It is hard to pinpoint the “reason” I went into nude photography. It went against my nature as a somewhat introverted person and I certainly didn’t go into it for the money…so then, why?
My answer is blunt and somewhat anticlimactic. I just like to see nude women. I like being able to catch a special portion of their spirit and to show the viewer how I sense them: round curves, soft, – pure beauty. A nude woman is just about the most gorgeous thing in the world and being able to capture that beauty through photography is something I simply just love to do. In my opinion this is quite a worthy and honest reason.
However, as I began my career in nude photography I had some unexpected hurdles to jump.
Self-doubt and fears hinder the creative process and it can prove to be quite difficult art and many artists to overcome these anxieties. Some people drink, some people overcompensate and some people learn to harness their nerves and use them to their benefit. I was lucky enough to learn how to quiet my self-doubts on set and utilize my reserved nature to help me in developing my own unique photographic style.
I’ve been a people photographer before almost over a decade. Growing up though, you would have never expected me to go into the niche of nude photograph. Nudity was not really a topic in my family or in my childhood. It was not discussed as being wrong or as being particularly good. There was not a part of me that was either for or against it; nudity was just a null topic.
In 2002 I began shooting nude models for the first time. I was fortunate in that I was starting out in Prague where the abundance of talented models was plenty. Working with these models for the first time was not easy though.
The very first shoot I did I was so nervous that I got drunk before I met with the model. For it being my first shoot and being drunk…I think it went alright. She was being paid well and was content but the photographs ended up being rubbish. The model never contacted me after that and never again have I used alcohol as a crutch to ease my nerves before a shoot. It throws something off in my mind and I simply cannot do my best work.
After that first difficult shoot, things progressed slowly. Working clean made me feel much better but by the end of the day I was burnt out. I doubt the models could tell at the time since I was a pretty reserved person; I was concentrating less on my communication with them and more on surviving the shoot. Being self-reliant was the only option I had. There was help on set like the makeup artist but they were only able to assists with makeup…not the bigger issues I was handling.
With increasing amount of work and new solid routine, I became more confident and comfortable with my job. Being able to focus less on just keeping my head above water I discovered that I was able to direct and communicate with the models better. This ability to steer, or guide the mood of the shoot was still difficult but felt somewhat natural to me as well. Considering myself a quiet, introverted person I have a knack for picking up on subtle cues from other people. This comes in handy when you are trying to charm a model but also has its serious down side. My reserved attitude can manifest as self-doubt and that is the touch of death to a photographer. Baseless fear only holds back inspiration and confidence and often seems impossible to make go away. I needed to figure out how to balance all of these complexities of my character while not losing any of my “true self” at the same time.
I was able to figure out how to disarm fear and remain “cool” on set by thinking one thought frequently:
“The other people here are just like me – they are doing their job so you need to fulfill yours too. The others are probably fearful and anxious just like you are too. So what’s to worry about? We are all the same pretty much, except that I am the boss. I have been booked because I am talented, or I am working on this project myself and at the end of the day, I cut the checks and I am in charge.”
Being able to repeat this thought whenever I became anxious helped boost my self-confidence greatly. Along with my little mantra, I recognized the varied stages of overcoming my nerves and how to be able to effectively talk to models.
I designated them as follows:
- Recognize and acknowledge your fears
- Face up your fears
- Overcome your fears with your personal tricks and create room for communication skills
- Use this room for talking first about technical and personal things
- Repeat and rinse the small talk and create with that room for “keen interest creation”
- Once you’ve internalized your set of tools – I call them “commando fear fighters” – start to interact with your counterpart’s personality (the model you are working with)
- Strive for your own sincerity and you will be able to honestly connect for a shoot long
Using this new set of tools I suddenly had the first taste of actual fun and excitement with my job. I stopped having self-doubting thoughts and realized that it is natural for people to be awkward in unusual settings; it didn’t mean I wasn’t a good people person.
Realizing that I am good with people and especially the models I worked with came as a surprise. In my normal day to day life I am not the kind of man that hands out compliments to girls I barely know. This used to make me think that I would just be too awkward if I attempted giving a compliment to the model’s I worked with. But I was very wrong. On set I am totally different and able to charm and flatter the models in a friendly, playful and genuine way. It certainly is not hard when you have a gorgeous (nude) model standing in front of you. To put it simply: I got over myself. At this point my career was going well. I have developed my own signature style, my reputation was growing quickly and everything was right on track. The sense of assuredness I had helped me be able to concentrate on the image creation process and have further control of the matters on set.
There is always a next step in a career and mine came unexpectedly. I was presented with the opportunity to shoot with some of the big names in the industry, ie: Kyla Cole, Marketa Belonoha, Jenni Gregg (aka Jenni Czech), Ariel Piper Fawn and others. My “fear reflex” came back full force when the time came to work with these renowned models. “They are so well known and I am still just a nobody. What if something goes wrong…” thoughts like this ran through my head as the day approached to do my first shoot.
I shot Kyla Cole that day and found myself not choking up but rising to occasion. Using my set of tools to stay cool and be able to chat with Kyla made for a really amazing shoot. My professional relationship with all the girls, Kyla, Jenni, Marketa has continued to be excellent and I have been able to get beautiful results from these talented girls.
Being a balanced person, not too confident but not too reserved has made me an easy person to work with. I always receive positive feedback from my models and my staff. I truly believe they love working with me and, I do them. At this point you would think that I wouldn’t concern myself anymore with the “tools” I developed to battle my nerves. But I do…because being a balanced and centered person does not happen all on its own, it takes effort.
Understanding that there is a good and bad side to personal uncertainty has helped me immensely. Using my introverted tendencies to assist me in the detailed process of nude photography has turned it from something potentially bad, to something important.
Embracing this “weakness” in all reality has been highly influential to creating my signature style. It is the delicate, careful approach that is mirrored in the beautiful aura I capture in my images of women.
Author: Dan Hostettler
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 SexyWomenPhotography.com. 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.
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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.