In everyday life we hear a number of flattering terms used to describe women with good looks - pretty, lovely, photogenic, beautiful etc etc. However these terms are not used particularly carefully and in any case are not easy to define. The two most meaningful words to a photographer are "beautiful" and "photogenic". They are not the same thing, and "photogenic" is the more important of the two.
A model can be beautiful but not particularly photogenic. She can also be photogenic although not notably beautiful. Finally, as is the case for the fortunate few, she may be both beautiful and photogenic.
The meaning of beauty is discussed in another article, but a photographer discovers whether a model is photogenic when he or she has spent some time photographing her. There is no scientific process that can be used to determine whether someone is or is not photogenic, but experience behind a camera provides the answer.
Some women have physical beauty in abundance yet somehow do not make good beauty photographs. The look is just not there and the images don't really work. Perhaps it is the inability of the model to relate to the camera, or something wrong with the relationship or communication between photographer and model, or perhaps it is something about the facial features or a personal characteristic buried deep inside the mind.
Many times over the years photographers work with models who turn up at their studio in a T-shirt and jeans and an old pair of trainers. They dump a bag of clothes on the floor and go looking for a cup of coffee. Sometimes the heart sinks because the model does not at first sight look particularly stunning. Some may look rather plain and others have strong features.
However, a good make-up artist is worth her weight in gold because she has an eye for the special characteristics of each model and also knows how to use them in practice. The girl that emerges from the make-up or hairdresser's room may consequently be transformed. Models with strong looks may be more difficult to transform to a particular image and hence not suited to every role, whereas the appearance of those with plainer or more bland looks may be more easily adapted. Some talent spotters look for an "unwritten page" in the face of a potential model, but others would not agree.
Personality contributes much to being photogenic. Yes, physical beauty is always an advantage. However an ability to hit the right positions and poses, and a personality that reveals itself through attitude, facial characteristics and sparkling or alluring eyes, are both priceless. A really good model delivers excellent images one after the other. The photographer does not have to work quite as hard to achieve results - they just keep coming. The feeling is different for both photographer and model.