When I started working professionally as a photographer I went to several of the better model agencies and began testing to try and improve my book. I was very much into a sort of reportage style at the time like the image below.
I still very much like this kind of photography where you take a model and shoot images in a very spontaneous fashion, without having to think through every detail by planning the photo retouching etc. in advance. Photography that is done this way will inevitably be less polished but it’s also very often the most effective.
Although I received quite a few plaudits and appreciation for my images like this I quickly discovered that it wasn’t paying the bills and I vividly remember the day when an art director at a top magazine spoke plainly, explaining that the images were beautiful, but if I wanted to work regularly I had to produce work that was cleaner and more commercial.
For the next couple of years I focussed diligently on producing super clean colour images and there is no doubt that from a professional standpoint that was a good decision as I quickly started to make progress as a beauty photographer.
There is no denying though that there is an inherent beauty in black & white which can be used to remove unwanted distractions and focus attention on the key elements of an image. Now that most of us are working full time with digital cameras we often don’t make that clear decision any more to work in black & white. Over time there is a risk that many photographers will fail to consider the option of producing black & white images and will also lose the ability to view their subjects with the sensibility to light and shade that black & white requires.
My advice on this topic is simple. Go out today with your digital camera if you don’t have film and take some pictures, but try to think how they will look in black & white while you are shooting and then work on refining your technique inside Photoshop to see what you can produce. In many ways the opportunities have never been greater to produce beautiful black & white images and for nudes in particular it’s a natural choice.