Glamorous, playful and fun, pin-up photos once provided a way to connect with one’s sweetheart, share a piece of home, and keep morale up. During World War II, my grandmother Mary Lou sent letters and photos to my grandfather Jack. Seventy years later, these remain a family treasure.

Left: My grandmother posing in the 1940's Right: my updated vintage pose.
Left: My grandmother posing in the 1940’s Right: my updated vintage pose.

Inspired by my grandmother’s photographs, I sought advice from Sharon Austin-Major, of S.A. Glam 360 Hair & Makeup Artistry, and Jessica Joy Thompson, Professional photographer at Jessica Images. I then recruited fellow Army wives Sarah Mitchell and Shandi Young, to help with my amateur photo shoot. All photos were taken with my Canon Rebel T2i and edited with

Here’s how we did it and how you can too!

Step One: Styling 

Ideas for themes, wardrobes and poses were drawn from Google Images, Pinterest and YouTube. We combined clothing and accessories to style the shoot. To locate vintage pieces, check eBay, H&M, ModCloth or even Wal-Mart (where I found my swimsuit from the Suddenly Slim line by Catalina). Online keywords include: vintage, pinup, rockabilly, retro, 1940s and 1950s.

1-2Glamour Girl, Modeled by Shandi Young
Photo Credit: Model: Shandi Young

Step Two: Hair

Sharon Austin-Major shares, “The 1940s and 1950s vintage pinup look is fun and classic.”

Sharon recommends:

  • Start with curling irons, hot rollers, a teasing comb, bun stuffers, hairpins and lots of hairspray. Most of these looks consist of bouffants, finger rolls, waves and curls.
  • Bandanas, hair ties and flowers can play a big role in the design of your look.
  • To be authentic, part your hair on the side and brush it after curling.
  • There are helpful YouTube and Pinterest links to view for inspiration; however, I would suggest seeing a professional hair stylist to ensure a more polished result.

 Step Three: Makeup

Sharon describes that the 1940s makeup featured a neutral face and cheeks with an emphasis on the eyes and lips.

Sharon recommends:

  • Brows should be filled in, and eyes should be sultry using natural brown shadows with full lashes.
  • Consider adding a winged eyeliner effect.
  • This vintage look would not be authentic without a bold red lip. Ask a professional for help in choosing the right shade for you.
  • Polish off your look with red lacquer on your nails.

Step Four: Posing

Jessica Joy Thompson shares, “It is nice for our significant others to have photos of us to enjoy while they are away.”

Jessica recommends:

  • Take photos when you have light flooding through the windows. If you have blinds, you can play with the lines they make. Light and shadow will add dimension.
  • Posture is important and conveys confidence. Elongate your body and stretch out, pulling up from the back of your head all they way to your toes.
  • To accentuate those nice curves, put your weight behind you. Roll your hips away from the camera. If you are sitting, sit on the pocket closest to the camera.
  • Point your feet like you are wearing heels and loosen hands like you are a ballet dancer.
  • Relax by closing your eyes, taking a few deep breaths and thinking of your favorite actress. Slowly open your eyes and pretend you are the actress playing a key role.

 Step Five: Editing

For our amateur shoot, we kept the background simple with a white sheet. On I adjusted the background with the “Clone” and “Overlay” tools to dress it up, but kept the emphasis on the model. Additionally, I bumped up the brightness, contrast, softened the photos, and added filters.

Rosie the Riveter, Modeled by Sarah Mitchell
Rosie the Riveter, Modeled by Sarah Mitchell

Step Six: Sharing 

If sending electronically, Jessica recommends using Dropbox. For hard copies she raves about Artisan State for the best quality-to-price ratio for prints or albums.

Please do remember the USPS restriction for military mail: “Any matter depicting nude or seminude persons, pornographic or sexual items is prohibited.” This is also a good rule of thumb for photos shared via the internet. Keep it light, fun, classy and playful!

Professional Pin-Ups

Although I am pleased with our amateur shoot, I would certainly recommend a professional experience. I envision the perfect victory rolls, red pout, and photos captured with the utmost of artistic detail.

I am happy that I didn’t simply attempt a tripod and timer. I had a wonderful evening with my friends playing with hair, makeup, clothes, and poses. We added music, wine and laughter for a memorable time, and I encourage you to do the same – unleash your beautiful, confident pin-up personality!

Jackie Toops Head ShotA self-described “Jackie of All Trades,” Army wife Jackie Toops chronicles her experiences in Europe through American eyes. Born in Florida and stationed in Germany, the mother of two enjoys writing, travel, art, languages, slow cooking and peaceful parenting. She studied Interdisciplinary Humanities, Museum Studies and Nonprofit Management, and has overseen public relations for museums, galleries and universities. Currently she is a contributing author for Wall Street International Magazine and a recurring on-air guest with AFN Wiesbaden. She’s usually seen traversing Europe with her Canon, a coffee and two small children. Follow her on Twitter.



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