When YouTuber and content creator Maddie Dragsbaek first started taking nudes, she thought she had to contort her body into being the “most sexy” for whomever was going to see them.
“Then it spiraled into…how else can I get creative with this?” Dragsbaek said.
While bathroom dick pics and the like make us think otherwise, nude-taking can be an art — and a self-love practice. Here’s how to create your masterpiece.
Reframe your mindset, reframe your nudes
The right mindset — about your body and photos of it — is crucial for good nudes.
Dragsbaek now sees nude-taking as a creative expression and a way to have fun. No longer solely about being sexy, nude-taking is now a way to connect with herself and celebrate her body.
Adult content creator and BDSM model Zoey Sterling (@etherealzoey) said she focuses on the self when taking nudes, as well. “Think of it less as ‘who am I taking it for,'” she said, “and more so as ‘I’m taking this for me.'”
Writer and photographer Haley Jakobson recommends starting with a mindset of nudes being a skillset, something to learn and get better at over time. It’s not about being photogenic.
“Photogenic is a made-up word,” said Jakobson, who previously ran a photography business.
When she used to take nude and partially nude photos of her clients, Jakobson would have them breathe and move, not freeze as many of us are taught for photos. “Photos are meant to capture us living and breathing and in-motion because we’re animals,” she said, “and that’s what we do.”
After her shoots, she’d send her clients hundreds of photos; she wouldn’t delete any “awkward” ones. She wanted them to look through them all and see ones they loved alongside the ones they deemed horrible. Homing in on one “bad” photo — which captures a millisecond of your life — and discarding the others is a toxic mindset, said Jakobson.
“Photogenic is a made-up word.”
“You do yourself a great disservice by not clicking to the next photo and seeing something you really love,” she said.
Negative thoughts about how you look may be present when you take nudes, said Jakobson, and they may not go away. Western ideals of what’s sexy or not is ingrained in us — especially if you’re socialized as a woman — and that socialization doesn’t go away overnight.
But you can still take nudes even with that mind chatter; in fact, nudes can combat it.
“The biggest ‘fuck you’ to the chatter that you could do is say, ‘I might look at this photo and feel a lot of [body] dysmorphia, but I still want this photo…Maybe in a week I can look at it and be like, I’m really glad I took it,'” said Jackobson.
Are you in the mood?
Sometimes, you’re sexting someone when you’ve already washed your face and tucked yourself into bed with no reason to take off your PJs. Then, bam: the “send nudes” text.
There’s no need to take photos when you’re not feeling it, even if someone asks. Instead, take them when you’re in the mood, and safely store your nudes for when that text pops up.
Sterling said it helps if she’s in a provocative mood to start with, but she always does a couple test shots to warm up before a session.
Dragsbaek, who has a nude-taking series on her YouTube channel, is more inclined to take nudes after she buys a new set of lingerie or another item that makes her feel excited to take them.
Jakobson suggested focusing on your environment. Get comfortable, put on some good music, even take a bath with all your favorite products beforehand.
Before you whip your iPhone out, though, establish your personal boundaries. Do you only want to show yourself from the waist up? Do you want your face to be cut off? Clarify those limits for yourself, Dragsbaek said. If someone asks for a photo of a body part you’re not comfortable sharing, don’t force yourself.
“Block anyone who doesn’t appreciate them,” said Sterling of your nudes. “Protect your peace.”
The logistics of a great nude
There are various elements that go into a photo, including lighting and accessories — and what you’re actually shooting on.
If you want that bright natural light, shoot in the afternoon. If you want soft and warm natural light, take photos during golden hour (right after sunrise or before sunset).
You can use artificial lighting like from a ring light or box light too, but it’ll be a bit harsher — and be more of a production for you. If you want to play with artificial light, try a smart light bulb and experiment with different colors. When chatting virtual sex with Mashable, sex educator Kenneth Play recommended red lighting as it looks good on camera and on different skin tones.
Then there’s the equipment. A smartphone is more than good enough to take nudes, but other cameras can be part of the session too, if you have access to them. Dragsbaek likes to try out different cameras, such as her camcorder or her Macbook’s webcam.
Taking nudes on a film camera will likely result in shots with a vintage-looking glow — if you can wait long enough for them to be developed. Though, there are apps like Huji that can fake the look on iPhone photos too.
If taking photos by yourself, utilize the self-timer. The iPhone camera app has that capability, but there’s also the influencer-approved app Lens Buddy with a customizable timer. You can also pick up an inexpensive mini tripod if you don’t have a stable surface to place your phone on.
Jakobson recommends taking as many self-timed shots as possible, or taking a video and screenshotting your favorite moments, especially if you’re a beginner.
You don’t need to focus on the technical aspects like lenses or lighting, either.
Focus on how you feel, instead. Jakobson typically shot in front of a plain backdrop, but nudes can be taken anywhere you feel comfortable: your bed, elsewhere in your room, the shower, in the bath, or — as Sterling suggested — you can capture a “wild and adventurous” shot on a nude beach or in nature.
Zoey also mentioned accessories. Decide if you want to wear jewelry or lingerie, or if you want fabrics in your shot like your comforter. If you want to be not-quite-nude but still revealing, Dragsbaek mentioned wearing a wet T-shirt.
Taking the shots
What’s your favorite asset? What do you want the photos to focus on? Pick something as a warm-up or teaser, said Sterling. There’s no need to show your whole body if you don’t want to.
If you do want to pose full-body, however, Jakobson had some suggestions. You can play with moving your arms over your head, or angling your body in different ways (such as popping your butt out), and tilting your head back.
Or, if you’re someone with breasts, you can splay yourself out on your knees and hold your bust. Swaying your hair from side to side can make you feel sexy, and also result in some good shots.
When Jakobson shot masculine people, she focused on aspects like one’s shoulders. She also found that masc people liked to touch their bellies, which she said always turned out sexy.
This is all experimentation and learning how you like your body to look in photos.
“You can’t know what angle is going to look right for you, until you try it out yourself,” said Jakobson. “You really need to give yourself an afternoon when the light is shining in your room and just put your camera on every different surface.”
Keep breathing and keep moving — that’s how Jakobson would take nudes of others. She would constantly tell clients to breathe before every pose, every click. “That is what gets people the best results,” she said.
Nudes as a self-love practice
You may not take nudes you love right away, but that’s OK. Get to know how you look while you’re naked and in motion. It will be jarring if you’re not used to taking photos of yourself, Jackobson said, and it takes time to get comfortable. The more you practice, the more comfortable you’ll become.
Nudes are less about what’s in the photo and more about how the photo makes you feel, said Sterling. The photos are for you first, even if you send them to someone else.
“This body is for me and I’m trying to celebrate that.”
Dragsbaek’s number one nude tip is to throw out the idea that your body needs to look a certain way in order to be sexy. Let your body exist as it is. You can tell yourself, “I am allowed to exist right here as I am in this body,” she said. “I am not for anybody else. This body is for me and I’m trying to celebrate that.”
“Even if you’re not at a place where you can look back at those photographs and consume yourself in that way,” Dragsbaek continued, “going through the motions of taking them and allowing yourself to just be is really powerful.”
There may be photos of yourself that make you cringe, or days where you don’t feel sexy at all. But it’s all a process — and, over time, you’ll definitely take shots you find sexy.
While taking nudes is part of her job, Sterling takes nudes for herself because they make her feel confident, attractive, and sexy.
“Smile at yourself while taking them, laugh at yourself, be sultry with yourself,” she said. “I am who I am because of how comfortable I am with being fully human. Being nude is to be human.”