From the top of their head to the tip of their toes, everyone is naked under their clothes.
I love being a fine art boudoir photographer, this is something I am so passionate about and feel so privileged to be able to do. Being able to provide a professional service that empowers women in a safe, positive and supportive environment is so uplifting to me.
I have also learned a lot while working in this industry. Not just about how to run a business but also about people in general.
The biggest thing I have learned is that just because you have seen someone naked does not mean you know the first thing about them. Nudity does not equal intimacy.
Unfortunately, not everyone approaches this sort of work with the same mentality. So today I wanted to talk a little bit about safety and consent when it comes to any sort of photography and modeling.
You might be saying to yourself, "But I am not a professional model/ photographer, does this apply to me?" I would say YES, Absolutely!
If you have ever considered doing your own boudoir shoot, modeling for fun or professionally or photographing people at all I think this is important for you.
Let's get started.
Rule No. 1- We All Live And Die By Consent.
Consent is king.
A lot of people want to make consent confusing, mostly in order to get around it.
Consent is very simple. Only a vocalized YES is a yes. Everything else is a NO until otherwise stated. No amount of clothing or lack thereof in any situation will ever change that.
Rule No. 2- NO TOUCHING
This one is super simple.
At no point during a shoot should the photographer touch the model or vice versa.
Again, Models! There is no reason a photographer should be touching you during a session.
Photographers! You should never have to touch a model during a session. If you cannot articulate what you would like the person to do without touching them then you need to either A. Give better instruction. Or B. Find a different job.
The only time there should be any touching is if there is an issue that the model cannot correct for themselves and they need another set of hands.
If that is the case and an assistant is not present it is the responsibility of the photographer to get verbal consent before making the adjustment. Be quick about it and get back to work.
I was recently shooting with a model who has a dermal piercing on her upper chest. During the course of shooting, she got a hair tangled around the piercing that she couldn't get off herself.
She asked for my help and I asked if it was okay to use two hands to try and get the hair off. She said yes, so I gently hold the piercing still while I untangled the hair with the other hand.
Once the hair was free we went back to shooting.
That is what affirmative consent looks like in the real world. All I had to do was ask. I made no assumptions and asked for consent before doing anything I was unsure of. At no time did I need to touch the model anywhere else, nor did I linger. Doing so would be a breach of trust and unprofessional.
Rule No. 3- This Is Not A Personal Dating Service.
This is my profession, I am here to make art, as such, it is approached in a professional manner. My mission is to empower, uplift and support women who want to feel and see themselves as beautiful.
This is portraiture in the most intimate of settings, it is not, however, a personal dating service. Which means at no time should a model be hit on during a session nor should the model be hitting on the photographer.
This kind of work requires being able to establish a connection and trust quickly. If a person feels safe enough to sit in front of you exposed then you need to be hyper-vigilant to what you say and do to respect and protect that trust.
This is not to say that intimate relationships can't or shouldn't form between models and photographers, we are not made of stone and they do happen. But it is something that should not be approached during a session.
Keep work about work.
Rule No. 4- Know Your Boundaries And Hold Fast To Them.
Know your boundaries, if something is asked of you and it makes you feel unsafe, don't do it. I personally would not ask something of my subject that I would not do myself. But not every photographer shares this mentality. There is a very big difference between pushing yourself, and putting yourself at risk. That is why it is important to know your boundaries before hand.
If during a session something is asked of you, whether it is a pose, being nude(which should absolutely be brought up BEFORE the session), a specific shot or scene. Whatever it is. If it makes you uncomfortable say so. The other person should respect your boundaries and do something else without making an issue of it.
If the person continues to push and not listen to or respect your boundaries, that is manipulative abusive behavior. The shoot is over and you should leave.
Listen to your gut, it sees the red flags you don't and is trying to protect you.
Rule No. 5- Buddy System
It is commonplace for models and photographers to plan shoots over social media. I make an effort to meet all of my boudoir clients in person before a session but when working with busy models that is not always possible.
Going to meet a stranger for an intimate session can be stressful and if you have any reservations about it you should absolutely bring a friend with you.
Always ask the photographer first, of course, don't just show up with someone unexpected that's rude and unprofessional.
Asking if it is alright to bring a friend with is also a quick and easy way to sniff out a creep.
If you ask to bring a friend as an escort and the photographer gets upset or says no, that is a serious red flag and I would consider not shooting with that person.
When you are choosing your escort, make sure it is someone who knows what is going on and is supportive of you. You don’t want your buddy to be a distraction. This is about you, not them.
Rule No. 6- Pull Them Up Before They Take Root
This is a rule that I would encourage all models to follow and it has to do with your safety and the safety of others in the community.
There are people in this world who are weeds. People who continually push boundaries, make others feel unsafe, are disrespectful and at the worst end of it, active violent predators.
It is your responsibility and right to root them up. Call them on their actions if they make you feel unsafe, and warn others about them.
I wholeheartedly believe that the pushers we ignore today are the predators we lock up tomorrow. And by then it is far too late.
If you do not call these weeds out they will take root in the community and continue their abusive behavior. Do not work with them, do not support them, and warn others against them. No one's status, popularity or body of work is worth you or your friend's safety.
I know my approach to this may seem a bit blunt to some. I need you to understand however that there is no benefit to sugar coating this topic. People’s lives and safety are at stake, this is a serious issue that needs to be discussed in an open and honest way.
There you have it friends, a quick and easy guide to happy and productive creating.
Be respectful, be professional, be safe, and have fun creating something! That is what this is supposed to be all about.