The lighting is horrific, you're contorting your body to mask the towel rail, and your selfie-stick (arm) is threatening to pop out of its socket. The naked self-portrait is no easy feat, we know. But, says fine art photographer Lauren Naylor, there are ways to transition into the world of the tasteful nude. The first step, Naylor says, is to choose somewhere you feel extremely at ease with your surroundings. "In your home or your bedroom, or somewhere you feel comfortable enough to let go and get into it."
Naylor, who started shooting nudes when she found clothing distracted from the raw sullenness she aims for in her work, says the next step is to set up your DSLR camera (beg, borrow or steal), and hopefully also a tripod. Then you can make the magic happen. But do a test shoot first—and, importantly, choose a concept that speaks to you.
"The concept could be as basic as being on the floor naked, and then experimenting with that," she says. "Don't worry about getting too technical at this point; just get a feel for the framing of your image, and the kind of mood or design you're going for."
Once you're ready to get down to business with your DSLR, "You can start worrying about other things like focus, lighting, and exposure." Some of the technical aspects will come down to trial and error, but Naylor's biggest tip is to nail the focus. If you're by yourself, she advises, it helps to have a focal point in the image that you always go back to. If your face is in the image, for example, focus on your eyes in order to keep them "crisp." Otherwise, play around with what you want to draw attention to.
Naylor also suggests natural lighting, but if inspiration strikes at 11pm and the moon isn't cooperating, try some regular household lamps. "You don't [need] expensive equipment," she says. "Two lamps are all you need to make some sort of light source happen." A $10 remote for your camera is great, too, so you don't have to keep running back and forth from your set-up to your pose.
If, like Naylor, you want to try your hand at photographing your naked self out in the wilderness (here's some inspiration), it might be worth dragging a helper along to press the shutter or fend off passers by. Outdoor shoots, she says, can be some of the most invigorating.
"It's definitely scary, it's kind of an adrenaline rush, and I like it for that. When you know that there is a chance someone is going to come by, it's very fast and you don't really know what you're going to get afterwards. [You're] just posing and hoping you get something good, and usually you do."
No matter what approach or mood you choose for your next nude picture, regardless of who it's for, follow this guide and you'll be rewarded with the raw excitement a great nude can bring.