Many photographers are intrigued at the prospect of creating glamour photographs, but feel the lack of “proper” equipment makes this an unattainable goal. Nothing is farther from the truth. My “No Frills” approach to glamour photography doesn’t require a studio and, as Wilford Brimley might have said, “you don’t even need fancy studio lighting equipment.” All that’s really needed to produce professional quality glamour images is a camera with interchangeable lenses, a few simple photographic accessories, and models willing to pose for you. My basic lens kit is simple and the specific lens used is determined by whether I’m shopping indoors or outside.
The following suggestions are built around two basic facts-of-life about shooting indoor glamour is space and light. For openers, there is never enough space indoors to shoot and I often find myself pressed up against the opposite wall when shooting glamour photographs. This translates into shorter lenses than I might otherwise prefer.
The corollary to this dilemma is that there is never enough light to shoot indoors. OK, you can use additional flash and I occasionally use it for fill, but glamour photography is about soft light and there’s nothing softer than window light. The only problem is that there isn’t always the proper amount available. This translates into using fast lenses. Indoors, I prefer using 85 or 135mm lens but don’t discount the so-called “normal” 50mm lens that may be bundled with your camera. Even a normal lens cheapie that sells for $80 can make great shots. Exposure for the above photograph that was made in the north-facing bay window in my kitchen was 1/90th of a second at f/4.5 in Program mode at 400 ISO with an EF 50mm f/1.8 lens I bought used for fifty bucks. Flash, disused by a Sto-fen diffuser mounted on a Canon EX420, was used as fill.
Which lenses do I use where? It depends on the multiplication factor of a particular camera. If I was making that same shot in the kitchen with a camera with a full frame chip, I might use am 85mm lens instead of a 50mm. Either way the perspective provided by any 85mm lens, especially a fast one, makes it ideal for indoor glamour images no matter what kind of digital SLR you use. Depending on your SLRs multiplication factor the 135mm lens can be tight fit for some indoor locations but if you have the space you will love the perspective this lens produces.
Outdoors, you almost always have both more light and more room so that’s when I start using longer focal length and zoom lenses. There’s almost always enough room to do full length poses outdoors and longer focal lengths allow shallower depth-of-field and consequently softer-looking backgrounds. For openers I start with zoom lenses in the slightly wide angle to mild telephoto range. A lens in the focal length range of 28-135mm provides flexibility for choosing high or low camera positions. Another option is something from the mild telephoto to the longer telephoto range such as the classic 80-200 or 75-300mm lens. Long focal lengths provided by lenses in the 75-300mm range produce the shallow depth-of-filed that allow a model, especially when photographed at the end of that range and in a full-length pose to “pop” out of the background and place the focus squarely on her.
Are these lenses the only one for glamour photography? No. There are times when wider-angle lenses used indoors will enhance the look of leggy models and outdoors you can use focal lengths longer than 300mm for a more dramatic look.
Joe is the author of the new book “Joe Farace’s Glamour Photography” (http://amzn.to/fLDhdu) published by Amherst Media.
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