Nudity is an interesting thing, throughout much of the history of the world, people were nude or mostly so. It has been speculated that clothing was developed roughly 70,000 years ago, though the date is less significant than the purpose. And that was to shelter the body from the elements - not the prying eyes of other people or some deity.
Through various religious influences, clothing was essential if not a requirement especially for women as in the Islamic/Muslim culture. Little by little clothing became all the fashion, whether required by one's religion, or imposed by societal mores. The world was changing. As we drew closer to the Age of Elightenment, also known as the Age of Reason, nudity was highly frowned upon. And in the Victorian Age, which followed, nudity was probably akin to burning babies. Jumping forward to modern times, nudity is still very frowned upon in many parts of the world, particularly the United States whereas it seems to be more lax in other countries across Europe and South America. It's practically a moot point but the Mursi, Nuba, Kirdi, Surma, Dinka, Karimojong, Massai natives of Africa, as well as Yanomami, Suruwaha, Matses, Xingu, Galdu and Matis people in South America are scantily clad if at all, to this day. These cultures one could say, aren't or haven't been "modernized" as America or England has.
However, part of this new age of expressionism, free will and women breaking out of the patriarchal stranglehold, nudity is on the rise again - at least by my view. It's my opinion that the Victorian age and what followed has resulted in a repression of human expression and thus you see an echo of revolt, some subtle, others like sonic thunder. Witness the Femen movement today. And many others. Yet still some, such as the Republican party in the United States thinks it has power and control over the female body. Such patriarchy is doomed to oblivion, it's only a matter of time.
It is interesting to see how art has followed or in some cases led the way in opening up the minds of people about nudity. While painters and sculptors have made works of nude art throughout the ages, photographers too have been doing this with early pioneers blazing the way for all of us johnny-come-latelys. It's my speculation but the over-sexualizing of body parts highly contributes to nudity remaining taboo. That and of course, religion and politics.
History aside, we're on the throes of another sexual revolution which will include more nudity. It perhaps significantly started in the 1960's yet today, it's brewing again with naked protesters all over the world. From Femen, with an obvious political agenda, to Seattle's own naked bicyclists that participate in the Solstice parade, to the world naked bike ride, and on and on.
Coming full circle here you are now and you're going to do some nude modeling. Here are some tips for photographers, models and people involved on the set. I'll just section this off by the role each will play.
1) Don't stare, drool or make audible gasps or pants. Not saying don't look, because you need to do that, but fixed staring is creepy.
2) Don't invade the models personal space, especially when she is nude. Okay unless she is your girlfriend or wife, respect people's space (not saying to show no respect for your significant other in this regard either). Being nude often feels vulnerable when everyone else is wearing clothes. (Don't offer to remove your clothes to make it even).
3) Shut up. Don't overly compliment a model's body or features. Okay, it's great to encourage their pose. It's great to compliment the art of the shot but not to start saying shit like, "your breasts just speak to me" or "God, that ass was made in heaven" ... I've even heard of fauxtographers saying stuff like "I'd like to ravish you" ... all of that is inappropriate. Models just get out if that's what is happening.
4) Let a model know what you are doing. Given that you are working with another person, it's good to communicate what you want and how you want them. That said, don't touch a model in any place inappropriate - which I shouldn't even have to state, but manners are often lost in modern times. If you need to move a model's body into better position for the shot, try to do it verbally or at least ask and then only move an arm or something. This point is obviously a personal thing. I know models that I am close to that I can just walk up and move them and they will be fine. I would never have done that the first time I shot them though.
5) Keep it professional dude. It's about art, not sex, not scoring, not getting numbers, just art. The body and your camera make it. Be the conduit.
First time Models (I'll write this as if you're new, which means if you aren't, go out and play)
1) Be comfortable with your body as it is in a nude state. There is no body that is perfect. Nor will every person agree it is perfect. Everyone has a different taste, likes and dislikes. It all starts with you being comfortable in your own skin. If there is something about your body you don't like, tell the photographer so that they can take this into consideration when shooting you.
2) Choose a photographer that you trust, perhaps someone you have shot with before. This can help create a more comfortable setting because you are familiar with the person photographing you. Also this may be a good time to find out who else will be on set during the shoot! People can have ideas that may not occur to you (photographer), "I don't mind being naked in front of you, but not a room full of people with me being the naked spotlight." I get it.
3) Have an agreement about the photos and photography and concepts BEFORE you start. Have all that squared away. There are plenty of different types of nude photography and some can be quite erotic. Know what's expected and agree or disagree BEFORE you show up. Also, image usage. This is important. For example, you may not want the images shown in public. That's cool but should be communicated prior to the photographer. Just have these two details figured out and agreed upon (preferably in writing) before you take your clothes off.
4) A photographer will likely tell you, but I'll say it. Don't wear tight clothing (including a bra) prior to your nude shoot. Clothing lines take hours to disappear and it sucks having to photoshop them out.
5) Last, kind of #1 continued. Get over the idea that your body is sacred. The internet has made it possible to see millions of naked bodies of both sexes. Your body will not radiate a golden glow and cause a rift to open in the universe. It's simply a body, your body. Let's just figure out how to make some art out of it!
Set people (that's anyone else)
1) See #1 under photographer above
2) You're there to do your job, whether it is to move a light, apply make-up, be security, whatever and that takes priority over everything else.
If you have anything to contribute, leave it in the comments. Thanks!