How to Achieve a Pin Up Style Photo Shoot

Written by Backdrop Express Photography Team on . Posted in Model Photography, Portrait Photography

Pin Up Photography

Pin-up girls have an undeniable, classic, timeless quality that nearly everyone responds to; men love to look at them, and women admire their beauty and confidence. The pin up girl is sexy but always classy, with flawless skin, coiffed hair, perfect makeup, cherry-red lips and alluring outfits. These beauties kept up soldiers’ morale for decades and have influenced generations of style. What better way to pay homage to the pin up girl than with a pin up photography shoot? If you’d like to recreate that pin up photography look, here’s what you need to know: You will need:

Work Space

Use a professional photo studio or any large, open area that gets a lot of natural light. If you live in a mild climate, you can set up in your garage, open the door and let in the natural light. Indoors, use the space with the most windows and face the subject toward the light source.


A white or light-colored fabric or roll of seamless paper can be a clean, versatile backdrop choice. However, you might also consider going with a bright, bold color. Canary Yellow can really make a statement; Coral is another impactful and feminine paper backdrop color option.

Backdrop Stand or Mounting

A professional backdrop stand is the ideal way to hang your backdrop, but you can also use PVC pipe and wire, heavy tape, thumb tacks or even a staple gun to attach your backdrop to a wall.


If you shoot during the day, the natural light streaming in can offer the perfect amount of lighting for your pin up photography shoot. If you’re working after sundown or in a studio with no windows, use soft studio lighting to illuminate your subject.

Seamless Paper Backdrops for Pin Up Photography


Here’s the fun part! You can find just about everything you need for your shoot in terms of wardrobe at a local thrift store or perhaps even your own (or your Mom’s or girlfriend’s) closet. High-waisted capri pants and shorts can conjure up the era, as can boat neck, V-neck and cardigan sweaters. Halloween costumes and costume rental shops can be a great source of pin up wardrobe material and inspiration for your shoot.

Some other ideas for clothing and accessories include:

Bathing Suit

A “retro” bathing suit can do wonders for creating the look of your pin up model, but just about any one-piece bathing suit can work — go for solid colors, polka-dots, stripes, bold florals — any of these can look very “pin up.”

Seamless Paper Backdrops for Pin Up Photography

High Heels

Stilettos, peep-toes and espadrilles are all great shoe choices for your pin up shoot.

Pencil Skirt

A high waisted black pencil skirt screams “pin up.” Check the back of your closet or the local thrift store. Pair it with a white poplin shirt for a “sexy librarian or secretary” look.


Your pin up photography shoot can be as tame or risque as you (and the model) want it to be. Bring the fish net stockings, old-school brassieres with pointed cups, garter belts and lacy undergarments to make your pin up shoot ultra-sexy.


Think big silk flowers, cocktail hats, cat-eye glasses, feather boas, costume jewelry, pearls, and a trenchcoat. Your attic, your local thrift store and even the dollar store can hold a veritable treasure trove of potential pin up photography shoot accessories.


One of the hallmark elements of a pin up photo shoot is the model’s hairstyle; pin curls and victory rolls were popular pin up hairstyles. Your model should ideally have the loose curls that characterized the style of the era; if she can’t generate the look with her own hair, consider having an assortment of wigs on hand at the shoot.

Make Up

Your pin up girl’s make up should be heavy, smooth, but never “cakey.” Distinct, sharply-arched eyebrows (like Elizabeth Taylor’s) will enhance your pin up girl’s look. Go for “Gretta Garbo” eyes with light-colored shadow on the upper eyelids and darker, smokier tones nearer to the eye. Use black liquid eyeliner to create a cat-eye look. Finish her make up with the perfect pout: cherry red or deep pink lipstick a la Joan Crawford and Bettie Davis will make an impression. Consider drawing on a beauty mark like Marilyn Monroe’s.

Seamless Paper Backdrops for Pin Up Photography


For seated poses, have your model sit on a bench, table or chair; simple is best so that it doesn’t detract from your subject. Other miscellaneous prop ideas can include an old telephone, an ornate hand-held mirror, old-school beach gear, a feather duster, a vintage glass soda bottle — you get the idea.

Now that your model is outfitted and the scene is set, it’s time to have fun! Go for alluring, hourglass silhouettes and poses in your compositions; browse old pinups on the internet or pin up shoots on Pinterest for inspiration. Have your girl emulate the poses and allow her to “play dress-up” with a number of different looks. All the while, keep shooting… Have an amazing time, and enjoy the results!

Have you directed a pin up girl photo shoot? What were some of your favorite props and poses?

-Backdrop Express Photography Team

Interested in reading more about using fun, bright backdrops? Check out Bright Backdrops vs. Neutral Backgrounds: When Should You Go Bold?

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Comments (2)

  • Amy Necaise




  • Vanessa


    What a great mini tutorial! I adore pinup and this will help some people achieve a great pinup look! Check out my Flirtini Photography website and see some of my work!


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