Not all subjects are models, but all models are subjects when it comes to glamour photography and this statement is critical in the private glamour business, especially if you plan to succeed in this business.
Let’s look at models first. Normally beginning or even established professional agency models don’t come looking for glamour photos for their portfolios, though on occasion models have asked me to photograph them a bit more glamorous or sexy for their significant other. Some are even willing to trade glamour modeling in exchange for fashion, commercial or editorial images for their portfolios (books).
I’ve even had many models ask me to photograph them for submission to Maxim or Playboy. Usually this is no problem and easy to accomplish as most professional models have the proper height and weight proportionately and watch their diets to maintain their shapely figures, usually youthful bodies with experience in front of the camera–they know how to pose without asking. The camera lens is their best friend and no matter how you photograph them the images will be strong and the model will stand out–this is how your normal private glamour subject wants to appear on print, like a model.
In the case of private glamour subjects, sometimes the latter holds true, sometimes it doesn’t. Most subjects are rarely younger than 35 years of age and some are even close to 60. There are those that have endured the sometimes body-altering, childbearing process, while others have never had children. Some are not photogenic, and most have no experience in front of the camera. As a photographer you are not starting from ground zero, you’re not even on the surface, thus this is more challenging than any traditional photo shoot and to make money in this business you’ll usually have only one photo session to accomplish “model-quality” images of your subject–it’s a challenge, but if you get it right the first time you’ll gain at least two or three new clients, if you don’t and your client isn’t happy you’ll lose ten future clients.
Word of mouth is what will make or break you in this business when it comes to your subject’s happiness. If your subject is overwhelmed about your work, she’ll not only “love you” but she’ll show all her friends and you’ll be the talk of town. If your photography sucks, you’re toast, worse than a wedding photographer who blows a wedding. This is why it’s important to understand your subject and to meet your subject at least once before any shoot so you know ahead of time what you’ll face, thus creating the conditions for success, not failure. (Rapport)
If your subject is short and heavy, you know you’ll shoot from lower angles with probably wider focal length lenses and utilize more shadows in the images. If your subject is tall and slender, medium telephoto lenses and more straight-on and parallel shooting angles to your subject’s geometric plane works best. (Body)
If your subject has a great complexion, no problem, almost any professional make-up artist will do, if your subject has a rough complexion, then hire the best make-up artist money can buy and pass the cost on to your subject. You’ll also utilize the more forgiving lighting techniques covered in this book. (Skin)
If your subject is “prim and proper” then handle her with kid gloves, though all subjects should always be handled with the utmost respect and in a dignified manner. Private glamour is not a dating game, it’s a business that relies on creativity and technical knowledge, not on your cologne, though it relies on manners and politeness. Your subject is never wrong nor are you always right. (Personalities)
If your subject is older and shows significant signs, like crow’s feet under the eyes or intense wrinkles, then understand the quality of light chosen will be more important than ever and/or you’ll use diffusion or softness techniques to help take years off your client. Post-production will also become your best friend. (Age)
If your subject is not photogenic, then provide her with props, hats, or something to accentuate to the subject while not taking away from her inner-beauty. Find a method to bring any sliver of beauty out of your subject in your images. (Beauty)
If your subject is youthful, perfect height, weight, photogenic and knows how to move, then you have a model and should show her to a reputable modeling agency–but don’t become a model manager. Models come in all ages and in various categories and a good professional photographer will help (not manage) any potential model move forward in modeling. (Professionalism)
The bottom line, all subjects are not models, though they come in many forms, shapes, personalities, cultures and even different society or class statuses. As a photographer you must understand these factors in order to be successful in this business as well as hone your abilities to communication with your subject effectively. So let’s look at rapport, body, skin, personality, age, beauty and professionalism more closely.