In 2002, Josh Ryan was working at a nightclub in Los Angeles when he picked up a camera for the first time to snap some shots of his model girlfriend. From there, photography become a hobby and, after a short stint shooting adult-film box covers and some editorial work, he started shooting for Playboy. He landed a coveted photographer contract in 2006, quickly moving up the ranks to shoot centerfolds as a senior contributing photographer.

In December, Playboy announced that it would discontinue its use of nude models — and Ryan’s contract with the magazine ended. Now, for the first time, he’s able to share all the secrets with about what really went on behind the scenes of America’s most famous nude photo shoots.

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With an interview with Cosmopolitan he revealed the secrets!

On being asked if being a Playboy magazine photographer is the ultimate dream job for  a straight guy, he said, “It’s a great job. It’s funny how I got into it: I was shooting a friend and she was dating a guy whose [Internet] company just got bought by Playboy. She said, “Hey, they’re looking for new photographers so I’ll recommend you.” I didn’t think anything would come of it. A week later, someone from Playboy called.”

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“Any girl that was applying [to be a Playmate] or [had] Playmate potential would have to come to me first and I would do a test shoot on them at the Playboy studios. Those pictures go directly to Hef and he’d either say “yes” or “no” or “reshoot her.”

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What does he look in these girls, well, in hos own words“I don’t want to say the cliché term, but there’s the It Factor. Sometimes you meet a girl and you’re just like, This is it! And the business model has changed over the years — when they brought me on, they wanted a more modern, fashionable twist. I replaced the guys that were there for 30 years. It was time for a change. Instead of the Girls Next Door — Holly, Bridget, and Kendra — we were looking for a more Marie Claire, Elle, Vogue type girl. A girl that could be sexy, have a nice curvaceous body, but still be a little bit taller, thinner, and look more like a fashion model.”

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About the theme of the photoshoot, “For example, if we shot a girl who rode horses competitively, we wanted to do a horse-type shoot, so we’d do it in the fall somewhere sunny at a ranch. That’s how we pick a theme — it’s kind of based loosely on the girl’s personality or experiences. We’ve also had girls that are not that interesting at all and we just come up with something. Sometimes it has nothing to do with them.”

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