This is a topic that could fill a lot of pages, it’s a major one. Let me clear 3 things right upfront:
- This article will not cover a model’s professional status (amateur, newcomer, pro). It’s solely about model types, meaning a fitting type of talent regarding body shape, looks, condition, personality, special abilities and more – the appearance and skills for specific genres in Sexy Women Photography. Seen from this angle, the actual status makes no difference.
- Finding a model willing to shoot sexy nudes is hard enough – believe me, I have had this experience too when I first started out in this business.
Having requirements regarding a certain model type to perfectly match the genre may almost seem over the top at this point. However, I’d like to urge you to try finding the “correct” type for the respective look you want to portray. Of course there is some kind of universal model type that can be used both in the area of Art Nude as well as Glam Nude. But it is rather atypical and therefore I decided to focus on the various types, conditions and characteristics.
- It’s like with posing for different genres and markets. A specific model type (and the variety of poses related to it) is supporting your message, the look and – best case scenario – the imagery for your market/target audience.
Read about “Types and Variety of Poses that are Supporting Your Message” (blog post).
Let’s begin by splitting this into sections (Types of Modeling) according to the type of photo styles and looks you want to create and take it from there.
Of course every photographer has a specific taste in models, but whether you start-up or enhance your existing portfolio, you will do well to keep in mind that your work is evaluated based on the class and appropriate selection of your models…
Models In Fine Art-/ Classic Nude Photography
There is no such thing like a special model for an excellent nude artwork. Too much depends on the sort of image you wish to produce, but similar basics about character apply. In my own work, I opt for sticking with art nude models that have similar attributes and features like those that I choose for glam/nude work. That’s because it’s the type of woman I sense are attractive to watch, however, this is a purely personal and therefore biased preference.
Even though carefree colored glam series might be showing successfully posing models that can generally be categorized as “young and beautiful” – and are actually not that easy to find – classic nude art has completely different requirements.
And as controversial as this may sound, these requirements are actually easier to fulfill. We’re talking about the character of a human depiction which can but does not necessarily have to result from a “beautiful” body.
In the history of nude photography, impressive character images have been marvelously created with people beyond today’s commercial ideal of beauty. And exactly this is what represents the fine art of nude photography: Being able to work with less flawless bodies in order to carve out the true value of an image – the body language that characterizes the content of an image.
From a philosophical point of view, one may think of Lao Tzu’s interpretation: “The visible part of a work is recognized in its outer form, the invisible is its value.” Well, this might be far-fetched because we are actually attempting to create something pleasing to the eye. However, with regards to our models this means that something valuable that can be photographically converted into something worth seeing is hidden inside of each body. This applies to both female and male models even though the paraphrase “Models in Nude Photography” usually leads to the assumption of females being featured – at least that’s 100% true in my case…
When I’m opting for figurative/classic art nudes, I want to work with a model that is aware of her body performance, posing studies, muscles and lines and even has a clue about art history and respective motifs (photography, sculpture, paintings).
More thoughts and a look behind the scenes here in my post “Classic Art Nudes: My First Attempt“.
Specialization: Dancers & Athletes
For special fine art nude concepts, ballet dancers for example, can serve as excellent subjects with their common grace and litheness. However, they are usually highly slender and show more toned muscles along with rather small breasts. When aiming for body studies these types of models – or any well trained model for that matter – are a perfect fit because you will have great proportions, toned lines and the model’s ability to strike dedicated poses.
Model Vik Tory is a dancer who really knows how to perform. Her strength and suppleness allow her to hold poses that many models would find impossible. Whomever you might approach, always ask your models if they dance or play sports since it can really open up a lot of possibilities and surprising concepts.
For glamour series, you will generally shoot considerably sexy models. The ladies for these jobs are usually extra curvy. A first-class glamour model doesn’t necessarily need to be a classic beauty as you might come across in a beauty shoot. However, you will usually either choose an extraordinary lovely “girl next door” sort or possibly the typical “hot babe” – all based on the ideas of the glam/nudes look you are going for.
An average glamour model shouldn’t necessarily be as tall as a fashion model, but will still have to possess just the right figure and never be too heavy or visibly too thin. Similar to other forms of nude modeling, personality is key and I recommend you work with women who are positive and comfortable in front of your lens.
A key issue I particularly despise – which seems to be very common in modern day models – is their penchant of having tattoos on their bodies and wear unusual piercings, all of which are not needed in 99% of the photos taken, except you have something very specific or detailed like shooting a series for Suicide Girls (Alternative Naked Pin-Up Girls) or something identical. But that’s not glam in its proper sense anymore, that’s alternative and so you are accordingly working with marvelous alternative models (see paragraph below).
For glam (and art nude series) try to stay away from heavily tattooed and pierced models. Both, tattoos and piercings will date the photos. It will become obvious that the photos were taken sometime between the nineties and today. Particularly if you are taking B&W photographs where class and timeless features are needed (read “We Should Still Shoot (Digitally) Black & White – A Few Thoughts“), you destroy any illusion when depicting tattoos and more. Most of the time, the “tattooed” results cannot be easily retouched – so save your time in post and just hire a model that really suits your concept’s needs.
I wrote together with model Chloe an extensive article about all different characteristics and things to consider/checking when planning a look and hiring a specific model: “The Nude Body – Things To Consider Before Your Next Shoot”
Fashion-Like Models (Fashion Fusion)
While there are specific, crucial specs in the fashion industry (long, slender, height, weight, body forms), we can happily cheat and bend things a bit in the nude/sexy genre. Models can be shorter, curvier, less of a beanpole….
The most important thing is though that the model is able to replicate some well-known fashion poses and that she has the ability to enhance movement, bring her own expressions and bold moments in. Fashion-like inspired posing is of course not about selling a fabric/accessory. It’s rather a wonderful field for most playful concepts and for letting creativity flow.
I never had the aspiration to replicate and evolve the fashion style work in its core. But I have always been taking and still do take any given chance to cross-border and water down static posing in case the model is able and willing to perform some series that way.
Alternative modeling is a branch of the modeling industry that features models that do not conform to mainstream ideals of beauty. Alternative models are often niche-specific, with a personal style that represents subcultures like emo, rockabilly, goth, burlesque, latex, and fetishism . An alternative model may, for example, be tattooed, pierced, or have body modifications, or have prominent subcultural hair such as being shaved, dyed a distinctively unnatural color, or styled into a Mohawk or dreadlocks.
It’s a whole different planet (than mine) and the followers and lovers of alternative models are numerous! This huge community out there is big and business side connected to should not be underestimated!
It’s The Personality Anyway!
In order to conclude this little list – and to soften the distinctions a bit – personality is always a major key factor to look out for.
For me, personality really matters. Outgoing, communicative models make photo shoots so much easier, even for more intimate images. Often, though not always, I will try to bring the model’s character across.
Models who can be themselves are not only a joy to work with, but the viewer can feel their personalities through the image and really establish a connection.
Personality and the right look: a heavenly combination for a successful series!
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