Glamour in your Lens

Camera for Glamour

WHAT KIND OF CAMERA is best for glamour pictures?

It doesn't really matter much. All that does matter is how easy or how difficult the camera is to use, and how well you overcome the difficulties there are. The camera which requires least of your attention is best. You want that for other things.

Which Camera?

A 35 mm. camera is excellent, but only the most rabid miniaturist would say it's the best possible camera for the job. The viewfinder is the first snag. As in all 35 mm. photography, your first concern is to fill the negative with your subject. You will be working between 3 and 10 feet from you subject all the time, which means you'll never be able to forget parallax problems.

Natural glamour at its best in sun and sea.
Photo Andre de Dienes.

But more important, in all glamour photography you have to be composing and checking your picture all the time, up to and including the moment of exposure. You want to be certain that your model has not maliciously decided to turn her head so that the shadows you have carefully arranged are ruined. You want to make sure she hasn't sagged so that she looks like a particularly unprepossessing sack of potatoes. You can't do this is a Leica or Contax viewfinder.

However, this can be taken care of by using a special finder which gives you a larger, clearer image. If you do so, many of the drawbacks of using a 35 mm. camera disappear. But others remain.

The smaller your negative, the more trouble you are going to have with texture. Ideally, a 10x8-inch camera would be best. Since most of us would object to lugging this monster around, we compromise.

If you can get the effect you want with a 36x24 mm. frame, good. Ignore the rest of this chapter. You'll have to work more carefully than the rest of us, you're used to that anyway.

The 35 mm. camera scores, of course, in being a very easy camera to handle.

The 2-1/4-inch square folding camera has the drawback as the smaller camera. The viewfinder still isn't up to much. Otherwise, again an excellent camera for the job.

Single-lens reflex cameras cause more lurid swearing on the beach than any others I can think of--even 8x10-inch plate cameras. Unless you have a pretty fast lens, you won't be able to see what you're doing. In any case, you'll have to open it up to focus. Inevitably, every so often you will forget to stop down. Since you'll be using a filter practically all the time you'll see a yellow, green, or orange picture unless you take the filter off and put it back on every time.

But if you've chosen a single-lens camera anyway, none of this will worry, will it?

The twin-les reflex is the easiest to work with provided it has a good eye-level finder as well, you don't mind the picture being reversed, and your eyesight is good enough to use it effectively.

All bias should be admitted when giving advice, and I should admit that I use a twin-lens reflex camera. But I can add that I've used all the others too, and why I say the twin-lens camera is the best isn't because I use one. I use one because I've found it the best.

Obviously, however, all the others can be used to achieve equally good results. It's more difficult, that's all. And I never wholly subscribed to the view of the French horn player who said, on being asked why he chose that instrument: "I like it because it's so difficult."

Plate cameras can achieve the best results of all, if we're thinking of technical quality. But they lose ground on the score of convenience.

Glamour photography, unlike landscape photography, isn't a case of deciding the perfect picture, waiting until everything is just right, making the exposure, and then going home. The number of things which can wrong with a picture of any living thing is shattering.

Using plates, making only a few carefully selected exposures, you'll find yourself frequently shattered. In the fraction of a second between the time you decided you were satisfied with the pose and the time when you pressed the release, you now discover:

The girl closed her eyes.
She decided to scratch her nose.
She wrinkled her nose at a bad smell.
She turned to look at a passing aeroplane.
She stuck out her stomach and made herself look six months pregnant.
She fell sideways.
She fell backwards.
The sun went behind a cloud.
The breeze blew her hair across her face.
You shook the camera. She decided to pat her hair.

These and a thousand other things can and will ruin half your exposures. Or if they don't quite ruin them, they'll make the results not quite as you intended.

Not especially the last two. Every second exposure your model will pat her hair. Every single exposure she'll pull up the front of her swimsuit, especially if it's the strapless type. It doesn't matter that even a hurricane couldn't shift it--if there's nothing obvious to hold it up she'll make sure after every exposure that it's still there.

These are the main reasons for not using a plate camera. Unless you have a really experienced model, who knows better, you must expect her to do all these things, often, notwithstanding anything you may tell her. And if you've taken only a few plates, there's an excellent chance that there will be something wrong with all of them.

Other Essentials

In addition to the camera, what else do you need to take with you?

A lens hood and filter. Nothing ruins a beach picture more effectively than a white sky. True, you may want a white sky sometimes. And sometimes there will be nothing to filter. But almost always you'll want a yellow, yellow-green or green filter. Which is best depends on conditions, on your exposure and on your darkroom technique. It's as well to remember that beach glamour pictures aren't as easily over-filtered as most subjects. A deep black sky over a palely sunlit landscape looks terrible. A girl against a deep blue sky looks as if she's on holiday on the Riviera, which is all right.

Films. Never run out of film if you can help it. The surest guarantee of finding the picture of a lifetime is to run out of film.

And that's all. You can take an exposure meter if you like. You won't need it. With a camera, films, lens hood and filter you are fully equipped. Except for the model.

Make it Automatic

Before moving on to a consideration of the model, however, you should be quite satisfied that you're really competent in handling your camera. You should never have to fiddle with it and wonder if you've done everything. Get into a routine that becomes automatic, so that you'll know at any given instant what you have and haven't done. For example, if your camera is capable of taking double exposures, if it has to be wound on and cocked, do them together. Then you can never be in doubt. If it's cocked, it's wound on. If it isn't cocked, it can't be wound on either.

According to one school of thought, you should never wind on to next frame until the instant before you expose it. Various reasons are given: this prevents dust settling on the surface of the film, is a further safeguard against fogging, prevents a fold forming in the piece of film you're just about to use, and so on. All these considerations are insignificant compared to two others: your camera should always be ready for a quick shot, and this method is one of the main causes of double exposures.

The worst thing about double exposures is that the two spoiled pictures are invariably the best on the roll.

The last thing you should check should always be focus. Don't focus and then compose the picture. Composing is the only thing that's going to be deliberate, the only thing you actually think about. Cocking the shutter, winding on the film and getting focus right should all be automatic. If you use a single-lens reflex camera, add opening up and stopping down.

If you haven't reached the stage of doing all these things automatically, practise until you have.

It's said that Kreisler once remarked, on seeing a violinist working his fingers frantically before a performance: "Too late to practise now. He should have done that twenty years ago."

A photographer just starting to take pictures, any kind of pictures, shouldn't use too much film. He should develop each film immediately while the circumstances of taking all the pictures are still fresh in his mind. In that way he'll be able to see what went wrong or what was unexpectedly right.

When results can be guaranteed, he should use a good deal of film developing an instinct for the right moment. Only practice can give this.

In the end, when he's an expert, he'll use very little film if he's a landscape photographer, more if he's a glamour worker, and most of all if he's an action photographer--because even an expert needs half a dozen action shots to produce one really good one.

The first step, then, is getting to know your camera so that everything you do with it is automatic. Never let your model be conscious of the camera because you're obsessed with it. If she actually asks about the technical side of the business--which is extremely unlikely--by all means talk about it, but otherwise arrange the technical details as far as possible before you go out and after you come back.

When you can handle your camera in your sleep, you're ready to handle it awake.

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