toll on my personal, pretty-girl-shooting, income for at least 4 or 5 years now. As a result, the decline in the demand for commercial nude/glam/tease photos has forced me to pursue a few other commercial avenues – all photography related but not necessarily revolving around shooting hot, sexy, women, although I still get hired to shoot those images, albeit not nearly as often.
So, where is nude and glamour photography heading if the commercial side of the genre has (and continues to be) in decline? As you might guess, I have a few thoughts on that subject.
First off, I don’t believe the commercial side of the genre will ever return to its former place in the annals of commercial photography. Its day in the sun has faded to something of a twilight. Perhaps a permanent state of twilight? What that means is that commercial nude/glam, in my opinion, won’t ever fade into the sunset and go quietly into the night. It will likely always be around, just not to the extent it once was. In fact, I’ll go out on a rather thick and sturdy limb and say I know. Beyond question, that it won’t ever return to its former self.
Why Has the Commercial Nude/Glamour Biz Been in Decline?
There are, of course, reasons that commercial nude/glam has significantly declined, leastwise in terms of the amount of available paid work. And some of those reasons might not be what a few people think they might be. (BTW, I can only speak to the industry as it has existed and continues to exist in the U.S. What’s happening elsewhere, in Europe or the Far East for example, I don’t have much of a clue.)
There are a number of reasons for the commercial nude/glam industry’s decline and some of those reasons are fairly obvious while other may be less so. There are also perceived reasons, i.e., reasons which are perceived by some as being possible reasons, but really haven’t taken much of a toll on the business. Example: A perceived rise of the ‘morality police’ in America. You see, the ‘morality police’ have always been around. These days, social media has permitted them to be even more vocal (and annoying) and reaching more ears. But their actual impact on the business is negligible. Yeah, they might get someone’s sexy photo of a sexy woman removed from Facebook eyes but in terms of their collective morality having a major impact on the commercial side of sexy female photography? Oh please. Not in this century, leastwise not so far.
You see, if the ‘morality police’ believe they’re winning their little war on commercial nude/glam photography, they’ve got another think coming. They, as a group, don’t account for jack — an American term meaning ‘nothing’ — in the industry’s decline, nor have they had even a small impact on the business’ decline. If they think otherwise, they are delusional. (And I’m confident many of them are rather delusional in more than a few ways… but that’s another story.)
So, if it’s not the morality police, why has the commercial side of the genre been in decline? Well, piracy and unauthorized uses (copyright violations) has certainly taken a significant toll on the business but if you really want to boil it down to one thing, one major reason, the word “free” comes immediately to mind.
The Internet is Chiefly Responsible for the Decline
There’s plenty, millions in fact, of decent (even great) nude/glam photos on the internet for almost anyone to see! Anyone with a computer, tablet, smart phone or any graphic displaying device with access to the world wide web, that is. (And that accounts for a lot of folks.)
So in a nutshell, how do you compete with free? (If you’re in the business of selling a product that’s universally available and easily viewed by nearly everyone and anyone for free.) Who is going to pay for something that is so readily and freely available? You see the problem here? If fewer and fewer consumers will pay for something they once parted with billions of dollars to see, i.e., they once paid to see in magazines, on subscription-based websites and elsewhere, that means fewer and fewer providers of that content will be hiring people (like me) to shoot it. Worse yet, there’s plenty of photographers who, for whatever reasons, will grant free use of their images to almost any publisher of such content. I guess for them the accompanying ego strokes are payment enough. Those things are bummers for guys like me but there you have it. So what’s a guy (like me) to do? Go with the flow, I suppose. Or find a new flow to go with. Hey! I’m not looking for sympathy or shoulders to cry on here. Like it or not (and I don’t like it) I’m simply trying to explain what’s happened.
I don’t think it’s any sort of epiphany to say that it’s pretty hard to compete with free even if a few industries have done so to great success. There’s plenty of free or nearly-free water available to drink in many, if not most, industrial countries, yet the bottled water industry has thrived and continues to do so, often selling water at premium prices. But that’s another story, only worth mentioning because ‘free’ can be competed with, but no one has figured out how to compete with it in the nude/glam shooting biz. At least I don’t know anyone who has.
What About Non-Commercial Nude/Glamour Photography?
Conversely, the hobby side of the genre continues growing exponentially. I’ve also noticed a substantial growth in similar-to-glam-and-nude genre that can be termed “commercial.” That would be privately commissioned “boudoir photography.” It’s a genre that many hobbyists, plus those who pursue commercial photography of other types and other genres, have added to the services they market and provide to their consumer customers. Boudoir isn’t exactly the same as commercial nude/glam but it’s pretty darn close in many ways, e.g., lighting, composition, shooting environments, poses, expressions, subject attitudes and emotions and more. I’ve never shot boudoir myself but I’m 100% confident that I could shoot it fairly well if that’s what I decided to pursue. But shooting boudoir isn’t the only genre someone with good skills photographing sensuous models can pursue.
In my opinion, anyone who learns to shoot nude/glam like a boss can adapt all of the skills required to do so to any other sort of portraiture, commercial or otherwise. And that transition, from skills needed to shoot terrific nude/glam to shooting other sorts of portraits, will be easier than trying to adapt, for instance, traditional portrait-shooting skills to shooting nudes and glam. In fact, shooting nude/glam might be one of the best training grounds for shooting portraiture of all kinds. Why? Because once you get past all the technical stuff – lighting, exposure and more – stuff that’s important to any sort of portrait shooting, the most important part of shooting nude/glam is learning to interact with your models. Frankly, if you learn to effectively interact with naked or semi-naked models, pro models or otherwise, in order to produce great images, I personally believe you are better qualified, and able, to effectively interact with just about any other subjects in front of your camera… you know, other types of people portrait subjects.
So, What Now?
From where I stand as a once busy and regularly-working commercial nude & glamour photographer, it’s the hobby side of the genre that is now keeping the genre alive. If that’s you, that is, you’re a hobby photographer who shoots nude/glam, or even a pro who shoots other stuff but sometimes shoots nude/glam for a variety of reasons, I have two words for you: You rock!
While I might not be too happy about where the commercial nude/glam industry has gone, I still love the genre and wouldn’t ever want to see it decline the way the commercial side of it has declined. Personally, I don’t believe it will. For that and many other reasons, I’m convinced reports of the death of nude & glamour photography are not only exaggerated, they’re unfounded and simply not true.
Thanks for reading!