Advice for Creatives, Photographer Advice

Communicating About Limits with Models

No matter what styles you shoot, the model’s limits are likely to come up and should be clearly understood for every shoot. This issue is often more prominent for nude and fetish shoots, but it’s not at all exclusive to those genres. Many times limits don’t seem to be a prominent issue in other genres because the shoots are well within the model’s limits. However, it’s always a good idea to be sure and I’m hoping this article will guide you in some best practices.

As always, this is just my advice and it may not all be relevant for you or to your specific situation. It is up to you to take what you can use and leave the rest. That being said, let’s get into this topic of discussing limits with models.

Be Professional

Any time you are discussing limits with a model, particularly a model you have not worked with before, it should be a professional discussion. Stick to discussing limits as they pertain to your possible shots with that model. Try to use neutral terminology if you need to refer to specific body parts or levels of exposure. If you are unsure on how to approach a situation, find a well-respected photographer in your style to ask.

Be Mindful of the Model’s Portfolio

If you are planning to shoot something outside of what the model shows in their portfolio, it’s usually a good idea to clarify the limits before booking your shoot.

Keep in mind that most models’ portfolios are a fairly accurate representation of what they shoot. However, there are certainly many models who don’t showcase every style they shoot in their portfolio. If you’re going to ask about something you don’t see in their portfolio and have never seen them shoot, keep it short and simple. For example:

  • “I really love your look. Are you available for nude work?”
  • “Hi there. I really appreciate your boudoir work and was wondering if you are available for milder fetish work such as x or y?”

If they are interested, you can continue the discussion. If they seem unsure, don’t respond, or say no, either move on to a concept that is within their portfolio or politely thank them for their time and move on.

Clarifying Terms and Limits

Models, especially new models, don’t always understand or use the same terminology that you might be familiar with. Sometimes a model may simply be unclear on what you are referring too. So, just clarify. Here are some examples:

Model: “Oh, yeah, I’d love to shoot some figure art images!”
Photographer: “That sounds great, but I want to be sure you know these will be art nudes. I didn’t see any nudes in your portfolio so I wanted to make sure you are comfortable with that. Is that okay?”

Model: “Um, I don’t know what that is. Lol.”
Photographer: “That’s understandable. Here’s how I would describe it _____. If you like, I can send you some examples I’ve shot in the past.”

Photo Examples Can Be Great, But Ask First

Photo examples are a great way to clarify a number of things in the discussion about a photoshoot. I strongly advocate using photo examples when discussing exposure limits like levels of nudity, open leg, or even certain types of poses. However, please ask the model if you can send them those photos before you send them.

Ideally, I would suggest putting together your own page on your website with a few examples of what you have in mind and the terminology that you use. Just be mindful to follow copyright laws and give credit for any photos you have permission to use, but didn’t shoot yourself. If you don’t have permission to use a photo, don’t use it.

Alternatively, you can link to images or send photos in messages or email. Again, please be clear about which images are your work and which are not.

Just remember: ask before sending, especially if the photos are nude or explicit or generally not safe for a PG audience.

Remember New Models Can Feel Uncomfortable

While experienced models are usually very comfortable and at ease discussing their limits, new models tend to be the opposite especially when being asked about things they aren’t comfortable shooting. For this reason, I suggest proceeding cautiously and mindfully if you are going to ask a newer model about shooting something you are not fairly sure is within their limits.

The most common example I can think of is shooting nudes. Some new models love the idea, some would like to try it one day when they feel the time is right, and some are completely against the idea. Unfortunately, you may have no way of knowing which of those is the case for the new model you are asking. This is why I’ve advised earlier in this blog post to proceed professionally and to ask in simple terms. If they seem open to the idea, you can then go into further detail as to your concept.


Here are the basic guidelines I’ve outlined:

  • Be professional and only ask about relevant limits.
  • Start simple when asking about limits and clarify if the model is unsure or may not have experience in that style.
  • Be mindful of using genre specific terms.
  • Photo examples are helpful but always ask first.
  • Remember new models are usually a bit more uncomfortable about discussing limits than experienced models.

If you enjoyed this post for photographers, I invite you to explore more of my advice for photographers.

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