Beyond Boudoir: Pinup Photography



Pinup is a well established art style that dates back to the early 1900’s and came to prominence in the mid 20th century thanks to its popularity during World War 2. Some airmen even painted pinup girls on the nose of their planes.The whole point behind these photos/prints was that they were meant to be informally displayed, i.e. pinned up.


Pinup can be divided into two categories, vintage and modern. The vintage style encompasses the classic photos and posters you might think of when you hear the term “pinup”. Bettie Grable, Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth, and Bettie Page were all classic pinup girls. Examples of modern pinup girls would be Dita Von Teese and the Suicide Girls. There is also a whole subculture dedicated to Pinup and vintage style for everyday life too.


Difference Between Pinup and Boudoir


Unlike modern boudoir that is focused more on the woman and helping her feel empowered in her own skin, pinup was produced with the male gaze in mind. While tame by today’s standards, at the time it was very risque.


This brings us to an important question. Can pinup serve the same purpose as boudoir? I would say that depends on your personality. If you like that style and you would like to see yourself as a pinup girl, then I would say yes pinup can serve the same purpose as boudoir.


Hair, Makeup, and Outfits


Think retro, that goes for hair, makeup, and outfits. For makeup you will want to go with a bright and cheery palette and victory rolls, bobs, and large curls are great picks for hair styles. I found a great YouTube channel run by a woman named Laci Fay that will help get you started. A couple of her videos are posted below.




You may already have some perfect outfit pieces in your closet so look there first and a little shopping trip could help you find the ones you are missing. For starters, a polka dot dress is a staple in pinup photography and really helps to give it that retro feel. When choosing lingerie,a pair of high waisted bottoms and a full cup bra is a good bet. Dita Von Teese has her own lingerie line that fills these aspects, you can check out her website here. You can also always go with the classic soldier or sailor outfits for a bit of whimsy. I was able to find a few good options with a quick google search. No matter what outfit you choose, a pair of heels will help complete the look.


Studio/Setup


Unless you want to create a studio dedicated to pinup my suggestion is to research vintage styled hotel rooms or AirBNBs. You can also find pinup photographers who rent out their studios to other photographers.


One classic and easy to do pinup setting is a picnic. Get yourself a red and white checkered blanket, and a picnic basket filled with a few appropriate items so it doesn’t just look like a prop, and you are all set. Along the same lines, if you are near the beach, a towel laid out on the sand will do the trick.


A classic car or hot rod, the older the better, is another perfect setting for pinup photography. An example would be an old pickup truck from the 40s or 50s. So pull yours out of the garage or find a friend who has one and ask permission to use it for an afternoon.


Props


Just like with hair and makeup it’s all about that vintage look. Below you will find some suggestions that might help inspire you for your own shoot. You will notice pictures with some of these items while doing your own research.

  • Old School Telephone

  • Hard Sided Luggage

  • Old Fashion Cameras

  • Glass Coca-cola Bottles

  • Hand Mirror, Makeup, or Perfume Bottle

  • Wine Glass or Alcohol Filled Lowball

Poses



Cheeky, fun, and playful is the name of the game when it comes to pulling off pinup posing. In other words, be shamelessly flirtatious. With the right mindset and desire to have a good time during your shoot pulling off good pinup poses will be a breeze. These old pinup photos from the 40’s should help you get a sense of what makes for perfect pinup poses. And always remember to point the toes!


Editing



For the most part you will want to edit your pinup photos the same way you edit the rest of your photos, especially if you are shooting modern pinup. However, if you are going for a more classic look, I suggest you use one or more of the following effects to help you get that vintage feel. Pick either black and white, sepia, or lower your saturation to get flatter colors. Then you will want to add some grain into the photo. Another post processing effect you can make use of is vignetting, or getting the corners of your photo darker than the center. This technique works really well with black and white photos that have the Hollywood glam look of the 1940s and 50s.


Final Thoughts

I’ve always been a bit of a fan of the pin-up style and I wholly enjoyed getting to write this post and learning more about pinup in general. If you have a tip for anyone doing a pinup shoot leave it in the comments below.

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