Glamour Photography Guide: Tips & Tricks for a Successful Photo Shoot

From old Hollywood portraits to modern-day magazine covers, there’s a hundred percent chance you’ve seen a glamour photo, even if you didn’t realize it! Glamour photography can be closely related to a few different genres of photography, which makes it difficult for some people to recognize glamour as its own genre.

This guide will set out to define exactly what makes an image a glamour photograph and we’ll explain how glamour is different from other genres. We’ll describe what makes a successful glamour shot and give you some tips for shooting glamour photography. 

Glamour Photography
Photo by Jonaorle

What is glamour photography?

Glamour photography is similar to portrait photography in that it always uses human subjects. But glamour photography always sets out to capture the beauty of the model. Glamour photos are all about classic beauty. Anything else in the image — the set, the model’s clothes, the makeup, props — are all secondary and are meant to enhance the beauty. Most glamour photos have an emphasis on the model’s face.

Glamour photography vs. other genres

Glamour isn’t well understood because it’s often confused or lumped in with fashion, portrait, and even boudoir photography. While there is quite a bit of overlap between these styles, there are some distinct differences, too.

  • Glamour vs. fashion: While they can often look similar, in fashion photography, the emphasis is more on clothing, shoes, or accessories. The model may be beautiful, but the ultimate goal of the photograph is to sell what he or she is wearing.
  • Glamour vs. portrait: Glamour photography is a type of portrait photography. But the portrait genre is very broad. It encompasses many types of photography including pets, fashion, boudoir, weddings, families, and many more. 
  • Glamour vs. boudoir: Glamour and boudoir can be very difficult categories for some people to distinguish between. But, there are differences. While they both set out to enhance the subject’s beauty, boudoir photography tends to lean more to the sensual side. Boudoir is also shot in a more private and personal setting than most glamour photography. Additionally, boudoir photos include more full-body shots, whereas glamour tends to focus more often on the face.
glamour photo
Photo by Ali Pazani

What’s the best camera for glamour photography?

If you want to produce the best glamour photographs for your clients, you should invest in quality gear. That means getting a professional quality camera that will allow you to manually adjust your exposure settings and change lenses. Whether you opt for a DSLR or a mirrorless camera is a matter of preference. There are fantastic, well-rated options available for whichever you choose.

It’s very likely that your client will want to print their images in a photo album or have them framed, so make sure you get a camera with a high resolution so you’ll have no problem printing at any size. Look for a full-frame body that has a reputation for good low light performance and you’ll have no trouble in any lighting situation.

What is the best lens for glamour photography?

A camera is only as good as the glass you put on the front of it. So, make sure you always invest in great lenses. In other words, never buy an expensive camera and then put a cheap lens on the front of it or you’re wasting your money!

Remember, glamour photography is portrait photography. The best portrait lenses are around 50-85mm in focal length. Any wider than that and you risk distorting your model’s face. Much longer, and you’ll risk being too far away from your model. 85mm is a favorite focal length for portrait photographers. 

Look for a lens with a wide maximum aperture of at least f/2.8 (but even wider is better). This will give you a shallow depth of field to soften your background and easily separate your model from any distractions, which is a necessity for glamour portraits.

Glamour photography lighting
Photo by Bestbe Models

Other glamour photography gear

Lighting is essential for glamour photography. Natural light and reflectors, light modifiers, Speedlights, or a full studio lighting setup—the choice is yours. But use light to your advantage to highlight the beauty of your model.

5 Tips for glamour photographers

Photo by Anastasiya Gepp

Avoid distractions

Simplicity is important. Remember, glamour photography is all about beauty and everything in the image should support that. Remove anything that distracts from it, whether it’s jewelry that takes the eye away from the model or an article of clothing that doesn’t work.

glamour posing
Photo by Ali Pazani

Posing is essential

Posing people can be difficult to master, especially if you’re doing full-body portraits. Study poses in magazines, take classes on posing, and pay special attention to hands and feet when you shoot. 

glamour angles
Photo by Qazi Ikram Ul Haq

Play with your angles

Experiment with the position of your camera and switch up your angles. Try shooting from down below and up above. Try different rules of composition, like the rule of thirds, negative space, and straight on. Give yourself lots of options to play with when you get to the editing room.

glamour makeup
Photo by Paz shots

Use a makeup artist

Remember, glamour photography is all about that perfect, beautiful face. Sometimes that means hiring a professional makeup artist who knows how to enhance the model’s natural beauty. This will save you a lot of time in post-processing. 

glamour expression
Photo by Cihan Oğuzmetin

Expression is important

Your model’s facial expression isn’t everything, but it is important. It can make or break a glamour photograph. A smile or laugh, for example, can shift a photo away from glamour. Keeping the face relaxed avoids wrinkles. 

Editing glamour photos

Most glamour photographs will need to be retouched. That’s not to say they need excessive retouching, though. It’s important as a photographer that you celebrate the beauty of your model but don’t edit their photo so much that they no longer look like themselves.

Post-processing for glamour photography includes touching up blemishes on the skin, smoothing skin (while being careful to retain the skin’s texture), highlighting cheekbones, enhancing makeup, sharpening focus, bringing out the color of the eyes, and whitening teeth.

glamour photography
Photo by Ali Pazani

Famous glamour photographers

If you’re struggling with inspiration, it’s always a good idea to turn to other photographers’ portfolios to spark your creativity. Check out these famous glamour photographers.

  • Helmut Newton: One of the most well-known glamour and fashion photographers, he is known for shooting powerful nudes.
  • George Hurrell: Shot many famous Hollywood portraits and mastered studio lighting. 
  • Sam Shaw: Most famous for his iconic shot of Marilyn Monroe standing over the air vent in her white dress. 

Final thoughts

While it is often confused with fashion and boudoir, as you can see, glamour photography is all about one thing — beauty. If your goal as a photographer is to capture and emphasize beauty, perhaps shooting glamour photography would be a good fit for you! 

Brooke Arnold

Brooke Arnold is a writer and award-winning photographer specializing in cat portraits. She is an advocate for rescue animals and is best known for dressing up her cats as famous people like Bob Ross and Evel Knievel. Her biggest claim to fame, however, is being child #2 in an orange juice ad that hung in a mall in Miami at age 8.

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