Glamour in your LensSun, Sand and a Girl
If one's early attempts are going to be disastrous, it's best to keep these disasters among friends. Hard on the friends? Not at all. All the labour involved is going to be yours. All they have to do is smile and look pretty.
Your girl friend, your wife or your sister should be your practice model. And you don't need any guidance for your best efforts. Early on, you just press the button and hope for the best. It's only later, when you have painfully acquired some idea of what happens when you do this, and what doesn't happen when you do that, that guidance can be of real help to you. Learn the hard way--but only with models that will understand.
I'm going to assume now that all your preliminary trials are over, that you can handle your camera quickly, easily and efficiently, and that you are out for the first time with a beautiful stranger for the sole purpose of taking glamour pictures. I'm going to assume it's Nancy Baker, because she's the shyest and least experienced of the girls mentioned, the most awkward to handle and easily the most difficult to photograph well.
The fact that you want to photograph her in a bathing costume has been mentioned. When you met her at the corner of the street a few minutes ago she was wearing a yellow dress with a white belt and looked very pretty indeed. You asked her if she had her swimsuit with her and she said yes, but she didn't think she ought to wear it. You refrain from making the obvious remark.
Chatting gaily about this and that, you reach the beach and find a spot as deserted as possible.
This not only gives the girl the idea that it's easy, it isn't such a waste of film as you might think. The natural poses are best, at first. After a while you'll be able to correct a pose without making it look like an epileptic fit. At the beginning, however, it probably won't be possible to change a pose without turning it into a spasm.
The important thing is to make the model feel she is doing well and that the results are going to be good. If you have the least idea of what you are doing, they will be.
By this time Nancy has lost a lot of her shyness, and if you've taken the pictures quickly and have been easily satisfied, she has decided there was nothing to be so nervous about after all.
She has been wearing her dress and you haven't even mentioned her bathing costume so far. But now she's not only happier about the whole thing, she begins to see that if she's going to be sitting, kneeling, lying back on her elbows, squatting and lying face down, it would be much better to all this in her bathing costume and not in her best dress.
If you suggest that she might change into her swimsuit, she'll have no objection, now that she has some idea what she's expected to do. And while she's in the bushes changing, here's something to consider.
It's a good idea while you're taking the first pictures of any girl to be preparing for the second set.
The first time you photograph anybody, you're working in the dark. You don't know how she'll photograph. You don't know whether she's photogenic or not.
If a girl photographs better than you'd expect, she's photogenic. If she doesn't photograph as well as you'd think, she's not. As simple as that.
You'll be surprised both ways, often. There will be occasions when you'd swear the pictures you're taking are wonderful, and when you examine them later you'll find the looks positively ugly. And there will be other occasions when you decide the pictures you're taking are a complete waste of time and film, that the girl you're working with is utterly hopeless--yet later you find that on film she looks like Miss Universe.
Plan from the beginning, therefore, on taking further pictures later, when you've had a chance to see the first results. You'll find that the word photogenic goes for angles too. A profile that doesn't look particularly interesting when you're surveying it through a viewfinder may turn out to be sensational on bromide paper.
Now Nancy emerges in a blue swimsuit. And very likely she'll be a big disappointment to you.
Good pin-up pictures make the girl look absolutely stunning--much better than she ever really looks. That's what glamour pictures are intended to be--pictures that make a girl look like something out of this world.
But Nancy, all too obviously, is in this world. Too much in this world. Though she's still a pretty girl, all the flaws are suddenly, cruelly revealed.
For heaven's sake don't let know you're thinking this. As soon as you can, stop thinking this. The main thing that's wrong with Nancy is that she doesn't know how to hold herself.
Go back casually to the things you've been doing already. Have Nancy sit, kneel, lie back, lie forward. Make your exposures from above, below, in front, behind, from 10 feet, from 3 feet.
Once Nany feels that it's perfectly natural to model in a bathing costume, you can try something more ambitious. Get her to stand up. Don't expect miracles. Probably when you have a good look at her standing you'll feel like bursting into tears and running away.
Don't despair. Nearly all the glamour girls whose pictures have sent your temperature soaring at one time or another looked like that, too, before they know how to stand when somebody was going to take a picture.
Get Nancy to take a deep breath. This will tighten the stomach muscles, slim the waistline and raise the bust. Unfortunately it will also make an inexperienced model look as if she's about to burst. This is where your personality is put to the test.
If you are easy, friendly, encouraging, Nancy will do her best to get it right, without hating you or deciding she'll never be any good. If, on the other hand, you go the wrong way about this, you can so undermine her confidence that she'll cry and refuse to try anymore.
You might have to go back to the relaxed poses which are much easier. But don't do this if you can help it, for if you do you'll have chalked up a failure, something Nancy is now convinced she can't do.
Try getting her to reach in the air, throw her arms up, put her hands on her hips, wave to someone along the beach, shade her eyes, clasp her hands behind her neck, or fold her hands behind her. While she's doing all this you're bound to find a pose which looks much better. Take it, and you've surmounted another hurdle.
Looking casual but needing care and control.
Photo James Macgregor.
How many pictures should you take? This depends on a great many things--how much film you can afford to use, the length of time you have at your disposal, Nancy's enthusiasm or otherwise, the number of exposures you have to make to win her confidence.
I've been assuming you've been photographing Nancy and having a rather tough time of it. The chances are things will have been much easier on this your first major beach session.
If your model on this occasion had been an actress or a dancer, you might have had twelve perfect pictures out of twelve shots. But if she's shy, inexperienced, lacking in confidence and perhaps very nervous at finding herself posing in a bathing costume for someone she hardly knows you may find later that in only one out of ten shots does she do herself justice.
On the whole, it's as well to make as many exposures as possible. Fire off film so that the girl isn't concerned when she hears a click.
This may sound like poor advice. It's almost an axiom of all types of photography that you never get good results by making exposures haphazard.
Unusual effects are simple with action shots.
Photo James Macgregor.
The fact is, with an inexperienced model you simply can't spend five minutes arranging a pose, finding the right angle to take it from, focussing and finally releasing the shutter. She won't be able to hold a pose for more than a few seconds for one thing. For another, she'll be quite liable to at any moment to make a slight movement which will ruin the whole thing. And most important of all, all this arranging and correction will make her so nervous she'll be practically in hysterics by the time you're ready.
Perhaps you think I'm exaggerating the nervousness of the model. Certainly if he has modelled before or acted or danced in public you'll have less trouble that I've been suggesting.
But you must be prepared to handle girls at least as nervous as this. You'll also find them suddenly turning modest and becoming worried and unhappy when a pose you suggest strikes them as not quite nice. Don't press the point. Move on to something else.
If the girl you are photographing isn't as nervous as this, so much the better. But if she is, you must know how to get the best out of her. Otherwise you will give up when by persevering in the right way you could work wonders.
Three of the best models I ever photographed, including the best of all, were so shy at first that they needed all the careful handling described above.
Having done all this, you can call it a day and go home. You thank you model and promise her prints very soon. You assure her that there will be some very good pictures. You promise to write to her or call on her. If you're already sure you can get much better results later, and you should be, you arrange another session.
Then you go home, develop your films and make some test prints. They won't be perfect. But then, you could hardly expect them to be, could you? Rome, they tell us, wasn't built in a day.
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