Glamour in your Lens

Must I Have a Beach?


BATHING COSTUMES ARE meant for the beach. Put a pretty girl in a swimsuit on the sand, preferably near the sea, with some white clouds about, and you're more than halfway towards producing a good picture.

The Swimming Pool

If there's no beach, and outdoor swimming pool will serve just as well--if you're careful. You'll have to be careful because your pictures in this setting will be liable to become too busy. You don't want crowds of people in the background of all the pictures, staring at you. If they stare at the model, that isn't so bad. Unfortunately, however, there are always a few who insist on staring at the camera, and this can ruin a picture.

You can avoid this by photographing from a low angle, or in such a way that anyone staring at the camera is a long way off--across the pool, for example.

Even if there's nobody else at the pool, there are other things you'll have to watch. Rows of seats, posters, windows, flags, rails, and all the other things one finds at an outdoor pool certainly add atmosphere to your picture, but often too much of it. The girl who is supposed to be the main subject of the picture can quite easily get lost among the other things in the picture--bright water, diving boards, pillars, café tables and so on. This is fatal.


Swimming pools are a good substitute for the beach.
Photo James Macgregor.

Every successful pin-up picture shows a girl who takes the eye without any serious competition from anything else in the picture.

If she occupies a small area of the print, she must be placed so that everything in the picture helps to show her up, to direct attention to her, and surrender itself to her.

If there are a lot of other things in the print, she must be lit so that there is no doubt of her importance. She must be much lighter or much darker than everything else, in sharper focus, and placed at the most important point of the composition.

Working at an outdoor pool, which is generally pretty bright and pretentious in its appearance, you have to be much more careful what you include in your frame than on an open beach. You also have much greater need of a large aperature to enable you to throw the background out of focus if necessary.

If, however, you know all this and pay due attention to it when thinking up pictures and composing them, your outdoor pool photographs can be every bit as good as those taken on a beach.

The River

As easier setting to employ and one which can also be quite as good as a beach is a river. It doesn't have to be a big river, it doesn't even have to be one which anyone would seriously think of swimming in. It will be all right just so long as it has water in it--and most rivers have.

Only you must make the water look like water. Avoid any angles which include dull, uninviting, stagnant-looking water. Get some sunlight on the river as well as the girl.

Streams or pools will do. As on a beach, you should be able to find a reasonably deserted spot where you don't have to include half a dozen other people every time you try to take a picture.

Rivers, like outdoor pools, have one or two disadvantages. For one thing, unless there's a bridge nearby you won't be able to move back and forth from one side of the river to the other. And this will mean that you're restricted in the lighting angles you can employ. Either that or you get between your model and the river, thus destroying the whole point of the exercise.


Boats on a river make an easy glamour setting.
Photo Philip Gotlop

Another thing is that usually the banks are pretty flat, which means you haven't much choice in the angles you can employ.

Nevertheless, if you no beach and no outdoor pool, a stream or river is the next best thing.

In the Garden

If you have none of these, you're really in trouble. Pictures of a girl ina swimsuit on the back green are all very well, but the atmosphere is all wrong, apart from other inevitable restrictions. Her swimsuit at once looks a little odd. Sand, sea, river or pool is a first-class excuse for the bathing costume; nothing in the ordinary back garden can make it look completely natural.

Get your model to wear white shorts instead, or a playsuit, or a summer dress. Don't expect her to wear anything she would not choose naturally.

Faking a Beach

All the same, don't let her throw the swimsuits away.

For one thing, you can always photograph a girl in a swimsuit against a blue sky. The fact that you just miss showing railway signals or factory chimneys doesn't matter, so long as you do miss them.

Then you can always exercise your ingenuity in using props, angles or locations to suggest a beach setting so that the bathing costume will again look natural:

Stone steps with might lead to the beach.
Rocks, even rocks which are nowhere near the sea.
A flat roof which looks like a reasonable place for sunbathing.
Rails like the rails on promenades.
Cliffs which look as if the sea is below them, even if it isn't.
Sand or shingles anywhere.

Failing all this, use beach props like balls, parasols and towels. If they don't create the right atmosphere all on their own, at least they'll help.

Unusual Effects

When you know what you're doing, you can sometimes obtain excellent results by capitalizing on the unnaturalness of the setting. You could photograph your model, wearing her bathing costume, in places where she obviously wouldn't be wearing a bathing costume that it's a gimmick, creating an unusual and rather interesting effect.

In a busy street, for example--only you'll have to make sure that you and she aren't going to be arrested. Or posing with statuary. Or coming out of the front door. Or in a railway station--again making sure you're both safe from arrest.

But always catch the sun. If you don't have a beach, the sun is more than ever essential.

Likewise, reversing the procedure, you can have your model wear on the beach things she normally wouldn't wear there, like night-dresses, show costumes, evening dresses. In all these off-key efforts, however, you have to have an idea and visualize the result. You don't get good results by deliberately doing things wrong and just hoping for the best.

Finding Locations


Location simplicity at its best for glamour.
Photo Peter Basch.
If you don't live near the sea, things are certainly not as easy for you as for more fortunate photographers. In this case, do all your preliminary work in the best setting you can find, and when you and your model are really ready for it, take a quick trip to a better location. Nowhere in Englan, Wales, Scotland or Ireland can you be more than 10 miles from a first-class place to take pin-up pictures. If you don't believe this, look around the district again.

In my own district--admittedly on the coast--I've counted thirty-seven excellent locations within 10 miles.

If you can take your pictures in the early morning before there are too many people about, you'll find that you have enormously increased your choice of location. So many settings that might be ideal are entirely spoilt by crowds if you leave your work to, say, a Saturday or Sunday afternoon.

The important thing is to avoid looking at a picture by someone else and deciding you must find a spot exactly like that. What you should be looking for, instead, is a place with its own individuality, a place a little different from anything you've seen in pictures.

And I repeat--within 10 miles of you there's a perfect spot... if only you can find it.


Clothes and location matched for the outdoor girl.
Photo Ken Ross-Mackenzie.


The right spirit succeeds in any location. Photo James Macgregor.

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