Category Archives: Advertising Photography

Advertising Photography Research


Advertising photography, particularly for well known brands, is typified by very high quality photography often featuring extensive post processing manipulation and sometimes creating surreal images either by compositing and blending diverse images (see football example above) or by creating a digital image such as the arm holding an ice cream emerging from the floor as per the image below.


Click here for a gallery of sample advertising images covering a range of products such as alcohol, cars and and lifestyle items such as ice cream, perfume and watches.

There is clearly a great deal of creative thought goes into the planning and execution of such images, some are visually clever imagery such as the clothes depicted as Stonehenge and some funny such as the welder distracted by the girl carrying a bag of fireworks (part of a series for perfume).


What is common to all of them is the high production values and presumably similarly large budgets both for the initial photography but also very significant post processing. The images are all very clean, immaculately lit to present the product in the best possible fashion whether it be low value but high volume product such as the shampoo or high value, low volume products such as the executive cars.


Noted Advertising Photographers

Jonathan Knowles operates studios in New York and London, specialising in graphic still life, liquid and beauty, his unique photographic style has earned him award-winning advertising commissions and include campaigns for many globally recognised brands, such as Coca-Cola, Guinness, and Smirnoff

In the past ten years, Jonathan has consistently featured in the ‘200 Best Advertising Photographers in the World’ books. He is one of the top 10 all time award winners in the Graphis Annuals.

You can see more details and samples of his work on his website.

Advert_21 Dennis Pedersen“Particularly noted for his beauty portfolio,has become an inspirational figure in still-life photography. Although he did not attend art school, his career has soared due to hard work and the seizing of opportunities – which makes positive reading for aspiring photographers hoping to break into this tough profession.

Dennis’s story began in 1985 when he was working as a builder in London. He met his friend Greg Gorman, then working as a celebrity photographer. Greg, who remains a friend and successful photographer, inspired Dennis to try his hand at photography. Dennis rapidly built up a portfolio, learnt about the business and cold-called his favourite studios, showing his work to as many people as possible.

Dennis was then offered the opportunity to work for fashion and beauty photographer, Jean Claude Volpeliere. He assisted on location, learning his craft while traveling all over the world. Volpeliere then introduced Dennis to advertising still-life photographer, Jon Stigner, who had a reputation for impeccable detail and lighting techniques. Dennis grabbed this opportunity, and worked with large format 10 x 8 cameras under Jon’s tutelage.

In Stigner’s studio, Dennis discovered his love for the technical aspects of photography. He worked with Jon for three years, honing his attention to the detailed aspects of lighting, production both in and out of camera, and composition.

Dennis then took the next step: to open his own studio close to Hoxton Square in London. He began to build up a roster of clients, with advertising in particular. While the recession staunched the flow of some advertising clients, Dennis was then invited to submit work for an exhibition in Hamburg on the theme of liquids and water photography.

As he prepared for the show, Dennis became increasingly inspired by the opportunities presented by the depiction of movement in still-life photography – an under-developed arena, and one that Dennis has made his own. He realised that this approach gave him the perfect challenge to exercise his technical and creative skills in product photography, and he began to experiment with all kinds of volatile materials – liquids, powders, creams, smoke, sprays – creating a new portfolio of special effects. Crucially, he also learned how to gain these effects at high speed: “Working for yourself under pressure makes you learn incredibly fast,” observes Dennis.”

Biography from his website



Tim Tadder  “is 6 feet 7 inches tall, he has a beard, 4 bicycles, and brown dog named Bailey. He was born in Baltimore, schooled in Virginia (BS Mathematics, he’s a geek) and Ohio (MA in Visual Communications, also an artist). Tim worked for newspapers in Baltimore, Colorado, and San Diego as a photojournalist, before turning his sights on commercial and editorial photography in 2005. Since then he has been commissioned to make heroic portraits some of the world’s most interesting humans, for example George W Bush, (liberal Tim did want to have a beer with him….) and Bill Gates (he cringed at the sight of his iPhone and mac book pro) Personal highlights include working with Michael Phelps, Kid Rock, Ice Cube, and Tom Brady. Best known for his powerful portraits and high action intense sports imagery Tim has enjoyed the privilege of working with great creatives creating award winning campaigns (Communications Arts Photo Annuals, Graphis Golds, Kelly Awards, Archive Showcases, Addy’s etc) for global brands like, Adidas, Budwieser, McDonalds, Under Armour, Coca Cola, Pepsi, Gatorade, Powerade, Sears, Craftsman, Mercedes Benz, Bud Light, Microsoft, Sony, Gillette and many more.”

Bio from Tim’s Website

Advert_23 Advert_24

These photographers seem to have certain common traits which are key factors in their success :-

  • Originality, brining a fresh view to mundane items or much photographed scenes.
  • Technical excellence both in original photography but also post processing.
  • Good communication skills and people management to bring about a collective result
  • Passion for the subject
  • Business and sales expertise – to promote their work and appropriately value it.




Also posted in Digital Imaging

Advertising Photography Final Advert


Proof images were shown to the client on 13th February as a requirement of the brief with a finalised proposal for an advert in the form of a design suitable for a roller banner in the size specified required by the 20th March.

Technical aspects of post processing of the images was very straight forward, this was very largely due to having ensured the lighting set up was correct at time of capture and thus minimal post processing required. This mainly consisting of adjusting levels, cropping and straightening or removing stray elements in the background e.g. where the size of the backdrop didn’t extend quite far enough to cover the entire image background.

The bulk of the effort was in laying out the design and ensuring all the required elements are present, this is not only the primary image(s) but also supporting information such as contact details, web address and corporate logo.

I looked at the competitors web sites mentioned in the brief – Irregular Choice and Ruby Shoo – along with the clients web site. Noticeably on the competitor websites there very few models used it is virtually all close up product photography of the products. Where a model is featured its generally a below the knee shot of the model wearing the shoes. As the client had specified a model be used this confirmed my view that it was correct to focus on the shoes in the images e.g. by including them in the background as in the bookcase shots or surrounding the model, or emphasising the shoes as a point of interest, e.g. model holding the shoes or on the cocktail tray.

The client provided some graphics for the corporate logo and strap line “Custom hand made shoes for whatever your heart and feet desire” in the appropriate font and colours, these were included in the final advert in order to provide consistency with the existing marketing of Bunny Pumpkin Boutique . The layout of the advert is specified in the brief as being 80×200 cm, this format tends to favour a single portrait style image  but due to the large area of image available on the banner I experimented with collages of various styles of images, see examples below, but finally decided on a single primary image.

The client requested heavily saturated images, personally I prefer more natural looking images but the client is King (Queen in this case :-)).

Final Advert Layout : (Scroll down for more)


Leaflet Design :

This is a design for an A5 leaflet for the design service, the image selected to reinforce the idea of “serving up” a unique solution.


I haven’t laid out the back of the leaflet but thought it could be a query / order form e.g. for clients considering either a special event or just wanting a particular themed shoe. So the information captured should be along the lines of:

  • personal and contact details of the enquirer (name, address, phone and email)
  • shoe size
  • event and date
  • theme required or suggested
  • any other information e.g. colour preferences

Business Card :

Image selected to suit format of a business card and style of client business.


business card front



business card back

Other Banner designs considered, these are mocked up concepts and not finalised designs :

BP_Advert_3 BP_Advert_4 BP_Advert_5




Also posted in Digital Imaging

Advertising Photography Evaluation


I found this brief challenging because of the prospect of the images being used for a real application and therefore it was clear from the start that the output would have to be of a high standard artistically and technically if they were eventually to be used.

A number of criteria were defined by the client in the brief such as the format and size of the final images, the models to be used and the preferred style – retro Pin Up – nonetheless there was a great deal of freedom in how the final output should look. A major factor in my thinking was to ensure the focus was on the product i.e. the shoes and not just create pleasing images of the model as I felt this would be missing the point somewhat.

I did some research into images featuring shoes, legs and pin up artists this proved extremely useful in finalising the concept as well as being an excellent tool to convey to the model the sort of poses I was after. I had made a number of key decisions early on which I felt helped the process. The most important of these was that it be a studio shoot, the thinking behind this was that a) I wanted to shoot a variety of poses and styles including some lingerie shots and thought not every location would be suitable for this. b) by shooting high key against a white background the images could be used anywhere and c) by using the studio I was eliminating one variable factor in that shooting at an unknown location might bring unforeseen difficulties and I wanted to ensure the images would be successful as it seemed unlikely we would get a 2nd shot with the model if we failed at the first attempt.

Again with the focus on promoting the product I wanted to display as many examples as possible so wanted to include some sort of display and decided to use a bookcase that was dressed with the shoes and some vintage props such as flat irons and old cameras as a background. One safety issue to be solved was that the freestanding bookcase wasn’t stable enough and this was solved by adding a 56lb weight as a prop. From the image research many shots used a high chair or stool which allowed the model to comfortably pose her legs and shoes. I found a suitable chair in a junk shop and re-furbished it by repairing the loose joints and having it painted. I also purchased a tray of the sort used by cocktail waitresses as I thought that having the model “serve” the shoes was another way of displaying the product.

On the day the technical aspects, lighting set up and triggering worked well, further details and evaluation of the shoot in the shoot blog post here, artistically the outfits provided by the model Nikki and the excellent hair and makeup by Leah made for a promising shoot. Pleasingly a large number of very usable images were produced on the day, I was with pleased both with the technical quality of what was produced with a high ratio of “keepers” as well as the artistic composition of the images.

A significant part this was a as result of using an experienced model who was able to provide a range of poses on cue with little direction required. Additionally the pre-planning of props and poses to be captured in advance was a definite positive factor on the day as things moved along and the shoot felt controlled and professional.

For the final advert I made up a number of adverts from a range of poses but in the end I decided on an image that included the bookcase as being best suited to the brief. In the end the client chose an image from someone else for the main banner but has advised that they well yet use my final image as an alternative and definitely wish to use some of the images for various marketing purposes.

Overall I felt this was a very successful, and fun, project and there were a number key factors that contributed to this success;

  • Having a clear concept of the shoot
  • Communicating this to other participants
  • Experienced Model and excellent MUA
  • Striving from the outset for a high quality technical result

What could be improved?

There were some shots I had thought of but didn’t get and I forgot to get Nikki to sign the model release – having a check list would have prevented these oversights on the day. I would also have spent longer during the shoot working all the props with all the outfits as there a couple of combinations that with hindsight would have been good to capture. However in the overall scheme of things I feel these are relatively minor shortcomings.

Steve Edwards

March 2015










Advertising Photography Analysis and Concept


There was a choice of subjects for this brief, namely

  1. Honda  – Car Advertising
  2. Nestle – Confectionery
  3. Urban Decay – Cosmetics
  4. Hardys Wine – Alcohol
  5. Bunny Pumpkin Boutique – Female Fashion

I chose the Bunny Pumpkin brief because its for a real client with the possibility of the images actually being used, albeit in competition with others, whereas the others are theoretical exercises. Accordingly as its a real brief I feel the processes involved, model and MUA booking, communication, production and finalisation of images is experience that is much more real world than the other choices.

The client produced a list of potential models that could be used from Purpleport – a web site specifically for connecting Photographers/Models/MUA’s and designers, this was on a TFP (time for prints) basis i.e. the model donates her time in exchange for samples of the finished images for their portfolio. Similarly for the make up artist and photographer.

From the brief and in discussion with the client the images were required to be “alluring but not gratuitous”, Pin up style so cheeky rather than overtly sexual and additionally the models selected were partially chosen for their tattoos which is something the client also wanted to feature.

Accordingly there was a number of conflicting things to consider in designing the shoot.

  1. Primary focus of the images is to display the shoe products, the Bunny Pumpkin Boutique strapline being “Custom hand made shoes for whatever your heart and feet desire …….”
  2. Pinup retro style, a concern being an overly eye catching model would detract from the product focus.
  3. Client wants to feature model tattoos, similar concern to 2 that this could detract from the product focus.

Based on all the above factors I choose to work with Nikki K as the model and design shots that would primarily focus attention on the products i.e. shoes. The design concept is further discussed in the blog post about the preparation and actual shoot itself.


Legal, Copyright and Ethical Issues


These comments apply to my understanding of UK / EU law, provision varies by jurisdiction and of course in some parts of the world are extremely restrictive.


In the absence of any contract or agreement stating otherwise, the person who took the photograph owns the copyright for that image. This is fundamental to photographic law and the key element here is “in the absence of any contract or agreement stating otherwise”. This means that if the photographer hasn’t agreed to anything or signed a contract to the contrary, they own the copyright. Copyright does not need to be declared or registered it is automatically assigned in law and remains the authors unless and until assigned to someone else.

The most common exception to this is where the photographer is employed by someone else and a contract exists whereby it is explicitly agreed that the copyright of the images will be assigned to the employer. In the situation of full time employment, where an employer pays tax and national insurance contributions on your behalf, the employee does not own copyright on work created during the normal course of their employment unless there is an agreement to the contrary.

Only the owner of the copyright can license the copying of images, including the electronic copy and storage of digital images, and the issuing of the image to the public.

Permitted Uses:

‘Fair Dealing’ under UK law allows the copying of copyrighted material under certain circumstances without the need for prior permission. These generally cover; publicising work for sale, copying for research purposes, educational use, copying for review, submission in court as evidence.

Duration of Copyright:

The copyright of an image either taken in the EU or by an EU nationality photographer is 70 years from the end of the first year in which that person died. This is applicable to work created after 1st Aug, 1989.

Assignment of Copyright:

The owner of the copyright can pass on (assign) the rights of an image to another but should only do so after careful consideration. To sell the copyright outright requires the owner’s agreement in writing. It should be remembered that once copyright is re-assigned to another party there is no claim on any proceeds made from further sales or control of the image use.

It is important not to confuse owning an image with owning the copyright to that image; the first does not mean the latter. Owning a print of an image gives the owner no rights to that image, even if that owner happens to be the subject of the image e.g. in the case of a portrait.

Moral Rights:

These remain with the originator of the work regardless of who currently owns the copyright. The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 defines these rights as follows…

  • The right to be identified as the author of the work (also known as Paternity Right).
  • The right to object to false attribution of the work.
  • The right to protect the integrity of the work.

The first two items basically allow the author to be credited with the original work and prevent another from claiming authorship. The third item, also described as “the right to object to derogatory treatment of the work”, is most relevant today where images can be digitally ‘manipulated’ almost without trace.

It should be noted that the right to be credited only works if it is ‘asserted’ and should never be just assumed. The use of statements such as “moral rights asserted” or “all rights reserved” on the back of images, as meta tags in digital images or as footers on websites are all legally sufficient ‘assertions’.

Model Release Forms

Model releases have become a legal minefield and the prevailing mindset is that you should always have a model release if planning to sell images for commercial use.

In fact in most situations you do not actually require a model release and if everybody conducted themselves in a fit and proper manner then there would be little problem. However, regrettably, that is not human nature and particularly if significant sums of money are involved. It is the publisher of an image and not the photographer who is liable for any damages so in particular a photographer does not need a model release however because publishers are now so wary of being sued it’s unlikely that a photographer will be able to sell images without one, certainly to any major publisher.

Further it is the issue around “commercial use” of images where the issue of liability arises. For example a photograph of a celebrity arriving at an event could be sold by the photographer and published by a newspaper with no model release as it would be considered a newsworthy event in the public interest. If this wasn’t the case newspapers would never have any photographs. The same photograph could also be presented as and sold by the photographer as a work of art and again this would not require a model release.

However if the photograph was used by the designer of the shoes the celebrity was wearing to promote their product in a commercial advert “as worn by xxxx” then the celebrity could potentially sue for inappropriate use. So what model releases do is set out in advance what uses are permitted of the images and eliminate the possibility of any dispute later – “I didn’t know what they would be used for” or “I didn’t agree to that use”.

This applies to both sides i.e. the model can specify restrictions on use – for example may not wish to be associated with certain themes or issues :- Drug abuse, child cruelty etc.

As an example of the complications that can arise in the late 1970’s when pop star Madonna was an unknown student she did some work as a nude model in art classes for photographer Herman Kulkens and she signed an open ended release allowing Kulkens to use the images as he saw fit. Subsequently in 1985 when she had become a world famous star both Playboy and Penthouse published the photographs. This was the subject of a separate multimillion dollar court case between Kulkens and the publishers as to who had the rights to publish the photos but one thing was very clear the existence of the signed model release meant the one person who could not prevent publication or receive any additional remuneration, other than the $10 per hour originally received, was Madonna.

As a result of examples such as this Model releases have become legal documents often containing intimidating and indecipherable legal phrases which in truth will probably never apply to most people or situations. As with all contracts they tend to favour the side of the person requesting it in order to retain as many rights as possible basically the photographer wants to have no restriction on how he might eventually use / sell the images.

This can be off putting to prospective models and can be an obstacle whereas in reality it’s a simple proposition; the model receives a fee for her time which may be cash or images for her portfolio and the photographer has the right to sell the images.

There is a degree of professional integrity required by all parties and successful partnerships and collaborations are much more likely to emerge based on mutual trust and respect rather than having to refer to the small print of a model release. So for example neither party should use the images for purposes that weren’t agreed e.g. the model can’t sell the images full stop as they are not the copyright holder and the photographer shouldn’t sell them for purposes likely to be considered derogatory to the reputation of the model.

A scan of the model release used for the advertising brief (personal details deliberately obscured) ;


Legal restrictions on photography

Mass photo gathering in UK.
There are relatively few restrictions on taking photographs in the UK basically you are free to take photographs of anyone or anything in a public place. In recent years some further restrictions have been imposed as a result generally of security concerns although famously the stop and search powers of the Terrorism Act 2000 which had often been used to deter photographs were declared illegal in 2010 following much protest from the photographic community. As a result police offices cannot confiscate your equipment or force you to delete images.

Further in general the right to take photographs on private land upon which permission has been obtained is similarly unrestricted. However, landowners are permitted to impose any conditions they wish upon entry to a property, such as forbidding or restricting photography. Two public locations in the UK, Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square, have a specific provision against photography for commercial purposes without the written permission of the Mayor, or the Squares’ Management Team and paying a fee and permission is needed to photograph or film for commercial purposes in the Royal Parks.

Lastly you technically need permission to photograph on the Railways and the London Underground certainly for commercial purposes but in practice it is tolerated for private use although the use of tripods is sometimes a bone of contention primarily as a safety issue on busy platforms. Persistent or aggressive photography of a single individual may come under the legal definition of harassment.

It is a criminal offence (contempt) to take a photograph in any court of any person, being a judge of the court or a juror or a witness in or a party to any proceedings before the court, whether civil or criminal, or to publish such a photograph. This includes photographs taken in a court building, or the precincts of the court. Taking a photograph in a court can be seen as a serious offence, leading to a prison sentence.

Photography of certain subject matter is restricted in the United Kingdom. In particular, the Protection of Children Act 1978 restricts making or possessing pornography of under-18s, or what looks like pornography of under-18s. However, the taking of photographs of other peoples children in public spaces is not illegal although has become increasingly socially unacceptable and it would be a brave photographer that would engage in such activity today without seeking permission of parents / legal guardians.

For example I would thought twice about taking this scene of children playing in a fountain in the UK, It was taken in Medillin, Columbia. South America generally has a much more wholesome and community based collective view of looking after children.


It is an offence under the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008 to publish or communicate a photograph of a constable (not including PCSOs), a member of the armed forces, or a member of the security services, which is of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.

Ethical Considerations

There is a great deal of legislation covering advertising and related activity e.g. selling practices in the UK anda variety of enforcement agencies. There is a very useful government website that gives a plain English explanation of the rules and where consumers can complain if dissatisfied with an advert. Click here to visit the site : A summary of the key elements and provisions is listed below.


All marketing and advertising must be:

  • accurate
  • legal
  • decent
  • truthful
  • honest
  • socially responsible (not encouraging illegal, unsafe or anti-social behaviour)

There are regulations that restrict what advertisers can and can’t do. As well as the regulations, there are 2 advertising codes of practice that should be followed to help you advertise legally in the UK.

Requirements for specific products

There are also specific requirements that apply to certain sectors, such as:

  • food
  • alcohol
  • beauty products
  • environmentally friendly products
  • medicines
  • tobacco

For example, you can only claim a drink is ‘low in alcohol’ if it contains between 0.5% and 1.2% alcohol by volume.

Advertising Codes

1 – Non-Broadcast media (e.g. print, on-line)

The Committee of Advertising Practice code has rules that cover non-broadcast advertising (eg print, online), sales promotion and direct marketing (eg telesales and email).

The code specifies standards for accuracy and honesty that businesses must stick to, including specific conditions, eg:

  • advertising to children
  • causing offence
  • political advertising

2 – Broadcast media (e.g. TV, radio)

You must follow broadcast codes that cover issues including taste, decency and product placement.

As well as setting standards about accuracy and honesty businesses must stick to, they also have rules about things like scheduling.

General broadcasting rules

You also need to follow rules about taste, decency, product placement andsoforth that apply to all broadcasting.

These are called ‘broadcast codes’. Find out more about them on the Ofcom website.

Enforcing the rules

The rules are enforced by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

Anyone who thinks advertising rules have been broken can complain to the ASA within 3 months of the advert appearing.

If an advert breaks the rules, it may be withdrawn. If the product doesn’t match the description or the advert breaks the law, the advertiser could be prosecuted.

Also posted in Windows on the World

Pin Up Art

This was research undertaken for the Advertising Photography Brief as this is the style of photograph specified in the client brief. See also a gallery of research images here.

In the late 19th century, burlesque performers and actresses sometimes used photographic advertisement as business cards to promote themselves. These adverts and business cards could often be found pinned up and scattered around the theatre – hence the name “pin up”. Understanding the power of photographic advertisements to promote their shows, burlesque women self-constructed their identity to make themselves visible. Being recognized not only within the theatre world itself but also to the general public challenged the prevailing conventions of women’s place and women’s potential in the public sphere.

As a result of being sexually fantasized, famous actresses in early 20th-century film were both drawn and photographed and put on posters to be sold for personal entertainment. Among the celebrities who were considered sex symbols, one of the most popular early pin-up girls was Betty Grable, whose poster was ubiquitous in the lockers of G.I.s during World War II.

The 1932 Esquire “men’s” magazine featured many drawings and “girlie” cartoons but was most famous for its “Vargas girls” these were paintings by one of  the masters of the genre Peruvian artist Alberto Vargas (see bio below), original Vargas Pin Up paintings now sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Prior to WWII there was less focus was on the sexuality of the images. However, during the war, the drawings transformed into women playing dress-up in military drag and drawn in seductive manners, like that of a child playing with a doll. The Vargas girls became so popular that from 1942–46, owing to the high volume of military demand, 9 million copies of the magazine-without adverts and free of charge was sent to American troops stationed overseas and in domestic bases as a morale booster for servicemen.  Pin Up art was often reproduced as nose art on US planes during world war II as good luck charms.
Other well-known artists specializing in the field were Earle K. Bergey, Enoch Bolles, Gil Elvgren, George Petty, Rolf Armstrong, Duane Bryers and Art Frahm. Notable contemporary pin-up artists include Paul John Ballard, Elias Chatzoudis, Armando Huerta,Cris Delara and Chuck Bauman.
Refreshingly Pin Up Art has never been an exclusively male dominated genre as might be expected. Already in the early 1930’s Zoe Mozert April 27, (1907 – February 1, 1993) was active. Zoë Mozert had the advantage of being both beautiful and talented enough to serve as a muse and artist. She modelled for both Earl Moran and Alberto Vargas, using her earnings to pay for her tuition while studying under Thornton Oakley. According to the American Art Archives, beginning in 1932, Mozert used pastel to create hundreds of covers for ads, movie magazines, posters, and pulps in New York City. When she used herself as a model, she would carefully light her studio, then use a photograph or a mirror to create the reference. And while she preferred the more wholesome girl-next-door look over the typical bombshell, her usage of bold pastel hues made her a favourite among Hollywood Studios.
Most notably, it’s Mozert who was behind the poster for notorious 1943 film The Outlaw, starring screen siren Jane Russell.  Another, contemporary female pin-up artist is Olivia De Berardinis who is most famous for her pin-up art of Bettie Page and her pieces in Playboy.


Recognized as the most famous living female pin-up artist, Olivia De Berardinis has been celebrated as the greatest since Alberto Vargas. De Berardinis (1948 – ) modestly describes herself as a “painter of women” in her biography. But she’s been creating pin up art for decades, from her early-’70s life as a New York City loft-dwelling waitress/artist to her current post as Playboy’s artist in residence. Olivia has captured some of pop culture’s notable (and at times controversial) muses, including burlesque performer Dita Von Teese, comedian Margaret Cho, and rocker Courtney Love. However, her most iconic cover girl is ‘50s pin-up icon Bettie Page, who Olivia transformed into a sensual teacher, French maid, and mermaid, among others. Olivia continues to publish books and calendars, all paying tribute to the legions of women inspiring her.



Alberto Vargas (9 February 1896 – 30 December 1982) is often considered the most famous of the pin-up artists due to his work for Esquire and the popularity of his images amongst serving soldiers in WWII. Born in Arequipa, Peru, Joaquin Alberto Vargas y Chávez moved to the United States in 1916 after studying art in Europe in Zurich and Geneva prior to World War I.

His early career included work as an artist for the Ziegfeld Follies and for many Hollywood studios. Vargas’ most famous piece of film work was that for the 1933 film The Sin of Nora Moran, which shows a near-naked Zita Johann in a pose of desperation. The poster is frequently named one of the greatest movie posters ever made.

In 2004, Hugh Hefner, the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Playboy, who had previously worked for Esquire, wrote that “The US Post Office attempted to put Esquire out of business in the 1940s by taking away its second-class mailing permit. The Federal authorities objected, most especially, to the cartoons and the pin-up art of Alberto Vargas. Esquire prevailed in the case that went to the Supreme Court, but the magazine dropped the cartoons just to be on the safe side”. A subsequent legal dispute with Esquire over the use of the name “Varga” resulted in a judgement against Vargas and he struggled financially until the 1960s when Playboy magazine began to use his work as “Vargas Girls.” His career flourished and he had major exhibitions of his work all over the world.

Gil Elvgren (March 15, 1914 – February 29, 1980), born Gillette Elvgren in Saint Paul, Minnesota, was another noted American painter of pin-up girls, advertising and illustration. Elvgren was one of the most important pin-up and glamour artists of the twentieth century. Today he is best known for his pin-up paintings for publishing company Brown & Bigelow who in the 1940’s were one the premier producers of calendars.
Elvgren was a classical American illustrator. He was a master of portraying the all-American ideal female but he wasn’t limited to the calendar pin-up industry. He was strongly influenced by the early “pretty girl” illustrators, such as Charles Dana Gibson, Andrew Loomis, and Howard Chandler Christy.In 1937, Gil began painting calendar pin-ups for Louis F. Dow, one of America’s leading publishing companies, during which time he created about 60 works on 28″ X 22″ canvas and distinguished them by a printed signature.Around 1944, Gil was approached by Brown and Bigelow and he was associated with Brown & Bigelow from 1945 to 1972. At Brown & Bigelow Elvgren began working with 30″ X 24″canvases, a format that he would use for the next 30 years, and he a;ways signed his work in a cursive script. Among the models Elvgren painted were Myrna Hansen, Donna Reed, Barbara Hale, Arlene Dahl, and Kim Novak.
Conclusions. The classic pin up style, whilst it undoubtedly has a sexual element, is not gratuitous and rarely depicts actual nudity but is usually more in the spirit of burlesque striptease, revealing tantalising glimpses of underwear and or flesh either as a result of an unlikely scenario or “accident” such as the “Fresh Lobster” image of Elvgren’s above or portraying a happy smiling girl in a more provocative pose than first seems to be the case. There being a degree of tension between the innocent, wholesome demeanour of the model versus the alluring pose.With the upsurge in interest and demand for all things retro / vintage Pin Up art contains to flourish as a genre today. 

Advertising Photography Brief Shoot


This shoot was undertaken for the Advertising Photography Brief.

Preparation for the shoot.

There was an interim deadline of the 13th February for review of taken images, in the end for scheduling reasons the shoot occurred on the 12th, so was to the wire and whilst sometimes unavoidable tight deadlines undoubtedly add to the pressure to produce results.

In considering the output required I decided on a studio shoot as I felt for a first brief it gave me more control than an unknown location and also the opportunity to try a number of different approaches / image styles by changing the props being used. So having booked the studio I then booked the model and there was various e-mail correspondence to describe the brief, the outfits and style of shoot required.

As part of my research I had collected images of shoe / leg poses which I had on my IPAD and could show the model as in reviewing the research to meet the pin up aspect of the shoot, emphasise the shoes / legs of the model along with her tattoos. Accordingly I had decided I wanted to have some photographs of her in lingerie to emphasise these aspects. I made sure Nikki would be comfortable with this as well as shots featuring the 50’s style swing dresses Nikki was providing. Research Images can be viewed here.

For the swing dress shots I had decided to use a bookcase as a background filled with examples of Bunny Pumpkin Boutique shoes along with some retro props such as vintage cameras and flat irons which I happened to have. There is also a 56lb weight at the bottom to provide some stability as the free standing bookcase could easily topple over posing a hazard to anyone in the studio but particularly Nikki.BunnyPF_MG_6325

For the poses to display the models legs / shoes I acquired a cheap second hand high backed chair that required some refurbishment from a junk shop. I re-glued / tightened the joints and then it was kindly painted by my wife along with a matching small stool as I wanted Nikki to be able to raise a shoe off the ground.



I had introduced the MUA and Model by email in advance of the shoot in order that they could discuss styles for the shoot understanding that the model might want to know more about the stylist. I was slightly surprised and apprehensive therefore to get a suggestion on the day that she bring her own stylist and also was it all right to bring someone with her. I declined the first and agreed to the second thinking that a chaperone wasn’t a bad idea but if the accompanying person proved disruptive – I was assuming a partner – they would have to leave the shoot.

All in a all there was a significant preparation / transportation effort required for the shoot day, delivery of the props including the bookcase, collection of the shoes and set up of the studio.  As a result I felt the decision to use the studio was correct as there would have been even more variables on location.

The Shoot

The model, Nikki,  turned up promptly at 2pm and was duly delivered to Leah the MUA. Nikki arrived with make up in place so the main focus was hair although Leah diplomatically enhanced the make up to make it more in-line with the objective of the shoot in terms of colour and style.

I was slightly surprised by the 2.5 hours it took in make-up but the result was worth the wait and Nikki had also brought some great outfits that I felt perfectly matched the theme. Whilst Nikki was in make up I prepared the lighting and props starting with the bookcase as it was the most complex to stage and arrange the items to be displayed.

For lighting I used 2 of my own speedlights to light the background as they are smaller and more discrete than the full sized studio lights, with a beauty dish as the primary light on the model and a large soft box to provide fill light into the bookcase.

BunnyPF_MG_6333  BunnyPF_MG_6350

I used my own radio triggers to fire the first speedlight and the optical sensors on the main lights then triggered them. I had decided to start with the dresses with the intention that, hopefully, Nikki would be more comfortable in my presence and we could move onto the lingerie shots. It must after all be a challenging experience to travel to a strange location and meet a stranger who is going to photograph you wearing very little. Again I think the location helped give her confidence that all was bona fide and every one behaved extremely professionally e.g. ensuring she had some privacy whilst changing outfits.

Nikki had in fact two people with her a female friend and indeed the expected partner. Have to say her partner was commendably silent throughout the shoot but helped move props and the friend provided useful input on colour choices for outfits / shoes and helped Nikki dress.

As a model Nikki proved excellent, needing little direction to provide a range of poses on cue. I was giving feedback as the shoot progressed and showed some of the images we were achieving. Nikki was as pleased as I was at the quality of images being achieved and again I think this helped her confidence that although, from her perspective, it was a student project the results would be more than satisfactory.

We then moved through a range of poses with bookcase prop, her on her own, holding the shoes, extra shoes on the chair and so forth and then we moved onto the lingerie shoots where the intention was to highlight her tattoos as well as the shoes. I was slightly concerned that these shots in particular would lose the focus on the shoes but I had also purchased a cocktail waitress tray as a prop so that we could try some poses where the shoes are being “served up”. Personally I think these are amongst the most effective images in meeting the brief of being pin up style, featuring the tattoos whilst  retaining the shoes as a focal point.

A gallery of more of the images taken can be seen here : Bunny Pumpkin Boutique  password “Nikki”










Technical Evaluation.

Overall I felt this was an extremely successful shoot both in terms of meeting the brief and the quality of images achieved. I took around a 140 shots and apart from a few duds where the lighting failed to trigger virtually all are usable.

The key factors I feel contributed to achieving this outcome:

  • having a clear vision of what I wanted to achieve in terms of style of image
  • researching the topic and collecting sample images
  • communicating my vision to the other participants
  • providing a variety of suitable props combined with general pre-planning of the shoot.
  • removing variable factor of a location
  • working with people with a similarly professional attitude and ability in terms of wanting a quality result as myself. My sincere thanks to model Nikki and MUA Leah for their invaluable contribution.

What could be improved:

  • have a check-list of shots to be taken, as although I was very happy with what was achieved I missed some shots I had planned e.g. Nikki’s legs in the air in front of the bookcase as per composite below. I also forgot to get her to sign a model release on the day – despite having prepared it and put it on the table. Doh ! Having a check-list would have avoided this.