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Glamour Photography

Updated on August 25, 2010

Whatever it means in other applications, the word "glamour" means to the photographer the result of certain tricks and devices deliberately employed to enhance the specifically physical qualities in the portrait of a beautiful woman. Most of these techniques originated in the motion picture studios. In most cases, the aim is frankly to create an appearance of refined sex appeal.

Sex appeal is basic to glamour, but so is refinement. Any suggestion of vulgarity in a picture, and all glamour is ruined.

Much trickery has been invented by photographers in recent years to accomplish the basic purpose of the glamour photo: to make the subject look more desirable. Most of the trickery involves sublimating the earthy elements of sex appeal, and translating them into classic or stylized terms and interpretations. The best glamour picture is always an idealization of feminine beauty as well as a subtle compliment to the feminine appeal of the subject.

Unless the subject is a flawless beauty, however, with features such as no artist could improve, the glamour photographer must do more than merely record his subject's beauty in specific detail. Instead, he may show very little which is specific, and let his picture consist of a few vivid impressions.

Glamour Photography Tips

Glamour photography incorporates a number of specialized techniques to arrive at the desired effect. Here are the principal considerations.

1) The Model. The model must have at least the basis of glamour, in the form of either beauty or sex appeal, and the more obvious these 'qualities, the easier the task of creating a glamorous picture.

2) The Setting. Take the pictures against a glamorous background, perhaps suggesting a life of ease and wealth. Remember, the object is to make your sitter look desirable. The setting should have an intimate and inviting air. In the studio, such a setting can be suggested with a simple prop.

3) The Costume. Intimate garments such as nightdresses and negligees have the highest glamour potential for studio pictures, whereas bathing suits and other sports costumes are favored for outdoor shooting.

4) The Pose. Try to show the best features of a girl's figure in silhouette, put special emphasis on a good bust line and on trim hips and legs; then pose her face to give a flattering view of her hair, lips and eyes.

5) Expression. For the intimate studio glamour shot, the ideal expression requires the girl to look pleasantly approachable and is arrived at usually by experiment. e.g: she may be asked to try sly, seductive smiles, to part her lips invitingly, to think about something good to eat, to try sidelong glances or direct gazes. This is the most difficult aspect of glamour photography in the studio. Working outdoors with the model in play clothes, it is much easier. It is necessary simply to have her look happy and friendly, as if she were naturally full of fun, and the quality will be there.

6) Lighting. All the standard techniques of lighting for portraiture and figure work can be well applied in glamour photography. Basically, the theory is to emphasize the subject's most interesting features with highlights, and to subdue or conceal her other features with shadows.

7) Make-up. This is especially important for indoor glamour work. Make-up artfully applied can do much more than cover complexion defects: it can accomplish some of the same purpose as lighting, stressing the good features and subduing, or better still correcting, less pleasing features.

8) Retouching. Here again, the main application is for indoor close-up studies. The Photoshopper can work magic on a portrait type of glamour shot, removing all defects in the complexion, adding highlights where they will do the most good, and generally rounding off even the bone structure of the model. Backgrounds also can be subdued if necessary. If the photographer lacks the skill to do the retouching personally, there are professional Photoshoppers who will do the job for him.

9) Diffusion. Here is a trick which anyone can apply quickly and easily to glamourize his subject.Simply place a diffusion attachment in front of the lens when shooting the picture, or, if no such attachment is available, use a piece of black gauze. The effect is to show all the main lines of the picture with apparent clarity, while all the undesirable details (complexion defects, hair on arms, and wrinkles) are obscured. It is important to accomplish the diffusion in the camera, rather than in the enlarging process. Camera diffusion spreads the highlights and lightens the shadows; enlarger diffusion, on the other hand, spreads the black accents and shadow areas and degrades or greys the highlights.

10) Use Good Taste. It is treacherous work to seek consciously to emphasize sex appeal and there is a constant danger that the picture may become offensive. Remember that, while the sitter may wish to appear glamorous and will co-operate to that end, she will certainly not thank the photographer for making her look cheap or vulgar.


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