Tuesday, October 7, 2014

How to Take Fashion Style Portraits

I had a few requests to do a photography related post so I have decided to split them up and do a sort of series of them, since the topic is so huge.  Today I thought I would start with how to take portraits, but with a bit of a fashion twist to them.
Now I am certainly no expert, and although I take photos for a magazine for a living, sometimes I feel a little hit and miss (yes, really), and I always feel that I have so much more to learn.  Photography is like that I guess.  The more you learn the more possibilities there are!
So...I thought I would show you, through a few posts, what it is I do and what my thought process is while I go about it!
I first started taking these sorts of photos when I lived up North in Wakool, which is a tiny place in rural New South Wales.  It is very dry in Summer and these first two photos were actually taken just below my house.  Basically with these sort of photos I pretend that I am a fashion photographer working on a magazine like Cosmopolitan or Marie Claire and take photos of my model wearing nice clothes in unusual places! (ie. in places where you normally wouldn't wear an evening gown....see below!)

The first shot would be an example of me thinking about the background.  There was an old shed just down from my house and everyday I would drive past it and think how the corrugated iron would make a great background, particularly with my model wearing a colourful floral dress.  To me the flowers were a great contrast against the iron background.  When setting up this shot I was also conscious of the foreground and in this case I have this really lovely coil of rusted fencing wire.  I didn't put it there, it just happened to already be there...but while setting up the shot I discovered how great it looked, particularly because it broke up the scene, (a break from all that grey corrugated iron.)
The photo above (with the sheep) is also an example of how I have thought about the background.  The sheep are a big contrast to the red evening gown.  Her dress really 'pops' and two things at such different ends of the scale (sheep and evening gowns) makes for a really creative or 'arty' photo...so to speak!
When I say position I am talking about where the model/subject is placed within the picture (or composition).  For example, I have the model with the pink balloons to the left of the picture.  This makes it look like she has room to walk forward into the scene and I also have paid attention to what is in the background, (I like the rusty gate here).  So don't always have the person plopped in the middle of the picture as it can be a little boring.  But, in saying that sometimes that is exactly where the subject needs to be.  Usually I work on whatever feels and looks balanced with whatever else is going on in the picture. 
For this shot I probably should have technically put my model on the left of the scene, so that she was 'looking in', but I really liked the big gum trees and to me they balance her on the right of the picture.  Really I guess any rules are meant to be broken!
Props are important too and they can make your pictures so much fun! (ie. see the pink balloons in the above shot...I loved this splash of colour against the fairly colourless background.  I also doubled up on this colour with a little pink flower in her hair)  Sometimes props are something small like this little bunch of flowers in the girls hands...
...or this ice cream....
..or they can be floaty, like this balloon.
Props can also be really big too....
This is Ruby, my horse, and she isn't technically a prop...but then in a way she is!  In the next two shots I used flowers, typical with a bride, but the first one I have them just hanging loosely at her side (rather than held like a bride would hold a posy as she walked down the aisle), and in the second shot I have placed them next to her on the hay bale to break up the blandness of the background.  There is no right or wrong.  You just simply play around until it looks right!
Before I even take my photos I have in mind what they are going to look like.  From what the model is wearing, how her hair might look, if she has any props and also where I want her standing/sitting etc.  The start of this process begins because I know exactly where I want the photos taken.  For example, the photos I took in Wakool I had been driving past certain spots on the farm for ages and knew this was where I wanted to take photos.  Examples of locations that I wanted to include were this paddock (I loved the crop)....
I also liked this fence...
...and I just had to make use of this old truck!
If you look you will find dozens of great locations!  They are literally everywhere, even the most unlikely places make great locations.  I suggest next time you go for a walk or a drive just imagine putting someone in an evening gown or a pretty dress in that very location.
Now this is not my area of expertise at all, I'm certainly not a stylist, but I did come up with the outfits in these shots, and I had my choice of wedding gowns, and these decisions of what gown to go for were based on the location of the shot and what prop I was using, so perhaps I have a bit of an eye for it.  This is certain a fun aspect of it but I have found that everything works together, you need to think about the photograph as a 'whole'.  By that I mean you need to think about the location, the prop, the hair, the background and the outfit all at the same time.
I really liked this dress in this run-down little house!
I also really liked the colours behind her with the simple black and white that she is wearing.
Hair and Makeup
Now this isn't my department at all but what I have found is that it makes your job that much easier if you have a professional hair and makeup person handling all of this for you!  If you happen to be skilled in this area yourself then I guess you will save on paying a professional (unless you have a friend to help), but it is one less thing you have to worry about if someone can do it for you.
Close-ups and Posing
Another thing I am conscious of is making sure I take a few close-up shots of my model.  I like to offer fashion style portraits as part of my photography service, so that anyone who wants portraits done can have a different look, rather than just the boring old shots in a studio with a white background, (although these do look lovely too!).  I like to take them out on location where they can act like a model for a day.  I also think about what poses are going to be flattering.
Lighting is, of course, a huge subject in itself, but remember where your source of lighting is, which is generally the sun when doing these types of photos.  Sometimes you can be a bit creative with it, like this shot taken in a shearing shed...

The light was coming through a skylight above.

Leading Lines
This is all a part of composition, but you can capture the attention of those looking at your shots by leading them into the photo.  For example using a road...
..or have them look further in to it by using something like a railway line.

Anyway, I am certainly no expert but these are just some of the things I consider when I am taking these types of photos.  I hope it has been helpful!  I will do some more posts on other types of photography in the coming weeks!




  1. Thank you for sharing this, I've really been looking forward to it! You've made some really interesting points that I'm going to try to put into use. x


    1. Hi, I hope it was helpful. I'm certainly no expert but I've picked up a few things since I've worked on this magazine. x

  2. wow ,,, Fab ideas ,,,,


  3. Love the red balloon! These are great examples of how to make our style portraits better! Thanks for sharing, Amber.

    <3 Daisy
    Simplicity Relished

    1. Hi Daisy! I liked the red balloon too. It was quite a production organising this! And afterwards my four year old took it outside and let it go!! He was most upset when it floated up and away! Thanks for reading!

  4. Thanks for sharing these! Such inspiration

    Made in Mauve

  5. Great pictures xx


    1. Thank you Tinna. Thanks for stopping by.

  6. Great post, My fav photo is the "background" one with the sheer in the background. :)

    (IG: @TheStardustBohemian)

    1. Hi Sera, yes I liked the sheep in the photo too. They did wonder what on earth was going on!

  7. Very interesting and informative post.


  8. I really love all of the pictures!


  9. Incredible Photography Skills!!

    1. Hi Charlie, thank you! Thanks for reading.

  10. This photography is stunning! such a good post full of tips!!


    1. Thank you Olia, I appreciate your lovely comment. Thanks for stopping by.

  11. Wow amazing photos!


  12. Beautiful photos.

  13. Woah, those were such amazing photos! I followed your blog and it would be amazing if you followed back! :)


    1. Hi Meg! Thank you. Thanks for following me! I am now following you too on GFC!

  14. Gorgeous photos Amber! Love the locations.

    1. Hi Katy. Thank you! Thanks for stopping by my blog!

  15. So pretty! You've done a great job with these photos. I love your blog layout as well!

    - Sarah :)

    1. Thank you Sarah. Thanks for stopping by and reading.

  16. These pictutres are great, and some useful tips too! Thanks!
    Alice's Wonderland

    1. Thanks Alice, glad the tips were helpful. Thanks for reading.