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You Can Shoot
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Copyright ©2011 Alexander Fox
You Can Shoot Upscale Glamour/Alexander Fox.
Behind the Scenes photos by Michael Fischbach
All Other Artwork and Photography by Alexander Fox
Section 1 - What’s Going On Here?
What Are We Talking About?.............................................................................. 2
Casting Light On The Subject............................................................................ 5
Working With RAW Material............................................................................... 6
A Little Background........................................................................................... 8
Section 2 - Examples
Clean & Commercial . .....................................................................................
Glamour/Fashion Crossover . ..........................................................................
Book Cover . ..................................................................................................
Closing Thoughts................................................................................................. 42
Section 1. What’s Going On Here?
Chapter 1. What Are We Talking About?
Many books on photography are little more than laundry lists of expensive gear. Not this one.
I designed the setups in this book specifically to be accessible to virtually any photographer.
Not a single setup in this book uses a softbox, and most of them use no more than three lights.
Whether you’re using radio-triggered monolights, off-camera speedlights with sync cords, or
hardware store worklamps, you’ll be able to duplicate every setup in this book with no more
than a couple of inexpensive lighting umbrellas, some foamcore board, and a plain white
What Is “Glamour” Photography?
When you’re getting ready to take a photo, it’s helpful to consider what the photo is supposed
to be about. If your image includes a person, there are three basic categories your shot can fall
1. It’s about the things in the frame with the person. This is advertising and
2. It’s about the situation or location the person is in. This is editorial and
3. It’s about the person. This is portraiture.
There’s a misconception that glamour or “beauty” photography is closely related to fashion
photography. In fact, fashion is the exact opposite of glamour. A model in a fashion photo is
essentially just a mannequin; the clothes are what’s important. A glamour photo, on the other
hand, is all about the model, while the clothes (and everything else) are secondary. This is why
backgrounds, wardrobe and props in glamour photography are usually very simple: so that
nothing distracts from the subject of the image.
As you can see, glamour photography is a form of portraiture. When you look at the cover of
“Glamour,” “Maxim” or any other magazine which typically has a glamour-type photo on the
front, the background is usually a solid color, and there’s very little to distract from the model
(frequently, not even clothes). Entertainment-focused magazines like “Rolling Stone” and
“Entertainment Weekly” have a somewhat more diverse range of models, since actors come in
all ages, shapes and sizes (and they sometimes incorporate more editorial elements like props
and special effects), but the approach from a photographic standpoint is basically the same.
So, what separates glamour photography from conventional portraiture? In a word,
“presentation.” Just as food photography shows the viewer the most appetizing view of a dish,
and doesn’t concern itself particularly with the actual flavor of the food, glamour photography
isn’t really about capturing the personality of the model (which is the primary focus of
conventional portraiture), it’s about presenting her in the most appealing way possible.
Shallow? Certainly. Effective? Absolutely. The good news for you is that whether you’re
shooting girls in lingerie or multi-generational families, high school seniors or movie stars, you’ll
be able to use the techniques in this book to add a touch of glamour to any type of portraiture.
Upscale Glamour – Classy Not Trashy
It’s one thing to say that glamour is about presenting a model in the most appealing way
possible. After all, Hustler does that, in its own way, as do publications like Penthouse, Playboy
and Maxim, each to their own degree of sexual explicitness. But why do Maxim and Playboy
seem “upscale” (classy), while Penthouse and Hustler (trashy) don’t? There are three factors
that work together to determine how upscale an image looks.
1. Technical quality. Photos in Maxim and Playboy display great hair & makeup styling, highend lighting, and expert post-processing and retouching.
2. Model quality. Squashing a three-dimensional body into the two-dimensional image plane
doesn’t work for everyone. The camera is merciless; many women who look fantastic in person
only look so-so in a photo. The better the model looks, the higher the perceived quality
3. Sexual overtones. Sexy can be classy; tawdry can’t. And yes, this is the most subjective of
the three factors. However, if you have a photo of a model in an obviously sexual pose (e.g.
bent over with her legs spread), or in a state of total or nearly total nudity, it’s going to be
trashier than the same setup with a less overtly suggestive pose (e.g. with her legs crossed),
or with more generous wardrobe.
Now let’s briefly cover some of the technical considerations associated with this style of
Chapter 2. Casting Light On The Subject
I think every photographer goes through a period of lighting gear lust. For some, this period
lasts their entire careers. For others, it lasts until they realize that what your light comes from
isn’t nearly as important as how you modify it, and where you put it.
In this book, you’ll see three basic techniques for casting light on a model: through an
umbrella, through a “silk” (actually a shower curtain liner), and bounced off a wall. All three of
these techniques create a large, soft source, and by looking at the resulting photos, it’s difficult
to tell which technique was used. That’s because a large, soft source is a large, soft source. If
you don’t have an umbrella, you can use a shower curtain. If you don’t have a shower curtain,
you can bounce your light off a wall. If you really love softboxes (I don’t particularly like them,
which is why I wound up not using any for this book, although you’ll see a couple sitting in the
background of the behind-the-scenes studio shots), you can use them too. The point is this: as
you read this book, don’t get hung up on the specific gear – the principles are what’s important.
Chapter 3. Working With RAW Material
For glamour photography, in which post-processing is an important part of the production
process, RAW files are essential. Whether you’re using a “pro app” like Lightroom, Aperture
or Photoshop, or the basic picture editor that came with your camera, almost any RAW
processing software will allow you to independently adjust the white balance, contrast and
color of a photo, as well as the exposure of highlights, midtones and shadows in the image.
95% of the time, that’s all you need.
Photo processing is a very
subjective process, full of vague
terms. Let’s quickly cover a few of
the most common.
In general, a successfully processed
image has a full range of tones
ranging from pure black to pure
white. This range is what makes an
image look “punchy.” If it doesn’t
have pure black or pure white, it
looks “muddy.” If the image has
pure black and pure white, but not
much in between (midtones), it is
A very important consideration
in photo processing is “detail.”
This refers to the information
in an image. If a section of skin
or clothing is too dark or too
light, the digital information is
“clipped” off, and it just looks like a
textureless blob. Sometimes, this
is okay (again, processing is very
subjective), but usually the more
detail you can retain, the better.
A “Punchy” Image
A “Muddy” Image
A “Contrasty” Image
“Clipped” highlight detail
I’m not going to get into retouching in this book. Most RAW processing software will allow you
to easily fix small spots and blemishes, but getting into hair removal, skin smoothing and other
advanced techniques is really a subject - and an industry - unto itself. Professional retouchers
can quickly do amazing work, but their services are expensive. Note: it is possible to have
excellent, inexpensive work done by overseas retouching shops. I’ve used doneimages.com,
which charges a couple of dollars per photo for processing and cleanup. You can learn to do
all kinds of tricks in Photoshop by yourself, but who has that kind of time? If you have a good,
clean shot to begin with, you can avoid the hours of pixel-pushing and get back to the fun stuff:
On the subject of raw material (and avoiding retouching) I can not stress enough the
importance of model selection and proper styling (hair and makeup). Without a striking model,
or without proper styling, the photos you’re taking are just practice; they’re not going to be
good enough to use for anything. A great-looking model in lousy lighting will still look great;
an okay-looking model in great lighting will still look just okay, unless she has great hair and
makeup, in which case she’ll look pretty good. Is that harsh and superficial? Absolutely, but it’s
the truth. Beauty is only skin-deep, but when it comes to glamour photography, skin-deep is all
Chapter 4. A Little Background
It’s fun to shoot in exotic and beautiful locations. However, for the purposes of this book,
everything was shot in my small and messy studio. Why? Because that’s most likely what
you’re going to be working in. Whether you have a small studio space, a garage, or a
basement, you’re not likely to have much more of an area to work in than I do, and I want you
to see how a 15’ x 15’ space is enough to shoot anything in this book.
There are lots of different background materials on the market, and they all have their own
pros and cons. Vinyl lasts forever, and is reasonably easy to clean, but it’s expensive and it
wrinkles easily; Cloth can have wrinkles steamed out, but it’s difficult to clean and also quite
expensive. So, I take the old-fashioned and (relatively) cheap route and use seamless paper.
It’s not perfect, but it usually looks good, and when it gets dirty or full of high-heel imprints, you
can cut the soiled part off and stick it in the recycling bin.
Again, the examples in this book are intended as inspiration, not as rigid formulas. If you don’t
like gray seamless paper, use tie-dyed fabric or a blue tarp; If you prefer a stronger backlight,
or more contrast in your images, shoot that way. Whatever looks good to you is perfect!
Now that we know what we’re talking about, we can get into the nitty-gritty. Each chapter
that follows will discuss - in simple, easy-to-remember terms - the construction of a different
glamour setup. From styling to lighting, backgrounds, posing and post-processing, you’ll learn
all the ingredients necessary to create your own great glamour photos.
Section 2. Examples
Chapter 1. Clean & Commercial
This setup will give you the type of look you see
on magazine covers and (with the addition of
products and other elements) advertisements
Whenever possible, try to provide a
stylist for your models. Even a very
striking model will look a lot better
(more “upscale”) with proper styling.
Here’s a before and after styling
comparison showing the same
model in the same setup. Even
though the makeup is fairly clean
and light, there’s still a marked
difference in the quality of the
Even beautiful models need hair & makeup styling.
Here you see before & after.
Three lights are used in this setup: the main light (“keylight”) is bounced off the wall behind
and to one side of the camera, a background light directly behind the model is used to add a
subtle spotlight to the backdrop, and a backlight for the model is softened by a small umbrella.
This setup will reliably deliver excellent results with any type of flash lamps. If you’re using
continuous lighting (“hot lamps”), you’ll need a very strong key light (probably about 2,000
watts) to make the bounce work.
As you see in these illustrations, you can use foamcore (available at any art-supply store)
to block the backlight from hitting your lens and the backgrund. This is an easy way to avoid
unwanted lens flare, and to keep your backlight from washing out the background.
Because the background light is positioned
directly behind the model, standing poses work
best for this setup. There are other ways to
accomplish the background spotlight effect, of
course, but you generally only see it in mediumto-close shots for a reason: the lamp is sitting
behind the model!
It’s easy to overdo poses. Many models tend
to contort themselves into elaborate positions
that look uncomfortable and unnatural. As you
look at magazines and catalogs, take note of
the poses you see. Very often, the models are
simply standing around. Just as with wardrobe
and background, you don’t want the pose to be
something that distracts from the model herself.
When in doubt, keep it simple!
You’ll find that cranking up the contrast in a glamour image will give you an appealing tonal
range, but at the expense of “blowing out the highlights” - losing detail in the bright areas of the
image. Not very glamourous. So, one of my favorite post-processing techniques is to lower the
contrast and then raise the black levels. This will give you nice, “punchy” dark areas in the hair
and eyes, while letting the skin stay smooth and creamy-looking.
By the way, as I mentioned earlier, you should always shoot RAW files. When you’re bouncing
light off the wall, as in this setup, the key light will take on the color of the wall, and anything
else (bookshelf, curtains, etc.) nearby. This makes it exceedingly difficult to find the exact best
white balance in the camera. If you shoot RAW, you don’t have to worry about it, and you can
just dial in the optimal white balance later.
When you import your RAW files into your software of choice, it’s helpful to set the file to a
“flat” setting first, so that you can see what you’re working with. This means zero contrast, zero
vignette, zero color effects, exposure unchanged, linear contrast curve, and camera profile (if
you have the option) set to “neutral.” Initially, the image will look
somewhat “muddy,” but once you’ve flattened out your RAW file,
you can build up the look of the image.
1. If you’ve used a grey background, you can tell the software to
set a color balance based on that grey. This will usually give you
a color balance that is pretty close to neutral. In this case, I then
bring color temperature down slightly to give a cooler, silvery tone
to the image.
2. Work with the exposure settings in your software of choice.
Adjust “exposure” (highlights) for maximum detail in bright areas.
Adjust “brightness” (midtones) to bring up skintones. Bring up
“blacks” (shadows) to give the image some visual impact, and to
avoid a washed-out look. Finally, bring the contrast up slowly to
find a good balance between a “punchy” tonal range and clipped
3. Add a subtle vignette to support the spotlight effect on the
background. Be careful though: just because a vignette looks cool
today doesn’t mean it won’t look dated and gimmicky tomorrow.
Use your own taste and judgment when it comes to effects like
vignettes and gradients.
4. If you really want to get detailed, you can adjust the tones in the
image. For example, increase the saturation of red to make lips
pop, or increase the brightness of orange to lighten skintones. You
can also touch up skin blemishes, remove stray hairs, etc. That
gets into retouching, which is a subject for a different book.
Chapter 2. Glamour/Fashion Crossover
I’ll be honest: I hate fashion photography. I have
no interest in the clothing industry, I don’t like
models being treated as mannequins (or worse),
and the fashion scene in general is way too
pretentious and snobby for me. With that said,
the aesthetic quality of fashion photography
is undeniable. From a technical standpoint,
the lighting and styling in high-end fashion is
absolutely top-notch, and some of the greatest
photographers of the last 100 years – Richard
Avedon and Annie Liebovitz spring to mind have paid the bills by shooting fashion.
My perspective on glamour photography is that
it’s really just a form of portraiture: the model
is the most important element in the image,
not the clothes, the setting, or some product.
So, when you have a model who has a very
“fashion look” (tall, very
slim, striking features), and
who is interested in doing
fashion work, it is completely
appropriate to borrow from
the aesthetic vocabulary
of fashion photography,
while keeping in mind that
the priority of glamour
photography is the model, not
One of my favorite lighting modifiers is a big
white umbrella. It’s an easy and inexpensive
go-to for any situation where a large, soft light
source is desirable.
When you shine light into a white umbrella,
the light goes two places: through
the umbrella, which diffuses the light
tremendously; and bounced back out of
the umbrella, where it bounces again off
whatever else is behind it.
Unlike a softbox, which focuses soft light
in one direction (an inherently unnatural
behavior for light), an umbrella allows soft
light to bounce all over the place, as it does in
natural circumstances. This does two things:
first, it provides a soft light with none of the
harshness associated with softboxes; and
second, it gives you a lot of fill light for the
background and shadow side of the model.
If your background is a neutral tone, you can
get away without lighting it at all.
This setup is about as easy as it gets. A large
umbrella is set up in front of and to the side
of the model, and a medium-sized piece of
white foamcore is set up on the opposite
side, to bounce light into the shadow side
of the model. In this case, the foamcore
bounce card acts as the “fill light,” filling in the
shadows with a little bit of reflected light.
This type of soft, single-source lighting is
used all the time in fashion and commercial
photography, Sometimes, clients or models
act a little surprised to see such a simple
setup, but there’s no arguing with results. It
looks great, and it’s practically fool-proof.
Fashion photography is associated with
strong, almost theatrical makeup. If you
choose to do a fashion/glamour crossover
shot, you can ask your stylist to provide a
more “high-fashion look.” It’s helpful to bring
in some reference material. For this shot, I
brought a couple of images from magazines
of the “raccoon eyes” style I wanted my
stylist to use on the model.
While simple poses – standing, kneeling,
reclining – are always safe, the fashion
sensibility allows you and your model to be
a little more exploratory in terms of posing.
your model to
have fun and
1. As always, start off with a “flat” setting. An advantage of shooting
with a gray background is that you can use the “eyedropper”
white balance function in your RAW processing software to pull a
reasonably accurate color balance off the gray background. This
will at least get you into the neighborhood of correct color, and
then you can tweak the white balance to taste.
2. Once your colors look good, adjust the “exposure” setting
(highlights) to be as bright as possible without losing any detail in
3. Bring up the “blacks” level until you start losing detail in
4. Increase the contrast setting to taste. If necessary, lower the
exposure setting again to regain detail in the skintones.
5. Add a subtle vignette to focus attention on the model, if you feel
like it helps the image.
Chapter 3. White Limbo
The setup actually uses the white seamless backdrop as a giant light source. Shooting lights
directly at the background creates a white “limbo,” and generates enough bounced light to act
as a “keylight” (primary source). Add white bouncecards on either side of the model to create
very soft, romantic, flattering lighting that wraps the model in a white glow.
A general rule of thumb to remember is that the softer the light, the more flattering it is. Hard
light cause every blemish and imperfection to cast a shadow, exaggerating pores, acne, etc.
Soft light flows across skin, illuminating
everything, but not spotlighting anything.
The big caveat to soft light is that it can also
look flat and boring. That’s why, throughout
these examples, you’ll see that I usually only
put a soft keylight on one side of a model:
that way the light is soft, but it still has some
directionality. I mention this here, because
this example breaks ALL the rules. Here, the
keylight isn’t in front of the model at all: it’s
behind her. And, since we’re bouncing light in
from both sides, there’s really no directionality
to the light at all.
All of which just goes to show that the only
rule in photography is: If it works, it works.
This setup is a good exercise in doing the
exact opposite of what you’d usually do, and
seeing how it works. Try it ... You’ll enjoy it!
Position one lamp on either side of the white backdrop. Use foamcore cards to keep the
lamps from shining directly on the model (or flaring the camera lens). By blasting light into
the backdrop, you will completely overexpose the background. Put white bouncecards on
either side of the model, just out of view of the camera, to keep her face from looking too dark.
Check your exposure carefully with this setup: if you overexpose the shot, you’ll lose image
information around the edge of the model. If you underexpose it, the background won’t be pure
white, and you’ll have to touch it up manually. If your model has dark hair, you can expect to
retain more detail around the edges of her head than if your model is blonde.
This setup lends itself to a very romantic, intimate
style. Minimal clothing, bedroom eyes and tousled
hair work well. If you want to dress it up a bit, you
can bring in sheets and pillows for the model to
nestle into. Depending on how much the model is
comfortable showing, she could wear anything from
a nightgown to nothing at all, and the shot would
Because this is a more intimate setup, keeping the
model on the ground works well with the concept.
If you have your model reclining, direct her to keep
her head upright; tilting the head backwards can
make veins pop out on the forehead, which isn’t the
most attractive look.
The post-processing challenge here is to keep detail around the
edges of the model’s hair and body, while leaving the background
pure white, and not letting the face go too dark.
Processing the shot in black and white gives it a bit of an artsy
(more upscale) flair. Black and white lends itself well to higher
contrast, so ramping up the contrast in post works well. Don’t bring
up the blacks level too much, or the natural variation in skintones
will start to show up as blotches. Here’s a workflow that can be
1. Start off with a “flat” setting.
2. Pull the saturation to zero to make the shot black and white.
Note that, even with saturation at zero, white balance still affects
the way tones are rendered. You may want to play with this, if
you’re having trouble getting the tones in the image to fall the way
you want them.
3. Adjust the exposure and brightness to be as bright as possible
without losing detail in the skintones.
4. Bring up the contrast until as much of the background is
completely white as possible. With any luck, you won’t have to do
any retouching to remove shadows.
5. Because the background is one giant lightsource, you’ll probably
have a uniform lens flare over the whole image, This will result in a
fairly washed-out look. Bring up the blacks until the eyelashes and
other black areas appear a rich black, not dark grey.
Chapter 4. Casual Glamour
Using three different soft light sources including an economical alternative to an
industry standard - gives this setup a very
modern, magazine-cover look.
This is a very versatile setup. By simply
switching the backlight off, you can change
the tone of the shot from bright and cheerful
(as in the example on the right), to sexy and
mysterious (as in the example below).
One of the most popular lighting modifiers for high-end photography is the large “silk.”
Typically, this is a white synthetic fabric stretched on a large frame. Lamps are aimed into the
silk, which diffuses the light, essentially turning into one giant light source. This creates very
soft, flattering light, as well as large, appealing highlights in the model’s eyes.
Professional silks are quite expensive, but a nylon shower curtain liner from your local discount
retailer works just as well (although it won’t be as resistant to heat, so BE CAREFUL!). Hang it
on a length of PVC pipe (plastic zip ties work very well to attach the two together), and position
it in front of, and slightly to one side, of the model.
By bouncing another light into the wall behind you, you’ll create a nice soft fill light to
complement the soft shower curtain key light. Adding a third light with a small umbrella behind
the model will give the model a nice highlight in the hair to separate her from the background.
This setup works well with anything from lingerie to formal wear.
If you look at most lifestyle magazines, the cover models are usually just standing there,
perhaps with a hand on the hip, or a hand in the hair. You can do a progression of quite
different shots, just by having your model move through a simple sequence of arm positions.
Don’t be afraid to look silly,
It breaks the ice.
1. Start off with the “flat” setting, as always. Even if it looks
horrible, it’s best to start with a clean slate.
2. If you don’t have any actual white or neutral gray in the image,
pull a color balance off the whites of the model’s eyes, and then
adjust to taste.
3. Bring up the blacks until the shadows look nice and rich, and
slowly bring up the contrast to taste. Add a vignette, if you think it
helps the composition.
4. Add the finishing touches by
working with the color controls in
your RAW processing software.
Try bringing up the orange and
red luminance (brightness), to
make skintones look smooth and
creamy. Also, try lowering the
orange saturation to to give the
model’s skintones a very clean,
Chapter 5. Men’s Magazine
Using a bright background and soft keylight
allows you to create the look associated with
upscale men’s magazines. Simple posing
guidelines guarantee great results.
A large umbrella creates a reliable soft source for the model and the portion of the white
background in front of her. Using a light on either side of the background will overexpose
it nicely. Use white foamcore to block the background lights from hitting the model directly.
Position another piece of white foamcore on the side of the model opposite the key light to fill
in the shadows. Use more foamcore to block the background lights from hitting your lens.
This type of setup works well with a lot of warm, golden tones in the makeup. A model with a
deep tan will look terrific with this setup, while a model with fairer skin will need a little work in
post to keep from looking too pale.
An astonishing number of men’s magazine covers use almost exactly the same pose: the
model kneeling at an angle to the camera, looking at the lens. You can achieve several
variations on this pose very easily just by having the model lean lean forward at varying
angles. In this sequence of photos, notice how the placement of the model’s hands and
shoulders determines her posture. Directing your model to arch her back, regardless of how
she’s positioned, will usually give you good results.
The goal of post-processing with this shot is to keep the clean,
white background, while giving the model a healthy skintone, and
maintaining an overall high-contrast look.
1. Start off with a “flat” setting.
2. Slowly bring up the contrast to taste. If this doesn’t give you
pure white in the foreground, add a negative-strength (makes it
3. Bring up the blacks until the eyelashes and other areas look
pure black. Bring the exposure up until you start losing detail in
skintones. Pull the brightness down to regain detail in skin. For this
look, some clipped highlights are okay.
4. Bring the overall saturation up
a little bit. Then bring the orange
and red saturation up a bit more to
make the skintones glow. If your
model’s skin or the makeup leaves
something to be desired, you may
not be able to increase the red
saturation without exaggerating
blemishes. You can also try
increasing the red luminance a bit
to diminish complexion issues, but
be careful not to let the lips start
looking too pale.
Chapter 6. Vintage Glamour
By using hard lights, retro styling, and high
contrast black and white processing, this setup
evokes the glamorous publicity shots of 1940s
and ‘50s Hollywood.
Modern photography uses lots of soft lighting. Vintage photos, on the other hand, used lots
of hard lighting. This lighting can be difficult to work with, because it generates very dark
shadows, and those shadows need to be in the right places on the face to look good.
For this setup, we’ll use two lights: a keylight, and a backlight. The backlight needs to be bright
enough to create a bright highlight on the hair, but not so bright that it blows out the detail or
flares the lens. Use foamcore to bounce fill light towards the model, and block the backlight
from shining into the lens, and use another piece to keep it from shining on the backdrop.
Wardrobe, makeup and hairstyling are key to
pulling off this setup. It’s very helpful to bring
in reference material – old Hollywood glamour
shots, and modern, “retro” shots – to show your
stylist what the model should look like. “Finger
waves” in the hair are a good bet, as is dark red
lipstick and dark eyeliner.
For this setup, posing can be more formal than for
a modern-styled shot. Both eyes need to be in full
light. You don’t want too much of a shadow from
the nose, but you need a little bit to give the face
some sense of dimension.
For a classic, vintage glamour look, keep this shot in high-contrast
black and white. For a more pinup-themed look, put it in slightly
1. Start off with the “flat” setting.
2. Set the saturation to zero to make the image black and white.
Note that, even with saturation at zero, white balance still affects
the way tones are rendered. Tweak this setting now, if you’re not
happy with the way the skintones look.
3. Bring up the contrast until you get a general look you like.
4. Bring up the blacks until you start losing detail in the dark areas
of the image, then bring up the brightness until you start losing
detail in the skintones. If your software has a “recovery” slider, you
may need to pull it up a bit to retrieve shadow detail.
7. Add a heavy vignette to support the vintage spotlight effect.
8. This setup will highlight stray hairs, so you may want to use the
clone brush in Photoshop to do a little cleanup (or send the images
to an inexpensive retoucher, such as donimages.com).
Chapter 7. Book Cover
This setup introduces a couple of different
elements. Working with two models in one
composition can be a challenge, and when
a shot is intended for a specific purpose – in
this case, a book cover – other compositional
requirements need to be kept in mind – in this
case, leaving plenty of space above the models’
heads for the book title.
Of course, this setup will work equally well for a
single model as well.
Anytime you’re working with more than one model, one of the biggest challenges you’ll face
with lighting is trying to keep the models from casting shadows on each other. The most
effective way to solve this issue is to use a very large, very soft source. In this case, I’ve aimed
a monolight into a large umbrella, which turns into one giant lightsource, casting shadows so
soft that they’re not distracting at all.
To move the shot away from the single-light fashion look, I added a subtle backlight (also shot
through umbrellas) for each model. This had the added advantage of casting indirect light on
the background, bringing up the overall brightness of the image.
With high-budget shoots, you
can bring in a wardrobe stylist
to ensure that the models will
be wearing exactly what you
want. The rest of the time, the
best you can do is request that
the models bring a few different
outfits. I had planned to have
both models wearing lingerie for
this shot, but as it turned out,
the clothes that they brought just didn’t coordinate very well with each other. The only item of
clothing that they both had in common turned out to be a white shirt, which – in conjunction
with the ever-popular black panties – became the wardrobe choice for this image.
As with the Men’s Magazine and White Limbo setups, this setup seemed to lend itself fairly
clearly to a more intimate, less theatrical direction with hair and makeup. Tousled hair and
bedroom eyes are a safe bet anytime you’re shooting models in their skivvies.
With two models, the key is to get them working off each other. Try to get them to interact a bit.
Work within their comfort level: keep it fun, not sleazy.
Even though the basic lighting setup is similar to the Fashion/
Glamour Crossover setup, I wanted a more brighter, more
eye-catching look for this shot, which called for a different postprocessing workflow.
1. Start off with a “flat” image, as always. I left extra room at
the top of my image because I knew I wanted to use this for
the book cover, and I needed space for the title. Normally, you
wouldn’t leave that much “head room.”
2. Lower the exposure and bring up the contrast until detail
starts getting lost in the highlights. Bring up the brightness
until skintones look bright, and lower the exposure more, if
3. If you have a “recovery” feature (as in Lightroom), use it to
cheat the skintones a little brighter, without losing detail in the
highlights. Be careful not to use it too heavily, or the skintones
will start to take on a reddish tinge.
Chapter 8. Colorful Glamour
So far, all the examples in this book
have used fairly neutral backdrops.
However, you can have a lot of fun
with bright colors. Also, by pairing a
soft keylight with a hard backlight,
you can easily achieve a very modern
This style of image is frequently used
in entertainment magazines, alcohol
advertisements, and in the publicity
photos for television programs and
Use an umbrella as the keylight. The closer you have the umbrella to the model, the darker
the background will seem by comparison. For this example, I used two backlights, each with
a layer of “tough spun” diffusion cine-gel clipped to it with clothespins. This is a trick from the
world of film and video production, where “gels” of varying textures and colors are frequently
used to modify light. In this case, the diffusion gel doesn’t really soften the backlight so much
as it helps to even it out a bit. To keep the backlights from shining on the backdrop and
washing it out, place them farther back than the backdrop. To keep them from flaring your lens,
use pieces of foamcore on stands to block them from the camera’s view.
This setup calls for a very contemporary look.
Be careful of being too faddish, but definitely ask
your stylist to give your model an up-to-date hair
and makeup treatment.
Because the lighting and background are so
bold, the model really doesn’t have to do much.
This is another case of “less is more,” so usually
having the model simply stand there and look at the camera is plenty.
When in doubt, always refer to reference material. Keep a file with pages and covers from
magazines that caught your eye. Even if a photo has lousy lighting, it might have a great pose
that you can keep as a reference.
1. Start off with the usual “flat” setting.
2. Pull a white balance off the whites of the model’s eyes.
Adjust to taste.
3. Bring up the blacks until the shadow areas start to lose detail.
Bring up the contrast to taste. Adjust the brightness until the
skintones are bright, but retain detail in the highlights. It’s okay
if the edges of the model’s face, where the backlights hit, are
overexposed to the point of looking pure white. In fact, that
usually works well.
4. Add a dark vignette to spotlight the model.
There are many arbitrary distinctions associated with photography. Categories like “glamour”
are, in truth, so nebulous as to be useful only in very general, stylistic terms. I hope that
you will explore the techniques I’ve covered in this book, experiment with them to find what
works best for you, and use them to expand your bag of tricks, regardless of what style of
photography you’re working in.
The key principles I’ve tried to convey in the preceding pages are these:
1. Using a single large, soft light source can be a very effective foundation to a successful
2. Simple, straightforward posing is easier and more upscale-looking than unnatural or
blatantly sexual posing.
3. Limited equipment and space is no excuse for lousy photos. If you can’t afford monolights or
off-camera flash units, use worklamps or window light. If you don’t have seamless paper, use a
piece of foamcore. If you don’t have models, practice on yourself.
If you take only one lesson from this book, I hope it’s this: regardless of what you have or don’t
have, you CAN shoot upscale glamour.
I wish you the best of luck, and I welcome your comments and questions. I blog about
my continuing efforts to find simpler, more effective ways to do things (photographic and
otherwise) at Vid35.com, and you can email me at [email protected]