Many photographers post their work on photography forums. Pretty girl shooters are no exception. Posting images on photo forums is a good way to get feedback and critique for your images.
It's been my observation that three components seem to trump all others when it comes to the responses a pretty girl pic might receive: Beauty, Emotion, and Lighting.
If I were a statistically-minded person, I suppose I could plot these components on a Bell Curve, in this case, a BEL Curve. But since I'm better with words than numbers, I'll stick to using an analogy between the traditional Bell Curve and my newly-minted BEL Curve.
Bell curves look like upside down bells. You knew that, right? All kinds of things can be plotted on the curves of the bell: Things that yield a picture of where it exists in terms of accomplishment or rating. Bell Curves produce visually digestible, easily understood, overall positive or negative rankings for whatever it is that's being plotted on the curve.
Teachers, for instance, use Bell Curves to plot grades. Many people refer to various skills, i.e., their skills at doing something, as moving one way or another along a Bell Curve, indicating their level of skill or proficiency at that thing. Bell Curves are easy to visualize and, as such, work nicely to illustrate many things. I know I'm oversimplifying Bell Curves but that's what I'm often about: Simplification... of my life, my work, my thoughts, so many things. I'm just a simple guy, I guess.
So let's look at the BEL Curve:
Beauty is the first and, quite often, the most important point to plot on the curve. Beauty trumps so many other aspects of a pretty girl photo. If a model is drop dead gorgeous, sexy almost beyond belief, those people critiquing your image of this "10" will be less focused on the technical aspects of the photo and mesmerized by the beauty and visual allure she portrays. Beauty is perfection. Beauty is something we are all drawn to in powerful ways. While beauty might be in the eyes of the beholder, there are beauties whom almost everyone will agree are just plain stunningly beautiful.
Emotion is another point that moves a pretty girl photograph along the BEL Curve. When a model is beautiful and she projects an emotion that strikes chords in the minds of viewers, exciting chords, she adds incredible "wow" value to the image, transporting her beauty to new heights. If you're not coaxing emotion from your pretty girl models, you're missing out on an important way of moving your images in the right direction on the BEL Curve.
Lighting is the frosting on the cake when it comes to photographing pretty girls. Lighting, like emotion, will move a pretty girl pic along the BEL Curve in powerful ways. Lighting highlights a model's beauty (pun intended) and underscores the emotion she projects. Without light, it's tough to visualize. Without visualization, fantasy becomes more difficult, most especially for men. And what's the point of pretty girl pics if not to feed the fantasies of their viewers?
So when you're going about the business of producing glamour photography, keep in mind the 3 major components of the BEL Curve: Beauty, emotion, and lighting. These elements will become the major benchmarks for viewers' perceptions of your work. Certainly, there are other components--things like composition, exposure, location or environment, makeup and hair, and more--that will move a pretty girl photo in the right direction on the BEL Curve. But beauty, emotion, and lighting are, IMO, the most important aspects of any pretty girl pic.
The pretty girl at the top is Lupe from a shoot last week. She's beautiful, she's projecting, in my perception, a subtle yet sensuous emotion through pose and expression. The lighting, while not particularly remarkable, dramatic, or stylistic, ain't shabby if I do say so myself. I think the photo would plot decently on the BEL Curve.
Lupe captured with a Canon 5D w/ 70-200 f/4L, ISO 100, f/8 @ 125. Three Profoto Acute heads provided the lighting: The main modified with a 7' Photoflex Octodome and the two kickers with small, shoot-through umbrellas. Here's another of the very sexy and sensuous Lupe: