What can I say…I’m a sucker for a pretty girl. Not so much the super-airbrushed models who look inhuman as much as real women in everyday situations, just being themselves. This is why I’ve often photographed the girl I was dating.
At first though, I remember being to shy to ask. Too worried about offending her, making her feeling like an object, or just thinking I was some kind of perv. But I wasn’t able to resist and I’m happy I now have some meaningful photographs of people I still care about, even if we’ve parted ways. Plus, in some instances, it’s helped us grow closer.
However, it wasn’t without its challenges. And as I look around the interweb, I can see I’m not the only dude (or dudette), who appreciates an alluring photograph of a pretty lady.
Photos of women often “convert” better (for men and women), if you’re running a marketing campaign. According to the Gorilla Girls, 76% of the nudes in the Metropolitan Museum of Art are of women. And let’s just say that naked girls seem to be pretty popular on those websites that people like you and I would never look at. :)
But just because you want to take the photo doesn’t necessarily mean your partner will want to be your subject. So, before I give you a handful of tips to shoot pretty pictures, I’ll briefly delve into the deeper issues, so you know what you’re getting into.
Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at…
This determines not only most relations between men and women, but also the relation of women to themselves. Thus she turns herself into an object — and most particularly an object of vision: a sight. – John Berger
John Berger wrote a revolutionary book in the 1970’s called, “Ways of Seeing,” where he discusses how to look at art. However, one of the most intriguing and controversial parts of the book addresses how women have been treated as objects in art throughout history and what that’s done to female psychology.
And even though I’m betting your girlfriend isn’t a pro model, she’s still effected by how historically men have viewed women…and you are, too. However, it’s not my intention to dive straight into a complex pool of psychology, philosophy and gender roles. Gosh, I’d hate to instigate a little battle of the sexes here at Photodoto, and the most important lesson is simple…tread carefully. The same way you’d handle any sensitive issue in your relationship.
Helmut Newton, the controversial fashion photographer known as the “King of Kink,” once said,
“I form them to whatever I want. I remember some young model complained and said, ‘Oh but Helmut that’s not me.’ [Which he replied…] ‘But my dear, I’m not interested in you. You’re getting paid to be made into what I want.’
But do NOT follow Helmut’s advice…do the opposite. Appreciate your girlfriend for the beautiful woman she is, and help her feel more comfortable with her physical appearance …then the photos will almost take themselves.
Now, that I’ve thoroughly warned you: I’m not saying your girlfriend won’t be interested. I’m betting she will because everybody, even dudes, wants to have someone notice how hot they are. Plus, if you can help her feel more beauty about herself, then you might become closer as a couple.
1. Connect First
Start with a conversation outside of the bedroom. The next time you’re out on a date, express your desire to photograph her. Then ask her how she would feel about that. Simple stuff, and you know how to connect with your girlfriend better than I, so follow your instincts.
It could help to mention specific details that have caught your eye. The way her hair’s wild in the morning, but she has such a beatific look on her face. Or the way she looks at you elegantly across the table of your favorite restaurant. Be descriptive about whatever you’ve genuinely found beautiful.
Then, help your girlfriend open up by asking questions and really listening. Don’t convince her; start a conversation. Know that she has good reason to be cautious and has way more insecurities about her appearance than she’d ever share, no matter how “hot” she is.
This goes without saying, but if she’s not into it, then hear her out. She might change her mind down the line or maybe not (she’s a woman, after all).
2. Be Spontaneous
Once she’s agreed, great, but I don’t recommend planning a shoot. That seems to add too much pressure. Instead, just seize a spontaneous moment, when you are both having fun and relaxed. Use the tips below to help her stay calm, just like you would help any of your photography subjects relax.
3. Choose a Comfortable Place
Choose a place she feels comfortable in, with a warm temperature and dim light. Maybe a room in the house she relaxes in, the living room, kitchen or a spare bedroom. For some reason, I haven’t had good luck shooting in the bedroom. Not sure why, but maybe it also adds too much pressure?
Natural lighting is best, so do it during the day, maybe on a lazy Sunday morning or afternoon. If you can head outdoors, that’s great too. Bonus points for choosing a place that shows her doing something she loves, like in her studio, garden or maybe her woman cave?
4. Add Props
Give her something to play with to release a little nervous tension. Again, choosing something relevant to her passions will only make her more comfortable and improve the photos. Sometimes just random stuff to play around with can be fun, too, such as candles, hula hoops or other stuff you like to play with.
Encourage her to dress in something she feels beautiful in. Maybe she has a favorite dress? Or even her favorite chill clothes could work. You could also play out a theme or a fantasy that she’s had. Or invite her to create a fantasy you’ve had.
If you’re doing your job right (as partner and photographer), then she’ll want to delight you.
5. Suggest Poses
Suggest some poses that are similar to how your girlfriend moves. You could use a posing app to show her how it looks. For example, if she likes to dance, then a pose resembling a dancer could work. Be sure to focus the aspects of her looks that you know she’s proud of and avoid showing the areas she’s insecure about.
6. A Handful of Tips & Tricks
- Shoot tight. Instead of shooting whole body shots, choose close-ups of different areas.
- Go for the bokeh effect. Something about that blur is sexy.
- Use lotion. Her skin will shine and stand out more. Not to mention, it’s a fun pre-shoot activity to help you both relax.
- Sip some wine. A glass of wine or two will loosen things up.
- Give out lots of specific and genuine compliments. Always let her know what looks beautiful and respect how vulnerable she is.
7. Connect Last
When you’re finished, you’ll want to go through the photos together, letting her delete any she doesn’t like and choosing the ones you both do like. Make this bonding session as important as the photo session.
Be sure to ask for feedback, too. How did it feel for her? What aspects did she enjoy? What poses felt comfortable? What felt uncomfortable? Here’s your chance to be a great listener and wow her with how you pay attention (aka at some point take a bathroom break and jot down some notes, so you don’t forget! ;) Just like anything, you’ll both with get better with time.
John Berger again says,
“To be naked is to be oneself. To be nude is to be seen naked by others, yet not recognized for oneself.”
Not that you must take such photos, but John’s quote is a good reminder to help your partner feel like herself. After that, it’s relatively easy to take attractive photos.
Have you had positive experiences photographing your girlfriend or boyfriend? If so, we’d love to hear what’s worked for you. Please leave a comment below, and we’ll try our best to answer you personally.