Usually most people start with a mood board, reference exchange etc. This helps them get a general idea of the end goal that needs to be produced.
Most of my work is TFP Collaborations so there are no such strict end goals to be met. I enjoy shooting, the whole process of it, and experience too. Pictures are only a by-product of this joy that I have for shooting. And I am also very clear of the genre I want to create in, there is no confusion on that front and the same is also clearly visible in my work posted on various platforms. So, firstly I am working only with those who understand both the above aspects of my photography. Secondly, I feel, if one does everything right at the first time, you have the same people wanting to create with you again and again. So this, firstly is a testament to your process, secondly it reduces your effort of having to find collaborators to work with and thirdly working repeatedly with same people gives you a better sense to their comfort and more room for innovation and experimentation with regards to creating.
Having said this, the basic question does remain, how do you get the most from a collaborator? How do you decide how far to go on a shoot? How do you direct your shoot in a way to make it worth the time and at the same time leaving the collaborator happy and maybe wanting for more? And also how do you protect your work as well, that you create with so much passion.
I have a very simple process that I follow with every collaborator, when shooting with them for the first time.
Whenever I come across a person of interest, or someone who is creating in this genre, I send out a small introductory message (dm or email etc). Indicating that I am keen on shooting with them, and if they could look at my work, and let me know if it interests them as well.
If they read the message and do not respond. It is end of story. You move on. If they respond saying that they are not shooting or do not want to shoot with me, I move on by thanking them for letting me no. I NEVER try to reason or convince anyone to change their mind.
If someone is confused and wants time to make up their mind, I give them some more information about my work and my style and my blogs etc.
Once they have shown interest in my work and to shoot with me, the first thing I ask them is for their boundaries and do's and dont's. This is the first step to establishing CONSENT.
As a rule it is always the people in front of my camera who get to decide the boundaries for the shoot. Also, they are the ones who are free to move the boundaries on the day of the shoot. I am also very upfront about my ideas or suggestions. I don't try to sugar coat them, to slide them in over smartly. I am ok with ideas being said yes to and equally ok for ideas being said no to. For me it is important to establish all the Yeses and Nos before the shoot day.
Boundaries can be easily established by exchanging some references to understand what the comfort level is.
I never walk into a shoot where the person says we will see how it goes. That is because I direct my shoot in a way boundaries are discussed. While I want to respect the boundaries, I also want to make the most of the boundaries. So in absence of such boundaries, the shoot will go nowhere, but playing safe and end up with pictures that are mundane.
For Nudes, I now ensure that I have a consent form filled in by the collaborators. This has two advantages, firstly the collaborator sees it in writing what they are signing up for, and secondly it helps me protect my work from unexpected surprises that may crop up after the shoot. Consent forms establish Age, Identity and Consent to Shoot the agreed Genre. It also indicates how the photographs will be used by me and how that this consent is perpetual and cannot be withdrawn after the shoot.
Apart from all of this of-course the most important part is how collaborators conduct oneself with the other(s) that really decides how your shoot will go.