Glamour in your Lens

What to do in Winter

SO FAR I'VE ASSUMED you've been working in summer. If you want to go on working in summer, see Must I Have a Beach?.

You may, however, want to start glamour photography at a time of year when there's no sun. It isn't nearly as easy, and your initial results won't be anything like as good. But it's still possible.

There are two possible techniques. One is the available-light method.

Available Light

I'm not going to say much about this, no doubt shocking many photographers. The truth is, there isn't much to say. You use the fastest possible film and the slowest speed you think you can get away with. You develop in a high-speed developer and see what you've got. That's all there is to it. It's not a matter of getting perfect pictures in impossible circumstances, it's a matter of getting some sort of picture when any picture is a triumph.

You work anywhere, making a virtue of necessity and using as backgrounds kitchen sinks, cocktail bars, dance floors, back-stage props, patterned wallpaper, machines in factories, central-heating pipes--anything at all. You avoid studio-type backgrounds and lighting because this would bring your pictures into direct competition with photographs taken in easier circumstances, and you want to show by the pictures themselves what the circumstances were--you took a picture on the spot, spontaneously, with no special equipment.

Available light can give a rich quality of tone.
Photo Andre de Diene.

Natural freshness is helped by daylight indoors.
Photo Bernard Rouget.
Very often, unfortunately, the people who practise this kind of photography are like Peter Pan, and won't grow up. They begin to fall in love with the vices as well as the virtues of this kind of technique, look for difficulties instead of photographic quality and produce fuzzy, grey, grainy, contrasty caricatires of pictures because they like them like that, not because it was impossible to produce better pictures.

In glamour pictures high quality is always particularly desirable. A harsh, contrasty picture of men working in a steel mill may be magnificient. But a pretty girl always looks best in a soft light, or a strong light softened by the photographich technique employed.

Studio Technique

So much for available light. The second method is to work in a studio, whether it's an improvised studio in a sitting-room or a fully-equipped photographic palace.

For the professional photographer a studio is vastly preferable to the open air. He can have everything under control, exactly how he wants it, and always on tap.

But the professional--dare we say it?--is aiming much lower than we are. He only has to satisfy his customers. We have to satisfy ourselves.

The professional photographer nearly always wants the same kind of result. As often as not there's no change in lighting or anything else from one subject to the next, though subject one is an old man, subject two a girl of eighteen, and subject three a boy of five.

In pin-up photography we want all the variety we can get, and no studio ever seems to supply enough. It might if it were big enough, but usually we have to be content with a little cube of space with a side of about 9 feet.

Few rooms in villas or prefabs will give you enough room to take full-length pictures. You may have to be content with portraits and half-lengths at most.

But this problem shouldn't be insuperable. You must know someone who will lend you, so to speak, a large empty room. Or you may be able to use a room in some club or institution. Let us assume, however, that you have nothing but a small lounge.

Simple lighting is best for simple poses.
Photo James Macgregor.


You'll need at least two lights. These can be improvised. Table lamps and ordinary lamp standards will do. The more easily they can be adjusted the better.

In one you have a No. 1 Photoflood. There are two kinds of Photoflood. The No. 1 costs about three shillings and lasts for two hours or so. No. 2 costs at least twice as much, but lasts more than twice as long and gives more light. For a small room, however, a No. 1 is best.

If you find it difficult to remember which is which, ask for the small Photoflood.

In your other lampholder you have an ordinary 150 watt bulb. A pearl bulb is best.

If you have other lampholders, so much the better. All should contain Photofloods except the one with the 150 watt bulb.

Now you're ready.

But before you get a model in and start shooting, have a dummy run with a some good-natured friend who's prepared to act as a stooge. Make him move around as if he were your model, train the lights in the same way, focus and point your camera, but don't expose any film unless you want to.

This dummy run will be worth while even if you don't take any test pictures to see what's really going on. All sorts of snags can be ironed out now before you actually start taking pictures.

The stooge may be able to offer some helpful suggestions. Take heed of the helpful ones, and ignore the inevitable ribald comments.

The commonest fault in all studio photography is putting the lights too near the model.

When I suggest a basic exposure of 1/50 or 1/25 second at f4, I know that this a far greater exposure than is generally given in the case of fast pan film developed in a fine grain developer. I'm assuming, however, that the main light is never nearer the model than 6 feet, and often farther away.

A Photoflood at 3 feet--and, sad to say, this is a common crime--can burn out the forehead while the chin is still in heavy shadow. It can produce such savage contrast that no known technique can make an acceptable print.

One Lamp

First try one light only--at a respectable distance from the stooge. When you switch on your Photoflood and look at him, the effect will be absolutely wonderful. You'll tell yourself with delight that there's nothing to indoor photography--you've only just started and right away you can take wonderful pictures with only one light. But lighting for glamour isn't quite as simple as all this.

Wait till you see a print made from such a negative. It will make you want to crawl under a big stone.

One light will always give you far too much contrast for any film or paper to handle. The effect may be dramatic, but it won't be glamorous.

Try it, nevertheless, at your first studio session. You must see what happens or you'll never be in control of your technique. Put your one light well to one side and make your exposure. With fast pan film it should be about 1/50 second at f4 depending on your developer and the distance from light to model.

You don't really need a tripod with an exposure of 1/50 second. But it's as well to make use of anything you have--the back of a chair will serve very well if you sit astride it. Exposures of 1/10 second are quite possible this way.

Practise all this and give your stooge a laugh.

Now practise the only type of picture which is possible with one light only--the only type of glamour picture, that is.

Put the light as near the camera as possible. A little to one side and a little above the lens--very much in the position of a flashbulb. The model should be looking straight at the camera or a little to one side. A picture taken with only this light would be passable.

Two Lamps

Now bring your 150 watt lamp into operation. The general principle of almost all glamour pictures is to have one main light, the modelling light, a little to one side of the camera and little above, and another light illuminating the shadows but not strong enough to cast secondary shadows.

The usual recommendation is to do it all with Photofloods, moving the second lamp far enough back to lighten the shadows of the first without casting shadows of its own.

This is one of the many things which appear in photographic books and journals and are never contradicted, but just don't work.

You'll never be able to move the second light far enough back. If you did, you and the camera would probably be between it and the model. The truth is that a Photoflood is far too strong for this job. A 150 watt lamp is about right.

Another thing which is often suggested is a reflector--no secondary lamp at all but just a white sheet or card to throw some of the light back into the shadows. Placed on the other side of the the model, this collects light from the main source and puts it where needed.

This works splendidly provided you can adjust it. That's the snag. In effect, you have to be able to focus this reflector on your model. And it has to be so big to be a great nuiscance to handle.

No, the 150 watt lamp is easiest. You'll be able to use this at about the same distance from the model as your main light. I may be better, however, to have it low when the main light is high. You should be able to see the effect on your stooge, without having to waste any film.

Plain studio backgrounds are good glamour practice. Photo Philip Gotlop.

Where to Place Them

With these two lamps, photography is easy. You fix your main light to one side of and above your model. It is also to one side and above the camera. Forty-five degrees in all directions is excellent. That is, pointing downwards at an angle of 45 degrees. And pointing along a line 45 degrees from the line between the camera and model. Then you set your other light, the ordinary pearl bulb, on the other side and perhaps at the same height as the camera.

Distance between camera and model? Say 5 feet. If you made it more, your exposure wouldn't be any more. What matters is the distance between light and model, not between light and camera.

You'll be taking head-and-shoulders portraits at this distance. Your negative will show more, but even if you want to make big prints of heads only it's inadvisable to come any closer.

There will be distortion at anything less than 5 feet. As a matter of fact, there will be distortion at 5 feet, but it won't be noticeable.

Three or Four Lamps

Suppose you have a third lamp. Put it behind your model and direct it on the background. Providing your background is anything but solid black, this will brighten your pictures considerably.

A fourth lamp? Use it close to the background on the back of her (or his) neck. This will give you lovely rim-lit effects. But now you've to be careful that this back light doesn't shine straight into your camera lens. You'll certainly need a lens hood and even then you'll only be able to use this light with care.

You will be able to take many pictures in this way featuring the face and shoulders of your model. The more of her you take in the more difficult things will become.

Still working with your stooge, get him to stand up, take up the lights and move back into position for a full-length shot.

Proportion Counts

It may be rather difficult to judge with the eye alone what would happen if you took a photograph now. It's this: your dummy's face and shoulders would be properly lit, his waist would be getting a bit dim, his knees would be in shadow and feet in total darkness.

It's obvious when you think about it why this is the case. With the main light in the position already mentioned, there is:

6 feet from your light to the stooge's face; 7-1/2 feet to his waist;
9 feet to his knees;
10-1/2 feet to his feet.

These figures are accurate to scale--try it if you don't believe me.

It's therefore clear why the stooge's face would be brightly lit while his feet would be in heavy shadow. It isn't that the lower parts of him wouldn't register on the film, it's just that the proportions are all wrong. It's rather like a test strip, each wedge exposed less than the last.

Something could be done about this in printing, of course. You could shade up from the bottom, keeping your shade moving, and quite often you'd cure the fault entirely. But it would be better, naturally, to cure this fault before it happens rather than afterwards.

The figures given above were for a main light shining down on a 5 foot 6 model at 45 degrees from the respectable distance of 4 feet.

If the main light is 4 feet from the model's hair (at 45 degrees) it will be:

Nearly 5 feet from her shoulders;
6 feet from her waist;
7-1/2 feet from her knees, and
8-1/2 feet from her feet.

The kindest thing to say of anybody who takes a full-length picture like this--and, alas, how often it's done--is that he's out of his mind and not responsible for his actions.

During your dummy run you can see how to correct this, simply by making sure that the proportions of light reaching the model are right. If it's 6 feet from the light to head, it mustn't be much more from light to feet. In some compact poses this can be arranged. When it can't, you simply move the light so that it's 10 feet from your model's hair and 10-11 from her feet--and give more exposure.

It's proportion that counts, you see. Take an extreme case--3 feet to head and 8 feet to legs. Result unprintable.

Now even if you keep the angle the same and make it 6 feet to head and 10 feet to legs, you've cut the ratio from 3:8 to 3:5. Not good, but probably printable. If, as you take the light away you also bring it down slightly, you can make the ratio 3:3 and you'll get a perfect print.

The Spotlight

The glossy appearance of many professional studio glamour shots is largely created by lighting. Working at home, or at least in a modified studio, it's doubtful whether you can muster the same lighting that the professional can boast. Yet at least one thing in his armoury is often synonymous with glossy glamour pictures--and makes studio photography easier: the spotlight.

Normal lamps in reflectors or metal pudding basins (whichever you prefer) spread the light over a wide are; they soften it too so that shadows are not very sharp. A spotlight concentrates the light into a beam, producing rather the opposite effect. The best spotlights even have a knob for adjusting the beam angle. Narrow angle beams give brighter light and harder shadows; wide angle beams provide a slightly softer light. The wider the beam angle, the less bright the light becomes--which in itself is a useful control in arranging the complete lighting set-up.

Black backgrounds go well with light subjects.
Photo Harrison Marks.
If you really want to be ambitious indoors, and imitate sunlight, you can move the beaches to the fireside by using a spotlight to simulate the sun. Placing it high over your model, so that its angle is similar to that of the summer sun, you get a much more realistic effect than a pudding basin or even a spun reflector can provide. The sun's rays come from a point (the sun); so does the light from a spotlight; the aluminum utensil, however, spreads the effective light source too much.

You can do much more than just that with a spotlight. Backlighting with a spotlight makes the hair glisten and spring to life; it adds the sparkle that is so typical of the studio glamour shot.

Spotlights are also handy for lighting the background--either with a circle of light, halo-fashion, or a projected shadow pattern.

However you use it, a spotlight helps to put professional polish into glamour pictures; it adds the finishing touch. But the luxury of a spotlight is not essential to success--it just makes life easier.

Fitting up a Studio

Suppose we have a chance to fit up a studio. What do we need?

First of all, a large, plain background. A white sheet is often used, but even better is a wall painted with flat paint--not glossy. There are two opinions about the best colour for the background--white or grey.

The advantage of grey is that it can very easily made to provide any shade you want. Light it strongly and it will appear white, light it weakly and it will be grey, keep the light off it as much as possible and it will appear black.

If you paint it white the first time and grey when the paint needs renewing, you'll find out by experience of both which you prefer.

Size of background? As big as you can make it. Nine feet square sounds as if it could cope with anything, but when you try to use it you'll find that the only way you can take a full-length shot is by putting your model right against the background, which isn't a good thing.

You model is probably 5 feet 6 inches to begin with, and you'll find you want about 2 feet of clear space above her head in most of your shots, which means that you can't let her step a couple of feet away from the background, let alone the 6 feet at least which you should have.

The truth is you probably won't be able to do full-length shots anyway. These need a monster studio.

Once you have a background you don't actually need anything more except your lights.

Lighting Equipment

What you should have in the way of lights depends, of course, on how much you can spend. But this is one case where you can do just as well with cheap equipment as with the most expensive.

You need adjustable lights with reflectors. One at least should go as high as 9 feet and one as low as the floor.

Buy a spotlight if you like. Buy a boomlight too, if you must. I have one which been fixed since I got it to operate as a plain floodlight 3 feet from the floor, with the unused boom arm sticking hig in the air and getting in the way.

How many lights? I'm sorry, I'd make it less if I could, but I don't think you can do much with less than four. You want:

(1) Main light (Photoflood No. 1)
(2) Fill-in light (pearl 150-watt)
and usually:
(3) Backlight (Photoflood No. 1) on model
(4) Backlight (Photoflood No. 1) on background.

If you buy a spotlight, this would of course replace either the main light or one of the backlights.

Props and Accessories

Other things which, however, you'd find very handy are:

A stage: anything the model can sit on, lie on, kneel on. This can have the same surface as your background.

A tripod: beware of telescopic tripods. Maybe the very first time they are used they are rigid, but after that some are apt to be unstable. Anyway, in the studio a solid wooden tripod is no inconvenience. The best rule about tripods is never to use them unless it's worth while carrying around a heavy rigid one.

A cable release: even the best of tripods is of little use without them. They minimize camera shake and leave you more freedom to watch the model as you expose.

Furniture: your range is considerable with the model standing or sitting, kneeling, lying on the floor or stage. But every piece of furniture you add means a whole new range of pictures. Everything you use should be as simple as possible.

Props: a model is always happier with something to do. Give her a radio to listen to, a pack of cards to play solitaire with, a book to read, a letter to write.

Drapes: odd pieces of cloth which can be draped over the model, under her, on the walls, over furniture, even over the lights when you want to cut one of them down.

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