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Nude Photography: Why Do People Do It? [NSFW]

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Nude photography is a very complex subject, one that can be viewed from thousands and thousands of points of view. The final product can range from what most would consider straight-up porn to what many would think to be fine art. But why do people on both sides of the camera do it?

Before diving into the article, let me make some statements of my own beliefs on the subject of nude photography, so I don’t have to reply time and time again in the comments section. First and foremost, I have absolutely no issues with nude photography of any sort when it is done freely between two or more adults, that being the photographer and the person or people being photographed. Let me be even clearer on another part of the subject. If the images involve minors or any person of any age that is forced to be photographed, then that act and the resulting image are totally and completely unacceptable. I don’t shoot nudes myself, not because of any moral or principal issues, but rather because I don’t have an interest photographing nudes.

I started to think about this subject one day as I was scrolling through galleries and I noticed a fair amount of images that included nude or at least semi-nude subjects. This started me to wonder, especially for the model, why were they willing to post these nude images? They are certainly not being paid by these portfolio sites to have their pictures posted, and I imagine for a good portion of the photos, the photographer did not pay the subject. Of course, this is only speculation on my part. I would like to hear from the people who have posted nude images here on Fstoppers if the model was compensated for modeling or if the photographer was paid to produce the photographs.

As I stated earlier, I have no issues with the nude images. And I don’t mean to insult any of the photographers and models who have posted such pictures, but I noticed there seems to be a significant number of images that were merely nothing more than a nice photo that also included a nude person. The picture would have been a nice image without the nudity, and I’m not so sure the nudity added to the image. I also noticed images that seemed to convey a sense of freedom, and the nudity appeared to complement the theme or the point of the image. Then, just as there were numerous images expressing freedom, there seemed to be just as many that implied a sense of being trapped. Of all the various images I saw, I would say that almost all of them were tastefully done. However, there were more than a few — in fact, lots — that were so cliche. For example, images of a pretty woman in front of an exotic car showing some portion of her body not typically seen in public. 

So at this point, having more questions than when I started thinking about this topic, I decided to do a little research on the subject. Luckily for me, our very own Fstoppers writers community not only has a person who has photographed but has also modeled. I reached out to the multi-talented Anete Lusina to ask a few of the questions I had. Not only was Lusina kind enough to answer my questions, but she was also kind enough to share these beautiful images that are scattered throughout the article. Please be sure to check out more of her work at Anete Lusina.

I, of course, started with the first question anyone would ask, what is your motivation for shooting nudes? “Initially, being a nude model for me meant experimentation, breaking away from the box I was placed in and rebelling,” Lusina said. She continued, “Nudity itself to me is quite unimportant, but I feel more free that way instead of wearing tight pieces of clothing or overly sexualized or glamorous ones. Being nude isn’t actually erotic, it’s more primal and raw. My motivation has generally been to gain my own acceptance of who I am, but equally, it also has helped me celebrate my body by looking past the flaws or the pain… and instead focus on the beauty it brings, such as the strength, speed, or either feminine or strong shapes.” I find Lusina's statement about it not being erotic to be very true. It doesn’t have to be; however, I believe too many people fall into that easy trap of creating a sexual aspect in their nude photography that in the end detracts from the image. As Joan Smith wrote in The Guardian: “Nude pictures, in other words, are not always or not only about sex.” So the motivation for many is not about being sexy or erotic. For many, the motivation is, while sounding like the 1960s, about expression. Smith stated she too posed nude: “I first posed nude in my 20s, when it seemed important to me to explore the meaning for nakedness.”

For many, shooting nudes either as the photographer or the model is an artistic motivation, a motivation to express feelings of angst or perhaps the complete opposite by conveying confidence and contentment with one’s self. Again, Smith captures these feelings when she addresses being photographed nude later in life: “I was a lot older, and it raised different questions; I’m a size 12, but the body gets less elastic over time… It was about being comfortable in my skin as an older woman,” The photographer needs to understand these motivations so they can capture and convey them accurately in their images, “instead of a mere snap,” as Lusina told me.

Even with an artistic motivation, pursuing the first nude photo shoot, either as a model or as a photographer can be intimidating and nerve-racking. We all know or should know the camera can be a wall between the photographer and the talent. Add in the uncertainty of nudity, and this wall can become an iron curtain. But it doesn’t have to be. As mentioned earlier, Lusina has worked on both sides of the camera and said the first time behind the camera was actually harder for her than the first time in front of the camera. Both instances were not planned. For her first nude in front of the camera, it came about naturally and by her own choice when she decided to remove her top and didn’t bat an eye. But when it came to working on the other side of the camera, it wasn’t so easy. She was tagging along with a friend of hers who was doing a shoot, and she felt nervous because it was his shoot. He helped her ease into shooting, but she can still fill a bit uneasy, because she ends up worrying about her models too much.

This article only addresses a couple of people’s thought concerning nude photography. I’m sure there are thousands more reasons people both in front and behind the camera create nude images. If you are one of these people, why not add to the conversation in the comments below. I’m sure others would like to hear your reasons; I know I would.

All images provided by and with permission to use by Anete Lusina.

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85 Comments

Previous comments
william hicks's picture

Because buying an DSLR is easier to explain to your wife than going to a strip club? At least in this town the main social media photos and paying work for models are nearly to fully nude. Hanging out at social events a lot of the male photographers seem to collect them like baseball cards. Doesn't matter if the photo is horribly lit, out of focus or the one where the model is in mid horrible expression. I have over the years offered hundreds of dollars of books on photography and business to local groups and all the ones that did not have a half naked woman on the cover were ignored. My personal favorite are the websites with family photos right next to the fetish work and people wondering why no one wants them to do their senior photos.

I have nothing against nudes or sexy or any of those genres but it's the majority, traveling models don't even bother to mention clothed rates any more.

Deleted Account's picture

Keeping it classy I see.

A K Photo's picture

Perhaps an alternate title would be "Interview with nude photographer Anete Lusina"

Anete Lusina's picture

Does that mean the photographer is in nude or the photographer photographs nudes? ;)

Rifki Syahputra's picture

4 letter wonder : TITS

Deleted Account's picture

You don't get to decide what is sexual/erotic or not. People see what they want to see. For some, a leather glove is erotic. For some, a vagina close-up is just skin. The motivation of the image maker is irrelevant. And even if it is sexual, is is less art ? Less acceptable ? I don't think so.

We shoot nudes because they exists.
We shoot porn because sexuality exists (and that's nice, try it).
We shoot things because they exist and we want to show them.

What I expect from a photograph is to show me things in a way I don't see them. Show me how you see. It's like a joke, really : a joke is funny when you don't see it coming, it surprises you by putting unexpected elements together, twisting them.

"but I noticed there seems to be a significant number of images that were merely nothing more than a nice photo that also included a nude person. "

I can say the same about a lot of landscapes photos. That's called mainstream.

I don't understand why nudes wouldn't be for everyone. Everyone has a body, everyone can relate.

And, as a nude photographer, I have seen models that just "feel themselves" naked. Shoot them dressed, shoot them naked, you don't get the same person. That's competely crazy. So, naked portraits are a thing. There is something in the psychology of it, I don't know…

I don't understand either why people care so much about the motivations. What does them change ? How can you acertain the true motivations of someone ?

David Pavlich's picture

"You don't get to decide what is sexual/erotic or not."

Oh, sir, but I do. I choose what I think is art or trash just as you do. And it seems that, for better or worse, other people that actually publish photos have decided what is art and what isn't.

Deleted Account's picture

The assumption of your post is art ≠ sexual. These 2 things are not mutually exclusive.

David Pavlich's picture

No, my post states that having an opinion, I differentiate between what I consider art and what I consider trash. It's my opinion and you're welcome to your's. I know what I'd hang in my home and what I'd use for the bottom of the bird cage.

It doesn't matter a whit to me what you shoot or why you shoot it. Just don't get the idea that because you do it, I should like it.

Deleted Account's picture

The statement "You don't get to decide what is sexual/erotic or not." says nothing about art.

You reply to it with a statement on art vs. garbage. So it's either non-sequitur, or you associate eroticism with garbage, and oppose it to art.

It's simple logic really. Both way, you are wrong. Art can be sexual in nature. Sexual content does not stop to be art for being sexual. And what is sexual or not is too dependant on one's fetishes to be decided once for all.

And art is art because someone did it with a purpose. You get to decide whether you will hang it on your walls or not. You don't get to decide wether it's art or not neither. That's art as soon as someone tried to say something. Bad art is still art.

Really, in 2018, people take their opinions too seriously.

Douglas Turney's picture

Nor are they mutually​ inclusive.

David Pavlich's picture

Hypothetical: You take a picture, send it to Hustler, and it gets printed on page 34 (random number). It makes a bunch of men 'happy'.

So then you decide that it's made men happy, why not put it on a 16X24 stretch canvas and put it up as art? In Hustler, it's porn, in a gallery, it's art, at least in your world.

What you don't either get or refuse to get is that in my world, I get to choose what is art and what isn't, just the same as you get to choose in your world. I don't care if your hpothetical picture sold for 2 million dinars, I wouldn't call it art.

Deleted Account's picture

I wanted to upvote you because I agree with your point but didn't see that bias in his comment.

Douglas Turney's picture

Great, this is what I was hoping to get going in the comments. "Shoot them dressed, shoot them naked, you don't get the same person." But you have turned it into a moral issue debate that I tried to stop before it happened by stating I don't have issues with nude photography. Funny how people ignore the words in the article that don't support their thoughts but at the same time focus on the words that they want to make an issue of. You cherry pick words from the article while ignoring the others like "Before diving into the article, let me make some statements of my own beliefs on the subject of nude photography, so I don’t have to reply time and time again in the comments section. First and foremost, I have absolutely no issues with nude photography of any sort when it is done freely between two or more adults, that being the photographer and the person or people being photographed." So did you not read these words? Did you jump to conclusions based on a pent-up frustration of defending nude photography? Why do you put more weight on some of my words while totally ignoring my other words completely? I looked at your photos. They're nice. They aren't the type I was pointing towards as ones that people just throw a nude body in and think that make the image better. The same thing happens with clothed people. Some photographers think if they put an attractive person in the photo it will be great and a work of art. It isn't.

So I'd ask you to perhaps reread the article and keep in mind that I actually support quality nude photography just like I support any quality photography.

Deleted Account's picture

I have read your article, of course. I have read the paragraph when you try to convince us you are open-minded. Fine.

But even if you claim to have no problem with nudes, you oppose fine-art and porn from the first paragraph.

Then, you spend too much time on the intentions, as if nudes were ok as long as the intentions/motivations are pure. Doing so, you mix up morality in something that has nothing to do with that. Motivations are hidden deep inside, whatever people may tell you, you will never be able to know if they lie or not, and they might well lie to themselves too. So, why do the motivations matter ? Just enjoy the result, or not. We live in a world of marketing, people need story-telling to sell, so take the work and forget the narrative.

Then, it goes through the same old topic of sexual vs. non sexual nudity, as if sexuality was something to avoid in nudes. I have had many comments of people on my pictures, saying they are classy and "not sexual". Nowadays, the quality of something is based on what it is not : gluten-free, non GMO, hormon-free, untested on animals… So people turn that non-sexual thing into a quality but that's sad to me, because it means they are still trapped into that christian morality, even when they claim to be non-believers. So you are not as open-minded as you think you are.

I shoot pornography too. I rarely post it because it's rarely good enough to be worth posting. That's actually quite difficult. I have my own ethics of always trying to show people in position of control, even naked, even during sex. I hate the feeling of the "scared little girl waiting to be abused" you find in too many nudes pics. I like Helmut Newton's style for that feeling you get when you are watched by the naked girl in the picture, and she seems to tell "I'm naked and bug off" with her eyes. Beautiful porn is great. When you are able to convey the feeling of intimacy between the lovers, this trust and peace that happens, that makes powerful pictures. But, of course, you have to get past the close-ups on genitals to get that.

Douglas Turney's picture

I give up because obviously, you know me better by reading 1231 words I wrote than I know myself. You are so wrong. The last sentence of the first paragraph of the article could be used for any photographer or model for any type of photography. You have wrapped yourself around the axial concerning that question and can't get beyond it, even when you have incorrectly understood the question. If you would like to carry on a conversation on this topic in a respectful manner, which I must say you seem to start to do in the comment above, then private message me. You might be surprised.

Matt Speakes's picture

A lot of rubbish debate about nude art vs. porn... If it makes you feel better calling it art, great, and the same for those who want to call it porn. At the most basic level we’re talking about images of (mostly) hot nude women. For many people (not all), and for various reasons, observing nudity produces a dopamine release - some like thier nudity classy and some like it raw. In other words, observing nudity gives us a brief thrill. For many in our society, having brief thrills, from one activity or another, has come to define their lives. As some have pointed out, nude “art” goes back thousands of years. Yes, well of course it does! I’m a libertarian so do what you see fit for your life. Personally, I’m trying to aim higher than simply finding the next thrill. Different strokes for different folks...

Studio 403's picture

I have done nudes. Af first I sucked, really awful set up and capture. My goal was to see if I could do an artful , lovely. Nude without looking like porn or trashy. Made some progress. I found doing nude or fully nude was more complex than I thought., Since my web site is family friendly, I really have no place to show my nudes. Regardless, its a lot of fun.

David Pavlich's picture

I did a totally unscientific study. I went to View Bug and checked 'Likes' and 'Awards' for what I consider artistic nudes and Hustleresque nudes. What it proved is that the vast majority of members there that bother to Like or Award images overwhelmingly favor what I consider artistic nudes to the Hustler nudes.

I found some of the artistic stuff had several hundred likes and awards, but could not find one of the Hustler shots that made it beyond 20 or 30 Likes or Awards.

Again, I spent about 15 minutes, so it's one of those 'grain of salt' things. But it did reveal a bit about the photographers at View Bug and what they believe is good nude and what is not so good nude.

Eric Grapher's picture

Why do people on both sides of the camera take photos of clothed people? There you have your answer to why some take photos of nudes.

Models get paid in photos and in cash to varying degrees of each. Very, very few will agree to pose without some sort of compensation. I pay models based on their experience and looks to complete a concept I desire. Sometimes clothed, sometimes not.

Lynn Clark's picture

I regularly shoot nudes as part of my boudoir services, and I've found that clients seek me out for this service. I lean toward serene, low-key images that celebrate line and curve. For women with larger bodies, specifically, the nudes I create help them see their bodies as beautiful, and help reframe hatred into acceptance, to some extent. When my clients are in lingerie, they are usually role playing. When they are naked, they are more themselves. This brings me joy.

Douglas Turney's picture

Thank you for sharing. Your comments are the type I was hoping people would share.

Federico Perez's picture

Personally, I think that although it is ok for sex to be private, we have taken it to the extreme, to even be ashamed of our sexuality (to show it, to talk about it, to admit we like it - women specially since there is so much pressure on them). Nude photography for me is a way to express, and accept, that we are sexual, erotic beings. It is liberating. I think we look at sex as something dirty, but we should be looking at it as something beautiful, and that's what art is about: beauty.

Gregory Jurak's picture

To paraphrase the Late Ernie Kovacs Nude photography is a medium that is neither rare nor well done.

Dill do's picture

Is this just a click baity article to get a bunch of comments? I don't get the point at all. People probably shoot nudes because they think they are beautiful to look at. Why do people shoot so many pictures of cats, or flowers, or grassy meadows, or motorcyles, or skaters.... I'm guessing most of us shoot what we like looking at. end of story... Just for fun, let's read a portion of your article and replace nude with motorbike since that's what you specialize in :)
"I started to think about this subject one day as I was scrolling through galleries and I noticed a fair amount of images that included motorbikes or at least semi-motorbike subjects. This started me to wonder, especially for the model, why were they willing to post these motorbike images? They are certainly not being paid by these portfolio sites to have their pictures posted, and I imagine for a good portion of the photos, the photographer did not pay the subject. Of course, this is only speculation on my part. I would like to hear from the people who have posted motorbike images here on Fstoppers if the model was compensated for modeling or if the photographer was paid to produce the photographs."

Deleted Account's picture

It's actually funny to see people with poor motorcycles/cars and HDR pictures in their portfolio use their christian morality to decide what's art and what's not, and think that's an opinion.

Douglas Turney's picture

Are you implying me?? If so how do you think you know my religion or even if I follow one? Sure just throw things out without a microgram of evidence. If me, what cars? If me, what HDR? No such images anywhere in my portfolio. So if you are implying me then you are just making things up with no such evidence. Funny, no that's not right, hilarious, yeah that's it, hilarious how people make things up for a discussion on a website.

Deleted Account's picture

No, not you.

Douglas Turney's picture

Please read my replies to the various comments on this article. I have nothing against nude photography. I just looked at Aurelien Pierre images and find them to be very nice. They have context and are composed nicely.

My question isn't "Why in the world would anyone ever pose nude? Are they crazy?" No, not at all!! It is "Why do people pose nude?" to which I addressed a couple of peoples reasons. Yes, I could have asked the same question as "While do extreme skiers fly themselves off of 100-foot cliffs for photographers?" It is not a judgemental question, now is it? No! It is an inquisitive question. Did you not notice the response that Lenete provided? Such as it gives her a feeling of freedom. So I could ask the same question of the extreme skier. "Why do you ski off of cliffs for photographs?" And perhaps their response would be the same "It gives me a sense of freedom." So this question would be OK to ask any other subject and no one would comment, but I ask it of a person who poses nude and I'm the one with a hangup?? Get real!

Instead of assuming that if someone asks a question of what motivates a person to pose nude that they are against it. Or because they don't shoot nudes they are against it. I don't shoot landscapes but I'm not against nature. Stop with your assumptions of what my morals are. As the person who owns my morals, I can tell you, you are so wrong.

Dill do's picture

You say you have nothing against it, but you wrote an article titled "why would anyone do it?" Although you added disclaimers, the very purpose of your article connotes disagreement to most readers I think...You may not be against nature or landscapes, but you weren't moved to write an article questioning and critiquing the motives of landscape photographers/models... What was missing for me, was why you feel as though somehow nude photography subjects are more likely exploited, or taken advantage of, or used without consent than any other subject? -- To answer your artivle ?, I have shot nudes because I think they are beautiful and I like looking at them... In most cases, I paid the models, and in EVERY case had a very specific model release. In fact, the compensation and clarity of usage, is much clearer and beneficial to the model when nudity is involved vs. not. For legal reasons...

Douglas Turney's picture

Whatever dude.

Martin Drazsky's picture

I started shooting nudes about two years ago after I attended a workshop with a famous Austrian photographer who happens to live nearby. The workshop was a birthday gift from my wife (we both admire his work, both nudes/portraits and, more recently, his work in the travel/street genre). I met a wonderful group of like minded people at the workshop - photographers, models, assistants and make-up artists, who all collaborated to capture the beauty of the human body in an interesting, creative and artful way. I realised there and then that I liked the process - after all, I'd spent my entire professional and business career working with people, whereas photography until then had been a lonely pursuit for me, with inspiration coming not so often and not so easily. Not only did I get some useful contacts at the workshop but I also lost the initial inhibition about asking models to pose for me. All the models that I have worked with are professionals or semi-professionals who advertise on Model Mayhem or similar sites and work with many other photographers. All are paid for their time and work. As I expand my portfolio, I increasingly get approached by new models who ask me to shoot with them. What I like about my nude photography these days is not just the opportunity to celebrate the beauty of the human body but also the the process of working creatively with people who are mostly about half my age, with a very different life experience and outlook - and people from whom I am incidentally learning much, in terms of social media usage, new trends, music etc. In many ways, I find this collaborative experience more refreshing than spending my free time with my peers. Perhaps this is the "bursting of the social bubbles" that was so well advocated by the recently deceased sociologist Zygmunt Bauman. A final observation - there was a Swiss guy in the workshop, in his early 60s, an accountant by profession I think, who confided in me over a glass of wine after we finished shooting one day: "Everybody back at home and work would think that I am crazy being here and shooting nudes, but you know what, I am so happy and feeling so invigorated!". So maybe this is why some of us shoot nudes.
www.martindrazsky.com

Jon Miller's picture

I shoot nudes and have been for 40 years initially for men magazines and while these were more erotic in nature (they paid the bills) and yes the models also got paid fairly well too, so a win/win. I also shot models and many of the same models from the magazines in a artistic genre of the nude photography. While these images are more for gallery exhibits it is my style and has been for quite a while, some are nature related and most are conceptual related. I use a nude form because clothes clutter the images and you have to pick and match and coordinate a stylist etc.. My models that I use are paid as you see models travel from the UK, US and Australia to other parts of the world. There is also a great organization that was started by an ex nude model and now photographer that only a select few are invited to participate in a nude shoot festival involving our top models of this genre and top photographers. The results are great images. I teach nude photography from an artistic pov, no erotic or porn. It takes years of practice and many shoots to be good at this a nude body is by no mean easy to do.
When I'm asked why I shot nudes my response is simple, I love the visuals of a woman figure she doesn't have to be beautiful or a certain size to be a beautiful model. I don't do landscapes or flower or any other genre that well although I'm starting to include locations in my work It's my choice to go this direction. For anyone that cannot and do not like nude photography then they should move on as there is nothing for them to see here.

Adrian Midgley's picture

Doesn't do it, not interested in it, imagines ...
More authoritative sources are available.

Henry Butz's picture

I began shooting nudes when the opportunity presented itself. A fellow photography student stopped by after class, tossed back a glass of Amaretto, removed her clothes, and said, "Take a photograph of this." I did. I still do, but never stopped to ask myself why I shoot nudes. It took me years of introspection to understand my own motivations to photograph the nude. The answer for me is, Because being nude makes us human.