Glamour – in my view – is the trickiest area of portrait photography. There is a very very fine line to walk to hit that “glamour” feeling and not fall into either awkwardness or vulgarity… and Lou Freeman is a master at hitting the sweet spot every single time!
It was an absolute delight to talk with Lou Freeman and learn about her amazing career that led her from being one of the two ever female Playboy photographers to becoming one of the leading educators in the photography industry.
Lou uses body language masterfully, not only in her photographs where it is always spot on, but with her clients to help them relax and trust her.
Speaking with her only confirmed how important this skill is when working professionally in photography, and even more so when you work at this level where time is money, and where celebrities only have a few minutes to allocate to a shoot.
Without further a do, it’s my honour to share this interview with you.
Interview with Lou Freeman
Lou Freeman Fashion Photographer
For over three decades, Lou Freeman has practiced and shaped the art of Fashion, Glamour, and Lifestyle Photography. Lou’s powerful and visionary work has been featured in 100’s of editorial fashion magazines and catalogs as well as the publishing industries and advertising worlds.
The perfect union of confidence in fashion and glamour lighting combined with her expertise with post processing design, matched with her celebrity history allows her to work well with current known music stars and A–listers. Her clients are among the most respected and recognised names in America and Europe and include Hane’s Brands, Ralph Lauren, Coors Light, Target, Macy’s, Orvis, Lord and Taylor and Kohl’s, Niki Taylor, Cee lo Green, Joe Montana, Lisa Bonet, Jamie Foxx, Tiger Woods, and Evander Holyfield..
Today Lou in based in Atlanta where she divides her time shooting fashion and glamour photography, directing videos and commercials, creating websites and apps for mobile devices. And if this doesn’t keep her busy enough, she also creates, directs and presents high end photography education films and shows. You will find all these education resources by clicking HERE.
What can you tell me about working for Playboy all those years?
Playboy was a male-photographer dominated workplace (I was one of the two women to ever shoot for playboy) and I wanted to give women a voice in the work that portrayed them by bringing beauty, strength and sophistication to the images in the magazine.
To achieve that I created images with an edge of extreme femininity and extreme glamour, all while keeping the image genuine for the woman I was photographing. This resulted in strong, sexy and confident images.
What makes for a successful glamour portrait?
There are three key factors:
You have to find their best features to make them look as beautiful as possible. I move my women around a lot to find the perfect angles.
Glamour comes from a feeling of self confidence which comes from the posture in the pose and from a relaxed expression. The slightest tension in the hands, face, or expression will remove any feeling of glamour from the portrait.
Connection in the eyes. If the eyes are dead, everything goes away.
In order to achieve these objectives, you have to get your subject to trust you, and you need to be perfectly calm and in control yourself or the stress will come out in the images. Talking with them a lot helps them relax, and this starts with the first phone call you make.
Note from Dee: Body Language knowledge plays an enormous role in a) helping your subject to trust you, b) creating connection and c) identifying discomfort that will remove the glamour feeling from the portrait.
Do you find that there is a difference between female and male photographers when it comes to glamour photography?
Being one of the only women working at Playboy, a lot of the models would confide in me. What I learnt is that they found I understood them better and it was more comfortable for them to shoot with me, but that some male photographers would make them feel more sexy during the shoot.
What observations have you made about glamour photography over the span of your career?
Before the 90’s, women were considered sexy when they were super glammed up: boobs, nails, clothing, etc. It was really fake. Then came the era of the super skinny women, still with a lot of fake glam. But in the last few years we’re seeing the trend move away from the super glam to a tailored natural and more healthy look.
For the longest time, women didn’t have a say in the world or about their looks, but now they do, and this makes me really happy.
What Body Language cue makes you cringe in photographs?
More than just a cue, it’s more an intention. What makes me cringe is when glamour is photographed by a man and the woman has a stripper look: covered in oil, string bikini, etc. It takes away from the person, makes her look like an object and there is no emotion to it. That really makes me cringe.
To me glamour has to be an invitation, not delivered on a platter. What makes glamour provocative, sexy and beautiful is the flirtation, the intrigue… not the actual act.
Pro tip from Lou
You get out of a glamour photo, what you put into it. Prepare your shoot, communicate a lot with your subject, be calm, match the look to their character and work it until you get your vision.