Readers Questions

I was asked by a Thai couple I know to photograph them.  Nothing unusual in that but they wanted me to do nudes.  They have seen some of my photography and like that they saw although I have never done that style before.  I was reluctant to do this for them for a couple of reasons.  The reason I gave them is that I didn't want to take such shots because I was concerned that somehow the photos might leak.  Maybe my computer would be hacked or stolen or something and their private pics would be out in the public domain. their control of them gone.  The second and the real reason was that I was just nit possible being in the presence of people I know while they are nude!  My question to you is how do you overcome that.  I wanted to do this for them, but I just could not get my head around seeing them nude, to say nothing of the fact that seeing a male nude is something I find most unpleasant.

I would be remiss if I didn’t heavily caution you concerning Thailand’s often enforced laws on pornography and the rather narrow definition often used to label what most of us from the west would consider harmless photographs.  This is a topic by itself, but for now I’d like to go on record advising caution all around.

Computer security is always a concern.  I recommend processing sensitive photographs on a PC never used on-line.  Again another topic question, but to make things simple and as fool proof as you’re going to get at an amateur level I’d recommend never putting these types of photographs on your hard drive.  Instead, keep them on a read/write media such as a CDRW or flash memory device, and using a PGP encryption routine you can find free on the internet, encrypt your files after processing, add some unencrypted harmless photographs, and then store the media amongst your regular media.  Most authorities searching media will probably not notice the encrypted files, and if they do you can claim that part of the disk must be corrupted.

This is really an area where it would be inexpensive insurance to pay a professional to teach you the more intricate techniques of computer and data security.  There is also the legal aspects of releases, who owns the images, and how to advise your clients to avoid embarrassing situations.  If the demand is there I will include these topics in future columns.

About working with nude subjects and the subject of comfort.  What most people don’t realize is the technical demands of nude photography far exceed that of say traditional portraits.  The job of the photographer is to make the subjects comfortable and make pleasing images in the process.  Have them bring robes or drapes to wear after changing from their street clothes.  Once you have the set ready for them run them through a few poses while wearing the robes and take some test shots.  When you’re sure the technical’s are correct simply ask them to resume the poses without the robes and photograph them as you did before, making sure you monitor the technical’s while keeping an eye on their eyes and faces ensuring they smile and/or give the desired expressions.  You will be so busy with the technical’s and directing the poses and facial expressions that their nudity will likely be far from your mind.  Keep things moving along, maintain charge of the set, and engage in the normal banter you’re used to with portrait photography.  Before you know it your first nude session will be finished and you’ll see that it really wasn’t that much different from a portrait shoot.  Subsequent sessions will have your involvement with the scene increase naturally with your comfort level.

Keep in mind that nude photography isn’t for everybody and it certainly isn’t like photographing your girlfriend or someone you’re already intimate with.  It’s helpful if not mandatory to ensure the ground rules are understood by all prior to the shoot, and that you never allow anything that would make you uncomfortable.  Provide some art books on nudes to help them choose the style and poses, or to provide them on their own, and then don’t deviate from the agreed on plan.  This might not be an area of photography you’ll ever be comfortable with, or it could be an area you enjoy very much.  Never push your comfort zone, but instead allow it to expand with your experience.  It would also be helpful to find an experienced photographer who will let you help on the set of a nude shoot, or who is willing to guide you through your first time.

Please submit your questions to  All questions will be answered and most will show up in the weekly column.