📸 Skai Chan Photography

Fashion Disasters for Portrait Photo Shoots

I'm looking for volunteer models to help to me create photographs to show visual examples of the fashion disasters, including taking good and bad examples.

I have been working with many individuals for portrait photo shoots and most of the time, the models have to provide their own wardrobe. That means we don't have the luxury of having a fashion designer to guide or even to provide suitable wardrobe. For certain photo shoots, we do have the involvement of a hair and makeup artist who usually has reasonable good fashion sense to reinforce my explanation to the model. Unfortunately, some girls may be over-confident in their own makeup and fashion sense. From my experience, no matter how trendy the model may seem to be, there are days when she will have terrible fashion sense.

When I was new to portrait photography, I did face some bad situations, which I only learned after going through the photographs with my mentor, an ex commercial hair and makeup artist. For example, a model was wearing an oversized bra and it created a distinct ugly shape like as if the top of the bra was protruding out. I would usually avoid looking at the chest areas of my models during shoots in order to avoid any misunderstanding that may cause miscomfort. Even if I had glanced at her chest area during the photo shoot, my level of fashion sense for girls at that point of time wouldn't help me much.

My motto towards fashion is that if the part of the clothes isn't meant to be seen, it shouldn't be shown. For example, if a girl is wearing a normal top, the bra and its straps shouldn't be shown, or otherwise, it will give a distasteful feel. In another example, if a girl wishes to portray a sporty feel and she's wearing a tank top or singlet, it's okay to let her sports bra be seen since a sports bra is fashionable.

These are some fashion disasters I have encountered or seen:

  1. Bra with transparent/translucent straps
    Some young girls seem to love this type of bra. Using a bra with straps would make them feel more secured compared to a strapless one or a nude bra since the bra with straps would be more secured. However, they assume the bra straps are truly transparent. I was in the same league until I started doing portrait photography.

    In reality, the "transparent" bra straps aren't transparent at all. They do reflect light a lot, including both sunlight and artificial light, and thus would be very visible. If the girl wishes to display her bra straps as part of the fashion, why not use a normal bra instead?

    After using the bra with transparent straps for a few times, it would become more opaque and thus even uglier.

    Another problem of using such bra is that all bra straps would naturally be pressing down onto the skin and leaving some bra marks. Since the straps are "transparent", the bra marks would be visible instantly.

    There were a few times that I tried to explain to the models about the problems of using such bra to pair with clothes like tube top or even spaghetti top, the immature models would simply say "you can just Photoshop it away". I guess most of these models usually don't zoom into photographs and thus they don't realise the flaws in their own selfies; not many people are into details.

    A good photographer would rather rectify errors during the photo shoots because it takes time to edit them, there's a high chance that viewers can spot that the photographs are edited and there are some photographs that almost can't be edited. Bra straps are located at the edge of the body and thus it can be far more complicated to be edited.
  2. Visible panty line
    Visible panty line is the line that gives away the shape of the panty that's visible on the outerwear. This is because the panty has some thickness and would be slightly protruding out of the outerwear. This usually happens if the outfit is bodyhugging (bodycon), which stick tightly to the body. Visible panty line may be solved by wearing a seamless panty and will definitely be solved simply by not wearing any panty at all. Having visible panty line will usually attract a lot of attention from guys, in a sexual way.

    If the photo shoot is supposed to be a concept that's very decent and elegant, it's going to be a fashion disaster as the viewers would be heavily distracted by the shape of the underwear.

    However, since it attracts attention, if the model's purpose is to create a more sensual feel, she may show the panty line on purpose. In this case, wearing a G-string or thong would be more suitable.

    A model friend related to me a story of her doing a local runway show and the male audiences were very excited to see her visible panty line.
  3. Safety pants or tights
    In the past, I thought it was a good idea for models to wear safety pants for photo shoots to in case of wardrobe malfunction. However, my portrait photography experience told me no.

    Some of the safety pants or clothes with similar purpose may give the same problem like visible panty line; therefore, it may make the entire styling look awful.

    The most common problem with safety pants is that they tend to appear easily during the photo shoot, especially if the skirt or dress is short. That means there's a high chance that the movement of the model would cause the safety pant to appear. As mentioned, parts of the clothes that shouldn't be shown shouldn't be shown; it would give viewers the impression of "zaogeng", upskirt or wardrobe malfunction, as viewers would treat it like a panty being revealed. Imagine if the pose and expression of the model are fantastic but the safety pant is revealed accidentally, it's a terrible waste, especially for the great expression that may be difficult to be displayed again. It's always more tasteful to show more skin rather than showing any underwear. A non professional model may simply tell the photographer "let's just redo the pose again" and it's just not as simple and effortless as she thinks. There are also some models who would take note of the safety pants and be over cautious about revealing it, and thus under-perform in term of her expression. Nobody should also expect the photographer to keep focusing on the bottom of the model to check if the safety pant is visible. Of course, if the model is wearing a panty, the panty will somehow be revealed as well, however, it won't be as frequent as a safety pant. A G-string or a thong would be even better.

    After all, if the model thinks that the photographer would be spending his time to enjoy the "free show" of the underwear instead of focusing on getting good photographs, why would the model want to work with the photographer in the first place?

    Another bad use of safety pant for a photo shoot is when the concept is supposed to be a little sexy and the bottom is supposed to be shown as part of the fashion. For example, the model is wearing a boyfriend shirt or any top that can barely cover the bottom, the bottom is likely meant to be shown on the photographs. To photograph female models, we usually want to show curves and we would want to avoid straight lines. In this case, showing a safety pant that's "huge" and square in shape is ugly; it would greatly reduce the beauty of the photographs.

    Nevertheless, safety pants would be suitable for photo shoot with cheerleaders. It's a norm for cheerleaders to wear a safety pants underneath their short skirts and the safety pants would be seen by the audience throughout the performance as they jump. It's since become part of the jersey, especially in Asia. I'm not aware if there's any cheerleader who would wear a panty or even G-string to flash the audience.

    For casual wear (non photo shoot), safety pants are good.
  4. Tank top with large opening at the sides, exposing a normal bra
    This is very rare but it does happen. Tank tops or even muscle tees that have large opening at the sides usually helps a girl to portray a sporty image. The girl can pair the top with a sports bra as part of the fashion, which would be revealed at the sides or the girl can simply go braless to give a sexy image.

    Imagine the side holes of the tank top are a little deeper towards the nipples and the girl is wearing a normal bra, much of the bra would be revealed. Whatever isn't meant to be shown shouldn't be shown. Yes, it's a fashion disaster.
  5. Bare back top with bra straps
    Again, whatever isn't supposed to be shown, shouldn't be shown.

    If the top is supposed to reveal the girl's skin at the back, "showing off" any bra strap isn't a very tasteful sight. The bra strap(s) would be the centre of attention instead.

    For the design of certain outfit, it may not be showing the entire back. In such case, the bra straps, if shown, would complicate the design.
  6. Oversized bra
    If the bra size is bigger than the chest, especially for a near full cup bra that's made of hard material, it may be an ugly scene. The entire shape of the bra would be surfaced like as if the bra is trying hard to get out of the clothes. It gives an illusion that the bra is made of extremely thick sponge.

    For illustration purpose, just put your mobile phone underneath your clothes near the chest area. You can see its shape and that's how the oversized bra would be shown, except that it's probably not as rectangular as the phone to be noticed so obviously from a distance away.

    Luckily, this is quite rare.
  7. Coloured bra
    If the outfit is a little translucent, the coloured bra will be shown. This is subjective and would depend on the design of both the outfit and bra. If the bra is not meant to be part of the fashion, then it's going to be distasteful.

    It's usually safer to stick to bras with skin colour or the colour that's similar to the outfit. White coloured bra may not raise as much attention as others.
  8. High waist pants
    Some girls love wearing high waist pants because it gives an illusion that her legs are longer. Unfortunately, not many girls' body shapes suit such design. In contrast, it may backfire and may her look thicker at the hip or even waist area.
  9. Baggy pants/shorts
    If the image of the model is supposed to be something edgy or street dancer kind, this can be considered. However, baggy bottoms usually make the girl look thick.

    I'd worked on it half-heartedly by the request of both the model and makeup artist after our main concept was accomplished. Some times later, the model admitted to me that she regretted it.
  10. Denim material bottoms
    I love denim jeans because they are more durable than other materials. Many girls love denim shorts too and I have admiration for girls who wear them.

    However, when it comes to fashion, denim would give audience an image that the model has a "rough" character due to the material. The texture is usually rougher and less stretchable (newer technology seems to have solved this issue). So, it depends a lot on the "feel" that the girl wishes to give. If she wants to appear "stronger" in the photograph, yes, denim is a very good choice.

    On the other hand, if the girl wishes to appear more gentle, she probably should use a bottom that's made of smoother materials. For example, cotton or satin.

    Another big problem of wearing denim shorts is that many girls don't get very fitting ones or the cutting simply isn't flattering. As a result, the denim shorts would make the girls' hips look much bigger.
  11. Nipple stickers/tapes for implied nude photo shoots
    Nipple tapes are saviours for girls who wish to do sexy photo shoots yet they are extremely afraid of having wardrobe malfunction during the photo shoots.

    As a portrait photographer, I can testify that wardrobe malfunction is extremely common and this is why many naughty non-photographers would comment about photographers having "good life". In actual fact, professional photographers are working towards hiding all private parts that are not supposed to be shown on the photographs instead of enjoying the cheap thrill. If the model has any doubt in the photographer, she shouldn't have worked with the photographer in the first place.

    I have encountered bad situations with models using nipple tapes. If the concept of the photo shoot is implied nude, it's naturally going to be sexy and showing more skin without exposing the nipples. However, some nipple tapes can be quite wide that they cover quite an amount of skin. I've done an implied nude photo shoot that the model pasted extra tapes over her nipples tapes, such that the diameter of the "tapes" was large. The essence of an implied nude photo shoot is to let the audience know that the model isn't wearing a bra or even underwear, yet not revealing the private parts. If a large area of the chest is covered, then the effect of the implied nude photo shoot wouldn't be as great.

    Areola is a small circular area, in particular the ring of pigmented skin surrounding a nipple. Some girls have very wide areola. Anyway, it's up to individual's taste to whether part of the areola should be shown in an implied nude photograph. From my experience, it's much easier to edit the areola during post-production to match the normal skin colour as compared to a nipple tape. Since everyone has different areola sizes, it's usually very safe to remove them without viewers noticing; and thus there's actually not a big issue in term of professional photography.

    Given a situation that the model's expression (most non-professional models have problems giving the right expression and thus is very valuable) and pose are good but it happens that a bit of her areola is being exposed, it can be easily edited away. If the model were to be using nipple tapes and that the tapes are revealed instead, it may be difficult to replace it with her normal skin colour and texture in Photoshop to make that area look natural.

    In the case that the concept of the photo shoot is supposed to reveal the shape of the nipples underneath the outfit to add more sensual, art or natural feel, the nipple tapes would definitely defeat the purpose.

    Of course, if the girl is not doing a photo shoot and is wearing a revealing outfit that a normal bra can't fit in (will be shown), she's highly advised to use nipple tapes or stickers that can make sure the outfit is stick onto her skin in case of any wardrobe malfunction when she's outside.
  12. Bikini set with shoes
    Bikini is known to be worn at the beach or swimming pool (and poolside). Basically, a girl will be barefooted or simply in a flip flop. People who walk around in shoes at the poolside or beach may be deemed as "noob". At the beach, the sand would get inside the shoes and it's an irritating feeling. I had experienced it a few times when the photo shoot venue was suddenly changed to the beach.

    There may also be girls wearing bikini, instead of sports bra, for jogging or cycling near the beach but most of them will probably be wearing shorts at the bottom.

    Therefore, if a girl were to wear a pair of shoes for her bikini photo shoot, it's weird. We never know about the trend in further but as of the time I'm writing this article, the combination of bikini set with shoes doesn't look appealing.


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