How I Made This Shot, Part 2

by | Nov 17, 2020

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

Joaquin Alberto Vargas y Chávez (February 9, 1896 – December 30, 1982) was a noted Peruvian painter of pin-up girls. He is often considered one of the most famous pin-up artists and his paintings continue to sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Playboy magazine first started using use Vargas’ work in 1959. Over the next 16 years he produced 152 paintings for the magazine and it’s where I first became aware and admired his work.

If you’ve ever wondered what goes on before, during and after one of my glamour model photo sessions, I think today’s post provides some of details of what it was like for this particular shoot. People often ask me “how did you make that shot?” So today I’ll tell you about how I made this intimate portrait of the statuesque Zoe.

I’ve said it before but it’s worth repeating that finding glamour models is as easy or difficult as you want to make it. (Pandemic, notwithstanding.) If you work at it methodically and consistently, you will discover that really good models will find you. Unlike some other models that I’ve photographed, I didn’t discover Zoe; she found me. She found me through my old website’s Model page while searching for photographers who specialized in glamour photography. I was the second photographer she called; she didn’t like the first guy’s attitude. Zoe was looking to update not just her own portfolio but some of her friends were interested too, so this one contact ended up introducing me to two other models.

How I made this shot: The above portrait was made in the loft area just outside the door to my office in my former home. It was shot mostly with available light—there’s a big window to the left of where Zoe is sitting—mainly because at the time I did not have a dedicated in-home studio and didn’t even own a set of inexpensive studio lights. All that changed, at least somewhat, later on…

I photographed Zoe with a Canon EOS 50D and EF 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5 II USM lens (at 28mm.) The lens has been discontinued by the manufacturer but you can pick up used copies from many sources, including Amazon. A 550EX speedlite with Sto-Fen Omni Bounce diffuser was used as fill although the captured image could have used a little more. Exposure was 1/13 sec at f/5.6 and ISO 400.

I originally envisioned this as a blue-tinted monochrome image to give it a moonlit look but as I mentioned in last Monday’s post, I am moving away from using monochrome for my intimate portraiture, although who knows, maybe I’ll change back. After the JPEG file was lightly retouched, I applied Color Efex Pro’s Cross Balance filter, which is a collection of Tungsten to Daylight and Daylight to Tungsten conversions, which can also be used clean up or enhance an image in many, different ways. Then I liberally applied the Vignette Blur filter that’s part of the Color Efex Pro’s collection of Photoshop-compatible plug-ins to give it a Vargas look. And Zoe has all the physical characteristics of a classic Vargas model.

If you enjoyed today’s blog post and would like to buy Joe a cup of Earl Grey tea ($2.50), click here. And if you do, thank you very much.


You can learn all of my tips, tools and techniques for shooting available light glamour photography in my book  Available Light Glamour Photography. New copies of the book are available from Amazon for $17.29 with used copies starting at only $10.39 as I write this. The Kindle version is $16.43 for readers preferring a digital format.