I have been avoiding writing something like this because it was something I really didn’t want to write about. As many models are starting to face the music of their actions, I thought I would put this up in the hope that models know what they are getting into if they agree to the various levels. Please note that these terms are going to be for US definitions although I may note some differences for Europe or what they may have been in the past (because I use the older definitions).
Portrait – Simple, all clothed portrait images.
Fashion – Fully clothed, but may include sheer items of clothing with undergarments covering up the model. Must be able to show legs, arms, bare back, and mid stomach. Sometimes more may be showing. If you are working in fashion as an independent model, this is probably as far as it is safe for you to shoot if you are working with designers or plan on getting into a modeling agency.
Glamour – This term means nothing for nudity levels. It is a style of shooting that creates a fantasy about the model. These can be fully clothed to softcore images. The posing for this style is often spread leg styles that you see in Maxim and similar magazines. I hear photographers talk about this as a nudity level when they are trying to get a model out of their clothes and showing more than the model wants to show. If you are a model, be very cautious and make sure you know exactly what you are getting into for that shoot.
Lingerie – Exactly what it says. Everything down to sheer lingerie. As a model, you may hear “bathing suit” or “Boudoir”. If the photographer does use “bathing suit”, the difference is that a bathing suite isn’t sheer and lingerie can be. A “bathing suit” will cover nipples and genitals, but can show them through it. For “boudoir”, it is often at the “implied” level. Depending on lighting, how the clothing fits, wetness (ie-white bathing suit, tshirt, etc), and posing, a lot more than what you might expect could be showing. This is well beyond what a modeling agency or designer would accept a model with the exception of the body shots required to show the agency your form, scars, tats, etc. or if you are going to be a lingerie model.
Implied – I am writing what implied means today and what most people mean when they say implied today: limited artistic nudity. Full nudity with no “pink” showing (on top or bottom). This is what most people will mean when they say “Boudoir”. In Europe, it means no pink or pubic hair showing. If you do body painting, depending on the person doing body painting, it could be here or at artistic nudity. Implied used to mean wearing clothes with being fully covered but not having anything on underneath. For instance, a vest not buttoned with nothing underneath (no shirt or bra). This term shifted to its current meaning when digital cameras became popular and photographers would use it to convince models to be more revealed. There is nothing ‘implied’ about this level anymore. Again, if you hear this term, be very careful as it usually means the photographer is trying to get you to show more than you want as a model. This is well beyond acceptable for the fashion world except if you are going to do nude modeling (you can’t do the nude modeling until you are “in” with a real agency.)
Topless – Fully unclothed from the waist up with everything showing. The bottom half is usually at the lingerie level.
Artistic or Figure nude – Fully unclothed and including up to full frontal nudity without genitalia explicitly showing (ie-no spread legs for a female model). Posing is non-provocative and not explicit. There should not be any sexual implications in the posing or what is being captured. Depending on the training of the person you are working, they may refer to this as a “Classical nude” level. For most people in the industry, this is the highest level they refer to as “modeling”.
Playboy or Top Shelf or softcore – This typically means full nudity while being provocative and can be explicit (ie-spread legs with everything out there). There is no touching the genitalia. For males, this would mean being in a turgid state. This is also the standard for what most people talk about when they use “glamour” nudity levels. Once you model at this level, there is no going back.
Magazine – This is the “industry standard” for softcore porn magazines and web sites in the US and Europe. Includes full nudity, explicit, and including holding genitalia open or playing with genitalia. Does not include insertions or sex toys.
Hardcore or Continental – pretty much no limits, so it is extremely important you know what you are getting yourself into prior to the shoot. It is advised that you follow the porn industry standard for testing and certification regarding health. You will be required to comply with these health requirements.
Other Phrases You May Hear
Other phrases you may hear and are included because you will hear them or get messages with them mentioned in them (and you will want to know what they are):
Girl-Girl – two or more females working together, usually at a magazine level or higher.
Girl-boy – two or more females and males working together, usually at a magazine level or higher.
boy-boy – two or more males working together, usually at a magazine level or higher.
Gonzo – Where the model interacts sexually with the photographer or videographer. As a model, you may be expected to film some of this, too.
POV – Where the model performs sexual acts on the photographer or videographer.
Fetish – A hard one to explain. This could be as simple as high heels or feet or a particular type of outfit. It is best to find out what fetish they are talking about and be clear on what is expected of you as a model prior to shooting. This could mean hardcore.
Bondage or BDSM – Again, another hard one to explain. This could be simple self restraint at a portrait level to extreme restraint and hardcore with abuse. It is best you find out what is expected and be very clear on what will happen to you if you model. For the models who start this type of work, it becomes their life. Do not expect to have anything to do with the fashion world if you do this type of work.