So, you've been reading a lot recently about how pinup fashion is actually feminist, and are feeling inspired to do a pinup shoot. Or, maybe you've been a longtime fan of alternative and rockabilly style. Either way, you're ready to take the plunge and invest in your very own pinup portrait session. Well, girl, you're in for a treat. Investing in any form of professional portrait session can be really empowering and a valuable experience, but a glamour or pinup session is especially so.
For centuries, the female form has been seen as one of the most classic and essential expressions of natural beauty. Our sinuous and supple bodies have graced many a canvas throughout human history, and inspired both the greatest and most mediocre artists alike — all attempting to pay homage to the life affirming allure and strength that is femininity. Whether you're lanky or petite, wiry or plump, busty or small chested, or somewhere in between, you've got your own unique set of entirely feminine assets, all worth embracing, and all worthy of memorializing in the form of art.
Since the rise of the pinup genre in the early 1900s (the term pinup wasn't seen in the English language until 1941, but the artform can be seen dating back into the 1890s), the practice of memorializing the female form visually has taken on a much more controversial shape. Resulting from the publication of mass produced imagery, and meant to be torn out of a centerfold, or unfolded and casually "pinned up" or displayed on a wall without frame, the pinup genre quickly fell into the realm of the taboo. However, at its roots (as can easily be seen by viewing vintage content and reading about classic pinup beauties), the pinup style maintains both a cheeky, playful attitude, and a simple, straightforward homage to the female form. It is, at heart, quite body positive.
So, how do you jump on the bandwagon then? How can you be a part of this decades old legacy of flirty fun? Here are a few tips to help you prepare for a stellar and memorable pinup session.
1. Find Your Style
Anticipation is half the fun of an experience, right? Well, here's your chance to build some up. If you haven't done it yet, dedicate a bit of time to checking out the history of pinup photography. There are a lot of great images out there, created by a vast variety of talented models and photographers. And while you might not have any experience modeling, you do know your personal taste. Find photo references of the styles that inspire you, poses that you admire and you feel confident you'll be able to master (and a few that might push your limits, if you're comfortable with that, just for fun).
Remember, the pinup style has changed considerably over the years. Classic pinup, or cheesecake shots, are campy, playful, and usually pretty sweet. They have more to do with glamour photography than boudoir photography. Some more modern pinup styles have veered into the land of the risque and have more to do with exploring intense sexuality. Don't feel obligated to go that route — it's not for everyone, and although there's no shame in delving into that aspect of yourself, don't feel badly if you aren't that bold. Many of us aren't. Pinup photography can still be cute and classy, you just have to specify your style preference.
2. Figure Out Your Goals
Rule number one to being a good portrait client is knowing what your goals are. Are you doing this purely for yourself (if so, cheers to you, girl), to boost your self esteem and freeze time so that you can look back when you're 89 and remember how much of a babe you were? If so, your end product might be a bit different. You may be looking for a discreet, personal album that you can tuck out of sight when guests arrive, whereas if you plan on giving your photographs to your lover as a gift, you may want to invest in an array of framed wall prints, or a bedside folio of individual shots to be admired when you're home, or away. Knowing ahead of time what you want to use your images for will help your photographer photograph you in ways best suited for your final goal, and usually means more creative photographs within that format.
Another great option is to schedule a session with a group of friends. Partaking in pinup photography makes for a super fun and memorable girls day!
3. Shop Around — For The Right Photographer
Scheduling a pinup portrait session is not a last minute activity, nor is deciding on the right photographer for your needs. Just like choosing a poorly rated or inexperienced tattoo artist or hairdresser can have major impacts on your satisfaction in the end result of your service, shopping for a bargain photographer can leave you regretting your experience. Yes, good photography can be expensive, but you have to recognize that your portrait is an investment. It's not a purchase you'll be making weekly, or even monthly — in fact, at most you may be considering a yearly booking. And when it comes to pinup photography for the average person, you're realistically looking at just one or a small handful of sessions over the course of your entire lifetime. It's a totally unique experience, and you want to treat yourself to the best experience possible — even if that means saving in order to spend a little extra.
That being said, choosing a professional photographer with a strong portfolio isn't as difficult as you might think. It's nearly essential these days for photographers to have a good online presence. If they don't, they're missing out on your business. Most photographers will have their portfolios, contact information, and hopefully some reviews of satisfied customers easily accessible online. If you're looking for classy, full coverage pinup, you could search locally for a glamour photographer. If your style is more about showing a little more skin, a glamour photographer can help you out, but you may be better suited by going with a boudoir one.
Remember, don't just choose the top listed photographer that comes up in your local search. Visit a few websites and find a photographer that demonstrates proficiency in a style you admire. Or, consult friends who have done a pinup session and have photos you're impressed by to get their take on the pros and cons of their chosen professional. Also, consider your personal comfort level, and seek out a male or female photographer based off who you think you'll be more likely to relax in front of. It's OK, you can be honest about that choice. It's your money.
4. Dig A Little Deeper
When you contact a photographer, ask about pricing, of course, but more importantly, take the time to discuss their shooting style (which by the time you call, you'll be fairly familiar with from their portfolio). Ask them about their inspiration, what other types of photography they practice (if you don't already know), what goals they have for most pinup sessions, and most of all, ask for details about shooting locations. Some photographers will come to you, some shoot exclusively in their own studios, and some will photograph you on location.
Don't be afraid to ask the photographer for an in-person consultation before booking your session. Many photographers offer this as part of their session fee, and a trustworthy photographer would rather ensure prior to photographing you that you're choosing them for the right reasons — you appreciate their style, you've come to trust them based on personal recommendations or referrals, the prices and locations they offer are right for your needs, and you feel you have a good personal rapport with them. And, ask your photographer what to expect in terms of wardrobe and makeup. Most photographers specializing in glamour, boudoir, or pinup sessions work with hair and makeup artists, or at the very least, provide a list of references for clients wishing to work with one.
5. Shop Around — For Clothing!
That's right, planning a personal pinup session is a really fun excuse to get dolled up and try more daring or stylized fashion. Your photographer is likely to request that you bring in at least two wardrobe options to choose from, probably more. If you haven't got any pinup fashion just hanging around in your closet, there are a whole bunch of really fun vendors out there, and I always encourage women to look locally, for in person support and encouragement.
However, if you're looking for online purchasing, there are a handful of wonderful, tried and true options to meet your multi-faceted needs. Peruse the following sites for a leisurely stroll down luxury pinup lane. Also — don't forget to bring a fabulous pair of shoes!
For Vintage Style:
- Bare Necessities (featuring Dita Von Teese's line, Femme Fatale)
- Rebel's Market
- Dollhouse Bettie
- Corsetiere of Chicago
- Free People
Pro Tip: Keep in mind that while pinup portraits are generally pretty stylized and have a vintage feel, they're just as much about letting your personal style shine as emulating a classic look. If you're more Bohemian chic than rockabilly, don't be afraid to embrace your look, and let your photographer know that you'll want to take a personal twist on the retro pinup vibe.
6. Don't Forget Your Nails
Your hands are nearly as expressive as your face, especially when it comes to full body portraits. Don't forget to pamper yourself pre-pinup with a manicure, and probably even a pedicure, just in case. But stick to color selections that will compliment your wardrobe choices and style preference (if you're going for true vintage, you may not want any funky colors or nail variation), or opt for a classic French manicure that will look posh and polished no matter what your outfit selection happens to be.
7. Rest Up!
Going into a portrait session can be a bit unnerving, but the biggest key is to make sure you're taking good care of yourself beforehand. Don't stress over your body type, or feel the need to jump on a speed diet, that will ultimately hurt your health. Instead, trust in your photographer — she/he is trained to coach you and help you look your best (after all, it's what you're paying her/him for — just remember, she/he is aiming to capture your unique beauty, not make you look like someone else).
Stay hydrated, don't over-exert yourself before your session, and try your best to get a good night's rest. Also, don't skip meals beforehand, and don't be afraid to drink water during your session (your photographer won't be offended if you need to take a quick break to refresh — just don't take one every few frames, that's not a good use of your time or theirs, and it's a little rude). Modeling can be exhausting, so you'll need all of the nutrients and energy you can get as you delve into this fun and flirty new experience!
8. Just Be Yourself
Above all else, the key to a successful pinup session is to relax and remember that you're gorgeous, just the way you are. Have fun, let your lovely, radiant personality shine through, and your photographer will have no trouble capturing pure gold. Remember, it's your photographer's job to coach you and ensure that you look stunning, in a way that feels right to you. Most women who partake in professional pinup portrait sessions find the experience to be inspiring and motivational, claiming that as a result, they learn to see themselves in a kinder, more accepting light.