44 Photo Tips From The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue (Part 4 of 5)

Hey, what’s up?

It’s time for Part 4 in our continuing quest to improve our photographic abilities by studying the techniques of excellent practitioners of the the art form (also known as “good photographers”).



Page 92-93

We live on a big planet. A planet so big that an inch here or there rarely makes much of a difference.

However, there are some situations when a mere inch can have a huge impact.

This picture is one of those situations. My guess is you’ve already spotted it.

The small act of bringing the model’s swimsuit bottom an inch lower than it’s meant to be has turned an attractive and innocent picture into an attractive and not quite so innocent picture.

The very slightly lowered bottom adds a great deal of sexiness to the shot. This seemingly small adjustment greatly changes how the picture is viewed. All of a sudden, there a lot more to it.

Slight modifications like this one can often have a great deal of impact on the quality of the shot.

Three more things to take from this picture:

1. Note the extremely graceful position of the model’s right hand. This is not nearly as easy as it looks.

2. This shot is a good example of taking advantage of the light that an overcast day provides.

3. Yet again, her feet are extended and the toes are pointed (you’ll have to train yourself to keep an eye on your model’s feet whenever they appear in a shot).


Page 98

This is an important tip that is equally valuable for any picture you take that includes people (not just swimsuit models).

Notice the model’s left hand. At first glance it looks like she’s leaning her head on that hand. However, if she were actually doing that, there would be a slightly “squished” look to that side of her face where her fingers are placed.

However, you’ll notice that this shot contains no visible “squishiness”.

This means that she’s not actually leaning on her hand at all; she’s merely giving the illusion that she is. In reality, her fingers are barely brushing against her face. This allows her face to remain perfectly symmetrical (i.e., no visible “squishiness”).

Keeping an eye out for this potential problem is equally important whether you’re shooting internationally known fashion models or your Aunt Millie (I’m assuming you have an Aunt Millie).


Page 100

I’ve included this picture because it’s one of the few shots in the entire issue in which the actual location plays a very small role.

While it’s true that this model is standing against a stone wall at an exotic Australian beach, she wouldn’t have to be to make the picture work.

The picture would be just as effective and attractive if she were standing against a dark wall in a back alley in St. Louis (and it doesn’t even have to be St. Louis; any city or town will do the trick).

The significant aspects of this shot are the soft lighting, the way her skin tone works well against the color of the stone, and the bright splash of color that her swimsuit provides.

In other words, there’s no need to go to Australia.

Or even St. Louis.


Page 104

This shot requires a location even less exotic than the one on page 100. It’s an attractive and very softly lit shot. I would guess that it was taken during the day in full shade (shade can provide beautiful soft lighting).

However, what makes this picture stand out is how she’s tugging on her swimsuit with her thumb. A simple gesture like this one can add a great deal of sexiness and “attitude” to an otherwise fairly straightforward shot.

In this shot, the simple use of the model’s thumb transforms this image from good to very good.





Pages 122-123

Similar to the shot on page 6, the model in this shot is small in comparison to the full frame.

However, even though she’s small, no viewer is likely to miss her.

In spite of her size, she’s still the obvious focal point of the image. Why is this the case? What techniques were used to accomplish this?

One technique used by the photographer was following the compositional guideline known as “The Rule of Thirds”. One aspect of this guideline is that it encourages the photographer to avoid placing the main subject matter directly in the center of the frame. Placing the main subject in the center of the frame will often create a static composition (not a good thing).

In this shot, the model is placed in the lower left third of the frame. This placement creates a more interesting dynamic to the picture.

The use of a “diagonal” is another important compositional technique used in this shot. Specifically, the trunk of the palm tree creates a diagonal (from upper right to lower left). A viewer’s eyes will naturally follow the diagonal and, in this particular shot, the path leads to the model.

Finally, the color of her skin and her bikini contrast sharply with the dark greens and blues that comprise the rest of the image.

While I’m a bit hesitant to bring it up yet again, take note of her foot position. Again, it’s extended with the toes pointed.

By now, the importance of how a glamour model positions her feet should be imprinted on your brain forever.

All photos courtesy of Sports Illustrated

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  1. Great lessons Michael. One thing I’ve noticed that I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on is the way the pictures are cropped. For example, on page 100 and again on page 104, her fingers are cut off. I normally try to avoid amputating fingers. What are your thoughts?

    • I agree. It’s never ideal to cut off fingers. I think the cropping on the page 104 pic is more detrimental to the shot than the pic on page 100. Not only because the fingers are cut off, but also because I think showing just a bit more of her lower body would have added a great deal of sexiness to the shot.

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