Does sex always sell?

Leilani Dowding

A popular pic. Can you see why?

Another trip down memory lane this week, and this time I risk accusations of blatantly fishing for blog hits by featuring this photo of former Page 3 model Leilani Dowding. She’s modeling a bikini which Swatch wanted to promote at the time (no pun intended) as there was a watch incorporated into the design.

There is a reason for this picture being here though, because it’s been fascinating to see that although my website is dedicated to corporate, press, PR and commercial photography, this is the photo which has had the most views out of all the pictures on my site.

I don’t mind revealing that it’s had 138 views to date. That isn’t all the people that have seen it, since you can see it without clicking on the website thumbnail. That’s how many people in about 18 months have gone to the trouble of clicking on the thumbnail image to see it larger.

Bearing this statistic in mind, it’s hardly surprising that Marilyn Monroe comes in second with 103 views, but then my Skinheads picture scores 89 to achieve 3rd place. A slightly worrying top three, but of course the hits aren’t necessarily related.

Now I should be pleased that some of my pictures are so popular, but this rather odd bag of stats highlights that just having a picture seen a lot isn’t going to bring in business. Indeed, I think I can categorically say that none of those three images has ever pulled in a genuine client. My examples of corporate portraits and the like, with much more modest hits in the range of 30-50 have done a better job of bringing in work.

It just goes to show that pretty photos don’t always bring in work. A popular picture isn’t always going to bring in business. For businesses using photography, if it’s shot well and is relevant to your business it’ll have a much bigger impact on income than something which is just “very nice to look at.” This thought should guide how you present your business.

In the meantime, I can’t bring myself to take the Leilani photo down. It’s obviously bringing pleasure to some people, and she certainly adds a splash of glamour to the gallery.

As for Leilani herself, she was lovely to work with. Utterly without pretense, and of course, thoroughly professional. We’d previously done a shoot together to promote a gardening kit giveaway for the News of the World, but that picture isn’t half as glamorous!

I understand she now lives and works in Los Angeles. I doubt she remembers me 🙁

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  • Ken of London May 17, 2011  

    Excellent blog this week Tim, aside from the image, you do pose a very interesting question – What is it that is selling you? For me it is my ability to deliver, be available and have reasonable (not cheap) prices. They would review some of my work and decide if they liked it or not. I am not a high concept shooter, I don’t do high end advertising, I do straight forward top quality business photography that emphasises the uniqueness of each business.

    In a semi – related anecdote, I used to have young big eyed, very in love couples come to see me to book me for their weddings. They would bring tear sheets from bridal magazines with really high calibre wedding advert shots ( not shots from actual weddings) or they would ask for really cool, funky and edgy ( I hate that word) shots. Normally the model shots would be of a tall statuesque Nordic blonde woman who was visiting from the Asgard region of heaven, the girl asking would be a tiny petite pretty dark haired girl from Lebanon.

    The couples who wanted the cool and edgy shots portraying them as hip street savvy dudes and duettes, would normally be at home canoodling over a pizza in front of “dancing talent on ice with big brother” by 9pm on a saturday night.

    Sensibility would rein in the end and I would photograph them as I found them on their day, full of smiles and love for one another, her looking lovely, him looking sharp and smooth and everyone just being themselves.

    And these were the photos that would get me my next booking.

    • Glass Eye May 17, 2011  

      This might be why I’m reluctant to shoot weddings!

      • Ken of London May 17, 2011  

        I don’t anymore unless its friend. Its just too hard with a client these days.

  • Brooks Anderson May 18, 2011  


    I’d be lying if I told you that that photo makes me want to buy a watch.

    But is it sex? No. Sexy? Yes.

    You can see some of my latest stunning photos at the following shortlink:

    Best wishes,

    • Glass Eye May 18, 2011  

      I bet you want to buy a bikini now though 😉

      No, it isn’t sex in its depiction, but the term “sex sells” is about how we use sexy images and messages to sell goods and services. In a blog which I try to limit to 500 words for each article, I sometimes have to rely on generally accepted shorthand sometimes.

      Nice plug for your blog.

      Kind regards


  • Tom June 7, 2011  

    Hi Hi Tim.
    Interesting blog post as per usual.

    It’s right that sex sells. Most of the visitors to my own site arrive after typing specific keywords into search engines.

    On another semi related note. I have some nearly 400 images in Google Earth, ranging from Spain to Switzerland and several countries in between. I like to imagine that people would find my pics of ruined castles to be the most interesting, but the image that is number one in views is of a war memorial in Kyrgyzstan! Nearyl 9000 views to date.

    It can be seen here:

    • Glass Eye June 7, 2011  

      Hi Tom

      Indeed, you never can tell which images will be most viewed. It’s not even as if people are using keywords that would bring them to that image of Leilani. I suppose once people arrive at the site, it’s a shot they’ll look at in preference to others within the gallery.

      Kind regards