This article was inspiration from “Fashion Flair for Portrait and Wedding Photography” by Lindsay Adler. You can purchase this book from for better understanding about this subject.


An Overview

Fashion photography involves a great deal of preparation. It’s what separates basic portraits from fashion or conceptual portraiture.

For a typical portrait session, you show up, meet the subject, and take pictures. There is often little discussion of location, hair, clothing, props, and lighting. There is seldom a concept behind the portrait except to make a flattering image of the subject.

Fashion photography often produces striking imagery because of all the preparation involved, most of which takes place before the actual day of the shoot. It involves organizing a location, determining the shoot concept, selecting the model, choosing the wardrobe, and communicating the concept to the hair and makeup team. A high-end, single-day shoot may involve weeks of preparation.

Things to Consider

To give your portraiture distinct fashion flair, you must begin to consider some of the steps you can take to make your images stand out. Ask yourself what elements will contribute to a strong image.

What are you trying to communicate about your subject? Is there a particular concept or visual aesthetic you’d like to convey?

There are several essential elements to consider when preparing for a shoot with a strong fashion influence. Breaking down a shoot into these elements allows you to see the various areas of the shoot you can affect and the myriad results you can achieve. Here are elements to consider:

  • Concepts
  • Location
  • Styling (Hair, Makeup, Wardrobe, Props)
  • Posing
  • Lighting
  • Post-processing (Photoshop, retouching, and more)

These elements allow you to take a portrait beyond just a pretty picture of an individual. You will no longer be taking a person’s portrait; you will be making a person’s portrait. You cannot expect to just show up and create an image that looks like it was taken from the pages of a fashion magazine. You should begin to think of your portraits as mini-productions. You subject is your model, and as the producer of the shoot you must consider all elements within your control.

Control is one of the great gifts of fashion photography. As a photographer, you are in control of every aspect of the image. You determine the composition, lighting, model, and posing. You have no excuses if the image doesn’t achieve your goals, because you have complete control.

How to Get Inspiration

Inspiration can come from anywhere. It can come from a dream, a song, a TV advertisement, or other artists and photographers. Learn to keep your eyes open and digest what you see. Photographers learn to view things differently, such as light and shadows. We see unique angles that are naturally apparent.

Look out for interesting locations or unique props. When you watch television, find the interesting visuals or styling. Following are a few good places or sources of inspiration.

Tear Sheets

Keep a collection of images or tear sheets (pages pulled from magazines) that inspire you. If you see a pose you really like in a magazine, tear out that page for future reference. If you catch a glimpse of lighting you really like in an online editorial, save that image to your desktop. Whether inspired by a location, pose, concept, clothing, or something else, save these images for future reference.


Sometimes a particular location will inspire me for a shoot. A location may encourage a certain composition, or it might have a particular time in history that it reminds me of. For example, if there is a 1950’s diner in your area, you might be inspired to do a couple’s engagement session with a 1950’s theme. Or perhaps a rich, green forest will inspire you to do a bridal image with the pure white dress against the bright green tones.

If a location inspires you to create a certain image, all you need to do is wait for the right client to come around who fits that environment.


An interesting chair, an old clock, or a unique pair of glasses can inspire an entire shoot. When browsing eBay or a local antique shop, you are certain to come across treasures that will inspire a shoot concept. Keep these props in mind if you have an opportunity to fit a concept you have developed, or focus an entire shoot around an interesting prop.


A shirt, a dress, or any piece of clothing may inspire you. A long and flowing dress may inspire an elegant and ethereal shoot in a field at sunset. A black leather jacket may inspire a Rebel Without a Cause–themed shoot. If you’re working with a wardrobe stylist on a shoot, be sure to consult with him about interesting or inspiring pieces of clothing he has access to.

Client or Model

Sometimes your client or model will inspire a shoot because of a particular look. A subject with big, soft eyes might inspire a gentle beauty shoot with a wreath of wildflowers on her head. A subject with a strong jaw line and short spiky hair would inspire an entirely different shoot.

If you find a client who is a muse for you, consider shooting her free of charge (after the first session) to help you build your fashion portfolio. Photographing someone like this is a great way to push your creativity and try new fashion flair techniques.

Sometimes a client will inspire a shoot because he approaches you with a particular idea. Maybe he is an equestrian and tells you he’s always wanted an image of himself riding into the sunset with his horse. He provided you with the inspiration; now it’s your job to perfect the details for an amazing image.

Music Videos

Even if you aren’t a big fan of MTV or pop music, music videos are an incredible source of inspiration. Most of them are like 3-minute moving fashion editorials. Many are highly stylized with great lighting, props, and locations. If you have a favorite band or a genre of music you like, take some time to watch music videos and see if any of the visuals grab your attention.


Movies are a great source of inspiration because every aspect of the scene is planned. The speech, the blocking, and the props are carefully selected. Check out the clothing and lighting for inspiration. You can get some good ideas, especially by watching movies set in another period.

Songs, Poems, and Books

When you close your eyes and listen to a song, visuals may come to mind. Perhaps you try to envision what you would do if you were asked to create the music video for that song. Or perhaps there is a favorite lyric in a song or a poem that speaks to you. How would you put those words into a single image? If you are struggling for inspiration, pick a song and try to imagine what type of portrait or fashion image would best illustrate what that song conveys or how you feel when listening to it.

Fashion and Conceptual Portrait Photographers

These fashion photographers represent a few of the great masters of the past as well as photographers currently leading the fashion photography industry.

Inspired By

This article was inspiration from “Fashion Flair for Portrait and Wedding Photography” by Lindsay Adler. You can purchase this book from for better understanding about this subject.