Clean up the background
Clean and tidy the background! Mess, dirt and clutter really detract from your photos, so you should always remove as much of this as possible. You will be surprised how much of a difference this will make to your shots. Usually once the shoot starts you are preoccupied with the model, and don't notice the background much. So prepare the background before the shoot starts. If you are unsure take a photo of the empty scene first, and then fix up anything in the empty picture that looks untidy or messy.
Clean up the model
Be meticulous about the model's appearance - make sure that the make up is right, the fingernails are right, hair is in place, cover up any blotches or blemishes. Make sure that the model is not wearing tight clothing before the shoot (including tight underwear) as these will leave visible indentation marks on the skin. If the model is nude, make sure their body and pubic hair are properly groomed and trimmed. Run a careful eye over them prior to shooting, and then adjust anything like loose hair as you go along. Simply tidying up one's appearance makes a huge difference in the quality of the shot.
Use an uncluttered simple background
Glamour photos are all about the person, not the background they are in. So keep the background simple. You can choose a simple texture, shape or colour for the background that enhances the subject, but make sure that the background itself is not too "busy". The same goes for clothing or outfits - they should enhance the model rather than detract from them.
If you're taking an environmental shot (i.e. a person in a place) you only need a small part of the background to get a sense of where they are. So aim for a simple background which gives that sense of place, such as a tree to convey a park, or a patch of sand to convey the beach - that's all you really need.
Check the entire viewfinder, and don't chop off fingers or toes
It's funny how we don't notice things while we're shooting, but they show unexpectedly in the shot afterwards. You should look through the viewfinder (or the LCD on the back of your camera) and carefully inspect the entire image before you click the shutter. Check the edges and corners, check the background - look for anything that could be wrong or out of place and fix it before shooting.
You should also pay attention to things like fingers and toes. Either crop out the hands or feet entirely, or include them entirely. Cut off toes and fingers can look quite distracting in the finished image.
Zoom in closer, and crop afterwards
Glamour photos are all about the model - not about the background. Zoom in closer - make the model fill the entire frame. We'll get the idea of where the setting is. And if you're taking a full body shot rotate the camera so the model goes from end to end (i.e. portrait orientation) instead of being a small figure in the middle of a big empty landscape. Move the camera so that the model's head is at one end of the frame rather than in the centre, if the model's head is only in the centre the top half of the frame is effectively wasted with empty background only.
Once you've taken the image, you can always crop it in closer afterwards. A technique many photographers use is to figure out what crop they want to use, and then add a little bit of "padding" around the edges for safety, i.e. zoom out just a little bit. Afterwards on the computer you can crop that extra padding out (usually only about 5% of the image) while taking care not cut off fingers, toes, etc.
Separate the subject from the background
Portrait and glamour shots work best when the subject stands out from the background. The way to achieve this is to make the subject sharp and clear, but make the background blurry or fuzzy:
- Have your subject stand away from the background, i.e. have them closer to the camera than they are to the background. For example, if the background is a wall, don't stand just in front of it - instead stand 6ft or more away from it. When the subject is too close to the background they tend to get lost in it.
- Use a wider aperture. If you're shooting with an SLR choose an aperture of f/5.6 - f/8 for full body shots or f/4 - f/5.6 for head and torso shots. (If the model is standing or kneeling you can also use f/4 for great results.) If you're shooting with a compact then select the portrait mode in your camera. It's usually marked with a head and shoulders icon, and it will set these appropriate f/stops automatically for you.
Use 80mm+ focal length
|Making the subject stand out from the background. On the left the subject hides in the background wall. On the right they literally jump out at us.
To get body parts in proportion you should use a mid focal length like 80mm. Really short focal lengths like 28mm make noses, arms, legs and so on appear too large. If you're using a compact camera or one where the focal lengths are not marked on the lens barrel, simply zoom the lens out to its medium to long end to achieve the same effect. (You can also use longer focal lengths like 150-200mm if you like but you will need to increase the shutter speed to cope with the motion blur due to lens shake).
Variety of shots
Don't take heaps of shots that all look exactly the same - or more precisely don't choose too many that look the same when you're editing. Instead choose a variety of different shots. Try different poses, different outfits or different locations. Just make each photo look unique.
Use the right colour
Make sure your people look like people and not like Oompa-Loompas!
Focus on the eyes
The eyes have it. If your shot includes a face, make sure that you get the eyes sharp. You should focus your camera on the eyes, because this is where your viewers will look first. Portrait shots with blurry eyes look weird.
Diffuse the built-in flash
The built-in flash on many cameras produces that "deer in headlights" effect. It's not very flattering. If you must use the flash, diffuse it by sticking some tissue over it. The tissue should be light and thin and allow most of the flash's light to pass through - it will just "soften" and scatter the light to make it look not as harsh.
Use a low ISO and medium shutter speed, and don't shoot in the dark
Unless you know what you're doing, glamour shots rarely look good when they're too dark. You should ensure that the scene is adequately lit for your shot. Don't try to compensate for dark scenes by increasing the ISO or slowing the shutter speed - these tricks often end up ruining your shot instead. If there isn't enough light for your shot then add more light to the scene.
Words and images are taken from the Erotic Photo Lounge