Shooting Glamour – Part I

The Lighting Detail Explained: Mandy’s Daisey Duke look. (above).

NOTE: I am trying something new with this article, by including the lighting diagrams (which open in popups) as well as the thoughts on the subject in general. The information included on this site was never intended as a “How-to” guide, but after several e-mails requesting more in depth information for new photographers, I am attempting to share some thoughts pertinent to those with a sincere interest in improving their skills, work ethics and overall quality. I have started this article using equipment on a budget as proof of concept that you can have fun and create art without breaking the bank.

Glamour Photography:

Glamour is an exciting subject and probably every photographer’s dream… well almost… gimme beauty photography any day and I’m a happy camper. Still every spring when the snow begins to melt and the phone starts to ring off the wall, it’s the sign Hometown Hottie season is about to begin. So dust off your lenses and charge your batteries, it’s Glamour time.

The Philosophy and Mindset:
Glamour photography is not as easy as it looks. The goal, of course, sounds simple enough. You make a totally hot babe look as though she is overflowing with sex appeal. You would think the simplest way to do that is to start with a totally gorgeous girl. But the real secret to success is the conveyance of sex appeal, so you need someone who is very good with facial expressions and body language, an actress if you will. A lot of people, including some models feel that some degree of nudity is required. Nothing could be further from the truth! My old college professor said, “If you can not convey sensuality with her clothes on, you have not earned the right to shoot her with her cloths off.” Thirty five years later I still hold take this golden rule to heart. I will not shoot implied nudes of a model on our first session. I need to know that we have achieved that glamorous look, that extra quality, that twinkle in the eyes that says it all. Otherwise, I am missing something hidden inside and we need that missing quality before we can move on.

The Psychology and Key Elements:
A Maxim, GlamModelz Magazine photoshoot can be a very personal, very intimate experience, more so when scadly clothed. There needs to be complete trust between the model and the photographer in order to develop a flow and pull off that awesome shot. I find one of the key points is working within your models comfort zone. Whatever you need to do to make your model feel as comfortable and secure as possible will really pay off in the final shot. This is true for all aspects of modeling photography.

The lighting was so simple on this heavily overcast day. I used my flash in i-TTL mode. It was placed about 6′ directly in front of my model. You may have noticed the softbox mounted to my SB-800 flash. This is a 7″ Micro Apollo, available from Westcott, for both Nikon and Canon portable flashes. This Softbox folds flat and attaches with two small Velcro tabs. This is a Must Have device for anyone shooting outdoors!

Throughout my site, it should be obvious to you I construct and design my shots before picking up the camera. I make a mental list of key elements that I feel are important to the shot itself. The model is the easy part. Some of the others are not as obvious. Let us take a closer look at all of the individual elements we will need for that perfect shot.

Next, you need poses that will flatter your model and her body type. It’s so easy to study a magazine for a selection of poses the night before an important shoot. You will also need a setting that will not overwhelm or distract from your model. Your model is the center of attention here, NOT the background! Make sure you have all of the clothing and props ready and on hand well in advance of the shoot. At this point you should not try to prioritize these individual elements because they are all equally critical. Combining them all in a natural and pleasing manor is what separates the men from the boys, the success from the failures.

Putting it in Practice:

The Royal Whatchamacallit.
I really love a killer outdoor shot myself and I know so many of you are going to be shooting in natural light outdoors, so we’ll start here. Mary wanted to shoot at Lake Berryessa and I had a birthday card project I wanted to shoot for a friend, so we scheduled a weekday trip to the lake. I knew we were not going to be over run with onlookers. Remember what I said about providing your models with comfort and security.

Lets start by looking at what works and what does not work and why.

I failed miserably in the first shot, (left above) because of the location. The lighting is horrible. It’s harsh and the shadows from the tree are very distracting. I did not flatter her and she knows it. I like my images to “pop”  and in this case she almost blends into the background. There is no contrast to make the model stand away from the background.

In the second attempt (above right) I moved her back into the heavy shade of the overhanging trees. A few feet in any direction can make all the difference in the world. The shadows are even and not as distracting. I had her look over my shoulder into the blue sky behind me. This alone is what adds the rich blue color to her gorgeous eyes. This is a trick I usually use with blue or green eyed models when shooting outdoors. At this point I’m still setting up and moving my umbrellas around, but the lighting is starting to look pretty. The steep angle of the single light is not flattering her. I decided i needed to setup a second fill light to smooth some of the harsher shadows.

A lot of photographers would have been happy with the second shot. My other photographer buds would have ridiculed me over the harsher shadows and that background. I can almost hear someone saying, “OMG she has a tree growing out of her head. Call a tree surgeon to prune it.” It is a distraction but by opening up to F-3.8 on my 50mm 1.8 lens I will take care of that, quick, fast and in a hurry! We end up very happy with this shot below.

NOTE: If you were to write any of my muse models for a shoot and they saw anything in your portfolio like the two bad examples above, they would send you back their rates. I really couldn’t say I blame them! You are not flattering the model and she will never use this so you need to pay her for her time. Someone somewhere, said, “You are only as good as the worst image in your portfolio.” Think before you shoot and think twice before you post your work for the world to see!

It took about 30 minutes to find the perfect setting and position my lighting, props and pose her. You should also notice I moved in quite a bit. I like my images composed tight. The focus is on the model. Not all of the scenery around her. Remember it is always about the Model…

Another key element I neglected to mention earlier is a personal rule of mine. Every picture should tell a story. I feel this adds to the overall image impact. I ignore this unwritten rule with Fashion and Beauty but for me it is an important quality that needs to be a part of every Glamour shot.

I find working from a theme will really help keep you focused. I still do this with glamour shoots. It adds fun and excitement and gets everyone involved and working as a team towards a clear and defined goal.

The premise of cheating at strip poker has always fascinated me. It’s has been the inspiration for several Glamour projects that I am shooting now. Mary and I love this one which she fondly titled, “but it’s a Royal whatchamacallit.”

The Lighting Detail Explained:

In conclusion, I had a phone meeting with the model. We developed a concept and assigned each other the responsibility of various props and outfits. On shoot day we met and scouted a location and composed this shot. In most cases I would have scouted the location by myself. I like to be totally prepared on shoot day and make the most of our time together.

The night before: Study your poses again and unless you are really good at describing exactly what you want bring examples of poses and expressions that you hope to pull off. Don’t expect the model to be able to read your mind. When I’m shooting with a new model and the shoot starts heading south, I like to try roll playing. I’ll think up a simple little scenario and ask her to play it through. Every model I ever shot with really took off with these activities. It makes the shoot more fun for her and really breaks the ice. Anything you can do to make the shoot more fun leads to your success.

Now rush out and buy fresh batteries 🙂