As a newspaper photographer for 22 years, I covered just about every kind of news or sports event you can think of. But one thing I never got to try was glamour photography.
So I decided to step out of my comfort zone recently and attempt a shoot, with the help of my model, Lesly Garcia. Here are six lessons I learned from the experience.
1. If you’re not being edgy, you’re probably being boring.
Along the spectrum of photographers, there are two extremes. At one end, you have those who are highly creative, but have little understanding of the mechanics of the camera; if it’s not on autofocus, they’re in trouble. At the other end, you have the technical wizards — students of the science of optics — who have so little creativity that they are lost unless an art director is setting up their shots. Most of us fall somewhere in between. Glamour shoots call for the edgy, creative type — and I didn’t bring enough of that to the shoot. The pictures might be nice technically, but they are a little boring.
2. Nothing is more important than your rapport with the model.
Glamour photography is all about your communication and comfort level with your model; it shines through in your images. The photographer-model relationship is more important than your equipment or anything else. If you don’t believe me, go to Model Mayhem and check out some of the excellent photographs taken by amateurs. They blow my shots out of the water with their simple lighting.
3. Start with a concept, and do your research.
If you’re all about doing things on the fly, glamour photography is not for you. Having a concept in mind, and discussing this with your model before the shoot, is critical. Be sure to research your location and plan things out in advance. Properly planned, a good location can take care of lighting, background and the hassle of bringing bulky items to a studio. By contrast, running all over the place with a model and makeup artist in tow increases the likelihood you’ll end up with a disorganized shoot — and maybe even lose some of your gear.
4. Be creative with props.
As part of having a concept in mind, you should bring appropriate props to the shoot. But it’s nice to improvise a bit also, so you should always look around and see what else you can use as a prop. For example, models can only do so much with their hands, so giving them a prop they can hold (like the curtains below, which I found at the shoot location) can bring a new dimension to a shoot and take a little pressure off the model.
5. Don’t expect the model to rescue you.
This applies to all aspects of the shoot — from going in with a concept, to having creative props and poses in mind, to lighting. It’s far too easy to settle for one kind of lighting setup, for example, and expect the model to do the rest of the work. Try a lot of different lighting setups, and always be sure to let the model know where the light is and how she needs to adjust to each setup. Show your model the shots you’re taking periodically, too, so you can discuss what’s working and what isn’t.
6. Do everything you can to help the model look her best.
This starts with hiring a makeup artist and/or a stylist. Models are often asked to do their own hair and makeup, but this can be a distraction during a shoot — particularly if they are asked to come up with several different looks in a short period of time. Besides, who doesn’t like to feel pampered? After the shoot, take special care with post-production touchups. Your model is counting on you to present her in her best light.