When you think of glamour photography, what pops into your head?
I’ll tell you what comes to mine: the 1990s, big hair, bright makeup, a boa or a big string of pearls, star filters, and JCPenney. Here’s a snapshot of google image results.
Bahaha-- kinda dyin’ right now. Luckily, personal style and also photography style has changed.
It’s basically beauty photography, in the plainest terms. And boudoir photography, my main gig, was basically born out of the Glamour Photography genre.
Fun fact: I seriously dislike the word Boudoir, mostly because it’s so painful to hear others try to pronounce the word correctly. Glamour though? It makes me think of the above.
While Boudoir was born out of Glamour, and a square is a form of a rectangle, Glamour takes some qualities of Boudoir but isn’t quite the same. So let’s re-evaluate what makes a glamorous photo.
In the photos above, you’re seeing everything feminine, including hair done to the max. Back then, that meant a perm, lots of hairspray and LOTS of teasing. You’re seeing what looks like professional makeup application as well. Back then, that meant lots of bright colored eyeshadow, eyeliner, lots of blush and contouring, and shiny lipstick. You’re also seeing decorative hats, gloves, and big jewelry, I’d love to ask, “What in the &%$# were they thinking?!” But I’m sure our kids will be saying that about our style at some point down the road.
You’re also seeing a style of posing and lighting that is very feminine. Hands framing faces, lots of angles and triangles in the arms and neck areas, shoulder and chest exposure, and light that is flattering to the face. While I’m not sure what kind of direction was used to evoke emotion and expression in some of these photos (which I’m sorry but some of them are just pretty silly) these aspects of glamour photography are pretty classic and stand to this day.
So let’s take a look at some modern Glamour photography. These are images that stand out to me and make me totally excited about shooting Glamour. Naturally, I made a board using Pinterest. Here’s the link and here’s the snapshot:
Let’s talk about the parallels between these modern Glamour photos and the ones that literally make me think of Fraggle Rock.
These are beauty shots. They focus on the face, hair, shoulders, neck, and hands. While Boudoir focuses on much more of the body and body language, glamour shots are more like beauty headshots with pizzazz.
So these are like beauty headshots with pizzazz, and what I mean by pizzazz is the added styling. Nowadays (thankfully), instead of using boas and generic costume jewelry, these images are styled with more intention. Instead of just throwing in props, modern glamour portraits use more body language, shadowing, and minimal but intentional props. And instead of color everywhere, the image is kept a bit more classic and neutral with a pop of color. Don’t get me wrong; some clients and stylists are all about color! But for the most part, unless this is a Mac advertisement, I think our generation values more of a timeless image instead of following what’s “in” at the moment.
There’s a good chance that if you went to JcPenney for glamour shots, your photographer sat you down, gave you the same couple of props they offered the last customer who walked in, told you to look at the camera, and it was up to you to do something with those props. Not much direction is given by a store employee whose job it is to hold a camera and just let the rest happen.
That’s exactly how those first glamour shots look to me, and to be honest, I’m not sure much has changed in the realm of superstore studios. (Do they even still exist?) Now, the world of professional photography is more cutthroat than ever. If you want good photos, you don’t go to JCPenney. Your cousin, my cousin, and everyone else’s cousin is or knows a professional photographer. And as a professional photographer, that forces us to set ourselves apart from the next, choose a niche, and really become the expert in that niche.
I wouldn’t. A glamour or boudoir photographer would be specifically trained in guiding you through the right kind of body language for this type of photo. They would be able to tell you exactly how to sit, which way to turn and tilt your head, where to look, and what expression goes with all of that. The photographer would guide you through your hand placement, and tell you how to hold your prop or clothing in a way that makes sense with the pose and your expression. Every little piece of the photo must jive, and that is a huge difference between 1990s glamour shots vs. today.
At the end of the day, Glamour photography shots are very much still alive, just in a very different form than the ones you discovered in your Aunt Doreen’s shoebox when you were little. Photography, and personal style have thankfully taken a turn away from gaudy and toward minimal and classy. Because of what they’re known as traditionally, you probably wouldn’t go to a photographer and tell them you want Glamour shots. Instead, you’d probably try to explain your vision to them and say something along the lines of,
“I kinda want Boudoir, but less nudity… more like a headshot, but sexier than a headshot? Shoulders-up, maybe? A studio lifestyle shoot mixed with boudoir?”
What you’re looking for is a beautiful, sensual portrait of yourself, and this is what today’s glamour shot is. Glamour shots are still very much relevant, as evidenced by platforms like Pinterest and Instagram; they’re spreading and being shared like wildfire across the platforms. And just as our moms and aunts did, we all want and should have a beautiful portrait of ourselves showing a bit more something than a traditional headshot, even if that something is mere personality. Millennials, especially, greatly value individualism and personal innovation, and they’re using portrait photography to display and share just that.
While I say that I shoot Boudoir photography, I feel like glamour photography is inherently included in that genre. I photograph women, and my main goal and passion is to guide them in expressing themselves in a sensual way. To show them how beautiful they are, through my lens. And just to come full circle with this analogy, while Glamour photography is a square, with specific parameters, it’s also a rectangle (or a form of sensual portrait photography, like boudoir.) Get it? Am I crazy? Maybe. I’d shoot Glamour shots all day, just the same.
My advice: If you’re looking for a session of this type, use the resources available to you and put together a collection of images that best portray your vision. Pinterest, Instagram, and Google images have a plethora of ideas and examples. How much skin do you want to show? How styled up (or down) are you looking to get? Share the images with your photographer so he or she can get on the same page as you.
You might feel silly asking for Glamour Photography shots, but rest assured, you’re far from being the only one in pursuit of a beautiful portrait of yourself.