Glamour in your Lens

Back to the Beach

Romance suggested by clothes and setting.
Photo Andre de Diennes.
PRESUMING YOUR FIRST venture in this field hasn't been a complete disaster, you now have a lot of passable pictures of a pretty girl and few really good ones.

You are ready to try again.

You may and very likely will want to photograph some other girl this time. Though there's nothing wrong with that, let me make a strong recommendation not to change models over in midstream.

With another girl you'd have to start all over again, and you wouldn't be likely to achieve very much more. If you photograph the first girl again, however, both you and she will be surprised how much better the second set of pictures is.

Provided you have some good pictures from the first session, the co-operation of your model is now assured. She is wholeheartedly on your side. She knows nothing is going to bite her and she is determined that the pictures will be even better this time.

This second time your plan of campaign is marked out for you by what you liked and didn't like in the first set of pictures.

As for the way you work, it will depend on circumstances but might be something like this.

Your model is once again Nancy, but a Nancy fortified by the success of the first session. Moderate success, perhaps, yet far more than she ever expected.

You call Nancy at her home and take her in your car, or on the back of your motor bike, or in a bus, or if the worst comes to the worst on Shank's pony, to some quiet spot on the beach.

You have previously arranged with her that this time she has half a dozen changes of costume.

This sounds difficult to arrange but generally it isn't. If she's a pretty girl the chances are she spends all her spare cash on clothes. And she's almost sure to be able to borrow things here and there from her friends and relations.

She can probably have two swimsuits with her, tennis shorts and blouse, a sweater, a pair of jeans and a pair of beach sandals. You'll carry all this for her, of course. In addition, there's the dress she's wearing.

How you split up your pictures depends on whether you mean to stay in one spot or move about, and how many frames your camera takes. If it's eight or twelve you might want to use the whole film lot on one costume... I warned you you'd need a lot of film. In this case Nancy can be changing while you're reloading your camera. You don't have to wait for her, and she doesn't have to wait for you.

Blur helps convey an impression of movement.
Photo Andre de Dienes.

You start off, naturally, with a few shots of Nancy wearing the dress she already has on.

She's much more confident now. It's possible now to arrange and rearrange a pose without her bursting into tears. You can even take time to focus your camera.

Then when she's in her first bathing costume you can do some of the things which nearly came off last time but didn't quite.

If one of Nancy's costumes is a two-piece, the bra can be used with her shorts or jeans or skirt. Plenty of changes of costume are good for the pictures, because they add variety; for Nancy, because clothes mean more to girls than to men and they like changing them and seeing pictures of themselves in all sorts of different outfits; and for you, because whenever you feel you have exhausted the possibilities of one costume you can get Nancy to change into another.

Don't under-estimate the effect of very minor additions and subtractions. Rings, ear-rings, bracelets and necklaces and wristwatches on a girl who is supposed to just out of the sea or just going into it can spoil the whole effect. And a whole series of pictures can be sparked off by the discovery of a piece of rope, or a pole, or the use of a handkerchief, towel or child's pail.

Once a girl I was out with was quietly carting around a brown paper parcel. Quite a few pictures had been taken before I asked what was in the parcel.

"Straw hat," said the girl. "Somebody said take it along, it might be useful. And I always do as I'm told."

After the lively discussion which this terminolgical inexactitude naturally produced, we got back to the hat. "We don't have to use it, of course," she said. She could be very docile when she liked.

But we did use the hat. And the pictures which included it were the best taken that day.

Action Shots

When Nancy has changed into her white shorts and blouse, you can tackle some action shots. Here, you and she are right back in the kindergarten. You won't be able at first to pan with Nancy as she moves, or expose at exactly the right instant, unless you've had previous experience of action photography.

If you have a reflex camera you'll swear it's impossible to pan at all. It seems crazy to swing the camera right when Nancy's running left across the screen, but that's what you have to do.

Perservere. It comes with practice. It's a lot easier than playing Tchaikowsky's First Piano Concerto.

What sort of action shots are there? Well, running is probably the least rewarding. Various leaps in the air can very good, however, and they don't have to be nearly as hard on Nancy and her athletic ability as they look. If she jumps a couple of feet, for example, and you're photographing from ground level, she'll look as if she's clearing 6 feet at least.

Jumps on the spot can make excellent pictures. Only make sure Nancy doesn't throw her head back as she jumps--not too far, at any rate. You still want to see her face, even if she's jumping in the air.

One-foot hops, too, are excellent, preferably with the other leg stretched out behind.

These action pictures can be done quite well with an exposure of 1/500 or even 1/300, provided you don't try to get within 8 or 9 feet of your model.

This is where the larger negative sizes come in handy. If you're using a miniature, a long-focus lens is practically a must for these action shots.

They have to be taken at fairly long range--15 feet at least--and you won't be able to make big enlargements of small parts of 35 mm. negatives when there's bound to be a certain blur in the negative anyway.


At one time it was considered wonderful to stop action with a high shutter speed so that dancers, sprinters and racing cars appeared to be frozen. Now it's beginning to be realized that there isn't much point in going to enormous trouble to get a pin-sharp picture of a car going round a corner at 90 m.p.h. when the same result could be achieved by having the car stopped and using an exposure of 1/10.

There are occasions, true, when an extremely sharp action picture has more impact than one which shows the least sign of movement. But generally it's becoming accepted that a certain amount of blur in action shots is not only permissible but desirable.

It should be in the right place, though. It's entirely appropriate for a picture of a ballet dancer in mid-air to show some blur around his twinkling toes. It isn't good to have a jumper frozen in the air except for a blurred arm flailing the air.

There are no rules from common sense. Generally, the eye will accept some blur in what is obviously moving anyway--dancers' feet, horses' legs, car wheels, a whirling propeller, spray flying in the air. But blur in things which are not an essential part of the action, like the jumper's arm, the head of an athlete who is otherwise sharp and clear, or the rider on a horse's back, are usually faults in a picture.

This applies to your action shots of Nancy, too. If she's spinning round with her skirt flying, a little blur in the skirt won't matter so long as it's obvious that the skirt is flying. But movement which has produced the blur must be quite obvious. You can't explain the picture to everybody who looks at it and expect them to be impressed.

A photograph is like a joke--no good if you have to explain the point behind it.

Don't do too many action shots at first. Once again you should see the results before you attempt too much.

Swirling sea adds appropriate interest of its own.
Photo Andre de Dienes.
Using Distortion

When Nancy has changed into her second swimsuit, you can try some of the most ambitious poses. Beging to use distortion instead of being misused by it. Slight, controlled distortion can give her wonderful long slim legs, for example. You place her on a slight rise and photograph from about the level of her knees, a fair distance away.

Apart from this case, Nancy's face, almost always, should be as near the camera as any other part of her.

In the Water

If you have the sea conveniently close, and it's warm enough, you could now try some pictures with Nancy actually in the water. Not much water is necessary. You can get first-class results with her sitting, lying, kneeling or standing in only a few inches of water.

If she's quite at home in the water and quite happy to go on being photographed in it, get her to splash. Spray gives some marvellous effects.

Most of your pictures in and around the water should be action shots--that is, you should ask Nancy to move around, playing in the water, while you snap off shots whenever she does something which attracts you. In no other way will you achieve the same spontanaity.

The enthusiasm of doing something new needn't wear off. It's more than possible both you and Nancy will be more satisfied with yourselves on this second session than the first, and have a much more enjoyable time.

The fact that it's practically certain the pictures will be better won't do any harm either.

If a model tells you after a strenuous session that she's enjoyed herself, you're not only pretty sure to have some first-class pictures in the bag, you have proved you have the kind of personality which this kind of work needs. So much depends on the photographer in the glamour field. A relaxed air of confidence inspires a corresponding confidence in you from the model. Consideration for your model will evoke a similar friendliness from her.

Nancy's improvement as a model is by no means confined to the second session. She will go on improving.

Vivacious models need an active pose to suit.
Photo James Macgregor.
Another Model

However, having photographer her twice, once in a purely experimental way and the second time with a pretty clear idea of what you could achieve, you are ready to try somebody else.

You're not a beginner any more. The first step is always the most important one, and until you've been out on a beach with a girl and a camera you're a beginner as far as glamour photography is concerned, even if you're a thoroughly experienced landscape photographer.

After two sessions with a girl like Nancy, who was a beginner too, you should be ready to photograph someone like Helen, the beauty contest entrant, or Rosa, the dancer, or even Sylvia, the actress.

You're much more confident now. And none of these girls is as shy as Nancy was.

Let's suppose it's Helen. She has already paraded in front of judges in her bathing costume, and has no qualms about being photographed in it. You get down to business much more quickly than you did with Nancy. She has some idea of how to hold herself, or she'd never have been placed in the beauty competition. She poses much more easily than Nancy.

Yet there was a lot to be said for starting with Nancy, all the same. When you're feeling your way you don't want a too-confident girl telling you what to do and getting impatient with your clumsiness. Not that Helen is necessarily like this. It really depends on your own self-confidence what kind of girl you pick for your initial efforts.

Helen, though, less self-conscious than Nancy, still has a lot to learn and you find right away that you've learned enough already to be able to keep her right.

She smiles more easily than Nancy, but you'll still have to make sure that points her toes, doesn't lean too heavily on one arm and stretches to make her waist tight and slim. She'll pick up all these little points quickly and easily. What you have learned from your study of the results of your previous sessions will be invaluable now. You don't have to make the same mistakes again, or let Helen make them.

Suit Poses to Model

The best poses for one model are not necessarily the best for another. If a girl's legs aren't her strong point, her best poses are naturally those that don't show her legs, or at any rate don't concentrate attention on them.

Helen is more likely that Nancy to look good in full-length poses. Even so, Nancy at her second attempt might well have been better than Helen at her first.

You'll find it fascinating to try with Helen things you worked out painstakingly with Nancy. If one girl is much prettier or has a much better figure than the other, you'll be liable to concentrate on her and decide not to bother with the other any more. Probably it'll be Helen who arouses your enthusiasm and makes you think you were wasting your time with Nancy. However, it may be the other way round. You may be so disappointed with Helen that you wish you'd asked Nancy out again and hadn't bothered with anybody else.

In either case, this impulse should be resisted. The fascinations of photographing different people is trying to find and portray their best features--not attempting to make one girl look exactly like another.

You should achieve as much with Helen at this first session as you did with Nancy at the second. Again you won't know until after some work in the darkroom how successful you've been.

From this point, all being well, you need no more help. You know exactly what to do, and can do it.

But you still need, and always will need, fresh ideas. Time and again you'll find your pictures getting into a rut--it happens to everybody. When this happens, all you need do is look around. Without having to copy from other photogaphers, you can learn from them.

There's always plenty to learn--even when you think you know nearly everything.

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