When it comes to taking naked pictures, the general consensus — among friends, family, and even our local sex advice columnist — is that you MUST. NOT. DO IT. In the wake of celebrity sex tapes and teenage sexting scandals, the very existence of nude photos makes mortification for their subject seem like a foregone conclusion. And if you tell someone you’re thinking of taking your clothes off in the vicinity of a camera, they’ll probably respond by telling you all the reasons should never, ever be naked on film.
“Nooooo! Someone might put it on the internet, and you’ll end up like Vanessa Hudgens!”
“Nooooo! Your boss/dentist/mother-in-law could see it!”
“Nooooo! Your vagina will get REALLY COLD!”
What they don’t tell you? That posing nude isn’t necessarily risky… but it is exhilarating, exciting, and something every woman should do at least once before she turns 30.
Yes, even you. (No, your vagina will not get cold.)
As an artist’s and photographer’s model, I’ve spent substantial portions of my early-to-mid twenties standing around in front of strangers with no clothes on. And while it might be initially nerve-wracking, it’s also one of the most interesting and worthwhile experiences I’ve ever had — so worthwhile that I firmly believe it belongs on the bucket list for any young woman, no matter what her shape, size, or level of confidence with her own naked body. Why should you take a photo or two in your birthday suit?
- Your body is beautiful. Really, it is. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re plump or slender, reedy or Rubenesque; your whole self — top to toe — deserves its day in the spotlight. Women put in huge amounts of effort each day just to meet society’s standard of beauty, only to get bogged down by stress and insecurity over failing to fit within that narrowly-defined (and often unhealthy) ideal. Stripping down and showing it off is a celebratory, powerful, even subversive act — and it’s exhilarating. And when you see those photos in the days, months and years that follow, it’ll be with a lasting appreciation for your body as the glorious, gorgeous machine it is.
- It’s a confidence boost. Between diet culture, celebrity obsession, and the airbrushed images that we see every day on billboards and in magazines, women have developed an utterly warped idea of what a healthy body looks like. And the effects go way beyond simply disliking what we see in the mirror; at this point, many women are battling body dysmorphia and/or too afraid to even look at themselves naked. Seeing your own body given just a fraction of the star treatment — with makeup, lighting, and a skilled photographer to help you pose — is a powerful way to fight back against that fear and insecurity. Basically, you are so much hotter than you think you are.
- It’s totally vain… and completely awesome. When it comes to balancing your busy life, you’re always being told to take care, take time out, and take one day a week to do something nice for yourself. Well, go big or go home, lady. Your “just for me” weekly manicure only lasts as long as it takes your nail polish to chip, but a private album of drawings or photos that show you at your prime — young, healthy, and before childbirth, gravity, and the vagaries of time have taken their toll — is a memory you’ll have forever. (Not to mention a great conversation-starter when someone pulls it off your bookshelf in 2072 and says, “Grandma! Was that YOU?”)
So, are you ready to get naked? You’ve got options, but they’re not all good. Unless you’re the edgy type, avoid amateur photographers with seedy apartment “studios” and no portfolio to speak of; chances are, they’re just looking for spank material. And even if your boyfriend is a totally trustworthy dude who would never, ever blackmail you with your sexy shots post-breakup, he may lack the photographic skills to do your naked body justice. (And while an unflattering photo is never pleasant, an unflattering naked photo is a special kind of hell.) Instead, plan to drop a little cash and consider the following:
- Boudoir photography. If you want to look gorgeous and play coy, hire a professional boudoir photog to snap some sexy, low-lit photos of you in your favorite lingerie… or less. (Check with your individual photographer to see how he or she feels about topless shots, straight-up nudity, or tasteful draping.)
- Go retro. Love the look of old-school pin-up shots like Marilyn Monroe’s famous series with Bert Stern? Photogs specializing in vintage-inspired photoshoots have begun cropping up all over the country; if you’re nervous about taking it all off, some studios also offer costumes and wigs to get you into character.
- Sexiness optional. Naked photos don’t have to be porn-y; if looking lascivious isn’t your thing, skip the sex factor and work with a fine art photographer to shoot some artistic, black-and-white nudes that explore your body’s form in a non-erotic way.
- Put it on paper. Taking nude photos absolutely isn’t the recipe for disaster that people make it out to be — you retain the rights to pictures you’ve paid for, but even if you didn’t, a naked body isn’t a moral evil in and of itself. (Meaning that if someone sees them, it’s not like your life is over. Just ask Carla Bruni!) But if you simply can’t stomach the thought of actual photographic evidence that, at one time, you did not have clothes on, consider posing for a figure drawing or painting class. The in-practice terror factor is substantially greater — instead of one photographer seeing you nude, it’s a dozen aspiring artists and an instructor — but the sketch that one of your new artist friends gifts to you at the end of class will forever be a cool and unique souvenir of your brass-balled bravery.
Now take your pants off, and say cheese.