Everyone wears undies.
This may seem like an odd statement. In the world of photography, you must have a clear understanding of the difference between lingerie and underwear, otherwise you likely won’t have many photoshoots in either category booking up your calendar.
As a former factory worker, my initial perspective on many aspects of life revolved around function. Cars were for getting you from point A to point B. Cabinetry was about having accessible doors and the right types of materials. As for underwear, it was probably about comfort and durability. (This is the closest I can come to a metaphor for how radically my perspective has changed to an appreciation for form over function.) In the case of photography, when something can be both beautiful and incredibly functional, it’s a home run.
When I was given my first opportunity to shoot lingerie, I wondered if I was the right candidate. It is a huge responsibility to be considered qualified and suitable for such a sensitive subject. I have a natural love of light, shape, and form, however I think the main attribute that has helped me succeed as a lingerie photographer is something less tangible. Having a whole lot of consideration, respect, and appreciation for the people on the other side of the lens makes all the difference. It’s a simple case of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes (or lingerie, as the case may be). I have incredible respect for the models in the lingerie world. We often share a genuine love for the genre, and it is fun to explore the wide range of emotions that you can apply, from playful to provocative, and any combination of both.
Opposite to what many may think, the last thing you want on set is to create any type of a sexualized environment. I have found the results are about equal with how much shared fun and enthusiasm was had on set. The mood is set up by everyone involved with the shoot from the stylist, hair and make-up artists, set designers, and, of course, the models themselves. The more you can create a cool and safe environment, the better the photographs will be.
Shooting lingerie is also about emotion and that gives you a wide range of lighting approaches. This month, I have shared a few Tips and Tricks on YouTube covering some of the things I have learned from shooting lingerie. However, a lot of the lighting and tips on how to approach a lingerie shoot can be applied to all kinds of portraiture. You can find the first of this month's "Tips and Tricks" here.
Art and Lingerie
There is a long history between art and lingerie photography. In some of the best examples, great lingerie photography has proven to be timeless. In the world of fashion, shots can expire by the sheer fact that fashion is about “this moment”. If it’s a product-focused image then the fashion takes over, which is fine if the shoot if for a fashion magazine. However, because lingerie is far more about emotion than product (or as one of my mentors would say, “we are selling hope, not soap”) it lends itself to something far more than product. To me, a great lingerie shot is not about a particular time, but instead, a precise moment. It’s a potentially confusing statement. When I look at a really strong lingerie shot by one of the masters, it is not the merchandise that is coming through—it is the emotion and sense of an instant in time. “Transporting” is the best word I have for it.
My very first lingerie shoot was with one of the greatest supermodels of all time, Stephanie Seymour. I had shot Stephanie for an Italian fashion magazine the month before. The next month, I was asked to shoot an advertising campaign with Stephanie for Victoria’s Secret. Since that time, I have shot extensive lingerie campaigns. In my first retrospective book in 2008, I had an entire section on the subject, and without a doubt, it greatly influenced my most recent work, the 'Angels' Limited Edition book and fine art series. One of the most significant women featured in the new book is Cindy Crawford, one of the greatest models of all time.
And my last word on the subject: In lingerie, there is only one critic that matters — the subject of the photograph.