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How Baboon Butts Affect Your Portrait Photography

If you are shooting a female subject, having her in a red dress can trigger deep psychological responses in the viewer. It goes back to baboon butts…


In a previous photo tips article we discussed how adding people - wearing Kodak yellow - to your landscape photography can help them become better, more engaging photos and ultimately become contest winners. Today, we will discuss adding red to your portrait photography.

Interesting historical note: Did you know that George Eastman (founder of Kodak) committed suicide?  He shot himself in the heart and left a note saying: "My work is done. Why wait?"

In today's photo tip we are going to continue with our analysis of color but rather than landscape photography, this one is going to be more focused on individual portrait photography. Pretty girls to be exact.

Here is a mind blowing use of color. It has deep psychological triggers - which I've only recently learned about on a show about human behavior and some of the ingrained triggers that we can't help but act on.

It all goes back to baboon butts.

Apparently when a female baboon is ready to mate, its' rear end turns a bright red. Over the centuries this color - red - has worked its way into our psyches and triggers a sexual response.

Before you ask, I'm a photographer, not an anthropologist… I have no idea how this trigger got from baboons to humans. It just did - and we act on it!

There have been tons of movies and songs written about "The Lady In Red!" I'm sure you know what I mean.

But this show went even further than just telling us that this "psychological trigger" phenomenon exists. They set out to prove it!

First they hired a pretty girl. She was an attractive actress and appeared to be in her twenties.

Next they had her put on a WHITE dress. Then they took her to a location that had a lot of foot traffic and as men passed by, they had her ask if they would give her a dollar.

She obviously wasn't indigent, so the excuse was that she wanted to buy a bottle of water but had left her purse in the office. (She was at the base of a long set of stairs and the assumption was that she'd have to climb them to go get her purse.)

Out of 50 men, she was able to get 8 dollars. Actually, to me, that wasn't bad for about ten or fifteen minutes.

Then, they had her put on a red dress.

The dress was exactly the same design; the only change was from white to red. Of course it was the same girl, the same day, the same location and within a few minutes of the same time of day!

In her red dress, she was able to get $38 dollars out of 50 men! Several of them even gave her more than a dollar, even though she only asked for one!

If you are a pretty girl, it seems that with a red dress, panhandling is a pretty lucrative career!

But that's not all. They kept track of how many men did a "double take" head turn to check her out as they went by, and the difference between white and red dress was dramatic!

But wait - there's more!

Standing at a corner, she told men she had a sprained ankle. There was no crying out or limping, she just said she had one. Within minutes, men were physically carrying her across the street!

She wasn't overweight, but she wasn't a waif either! Carrying her weight had to be a challenge for some of these guys. Several men even went further and carried her down the block!

Clearly, the color red triggers a sexual response! By the wayPsychology Articles, they didn't show any tests of males wearing red so I have no idea what kind of triggers that may or may not produce.

The bottom line is... If you want people to respond to your portrait photography - whether they want to or not - have your female subject in red!


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Dan Eitreim has been a professional photographer in Southern California for over 20 years - his data base exceeds 6000 past clients, and he says that learning photography is easy, if you know a few tried and true strategies.




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