Glamour in your Lens

How to Get Models

Give her confidence and you win spontaneity.
Photo Andre de Dienes
IN THE INTRODUCTION I promised you, by inference, as many pretty girls to model for you as you want. This chapter is concerned with finding the right models and persuading them to model for you.

But first, something else should be considered--keeping them once you've found them. Many photographers who find difficulty in getting the right models fail because by their manner, attitutude and behaviour they begin to lose these girls right from the moment they find them.

One photographer I know complains no one will ever model for him. He's not quite right--some girls have. I've heard him talk about them. "May? She's a cow," is one of his mildest remarks.

Is it any wonder he never took a good picture of Mary? And was that necessarily Mary's fault?

If you are going to blame your model because you can't take good pictures of her, you might as well stop right here. Or you have designs on your models other than taking pictures of them, you can also stop right here. Take them out by all means--but you won't need a camera.

How you treat your models gets around. All the entrants in the local beauty competition get to know each other. They talk about this and that--and you might well be that.

You can't possibily take good pictures of a girl unless she likes you, and feels at home with you, and respects you or at least your ability as a photographer.

A girl's beauty is very important to her. That's one reason why you should have little difficulty in finding the models you want. Any girl is flattered when you want to take her picture--provided you admit you want to take her picture, and don't give her the idea you're merely photographing her because you have nothing better to do.

But she must trust you to make the best of her beauty. If you show her hideous pictures, or exert your ingenuity to catch her in ultra-revealing poses which she never intended, or insist that the pictures she doesn't like are the best ones, or try to make her look sultry when she hates the very idea, or make her look ten years older than she is, her confidence in you will be gone.

If, on the other hand, you show her pictures which make her look wonderful--well, she's sold. She'll model for you any time, anywhere.

Other little things make all the difference between having an enthusiastic, co-operative model and trying to work with a girl who would rather be somewhere else--anywhere else. Prints, for example. Give her prints, and give them promptly. Don't wait until she has given up all hope of ever getting any prints and passed from breathless anticipation to casual curiosity to disinterest. The prints don't have to be your biggest and best, carefully spotted. As often as not girls will prefer prints no larger than postcard size. They can carry these around in their handbags and show them proudly to everybody.

If you attention to all this, you won't lose your models.

Now you can go about finding them. What should you look for in a model?

First and foremost, she must have a pretty face. You can afford to take her figure on trust provided her face is up to standard.

We'll leave it at that meantime. It doesn't matter whether she's tall or short, dark or fair.

The Right Approach

When there's a local beauty competition, probably one of the entrants would be glad to model for you. Usually the names and addresses of these girls are published in the local paper. If not, the organizers will supply them if you tell them why you want them. Organizers of any beauty contest always want as much publicity as they can get. They may even ask to see the resulting pictures with a view to using them for publicity purposes.

If you prefer, you can speak to the girls direct. You'll probably find it better, however, to write them, enclosing a specimen photograph. That makes it clear at once that you are a photographer and exactly what kind of pictures you propose to take.

Many girls even today are too shy or too modest to wear swimsuits for photographs. And many parents, even today, wouldn't let them. But you can be 99 per cent certain that this will not apply to girls entering beauty competitions.

Be careful over you choice. Don't assume that the winner is necessarily the best model. Very often beauty contests are won by the most frank and fearless entrant, not the prettiest. Check carefully on numbers two, three and four in the final order. The chances are that these are the girls who won their places on looks, not personality.

It's much easier to photograph looks than personality.

Another thing is that girls who have nearly won but not quite are much keener as a rule to model model for you than the girl who won. It's more than possible that the winner's head has been turned by her success, for a week or so anyway, and she has already been photographed by pressmen and has big glossy pictures of herself with her crown or cup. Besides, it no compliment to her to be asked to model. She's the queen, isn't she? The girls who didn't win, on the other hand, are a little disappointed, a little hurt, in need of a boost to their morale, and your proposition will probably delight them. Especially if you casually drop the information to Miss Fourth that it's her you want to photograph, not Miss First, Second or Third.

This proves your taste and perception.

Finally, a letter makes her curious. She wants to see what you're like.

What kind of letter? You don't have to tell her your life story. Introduce yourself, come to the point, and sign off. Like this:

Why write a letter? A letter gives the girl a chance to think the thing over. Girls who are startled by a blunt, unexpected proposition often say no right away--and then spend the rest of the day wishing they hadn't. Often when a blunt request on the spot by a man with a camera would meet with a startled refusal, a polite letter will produce an enthusiastic acceptance. Besides, a letter is concrete, official, above-board. You give your name, address and telephone number, if any. You aren't just a man with a camera who will take pictures and disappear, never to be heard of again.

Modest pictures make the best introduction.
Photo George Pickow.

                                               14 Gledvale Road,
                                                       July 17, 19--
	Dear Miss Donald,
		I am a member of the Pontyphelly Camera Club. I should
	like to do some pin-up photography and you seem to me	an 
	ideal subject. What I had in mind was some pictures at the 
	beach some sunny afternoon, at the week-end perhaps.
		Would you drop me a line if you're interested?

                                            Yours sincerely,
                                                  Emrys Morgan.

Don't start making complex arrangements before she's said she'll come. Nobody likes being taken for granted.

You'll probably get a reply something like this:

                                               27 Aberlade Avenue
                                                         July 18, 19--
	Dear Mr. Morgan,
		I was very interested to receive your letter. I think
	you're very optimistic in saying I'm an ideal subject, but 
	I'm perfectly prepared to try. Could you call for me on 
	Saturday afternoon? Please let me know what to bring, and 
	what about make-up?
                                            Yours sincerely,
                                                  Helen Donald.

You don't think it's as easy at that? All right, let's assume you get no reply at all. If the girl doesn't want to model for you, that's what will happen. You'll never get a letter saying she doesn't want to model. What to do next to persuade Helen Donald to pose for pin-up pictures?

Nothing. Nothing at all. Maybe your letter was too formal, or not formal enough. Maybe her parents have said no. Maybe she has a jealous boyfriend. Maybe she just doesn't want to model.

In any case, you have done all you can or should do. You forget Helen Donald and try someone else.

Assuming there has been no beauty competition, or that Helen Donald was the only girl in it whom you wanted to photograph, try the local amateur theatres instead. Actresses or would-be actresses are likely to have the required looks and certain to have the inclination. All actresses are models, in a way. In this case your letter should be of this type:

                                               14 Gledvale Road
                                                       July 23, 19--
	Dear Miss Wyndham,
		Seeing in in "George and Margaret" last week I thought 
	you'd make a wonderful pin-up model. Your Frankie was superb.
		I am a member of the Pontyphelly Camera Club. You may 
	remember some of our members took pictures at the dress 
	rehearsal of your last production.
		I'd like to take some pictures at the beach some sunny
	afternoon. You might find the prints useful in your stage 
	career. If you're interested, would you let me know?	
                                            Yours sincerely,
                                                Emrys Morgan.

Miss Wyndham will reply at one in these terms (in a flowery hand on parchment-type paper):

                                               Little Theatre,
                                                    High Street
                                                      July 24, 19--
	Dear Emrys,
		I should be delighted to model for you. I 
	was so flattered to receive your letter. I have always 
	wanted to pose for beach pictures, but do you know, nobody 
	ever asked me before!!
		I have lots of props which should be useful. There
	are some advantages in being an actress! I do hope you'll
	look in at the theatre and we can arrange everything.
		I hope we get some pictures. But would you believe
	it, I'm horribly nervous!!!
                                           Yours hopefully,
                                              Sylvia Wyndham

But let's assume again, just to make things as difficult as possible, that Sylvia, like Helen, ignores your letter altogether. What do you try next?

If there are any dancers in your town, amateur or professional, you need look no further. Dancers are used to posing. They are trained so that it is hardly possible for them to adopt an ungraceful pose. If they ever had any shyness, they have come to terms with it. And pin-up costumes come naturally to them.

Your letter this time:

                                            14 Gledvale Road,
                                                    July 27, 19--
	Dear Miss White,
		I plan to do some glamour photography, and I've been
	told that dancers make the best models. I know you're a
	dancer--the question is, are you interested?
		Later, I'd like to try some dance pictures, but I'd
	rather start with beach pictures. I'm sure you could do 
	some very graceful things with a beach ball.
		Please tell me what you think about this.
                                         Yours sincerely,
                                             Emrys Morgan.

The reply will be very abrupt and businesslike. Dancers don't gush as actresses do.

                                            3 Erinvale Crescent
                                                      July 28, 19--
	Dear Mr. Morgan,
		I shall model for you. Please let me know where and 
	when to meet you.
                                       Yours faithfully,
                                               Rosa White.

Suppose you want to photograph a girl who hasn't been in a beauty contest and isn't an actress or a dancer. You probably haven't seen her in a bathing costume, but she has a lovely face and you'd think her figure will turn out to be adequate.

In this case you must move more carefully. Though there are some parts of the world where a girl will model as readily in a swimsuit as in anything else, not many of these places are in the British Isles. Many pretty girls in this country don't even possess a bathing costume. And even girls who could quite easily be posing happily in a pin-up costume for you in a very short time may be frightened off by a too abrupt approach.

It's too much to expect a rather shy girl who doesn't know you at all to be prepared to come along and leap into a swimsuit within two minutes of meeting you, with the object of being photographed in poses which frankly make the most of her physical charms.

In a case like this it may be as well not to insist on the swimsuit right away. Let the girl get to know you, get her used to doing things in front of a camera and show her some pictures taken of her wearing a summer dress. Then ask her to wear a bathing costume.

It may seem rather underhanded to get the girl along under false pretences like this, but it isn't really. She'll prefer it that way.

Your inital letter to such a girl should be like this:

                                             14 Gledvale Road,
                                                     July 29, 19--
	Dear Miss Baker,
		I wonder if you'd let me take some photographs of
	you? I'm a keen amateur, and I've thought for some time 
	what a good subject you'd make. The enclosed prints will
	show what I mean.
                                     Yours sincerely,
                                         Emrys Morgan.

Enclose a picture of a girl in a garden party frock and a very conservative beach picture. Of course if you don't particularly care about Miss Baker or have plenty of other models, by all means state frankly right away that want her as a pin-up model. But remember this will often lose you a model who would have responded to a less blunt approach.

Now it is flatly incredible that you should have had four refusals. But assuming you have, there are two main possibilities left.

One is advertising. There's nothing wrong with this except that you have no control over the replies you are likely to receive. You haven't seen the girls, and though you may get a hundred replies from the most beautiful girls in town, the chances are you'll get a dozen from girls who want to be models--but have neither the necessary physical equipment nor the talent. It's a strange but understandable thing that the girls who most want to be models are always those who never can be. So be way of advertising.

The other possibility is the one most people think of first--simply photographing the prettiest girls you know, without bothering about strangers. You don't know any pretty girls? Of course you do--girl friends, friends' girl friends, the girl next door, the girl across the street, the neighbour's daughter, the other neighbour's wife, the girl in the fruit shop, the girl who always stands at the same bus stop, your sister, your sister's friends, your wife, your wife's friends, the local barmaid.

Get rid of the idea that pin-up models are creatures from another world, glamorous, exciting, unknown. If you can't find models, it must be because you're not satisfied with ordinary female feminine women--you want to photograph a dream.

Well, you can't. But if you're satisfied with an ordinary pretty girl you won't have any trouble finding her and persuading her to model for you.

And if you're inexperienced, there's a lot to be said for making your first attempts with a girl who's making her first attempts too. Sylvia Wyndham, the actress, may be a very minor member of the show business fraternity, but if you've written to her as indicated above, she has the right to expect you to be more than a fumbling beginner knowing nothing about pin-up photography and spoiling three out of four pictures through sheer ineptitude.

Nancy is different. If she is to try this kind of modelling, she would rather be photographed by somebody who didn't know very much than by somebody who had a lot of experience. She'd be quite sure an experienced photographer would be thinking her slow and stupid and clumsy.

Leave Sylvia and Rosa until later, when you can do full justice to their talents.

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