Pin-Up Modeling Tips and Tricks From the Pros

We asked three highly successful pin-up photographers to share their tips and tricks for getting great pin-up images. We compiled the list into the best Pin-Up Posing Tips you’ll find anywhere. Everyone from pin-up virgins to semi-pro models will find useful tips and tricks in this handy guide.


Photo: Varga, Model: Amber Lu, MUAH: Cherry Dame
Photo: Varga, Model: Amber Lu, MUAH: Cherry Dame

Roy Varga, California

Varga started back in 2004 as something fun to do on a boring Sat morning, He had the bright idea to shoot his friends along with himself in the retro style he loves with a bit of attitude, you can still find that shoot in his gallery today. From that innocent action of fighting boredom it started him on a track that would quickly snow ball into what is Varga today. Varga now travels to 24 locations across the U.S. including Hawaii offering Pin-Up shoots and has been published in over 22 magazines and 3 books, As well as producing his annual Varga Calendar. Labeled “The Hardest working Man in Pin-up” Varga continues to produce eye-catching work and plans to for as long as he can push that button.

Photo: Atomic Cheesecake Studios
Photo: Atomic Cheesecake Studios

Stacey Barich, Atomic Cheesecake Studios, Baltimore

Stacey Barich is a self-trained pin-up photographer, vintage hair guru, make-up artist and owner of Atomic Cheesecake Studios. Her journey of transforming girls next door into sirens of the past began in October of 2006.

As an artist she celebrates the subtle sexuality of pin-up; as a woman she embraces her feminine wiles. Armed with a tube of red lipstick, snug pencil skirt, devastatingly high heels, she’s on a one-woman mission to bring glamour and sex-appeal to the yoga-pants set. If there’s any message she’s passionate about it’s that modern girls should discover that their sexual power is their greatest asset.

Photo: Through the Looking Glass. Model: Jai L’Bait. MUA/H:Rocio Vielma
Photo: Through the Looking Glass. Model: Jai L’Bait. MUA/H:Rocio Vielma

Shoshana, Through the Looking Glass Studio, Dallas

After receiving her BA in Photography, Shoshana pursued many different genres before finding her love for pin-up. What started out as a gift of a sexy vintage photo shoot for a friend to send to her deployed husband, became a full-time obsession. She went on to found Through the Looking Glass in 2008 and loves the studio’s mission of helping to raise the self-esteem of women everywhere, while embracing the fact that a wink and a smile is hands down sexier than thongs and low-rise jeans any day of the week.

And now, onto the tips…

  • 1. Groom yourself like you’re going on your honeymoon weekend. Shave anything that needs shaving, wax what needs waxing, tweeze, trim, etc. Also don’t forget to touch up your roots! It’s likely that you’ll be up close and personal with your photographer, stylist and make-up crew so good prep means you can relax knowing nobody is staring at your fuzzy bikini line.
  • 2. Don’t forget your nails! Have well trimmed and shaped toenails and fingernails, trim and moisturize those cuticles, and paint your nails. If you have an aversion to polish- and least do a clear coat on all twenty digits.
  • 3. If you want to wear a garter belt and stockings, avoid anything that is designed to “stay up” on its own. Rubberized “thigh highs” and “stay ups” can make even the most toned thighs look like sausage. There are lots of online retailers that specialize in classic stockings that won’t bind your legs. Also, if you have less than toned thighs, a good trick is to find some completely sheer “sheer to waist” pantyhose as a foundation. (Make sure they are not control top! A good choice- Sheer Energy Sheer to Waist- they have the green stripe on the box.) The pantyhose will make your legs looks great, and then you can pull the stockings over them to have the stocking look with toned upper thigh.
  • 4. It’s all in the face! Pin-Ups are all about facial expression & personality. Find your personal “pin-up personality”. Are you smoldering and sexy? Cute and playful? Figure it out and spend some real time in front of the mirror finding out what expressions are best for you. Do what comes comfortably and most natural and your pictures will show that. We can always tell who has practiced faces before the shoot, and even a little practice means better pictures.
  • 5. While you’re at it, practice poses you’ve seen in classic pin-ups, or modern pin-up photos you admire. Have a friend/lover/family member shoot you with a point and shoot or even a camera phone. The quality of the image will suck, but you’ll be able to see if you nailed a flattering pose or not. This way, when you get to your professional shoot, you’ll be sure and get your money’s worth!
  • 6. Take some time to tell your photographer about what you see as your biggest assets and problem areas. It helps them choose poses and angles to hide what you don’t like, and show off what you do. A good photographer should be able to pose for just about anything.
  • 7. Mention any moles, birthmarks, scars that you are self conscious about. The photographer doesn’t know whether you consider your mole a “beauty mark” or a “flaw”, so be specific about what you want wiped out in Photoshop.
  • 8. Understand that you “Get What You Pay For”. If you want good, professional-looking shots for your portfolio, expect to pay a professional that has proven results if you want to build a great portfolio. Same is true for make-up and hair. If the photographer doesn’t provide these services, take the time to find a good MUAH artist that can take care of you. Bad styling makes for bad photos.
  • 9. Photoshop is a tool, not a miracle worker! The misconceptions of Photoshop drive me nuts! Photoshop is a tool to create certain effects, create an image entirely (like with green screen shoots), or to fix minor flaws. If a “photographer” offers to fix exposure or lighting in Photoshop — find another photographer. This is just a bad cover for their lack of lighting experience and knowledge.Over photoshopped images is also a huge pet peeve of mine — images with total lack of clarity are just not quality images. You want an image of an enhanced you — not someone unrecognizable. If you want a painting — get a painter. You should be realistic — do not expect to lose 20 years or 20 pounds through Photoshop. Expect a beautiful image of the true you.
  • 10. Make a CD or bring a loaded MP3 player with all of your favorite songs. Have the photographer play it while you pose. It will help you relax and have more fun.
  • 11. Always have double stick tape. This will help keep clothing where it should be while providing maximum cleavage.
  • 12. Be on time, but not more than 15 min early. Photographers usually have tight shooting schedules. By arriving late, you are cheating yourself out of time. By arriving early, you are cheating someone else.
  • 13. Don’t be afraid to be over dramatic, and really ham it up. Those “cheesy” ones are very often the best.
  • 14. When posing, try to keep your tongue firmly glued to the roof of your mouth. This will slim your face, and cut down on the double chin.
  • 15. Always, always, always point your toes! Your feet should never be at a 45 degree angle. Pointing your toes adds grace, while elongating and emphasizing the shape of your legs.
  • 16. On the same note pay close attention to your hands and keep them soft. Imagine you are holding a raw egg in the palm of your hand, and keep the hands soft and graceful. Study ballet hand positions. Nothing ruins a great shot like hard and sharp angles or fists with the hands.
  • 17. If the costuming is not provided- make sure you have a matching set of lingerie that fits well. Try on what you are bringing ahead of time. It really sucks when people show up with things they haven’t worn in years, or brand new stuff they haven’t worn before — and get all dressed up — just to hate the way the clothing fits them.On the subject of wardrobe — there is a huge difference between a quality corset with steel or animal boning, and a cheap plastic off the rack clearance item. A quality corset will enhance your bust, and slim your waist dramatically. A cheap “corset” will just make your torso into an unflattering box shape.
  • 18. Create lots of angles with your body without pointing a joint to the camera. Never point elbows, knees, or armpits directly to the camera; this is extremely unflattering. Instead create angles where these joints are pointing away from the camera.
  • 19. When doing those “staring off to the side shots” stare into the photographers strobe light (softbox, umbrella, whatever) but not past it. The light will brighten your eyes and be flattering. If you look further than the light, not only will your eyes be dull and dark, but you’ll show too much of the whites of your eyes, giving a zombie effect.
  • 20. Trust your photographer. If you’ve taken the time to research and choose someone because of their reputation and portfolio, don’t insult them by telling them how to do their job. We do this to make you look awesome, and nothing is more frustrating than a client who won’t let us use our experience and training to give you the best possible outcome.

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