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[Part 10/23 | Module 2: GETTING YOU STARTED]

For producing a beautiful ‘on location’ photo, knowing how to choose and prepare your set and model is the key.

Choosing the ‘right’ location for your nude photoshoot is as important as all the rest of your pre-shoot decisions you’ll be making. Location can help you tell the story or “sell” the model in powerful and dramatic ways.

If it’s an outdoor location, the beauty of nature can be used to accentuate the beauty of your model. Even when you choose a location that is decidedly not beautiful – junkyards, abandoned factories, and more – juxtaposing your beautiful model within those run-down or ugly environments can also highlight a model’s beauty in powerful ways. Whichever you choose, beautiful or run-down and ugly, the primary objective in nude photographs, whether your intent is to tell a story or not, is to capture the beauty and allure of your model.

Oh, and one more thing: Outdoor locations for nude photoshoots must always include privacy as a key factor in your choice. Many scenic locations are magnets for tourists and others. It’s probably not a good idea to conduct a nude photoshoot amidst a bunch of onlookers who just happen to be there.

Indoor Photography - On Location Photo Shoot - Nude Photos

Unless you plan to shoot in a studio or studio-like space and you’ll be using a simple seamless background, all the same factors – environmental factors that contribute to the beauty and allure of your model – hold true for indoor locations, including privacy.

The Purpose Of Your Location

Before deciding on a location, it’s a good idea to ask yourself a few questions like, “What do I want to say with the photos? (Beyond, that is, “Hey! Check this model out! Is she hot or what?”) You also might ask some questions about where you hope to take the viewer? These are questions that drive a photo’s “story.” The stories in your photos aren’t stories that begin with, “Once upon a time…” and tell a linear story with a beginning, middle, and end. Often, they are emotional stories.

You’ve no doubt heard the phrase, “Every picture tells a story.” Well, yes and no. A photo doesn’t tell a complete story. It simply provides hints and clues to possible stories. For the most part, the stories that every picture tells are imagined in the minds of viewers. The photographer’s job, when a story is something they want to include in their photos, is to provide story elements, hints, clues, and more that encourage viewers to imagine stories they can attach to the photos. The hints, clues, and more that are provided to a photo’s viewers with silent visual elements include: lighting, makeup, hairstyle, wardrobe, props, pose, expression (emotion) and, often in very big ways, sometimes the biggest ways, location. That goes for almost all photographs and certainly isn’t excluded in nude photography.

If you are shooting your model in front of a simple seamless background , you can still create story in the photos, but you’ll have on less element to do it with. You’ll still have the majority of story elements to work with, i.e., lighting, makeup, hairstyle, wardrobe, props, pose, and expression (emotions/attitudes/whatever you prefer calling them.) The only thing missing is the location. Adding a location, the right location drives your story in even bigger ways.

Let’s say you want to create a serene, tranquil, peaceful story for your nude model photo. A dirty, filthy, grimy, abandoned factory probably won’t be your first choice. (It probably shouldn’t be among any of your choices if serenity, tranquility, and peacefulness are your story goals.) Instead, you’ll probably want to select an outdoor location that represents those things, or a suitable interior location, be it in a home, a hotel, or even a castle, that will do the same, that will tell the story in big ways.

Purpose Of a Location - On Location Nude Photo Shoots

Don’t Upstage Your Model

Photo locations do not need to be upscale and/or flashy, although upscale and flashy tells its own stories. Beautiful, suitable settings are everywhere. Always keep your eyes open for them even when you’re not actively planning a shoot. You never know when that “cool location” you spotted while driving somewhere might be perfect for one of your future photoshoots. Just always remember: Your model is the star of your photos, not the locations you might shoot in. Locations are intended to highlight and accentuate your model’s beauty, not overpower it.

If you find yourself wondering if a possible location might “upstage” your model, you might want to opt for a simpler location or think of ways to reduce the impact of the surrounding. By the way, in case you’re not familiar with what the term “upstage” means in this context, it’s a term used by actors to indicate when another actor or something on a stage or in a film scene overpowers the actor in ways that make whatever the actor being upstaged is doing, saying, or both. The great comic, stage and film actor, W.C. Fields, is said to have refused to work with dogs and children because he felt they automatically upstaged him, regardless of what they or he was doing.

Makeup, Hair & Styling - nude photo preparation - On Location Photo Shoot

Always Try To Scout Your Location First!

It’s a good idea, whenever possible, to scout your locations before shooting. Scouting means going to the locations, prior to your shoot, and having a good look around. Often enough, scouting your location will pay off ten-fold on the day you shoot.

What are some of the things you should look for when scouting a location? Beyond the location itself fulfilling the purpose of enhancing your shoot’s story, check to ensure there is adequate privacy. See if there are facilities available like working toilets with running water if it’s an interior location. Also for interior locations, is there easy and adequate access to electrical outlets? You wouldn’t want to show up at your incredibly beautiful interior location to find out the power doesn’t work in the room you want to shoot in and you don’t have adequate extension cords to draw power from elsewhere, e.g., another room at the location. Spend some time getting to know your set. On the day of your shoot, you’ll minimize the chances of surprises…unwelcome surprises.

Scout Your Location First - On Location Nude Photo Shoots

Important Location Considerations

When shooting nudes on location, any sort of location, safety, and privacy is of utmost importance. If you are not sure about the private or public status of a location, be aware of two risks you might be taking:

1) You may be trespassing and,
2) You may run afoul of the law for indecent exposure and more. These things vary from city-to-city and country-to-country. It’s important to take the time to research local laws to avoid penalties, fines, even arrest. At the very least, you’ll be reducing the possibility of a very embarrassing moment for you and your model.

If your location is private property, you must make sure you have permission from the property’s owners or legal representatives to shoot, as well as publish your photos. Also, be aware that works of art that may be in the backgrounds of your shots may raise issues of copyright and fair use. This can be especially true when shooting in places like hotel rooms or other commercial venues.

Your model’s level of comfort is very important when choosing a photo location. A new-ish nude model may be quite timid exposing herself at certain locations, especially if there’s a risk of others suddenly passing by or showing up. Audiences are generally unwelcome at most nude photoshoots.

Lastly, consider how easy (or difficult) it will be to light your set. When starting, you’ll probably want to look for locations where lighting will be made easier, not more difficult. Observe how natural light will impact your images and how it might change during your shoot. When scouting a location, take a mental inventory of the existing scenery, e.g. furniture, drapes, wall hangings, and other things at the location that you might utilize or need to avoid.

Reflector Modifier - On Location Photo Shoot - Shoot the Nudes

Prepare The Model For The Setting

When shooting in natural settings, forewarn your model about the conditions so they will be prepared. If you are unsure of possible passers-by at or near a location where you plan to shoot, make sure your model is also aware. It can be very helpful to bring someone along as a lookout for approaching strangers. Your model should have a robe or some sort of clothing that can be easily and quickly slipped on should a stranger approach. You should also have some sort of exit plan if you need to leave the location quickly. Whenever shooting at or in an abandoned building or some other run-down structure, always be observant for potential hazards.

Outdoor Photography - On Location Photo Shoot - Nude Photography

Outdoor Shoots: Take Advantage Of The Current Season

If shooting at outdoor locations, the weather may be a key factor as either a positive or negative to your shoot. Sure, you might shoot a nude model in the winter, even in the snow, but remember that she will not last long without clothing in the cold and/or the snow. Mere minutes at most. When your models are uncomfortable due to weather or hot/cold factors, it’s not going to make for good photos. The models will likely reveal their discomfort in the photos and, as a rule, a model’s skin covered in goosebumps isn’t the optimum condition for skin in nude photography. Developing a plan which is in fitting with the season is essential.

Bring A Friend To Act As Your Photo Assistant (PA)

Having a friend along to be a PA is often a great idea. Your friend/PA can help carry gear, hold reflectors, and do some of the more labor-intensive work for you. This allows you to remain better focused on your model and your shooting. It’s no surprise that many guys will eagerly volunteer to assist you when photographing a beautiful, nude model. If anything, you may have to turn some of your friends down. We’re talking about an assistant here, not a gang of guys.

Fortunately, your PA doesn’t need to know much of anything about photography to do the manual labor and/or also be a lookout when shooting at semi-private or questionably private locations.

Have Some Artificial Lighting At Hand When Shooting Daylight Exteriors

Even though you’re shooting outdoors in near-perfect natural light conditions, there may be unwelcome shadows to fill-in or soften. It’s a good idea, therefore, to bring along one or two speedlights… just in case. This will also require a way to trigger your speedlights should you use them. PocketWizard are reliable triggers. Lately, a lot of photographers are singing the praises of Phottix triggers . Either can be purchased at camera stores or online.

If you’re shooting outdoors with artificial lighting, you’ll probably want to modify your lights with an umbrella or softbox. When you mount an umbrella or softbox to a speedlight and set it on a light stand, even the slightest breeze will knock it over. Sandbags are a big help in securing and weighting down your stands. If you don’t have any sandbags, almost anything, including a heavy camera bag or something filled with rocks can be utilized. So lock your light stands to the ground by adding some extra weight to them.

Whenever shooting at or in an abandoned building or some other run-down structure, always be observant for potential hazards.

Disc Reflector - On Location Photo Shoot - Nude Female Photography

Your New Best Friends: Reflectors And Scrims (Diffusers)

Reflectors and scrims (scrims being translucent or wire mesh diffusers) can be your best friends when shooting indoors with artificial light or outdoors with natural light. Reflectors reflect or bounce light. Scrims reduce and diffuse light. In general, the larger the reflector or scrim, the better the result, leastwise most of the time. This is also where a PA can be a huge help, especially for holding reflectors or scrims.

Imagery - Translucent Diffusor - On Location Nude Photo Shoot

Flexibility Is Everything

Shooting at locations can be time consuming for a variety of reasons. You can try to schedule your shoot, even down to minutes, but remember the old saying about the best laid plans of mice and men. When shooting outdoors, aspects of the weather may slow you down, for example, waiting for a cloud to either move in front of or away from the sun. Just relax and go with the flow. You don’t have any control over things like clouds anyway and if it’s important to wait for a cloud to move, there’s no way to hurry it along. Accept the challenges as they come.

Going with the flow is one of the most important things you can do when shooting anyway. Going with the flow also sometimes allows for unforeseen moments of creativity to burst into your head. While waiting for the light to be just right, don’t ignore other elements of the location. Often, it’s during those times when you’ll suddenly notice a great place to shoot, just nearby. Be on the alert for any and all opportunities that might arise and provide for even better photos. Be aware. Go with the flow. Don’t resist spontaneity. Don’t keep your feet in concrete in terms of your plan or schedule. Be flexible.

In Conclusion

The more you want to tell a story with your photos, the more you’ll want to shoot at appropriate locations which help to tell and enhance the story. For most all of your portrait photography, nude or otherwise, the right location will go a long way to helping you make better photos. Things like lines and shapes and colors in a shooting environment, i.e., at a location, can make for great elements in your photos. Let the location work for you, not against you.

Having said that, always remain alert for things that seem to get in the way of moving forward in your shoot, and use your head to come up with solutions to them. A big part of nude photography is being a problem-solver.

Dan’s Location Photography Pre-Shoot Checklist

  1. Settle on the story you want to tell (choose the right location, season, and more.)
  2. Always scout your location before shooting, if possible.
  3. Clear property rights and take care of any legal issues.
  4. Insure privacy for your nude photo shoot.
  5. Bring along someone to act as an assistant.
  6. Send a detailed list to your model and other crew members in an email explaining everything regarding the shoot and what people should bring with them. Always remind your model to bring along a robe or similar.
  7. Check the weather forecast the day before outdoor shoots.
  8. Double-check, make that triple-check your gear the day before your shoot. Make sure batteries are charged, both for your camera as well as speedlights that might be needed. Make sure your memory cards are properly formatted and you have enough of them for the shoot.
  9. On the shooting day, and once the model has arrived, ask her to remove her undergarments to avoid any distracting marks or imprints on her skin. (Experienced models will generally do this automatically, putting on their robe preparing for the shooting, but make sure they’ve remember to do this anyway.)
  10. Want to get my complete, paid video training for being prepared, awesome insights and results references? “Outdoor Nudes: Shoot On The Run”

Thanks for reading.

Dan Hostettler - Photographer & StudioPrague Owner

Author: Dan Hostettler   Verified Account; StudioPrague Owner  Switzerland

A traveler at heart, inspired by women, working along Swiss precision.

Dan is a mediapreneur, photographer, author of several books, owner of StudioPrague and Founder + Editor in Chief of Being a successful photographer for more than 15 years Dan got internationally published and featured on/in GQ Online, The India Times, FashionONE TV, FotoTV, GoodLight Mag, amongst many others.

Dan is currently residing and working in Prague, CZ, conducting nude photography workshops, productions and pushing educational formats to a new level.

Dan’s On Location Outdoor Nudes: Shoot On The Run

Special: U$37 | RRP $74

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Consider a Small Donation?

Your donation helps to sustain, create and regularly update the free content for you.
I love offering my knowledge to you and a small token of appreciation helps to keep the lights on.

Thank You!


Dan’s On Location Outdoor Nudes: Shoot On The Run

Special: U$37 | RRP $74