Top 6 Vintage Session Mistakes

Number 1: Wrong Wardrobe Styling

Nothing kills a vintage, retro or pinup shoot more quickly than having the wardrobe styling not consistent for the period or style you’re shooting. I go over the styling early on in the project discussions. I try to establish what the background will be before finalizing the wardrobe, props or styling. Of course, in order to do this, you must determine roughly what period and styling you’re looking for in the shoot.

Number 2: Unflattering Poses

Not only will your model thank you for great posing but also your photography will benefit. Way too often I’m seeing poorly posed models in pin-up and rockabilly styles. Sometimes the model is has the bust pushed too far forward, strange poses with the legs or even clipped feet or arms making the image uncomfortable to view. I just hurts to see these images. These elements can be added but only artistically.

Number 3: Wrong Makeup

A great makeup artist can really help with the finer beauty details in an image. Bad makeup won’t kill the image but great makeup will enhance the image. I use my make up artist as an extra pair of eyes on the set looking for stylistic inconsistencies in addition to makeup issues.

Number 4: Bad Hairstyling

Too much hairspray or too little. Maybe the wrong curl here or there can change the styling from a 40’s to a 50’s to a 60’s. Proper hair styling sets the tone for the individual and can help to ‘sell’ the image to the viewer. Another issue to be aware of is the humidity level of the studio or location. Humidity can cause those beautiful curls to droop and hair to fall.

Number 5: Wrong Lighting For Period

This really depends on what you’re shooting. If you’re trying to be period correct, it’s critical. If you’re shooting 40’s with modern elements or modern with 40’s elements, the tone of the image is different. I use ARRI Fresnels for my Hollywood lighting shoots. Remember strobes did not arrive on scene until the 50’s.

Number 6: Wrong Props

I tend to mostly shoot period correct pieces where I can get the props. Other times, I have to settle for period mostly correct. But like lighting, it depends on how ‘correct’ you want to be. Once your awareness is up, you can find elements – props, colors, styling, etc. that are inconsistent with the period you’re shooting. Errors can be seen in Hollywood productions as well once you’re attuned to what to look for.


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