She Bought You a Digital Camera, You Bought Her Lingerie
21 May 2010
It's you and her, a passion-filled, fun-loving couple. You've just celebrated your most recent anniversary by exchanging gifts—she bought you that digital camera you had your heart set on, and you bought her a sexy, black, T-back teddy she didn't ask for. Now you're dying to take some sexy photographs of her (without making her think you belong on the "Man Show" with a disposable camera).
You have one problem. Although your sunset snapshots of the Grand Canyon looked "just great," you're not a professional photographer. Your lady may be sexy and sensual, but this is not the Grand Canyon and it's absolutely possible to make a beautiful woman look terrible in photographs if you don't know what you're doing. Do that, and you're toast — and you won't get a second chance!
As a professional photographer for 30 years, photographing the beautiful models and women I've met in my life, I fully understand the secret desire most men have to take some seriously sexy and sensuous photographs of their wives and girlfriends. So where do you start? What do you do? They didn't teach this in Art 101 in college. Besides, you were a freshman and the class was mandatory, so you slept halfway through it. Relax, I'm here to save the day, and maybe even add more spice to that relationship — or get some new blood pumping through a lackluster one!
Good professional photographers start by building rapport with the model. No question — rapport is one of the keys to successful images, especially when taking glamour and boudoir photography. I know, you think you've got this rapport thing covered just because you've already captured her love with your "charm." Better think again...
In fact, establishing rapport is even more difficult because she knows you so well. You'll have to start by letting her know how you feel about boudoir photography. Let her know it's not "cheesecake" to you — you'll be capturing her essence for both of you to cherish over time. Your goal is to capture her beauty, to capture it for all time, as only a photograph can do. Tell her it would be a crime to not record how beautiful she is right now. And that there would be nothing worse than to wish 20 years from now that the images had been made! Twenty years from now it just may be "too late."
First, let her know that your desire is to capture her inner beauty with her physical beauty. Your goal is to maximize her confidence in you and herself. She has to feel good about herself during the photo session, otherwise her facial expressions will not harmonize on film or those digital storage devices.
Understand, it is difficult for most women to pose scantily clad in front of a camera. Today, however, you can reassure her that the images will be private, because with your digital camera, computer and home printer, those images never have to leave the home. Sure, you've suggested this before, and she's often responded that she could look as good as those Victoria's Secret models. Now it's do or die.
Second, treat her like a lady, offer her a box of Godiva chocolates and a glass of Merlot to calm the nerves a bit. Communicate your thoughts, but don't try to solve her problems; just listen and reinforce her beauty in a subtle tone with choice words while shooting, staying calm and cool, mixed with a little bit of photographic passion. Remember: the origin of the word rapport from early times was defined as the "relationship created between a hypnotist and those hypnotized." The swinging watch is in your hands, but she wants to experience and feel the uplifting of her soul and self-esteem, not to "not remember a thing" when she wakes up.
She feels the comfort created by this new experience because you've selected a long-focal-length lens, from 85mm to 105mm, for your 35mm camera, which allows more distance between you and her, and she can't really see you because you're shooting with the light source behind you and the bed she's on is located in a dimly lit room, almost as if she's sitting in the path of a stage spotlight.
Longer lenses provide what I call the three "C"s of shooting: compression for the background, nice tight composition, and comfortable distance between you and the subject — not usually found in lenses that come as "standard" for most cameras. Digital cameras today come with a built-in flash, but if yours didn't, don't sweat it — all you need is one light source. You can use diffused window light during the day, or—with the latitude of exposure that digital cameras offer — light from a table lamp with the lamp shade removed and off to the side. Just set your camera to "auto white balance" to compensate for the color of the lamp. If you're really serious, buy a small light kit from your local photo store. Many are inexpensive, but a good value, and come digital-ready. Have her pose across the bed, and stay parallel to her to prevent distortion while keeping the main light slightly above her and around 45-degrees to the left or right of her face. Never shoot straight up, as people don't like to look at nostrils; shoot level or slightly from above; and vary your shots from horizontal to vertical. Verticals are more powerful than horizontals, though she may be lying down. Get close and shoot that "headshot" then move back, turn the camera, and shoot a full-length horizontal.
When you combine the atmosphere of great lighting with the sound of the shutter releasing, she'll feel safe, comfortable and confident in her looks and your photographic abilities. Along the way, explain to her your rationale in posing and composing each image — get her involved in the process and make her aware of the angles, focus, and close-ups. Never leave her guessing about your intentions.
Keep in mind that the shoot is never about the photographer. Try not to bring up the negative aspects of her life — always accentuate the positive. "Hold that pose...beautiful...perfect..." As a model once said to me, "there's a fine line between positive reinforcement and being condescending. I was always reminded that I was beautiful, but it never came across as being insincere or as a ploy. It was never so much a physical thing as it was about capturing a mood, an expression or what I was feeling inside. I never felt like a model posing to capture a look. It was more about capturing my feelings at the moment."
When all is said and done, your images should be cropped tight with your subject's eyes sharp and her complexion softened. Use a black scarf in front of your lens to diffuse the light source and produce soft skin tones. Your images should reflect detail in the shadows and highlights, but most important, show the harmony of the corners of her eyes with the corners of her lips — a smile — much like the portrait hanging at the Louvre museum in Paris, of Francesco del Giocondo's wife, Mona Lisa.
There should be subtle hints of the four "S"s found in glamour and beauty photography: sexiness, seductiveness, sultriness, and sensuousness. The images should be edited down to one, two or three, regardless of how many were originally taken. It's those photographs that will make the difference for both you and her and provide a piece of thread in the rope of life that you both passionately embrace over time.