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Having some photo shoot ideas in your back pocket will help you when it comes to sparking your creativity. If you’re a portrait photographer (or aspiring to become one!), you certainly know that posed photo sessions require careful planning and styling in order to yield superior results. What’s great about posed photo shoots is the fact that you can get really creative with your ideas and make them as elaborate as you want.
Unlike candid portraiture, such sessions allow both you and your models to get fully prepared. Because of this, posed and styled photo sessions are always a great occasion for engaging collaborations between photographers, models and other professionals such as stylists.
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The following 19 photo shoot ideas are here to help you become a more creative and better-organized portrait photographer. We’ll cover these themes:
- Environmental Portraits
- Conceptual Portraits
- Corporate Portraits
- Street Portraits
- Event Portraits
- Surreal Portraits
1. Couples Photo Shoot Ideas
When it comes to photographing couples, bear in mind that their facial expressions and gestures are much more important than the choice of location. Depending on the wishes of your clients, you can go classic or go unconventional. In case your clients want a luxury photoshoot, you can ask a stylist to help them with clothing choice.
Wild And Free
This kind of photo shoot is suitable for clients who aren’t thrilled by typically posed sessions. Ask your subjects to express their playful side and let them have fun like children. You can also suggest some quirky poses which will make them laugh! This type of photo shoot is ideal for wide open spaces, parks, meadows, and gardens.
For clients who like a classy and elegant atmosphere, you can try to capture the vibe of their romance with a dark and moody theme. In this case, you should suggest classic poses for couples such as one behind the other, holding hands, standing back to back, sitting on the ground together and so on. You should definitely make sure to convert a few images to b&w for couples who cherish vintage aesthetics.
Romantic and Sweet
If your clients prefer more traditional shots, you can always focus on the romantic side of their relationship. Soft lighting, pastel colors and props like flowers or pillows will make such images fairy-tale alike. You can shoot romantic portraits either indoors or outdoors – both options can work great! Be careful with your compositions and don’t always put your models in the center of the frame – surprise them with something unexpected!
2. Wedding Photo Shoot Ideas
Wedding photography is a huge and rather competitive industry. In addition to top-notch gear and advanced shooting and editing skills, you need to have many great ideas in order to become a sought-after photographer in this genre. Make sure to surprise your clients by offering them more than those typical wedding shots!
Reflections And Symmetry
Engaging compositions matter in any genre of photography. Wedding photography is a perfect occasion to use your knowledge of composition – you can play around with reflections (look for bodies of water, windows, and mirrors) and create wonderful symmetric compositions such as the one below.
If you like drone photography, you should definitely try to use your drone for wedding shots and create stunning aerial views that your clients will cherish a lot. In order to avoid cluttered aerial photographs, you should bring your clients to a secluded area, such as a small island or a mountain top. This type of photo session has to be arranged well before the wedding since it can be quite demanding.
In order to make your wedding photographs more remarkable, you should pay attention to framing while you shoot. For instance, you can shoot the couple through the leaves, branches or various man-made objects like fences or gates. Such shots will have a frame within a frame, which will make their compositions bolder and more visually engaging. Just like in the example below, a frame within a frame will also add depth and color to the image.
3. Engagement Photo Shoot Ideas
Engagement photo shoots are becoming more and more popular nowadays – they aren’t as stressful as wedding sessions because they allow both the photographer and the couple to relax, take time and come up with creative ideas. Engagement photo sessions can be quite fun because you can shoot them almost anywhere, even on the mountain top if your clients feel adventurous.
Typical engagement sessions are usually affectionate and romantic. However, if your clients want to try something new, you can suggest a humorous approach and use various props (balloons, cardboard letters and so on) or shoot the session at a public place, such as a restaurant or a busy downtown.
Even though the engagement ring might not be the most important part of the engagement photo session, you should still make sure to shoot a couple of images which focus on the ring. You can avoid typical shots of the ring that look like jewelry ads by showing the hands and arms of your clients framed by an interesting background, just like in the image below. This approach will work great especially if you’re shooting outdoors.
Dreamy Wide Shots
Sometimes, the very opposite of close up shot (which is a wide shot!) can be equally powerful when it comes to engagement sessions. Bring your clients to a forest or meadow and capture a set of beautiful wide shots that will show the couple surrounded by the pristine beauty of nature. Such images can look rather cinematic if shot under the right lighting so make sure to have some artificial source of light handy.
4. Maternity Photo Shoot Ideas
Maternity photo shoots are getting more and more popular these days. Many couples want to have beautiful memories of these fleeting moments and they can do it only with the help of a skillful photographer. Since the female body changes rapidly in the span of a few months, photographers need to get creative with the growing belly but also make sure that the mother-to-be feels comfortable and relaxed during the shoot.
In case your client wants to try something entirely different yet fun, you can shoot her maternity session in a bathtub full of flowers. This kind of shot looks very artistic and it feels calming and pure. Bathtub sessions can be shot either indoors or outdoors, but if you have a portable vintage bathtub, you should definitely photograph it outdoors in natural light!
Make It Sensual
Maternity photo shoots don't have to be all about the mother-to-be and her belly! If you include the father-to-be, the images will feel more complete and they will also have more storytelling potential. You can also make the atmosphere sensual, with a certain boudoir vibe, for couples who feel comfortable in front of the camera.
Minimalism can work great in maternity sessions too – all you need to have is a solid backdrop or a simple white wall and solid-colored clothing for the mother-to-be. By making everything rather simple, you’ll be able to emphasize the abundant beauty of a pregnant woman’s body.
5. Newborn Photo Shoot Ideas
Organizing a photo session for babies can be very difficult and demanding, especially when you need to work with newborns. Your photo ideas for this kind of session should include different props and outfits, as well as group photos with siblings. You should also make sure that everything is safe and clean since babies can be extremely sensitive. Photo shoots with newborns should be done in studio or at home, while babies (3 to 6 months) can be shot outdoors as well.
Newborn photographs typically show babies that look almost like dolls – perfectly styled and wrapped up in beautiful pastel-colored blankets. You should offer your clients more spontaneous photos as well, which shows the interaction between the mom and her baby. Such scenes are usually much more emotional than regular posed portraits of babies.
Never underestimate the power of humor and playfulness! If the baby was born in the summer, you can make a mock-up beach in your studio, and the same goes for those born during winter – you can make a winter-themed setup. You will need a couple of props for this kind of session – you can buy them yourself or ask the parents to bring their own.
Don’t forget to include the images of sleeping babies in your maternity sessions. Such images will look rather soothing and peaceful and they will be a precious memory for the parents since they depict the baby in the most fragile way. You might be tempted to photograph babies only when they are awake and playful, but make sure to resist this temptation and shoot adorable images of sleeping babies too!
6. Kids Photo Shoot Ideas
Taking photos of kids is easier than photographing babies, especially when it comes to kids who love to pose for the camera. Your main task is to capture the unique personality of a child and in order to achieve that, it's best to shoot the combination of posed and candid shots. Don't give too many posing directions to kids – they are usually very photogenic but at the same time too impatient for complicated poses.
Kids enjoy being active – it doesn't matter if it means running around in the backyard or doing something creative, such as painting or helping the mom bake their favorite cookies. Try to capture those laid-back candid portraits of siblings doing something together – such photos tend to be really adorable, just like the one below!
All Dolled Up
For this type of photoshoot, the choice of the outfit really matters – you need to make sure that kids have matching outfits (if you shoot siblings) and that there are no distracting elements in the background. The idea is to create a truly stylish photograph that your client will want to print and frame.
Even though kids usually like to pose for pictures, you should experiment with candid approach as well. Photographing candid images of kids will allow you to capture more genuine emotions and facial expressions of kids – when they don’t know they are being photographed, they will be more relaxed and smile in a more spontaneous way.
7. Family Photo Shoot Ideas
Since every family is different, there are countless ways to organize family photoshoots. What really matters for this type of photoshoot are posing ideas – you need to know how to pose more than two people, which requires a certain preparation. You should also make sure that everyone is wearing matching outfits – too much randomness can make family portraits look unbalanced.
We usually associate silhouettes with romantic shots of couples, but it can be truly interesting to use them in dynamic family photo shoots, such as the one below. Silhouettes give a cinematic feel to images and they can definitely enhance the emotional impact of your family photo shoot.
Pets are important members of the family and they should be part of family photo shoots. When you photograph pets, go outside if you can because animals prefer natural light. Always avoid using flash when shooting animals because they are afraid of it and it can damage their eyesight.
Instead of just asking the family members to pose together, you can suggest something different – for instance, they could cook together or tend the garden together. Such images will look much more dynamic and genuine compared with typical family portraits.
8. Friends Photo Shoot Ideas
When you're about to photograph a group of friends, bear in mind that such photoshoots look great if they are being either adventurous or humorous. Instead of doing a typical posed session in the studio, go to an interesting location, give your friends props or come up with a theme.
A truly memorable photo shoot of a group of friends can take place at a beautiful scenic location. Something like a mountain top, riverside or deep forest is a perfect choice – people feel good when surrounded by nature and that can make images more magical as well. Feel free to experiment with unusual angles and shoot the group of people from above or from below.
You don't need to use typical studio props when shooting a group of people – something like a bicycle in the photo below can work perfectly! Props should enhance your composition and make it easier for you to depict the idea of friendship.
In order to make this type of photo shoot more stylish, ask the group of friends you’re about to photograph to wear matching clothes. This will introduce more harmony and unity and improve the overall composition. Just like in the example below, something simple such as jeans and white T-shirts can look really good!
9. Band Photo Shoot Ideas
Musicians need great promotional pictures that can represent their work in the best light. For this reason, band photo shoots should rely on creative collaborations. Before you decide to collaborate with musicians, you should listen to their music so that you can get some ideas about possible locations and styling.
Band photoshoots can be as creative and as unusual as it gets. You can experiment with special effects and use a smoke machine or lasers. The choice of lighting really matters when it comes to such photo shoots so make sure that you have available both continuous and flash lighting as well as flash diffusers.
It might happen that members of the band you plan to shoot don't like posed sessions and prefer more spontaneous scenes. In such a case, the best option is to shoot a rehearsal and capture everyone playing their instruments in a relaxed setting. Such sessions can be shot outdoors as well.
Musicians are into artistic shots, which means that you should feel free to experiment with colors and perspective. If you’re shooting the band playing on stage, you should definitely include a couple of b&w shots because they can look really dramatic and vibrant due to dark background and bright lights.
10. Athletes Photo Shoot Ideas
Photographing athletes can be a challenging experience – you need to be able to show their physical strength and vigor in the best possible way and on top of that you might need to practice shooting fast action during sporting events!
Shoot From Slightly Below
Generally speaking, shooting from below the athlete’s eye level will make him or her look more impressive. This shooting technique can be used for both live events and studio sessions – it will help you achieve the sense of grandeur which can be quite important in athlete photo shoots!
Even though you can shoot athletes outdoors on overcast days and have evenly lit subjects, that will probably look a little bit boring. You can use directional light or even backlighting for more dramatic images! Athletes will look much more impressive in high contrast images.
The exact pose you capture an athlete in is the main determining factor of whether or not an image will convey the intensity of action. Because of this, be careful when it comes to capturing various poses (you don’t want your athlete to look silly!) and make sure all of the athlete’s hands and feet are in the frame if you’re shooting a full body photo.
11. Fashion Photo Shoot Ideas
Fashion photography is a rather complex genre which combines makeup, art and clothing into a coherent visual representation of fashion style. These photo shoots can be anything from rural to glamorous – it's up to you and your client to decide what kind of setup will match promotional needs.
Proper Color Combinations
Fashion photography has to be eye-catching in terms of colors and you'll probably need to collaborate with stylists and interior designers in order to achieve a perfect setup. Backgrounds of your fashion shots should matter as much as models and their clothing since fashion photography has different requirements from standard portraiture.
Urbex And Fashion
If you need to shoot streetwear, rather than hitting the crowded streets you should pick various abandoned locations with dramatic urban decay. Such locations are great for fashion shoots because they allow you to work without any typical distractions like traffic, passersby and so on.
Fashion photographs are usually static, but you can always take a different approach and try to create a dynamic atmosphere by capturing movement. Ask your model to walk, run, jump or twirl – you might end up with truly unique images!
12. Boudoir Photo Shoot Ideas
It can be challenging to come up with a truly unique boudoir session, but it's definitely worth the effort. It's useful to know that boudoir posing doesn't have to be over the top like a high fashion set – it can be much more subtle and relaxed. Since boudoir clients aren't necessarily experienced in modeling, you have to be able to help them with posing and find out what works best and what to avoid.
Inspired By Classic Art
Boudoir shots can be sensual in a classy way if you try to mimic lighting and composition found in various famous paintings. The shot below looks like an old Greek statue thanks to dreamy lighting and skillful editing.
Make It Mysterious
Boudoir photos can be quite subtle, even mysterious if shot from unusual angles and in low light. The photo below is a good example of such style – warm lighting and film-like grain give a certain vintage elegance to this boudoir shot.
Almost every boudoir session is shot indoors, because it’s easier like that – your model has more privacy and you have more control over lighting. However, it can be really exciting to shoot a boudoir session outdoors if your model is feeling adventurous. A beautiful scenery can make your boudoir session even more sensual – for instance, you can photograph your model in the forest or by the lake.
13. Environmental Portrait Ideas
Environmental portraits depict people in situations and places that should say something about who they are. Such portraits are very common in photojournalism and you can often see them in magazines such as National Geographic. A successful environmental portrait can tell a compelling story about its subject.
Keep It Minimal
You don't have to include too many visual elements in order to tell a story about your subject. Sometimes, keeping it minimal can have much more impact on the viewer, just like the example below.
Environmental portraits can be more effective when loosely framed, because the main point of such portraits is to show both the subject and their surroundings. Because of this, it can be quite useful to shoot them with wide-angle lenses or with a 35mm prime lens.
Play With Colors
If you’re shooting a creative professional such as a visual artist working in studio or on location, make sure to use proper colors and lighting – this will help you with storytelling and creating the right impression about the subject. The image below is a perfect example of a successful environmental portrait of a photographer.
14. Conceptual Portrait Ideas
Conceptual photography is meant to illustrate an idea which should be preconceived and understandable in the completed image. Bear in mind that conceptual photography isn't related to any specific subject – portraits, landscapes, product and abstract photography can be used to illustrate a certain concept.
Using makeup and similar techniques such as professional face painting can be a powerful way to express certain ideas and emotions. In such a case, closeup images of your model's face can get the message across in a rather dramatic way.
Enhance It In Post-Production
If you have an interesting concept that is too challenging or too expensive to be shot in a conventional way (in a studio or on location), you can still rely on skillful post-production. It can be really exciting to create a seamless composite image (such as the one below) that can help you express a certain idea.
Use Props Wisely
In case you don’t want to rely on post-production too much, you will most probably have to use various props in your conceptual sessions. Think carefully about what kind of props will be most useful – they should help you depict a certain idea or feeling. Color, shape and size of these props are quite important since they affect the overall atmosphere.
15. Corporate Portrait Ideas
Corporate portraits are tremendously important because the quality and style of these images convey a lot about the subject and the way they conduct their business. For instance, an outdoor shot in casual attire conveys a very different sense than a portrait in a business suit against a backdrop.
Keep The Backdrop Simple
This is not a requirement, but simple solid backdrops usually look better than funky colors or wild patterns. Simple backdrops make the subject stand out, while complex multicolored ones can be quite overpowering and distracting.
Playful & Humorous Approach
If your client is for instance a creative director, it wouldn’t make sense to use the standard plain approach – it would be inappropriate considering the person’s position. In case you’re shooting a creative professional, feel free to capture somewhat informal and humorous images ( just like the one below).
Even if you’re shooting rather formal corporate portraits, you can still do it outdoors using only natural light. You just need to make sure that the background looks neutral in terms of colors and that the lighting is soft and evenly spread, just like in the portrait below. Using the maximum aperture will help you blur the background in case it looks distracting.
16. Street Portrait Ideas
When it comes to street portraiture, you can photograph either strangers (with their permission) or models – in both scenarios, what’s really exciting is the ever-changing atmosphere of the streets. It takes a certain courage to shoot in the streets, but the experience can be truly rewarding because you will end up with dynamic and visually engaging photos thanks to various background elements, such as buildings, cars and passers-by.
Don’t photograph your models in the most popular tourist locations – dig deeper and go off the beaten track to find interesting hidden streets. Such streets will be less crowded and it will be easier to communicate with your model in such an environment.
Introduce Motion Blur
Street portraits can look even more enticing if you decide to introduce some motion blur. This blur can be created by moving vehicles or passers-by – you just have to experiment with shutter speed to get it right, but once you do you’ll have amazingly dynamic portraits which capture the very essence of the streets.
Streets are an endless source of unique backgrounds for your photographs – you just have to be able to pick the right ones. In the best case scenario, you should match the background to your model’s clothes. Refer to the color wheel to identify powerful color combinations!
17. Event Portrait Ideas
No matter what kind of event you decide to shoot, you have to make sure that everyone in the image looks their best. This is not an easy task – event portraiture tends to be somewhat stressful for photographers! You have to be able to make decisions and change settings really quickly and on top of that you have to be quite reliable when it comes to finding the most flattering angles and lighting.
Event portraiture should consist of a balanced mix of posed and candid images. Don’t be afraid to shoot candid portraits during various events because many people look their best when they are unaware of the camera’s presence – they will smile and interact with each other in a more spontaneous way.
You should be a careful observer if you want to be a great event photographer. Those truly memorable moments tend to be rare and fleeting and you have to be ready to capture them! Don’t spend too much time in the same spot – always roam around looking for unusual gestures and interactions.
Your event photographs shouldn’t be boring – in order to make them more engaging, introduce unusual perspectives. Photograph your subject from behind, from above or from below. Such shots will also help you improve your storytelling skills.
18. Surreal Portrait Ideas
When we let go of the idea that photography realistically portrays the subject, we can begin exploring another artistic territory – surreal photography. These types of photos can be described as unusual, irrational, weird and dream-like. Surreal portraiture allows you to explore and depict your subject in an entirely new and surprising way.
Underwater portraits have a dream-like mood that can be extremely flattering to your model. The quality of underwater light is very soft and diffused, which contributes to the surreal vibe. You can also include props that match the romantic atmosphere, such as the branch with berries in the shot below.
Using light painting is a wonderful way to add some unusual beauty to your portraits. In case you haven’t heard about it, light painting is an imaging technique that uses a moving light source to add light to an under-illuminated subject while taking a long-exposure photograph. The result is a surreal and bold image with colorful light trails!
Gentle Motion Blur
Motion blur, especially if it’s very gentle and soft, can create a subtle surreal atmosphere. The best way to capture this kind of motion blur is by photographing a large body of water using a slow shutter speed. Thanks to the silky water and vibrant colors, the surreal portrait below looks quite alluring and mysterious.
19. Self-Portrait Ideas
Self-portraiture has no limits – you can depict yourself in any way you want! This boundless creative freedom might actually leave you paralyzed, not knowing where to start from. If you’re new to self-portraiture, you can always start with a classical approach and then move towards something more experimental.
Extreme Close Ups
It may be uncomfortable to shoot extreme close ups of other people, but that’s why you can practice it with yourself! The images which reveal just a part of the subject’s face can be very intimate and powerful – don’t be afraid to experiment with this type of dramatic self-portraits.
Double exposure is an interesting photographic technique that involves combining two exposures to create a single image. The technique yields very unique results and allows the photographer to produce ghost images and mirror images that can tell a story! Self-portraits are the perfect occasion for practicing double exposures.
Experiment With Lighting
Since self-portraiture is probably not your paid project, you don’t have to be afraid of making mistakes when it comes to lighting. Experiment and create both underexposed and overexposed shots – you can forget about all the rules you usually need to follow!
To sum up, all these photo shoot ideas can lead to truly exciting projects and new collaborations. In addition to working with models, styled photo shoots will create opportunities for interaction with people from other creative industries. This can definitely help you enjoy your work and grow your business!
If you want to learn more about planning photo shoots, feel free to check out the following links!
- Take These 5 Steps To Ensure Successful Portrait Sessions
- 5 Pieces Of Advice That Every New Photographer Should Know
- Got a Photo Shoot Booked? Don’t Leave Without These Things!
- 25 Photoshoot Ideas to Inspire Your Next Editorial
- 5 Photoshoot Ideas Worth Stealing
- 52 Photography Projects: A Great Technique To Try Every Week Of The Year