Glamour in your Lens

Taking Stock of Results

HAVING BROUGHT BACK your first set of glamour pictures, developed and printed them, have a critical look at them and see how they could have been better.

Many photographers object strongly to the kind of criticism which some presumed expert points out how you should have moved trees, buildings and bridges to get the right effect, where you should have made a river bend, why you should have put out the the sun or produced clouds in the naked sky.

This sort of think can be annoying, particularly when by general agreement you have done as well as could possibly have been done in the circumstances.

But people who get angry at such criticism miss the point. Maybe there was another tree a little further along which could have been used. Maybe you could have taken up a position from which the offending building in your composition wasn't visible. And if not, if it never was possible to take a perfect picture in that spot--well, you should have looked elsewhere for some spot which would provide a perfect picture.

Backgrounds remain backgrounds if kept unsharp.
Photo Andre de Dienes.

If you choose the subject, you can't expect to get top marks for making the best of a bad job.

When you're looking at your own pictures, you know as no one else does how you could have changed them and what you never had a chance to change. And that's how you should assess these first glamour prints.

Don't blame the model for bad poses. Some, early on, you might have had to take to give her confidence. But once past this stage, you didn't have to photograph anything with which you weren't satisfied.

The Technical Aspect

First, dispose of the technical side. If you're an experienced photographer, there shouldn't be anything seriously wrong technically, and if there is, you know how to correct it. More exposure, less exposure, more development, less development--it's a simple matter to juggle these until you produce perfect negatives.

Outdoor glamour pictures should usually be bright, sharp and clean--certainly beach pictures. If yours aren't, first make sure the poor definition isn't the result of camera shake or incorrect focus.

Otherwise the fault may be in exposure or development. With an over-exposed negative, over-development will give a flat, grainy, unsharp print; under-development will give a flat, but fine-grain and fairly sharp print. With an under-exposed negative, over-development will give a contrasty, grainy print; under-development will give a ver soft, grainless print.

High shutter speeds capture fast movement.
Photo Andre de Dienes.
You may find slight over-exposure and slight under-development the best compromise. After all, so-called correct exposure and development is a compromise too. Since you are going to be dealing chiefly with particularly contrasty subjects, a little less development than usual, with or without exposure increase, is perfectly in order. You probably won't need the exposure increase. There's no point whatever in making your negatives any denser than you need them to produce good prints.

If you're not experienced enough to be able to correct any technical inaccuracies right away, the sad truth is that the only answer is to become experienced enough. Nobody can put your technique right at second-hand.

Focus and Shutter Speed

On the beach it's seldom necessary to throw the background out of focus unless it's a pretty crowded beach. If you're pointing the camera down from a height, there won't be much background to go out of focus, and if you're holding it level, nine times out of ten it won't matter whether you try to throw distant background details out of focus or not.

But there are tiems when a definite area of sharpness makes the picture, particularly when your model is sitting on rocks. You seldom want fine detail in all the rocks within your picture frame. The best way to handle such a situation is to arrange the depth of focus to end just behind the girl. Unlike studio photographers, the beach photographer generally has far more depth of focus than he wants, and often finds it quite an embarrassment.

By all means use the fastest shutter speed you have. But that may not be enough if it's 1/300 second or more.

Some Don'ts

Don't use an orange filter. That is, not unless you know what it's going to do and want that effect: black skies, pale flesh, colourless lips, white sand.

Don't use slow pan film if you have a 35mm camera and can use it. Yes, it's a very fine grain film and excellent for some other jobs, but adding its inherent high contrast to the high contrast of the job you want to do doesn't make sense. The film just can't do it.

If you must use a slow pan film, develop it with extreme moderation in a soft working developer so that the contrast is under control. And never over-expose.

If you find that your negatives can stand drastic cropping, perhaps you should modify your technique next time. But not if you're going to introduce distortion. Generally for a portrait you have to stay at least 4 feet away, perhaps more.

Action plus angle makes the unorthodox picture.
Photo Andre de Dienes.


This is one of the things it's useful to know. Let's think of a face with the ears 6 inches back from the tip of the nose. Suppose you photograph this face from 30 inches. It's 30 inches to the tip of the nose, 36 inches to the ear. Ratio, 1-1/5:1 -- quite appreciable. Then photograph the same face from 6 feet. Ratio, 1-1/12:1.

Now, that's a case of small distances. Consider the classic horror of feet projecting towards the camera. And this is one you'll want to try--your model lying on the sand, perhaps leaning on one elbow, photographed from below her feet and to one side. If you try this from 3 feet, her toes will be 3 feet from the camera and her face about 7. Ratio: 2-1/3:1. Do it from 10 feet, and the ratio becomes 1-2/5:1 -- probably quite acceptable in this case.

Rim lighting gives crisp effects. Photo James Macgregor.


The last and most important thing on the technical side is what's sometimes called texture.

Find a print where an arm of leg is side-lit. I'm assuming the sun was shining when you took the picture. The flesh should look real and soft and warm. It will look like this only if it's faintly grey where the sun shines brightest on it, and darkens smoothly and imperceptibly to a shadow which has luminosity and detail in it.

It should not go sharply and abruptly from plain white to heavy black. If it does, there's something seriously wrong with the exposure, developing or printing--or perhaps all three.

A sunlit subject has high contrast which should not on any account be lost. But this doesn't mean a photograph of a sunlit subject must consist of the whitest whites and the blackest blacks. Far from it. All the delicate shading which was in the subject must be preserved, and this isn't always easy.

In most cases where the delicate shading is gone the trouble is over-exposure and/or over-development. The remedy, such as it is, is using the softest paper possible.

Again, however, little guidance can be given. The fault can be corrected only by the person who made it in the first place. He must find out what he's doing wrong and stop it.

All that anyone else can do is direct his direction to it. There is nothing easier than achieving beautiful soft effects with natural light, and if any amateur photographer is unfortunate enough not to be able to do this, everything must stop until he can.

Practise on tree-trunks, always including the shadow line. If--but this is extremely unlikely--the trouble is softness and greyness, the remedy is more exposure or more development or a more contrasty film or harder paper. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred the troubleis excessive contrast, and here the remedy is less exposure or less development or a less contrasty film or softer paper.

This is vitally important, because the first requisite of glamour pictures is good texture. Until this fault has been cleared up, there's no point in photographing any more pretty girls. Anyone who does is simply wasting film.

However, this is an elementary mistake and I wouldn't assume for a moment that you would make it.

Now let's move from the technical side to the more interesting subject of the model.

The Model's Aspect

Does she look like the prettiest girl you ever saw? In any of the pictures does she look beautiful? If so, what went wrong with the others?

You're bound to find angles to concentrate on, and angles which you and she might just as well forget. Are you satisfied with the poses? It should be obvious how some could be improved.

Try to imagine how different lighting could have made your picture better. No rules can be laid down about lighting, but one thing is almost a rule. Against-the-light exposures should account for a big proportion of your pictures. Not necessarily straight into the light, but certainly towards it. And side-lit pictures should account for the rest.

There is nothing less interest than a girl photographed facing straight into the sun. No, I mean it. She won't have any bust and if she wears a costume which shows a lot of flesh it'll be flat, white, shadowless and uninteresting.


It's the modelling on bare flesh which makes it interesting. A bare midriff which is just a pale, blank strip, or a neckline low-cut to show a large expanse of white paper will not produce any whistles at the club. Your pictures must look three-dimensional, and to do that they need shadows, and to acquire them the light must come from an angle.

A small angle is quite enough. Next time you have a model on the beach, try this. Get her to kneel facing straight into the sun, and stand between the sun and her. You'll see that there are hardly any shadows at all (apart from your own) and next to no modelling. Now ask her to turn slightly to one side, and move round just a little more than she does. Transformation! Suddenly there's beautiful modelling on her face, on her bust, diaphragm, hips, everywhere.

Those Awkward Poses

A photographer, like an artist, must know something of anatomy. If the bones show when you didn't want them to show or model looks fat where you wanted her to look slim as a needle, it isn't her fault. She's made like that.

Tell a girl sitting on the sand to lean forward and her diaphragm will crease in ugly folds. If you want her to have a flat tummy, you must make it anatomically possible. Have her kneel, sitting on her heels, and stretch upwards and slightly backwards, for example, and her stomach will be as flat and her waist as slender as you like.

Let her lean heavily on one arm and her upper arm will become hard and fat. If you don't want that, hide the arm or get her to take her weight off of it.

Make her bury her head in her chest and she'll almost certainly have a double chin. Naturally, if you want chin and throat to make a long graceful line, you have her leaning forward with her head well up.

Accessories yield their own poses and ideas.
Photo James Macgregor.

If your pictures show any of these faults the remedies are obvious.


Finally, consider the girl's costume. If it doesn't suit her, what would?

This is where it's handy to have as a model an actress or a dancer. They not only have clothes of all kinds which will be useful, they are prepared to wear anything. With other girls you are liable to find that while one shot is all right, another which doesn't seem much different to you makes her unhappy, because it isn't quite nice.

People's ideas of what is respectable and in good tast differ widely. But these ideas are pretty firmly rooted, and even though some of them seem ridiculous to you, it's best just to accept them without argument.

Some girls will wear the briefest bikini without the slightest concern, yet become unhappy if you propose to photograph them with their skirts flying in the breeze.

So you have to be careful what modification of costume to suggest. One ordinary, nice, respectable girl will see nothing wrong in the suggestion that she should be photographed wrapped only in a towel, while another will be horrified if you ask her to raise her skirt to her knees, and will never trust you again.

Generally your picture will show at once what changes in costume are desirable.

If the above has given the impression that you should always be trying to get your model into scantier costumes, it wasn't intended. As often as not the opposite will be the case. Most girls make far better pin-up models in tight sweater and shorts than in bikinis. Photograph them in bikinis and other two-piece costumes only if they have tiny waists and very neat midriffs.

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