The critical value created when shooting a great portrait is tied to building impact that lasts. Psychologically, humans have evolved to take notice of sexually attractive people, focus on them briefly, then completely forget. This phenomena helps maximize genetic quality in a population but can also have an impact on how viewers remember your sexy photos.
There is nothing wrong with shooting sexy subjects, rather, shooting attractive images can be tremendously rewarding to the client. However, it is your job to add more depth to the image than just being “sexy.” Sexy needs to be limited to being an aspect of the image rather than the primary focus of it.
Mammals have evolved to instinctively gravitate towards the most attractive potential mate in the immediate vicinity due to our innate need to combine our own genes with the highest quality genes available through reproduction. This, largely, is what drives evolution.
An important aspect of this process, though, is that we need to be undaunted by memories of, presumably, more attractive potential mates that we have encountered in the past. As a result we have developed the tendency to key on the most attractive man or woman nearby and completely forget about them later. The only exception to this being if we engage in some sort of direct interaction with that person which triggers a more meaningful and lasting connection.
Check out this video by Prager University which delves more deeply into the psychology with references to studies. Most importantly, though, think back to your own experience looking at photos. Are any of the most memorable photos you have ever seen unforgettable because they were sexy and only sexy? Even beer companies, who are notorious for using sexy female models to market their product, know that they need to inject something beyond “sexy” to create brand retention.
Sexy As A Subject Is Boring
Shooting sexy as the sole purpose of the photo is a bit like creating a book that only has a cover but nothing inside.
Sexy is great for sparking attention for a fleeting moment, however that attention is lost almost immediately unless there is more depth to the photo that bridges a connection of interest with the viewer.
Shooting "Sexy" In A Memorable Way
Create A Sense Of Story
Nothing brings a sexy image to life more than adding a sense of story. Those aforementioned beer companies make great use of this technique by often adding a simple, humorous story into their sexy campaigns. Find a way to make your sexy shots more than just a pin-up; have something going on in the image that sparks the imagination of the viewer and inspires them to expand on that story within their own mind.
When presented with an attractive potential mate, humans tend to immediately look to bridge a connection with the person they are attracted to. Find a way to reveal the personality of the model or character in your image and reveal it in a way that triggers a genuine kinship with your audience.
Focus On Expression
Strong emotion, even when it is negative, can have a profound impact on the viewer of an image. Expression reveals emotion, emotion has impact, and impact is memorable. Don’t just place your model in the scene with some unrealistic pose and blank expression. Instead harness the emotion of a fictional or real scene.
Mystery Is Unforgettable
Curiosity lingers. By making your viewers wonder what is going on you are demanding that they become part of the story of your photo. By adding a sense of mystery to your sexy shots you ensure that viewers will be thinking about your image even after they have stopped looking at it.
A Golden Question
Shooting memorable, sexy images boils down to a single simple question that you should ask yourself whenever you are shooting sexy shots: Is the sexuality of the scene the primary subject overshadowing everything else? If the answer is yes, then you just might be creating a beautiful, yet forgettable photo.