Intimate Amateur Model Portrait and Beauty Photography


The following female portraits were taken in Hawaii (where I lived for 5 years), Belgium, Germany and Hungary which are some of the places I traveled to for photographic inspiration.

The accompanying text is meant to be more like a conversation rather than a formal photography class. It is one of my pet peeves that photography tutorials often have substandard example images.

By choosing some of my favorite photos for this page from photo shoots spanning several years I attempted to be the exception to that unfortunate phenomenon.

Portrait Of Asian Girl In Trucker Hat

asian girl wearing a trucker hat

I really enjoy taking portraits; people’s faces get probably one of the strongest reactions from viewers of photos. Without a title, caption or other narrative the mind immediately starts wondering who these women are, what their lives are like an so on.

This portrait of a beautiful Asian girl was taken in the bathroom of the Zanzabar Night Club in Waikiki, Hawaii. We took pictures all over the club where the model is a go-go dancer.

The restroom had an interesting golden wall which made an excellent background. There was plenty of light bouncing around the small room. Due to the reflective walls it was not only coming from above which could have created ugly shadows on her face. Basically the wall became a giant reflector which suited me well because I do not work with assistants.

This lighting setup was not planned ahead of time because I had not visited the club before the photo shoot. Finding suitable locations and making the best of everything given/found is not only challenging but also highly rewarding. By keeping an open mind and being receptive to ever changing conditions and endless possibilities the photographer’s creativity will blossom.

Wardrobe was provided by the model which is the norm. I usually meet with every model at a coffee shop to gauge chemistry, discuss locations, concepts and wardrobe. The red and white trucker hat and the white wife beater shirt were a no brainer choices during our discussion. Even though I did not know if the clothes would match the location following instinct is a great way to make decisions.

So how to answer simply to the question: how to take successful portraits? My thoughts based on the above picture:

Amateur Model In Russian Fur Hat

amateur model wearing a russian fur hat

Wardrobe can be less of a challenge for established studio photographers shooting for clients. For traveling freelance portrait photographers choosing the right clothes and accessories is vital.

The amateur Belgian model is actually a first time model. The Russian fur hat was mentioned during our phone conversation. I contacted her online and did not have a chance to meet her in person before the photo shoot.
I only had seen a snapshot of her but I immediately felt very strongly that someone with such beautiful features would look great in a big hat.

This is why some communication is important before the photo shoot. Maybe she would not have brought the fur hat with her on her own which would have resulted getting a lot less successful photos.

Chance favors the prepared mind.
Louis Pasteur

There are always lucky coincidences during photo shoots. This time it was the model’s natural eye brows. The slightly bushy look of her eyebrows perfectly compliment the style of the Russian fur hat! If she would have had horrific pencil drawn eye brows the whole concept would have fallen apart.

Best Time And Light For Portraits: Sunrise

portrait during sunrise

One of the greatest challenges of outdoor photography is light in my case available light. Depending on the latitude of the photo shoot location sunrises and sunset have different lengths.

In Hawaii where the above portrait of a beautiful first time model and actress was taken the sun rises and plummets in a few minutes. To use the magical light during this short time means that the photo shoot has to be set up in advance. In our case it was still dark on the beach when the model applied the finishing touches to her makeup using the dome light and rear view mirror of her jeep.

The first few minutes of sunrise as seen on the picture is not too harsh so that the model does not have to squint. The sun is not high yet so the light comes in from the side not creating ugly shadows under the eyes. Of course those ugly shadows can be brightened by 1. the use of a reflector, 2. fill flash, 3. back lighting the model with the sun behind her or 4. photographing in shade.

I do not shoot with assistants and prefer natural light so some of these corrective methods are not an option for me. This leaves me with making the best of the few short minutes of ideal lighting conditions. But the photos are well worth it. In my opinion no amateur reflector can truly duplicate the warm rays of sunrise and the look of a beautiful softly lit natural looking portrait.

Beautiful Japanese Model With Wet Hair

japanese model with wet hairstyle

When the wet hair style is fitting it is an easy way to achieve additional looks without the help of an on location hairstylist. This exotic portrait of a Japanese model was taken near Hanauma Bay, Hawaii on lava rock cliffs overlooking the ocean.

We used some of our drinking water so it is worth mentioning here to bring extra amount of water to photo shoots. I always laugh when I see a hairstylist constantly attending the model’s hair on large budget photo shoots. We had a simpler and more budget conscious approach when taking this portrait: after wetting her hair I asked the model to toss her hair sideways.

Being quality conscious with every detail meant that one toss of course did not produce the “perfect arrangement of hair strands”. I forgot the number but we got the winning look after about 10 tosses. I like natural and effortless solutions to most challenges so I did not bother trying to arrange the model’s hair myself or give her a mirror to do it.

Note on lighting: this portrait was taken when the sun was already up high and the harsh Hawaiian midday sunlight would have been blinding to the model. Not to mention the ugly shadows that would have been created under her eyes. As I mentioned above reflectors and fill flashes are not my cup of tea.

So this portrait was simply taken in the open bright shade. The light is soft and diffused perfect for beauty or beautiful portrait photography.

Notice the huge catch light (highlight in the model’s eye) courtesy of the bright midday sky. In a studio setting often there is a special light just for the purpose of creating catch light. Catch light is so important that if missing it is “artificially placed” into the eyes at the time of Photoshop retouching.

Portraits In Open Shade: Best Lighting For Beauty And Glamour

natural portrait of beautiful girl

Like the portrait before this is another example of using open shade for beauty photography. There are photographers who bring soft boxes to on location photo shoots. It is not my cup of tea for budget and mobility reasons but more power to them. And by more power I mean they will have to lug around batteries and/or generator too.

For exactly $0 the big blue sky is there to provide enough soft box quality light. If the location allows it is a good practice to have the light enter from sideways into the composition. This ensures there will be subtle shadows on the face which adds a 3D look.

The camera’s white balance settings will have to be adjusted (if not automatic) to colder light coming from the blue sky.

Guide To Chemistry For Intimate Portraits

chinese model

The exact same quality portrait of the beautiful Chinese model could not have been achieved without the model photographer chemistry. Photographers really get to value chemistry after suffering through photo shoots where there was none.

When there is no chemistry it shows on the face and in the eyes. I have been known to throw away all photos from photo shoots where we weren’t able to establish good working chemistry. The above portrait was taken without assistants, reflectors or lights after a coffee shop meeting where we both expressed our ideas and vision for the photo shoot.

Ways to establish and maintain chemistry before and during the photo shoot with amateur or first time models:

I also try to educate amateur models I shoot with about photographer selection.

Some of my advice: models should check the photographer’s portfolio for sleazy pictures, contact other models they worked with for references, only meet in a public place and ask if a chaperon is OK to bring. Even if the model does not plan to bring a chaperon it is a great question because if the answer is an enthusiastic NO a red flag should immediately go up.

Techniques And Tips For Amateur Models

local hawaiian girl

It is crucial to gauge the comfort level of amateur and first time models during the pre-photo shoot meeting and during the photo shoot. It is better to end up with one great portrait after a whole day’s work than a hundred uncomfortable looking lingerie photos.

Even if the first photo shoot already involves lingerie, bikini or even more revealing modeling it is best to start the session with a few fashion modeling looks to get the model warmed up. It is not a waste of time and those frames are not wasted either. They give a chance for the photographer to find the best angles of the model without the model knowing that she is being evaluated.

This photo of a beautiful local hawaiian girl is an example of such approach. For her first photo shoot ever we went to the Pali rainforest just outside Honolulu. For hours only a hiker or two may have passed by so there was a lot of privacy there.

Privacy is not only useful for lingerie or bikini photography but even for portraits. Many amateur models do not like to be stared at while being photographed, would get self conscious resulting less successful pictures.

Another factor to consider when photographing amateur models is the amount of coaching they may need. This greatly varies from person to person. To find out how much direction a model prefers the photographer should just ask.

How well the model responds to directions is another factor that can make or break the photo shoot. Many factory play into this like intelligence, confidence and personality of the model. This is not a rule: but a model requiring too much direction is likely to be trying too hard and may not be able to deliver natural poses and emotions.

Edgy Portrait Of Chinese Model

creative portrait of chinese beauty

I LOVE PROPS! Especially props and accessories that were not planned. Items found, interesting features of the location can boost the photographer’s creativity. Photographers who have an open mind and actually thrive on improvisation and unexpected curve balls usually create ore interesting images.

The portrait picture of a beautiful Chinese model above was created using landscaping trash (leftover palm fronds). As we arrived to our location (jagged lava rocks near Hanauma Bay, Hawaii) I was looking forward to creating images with Pacific Ocean or lava rock wall background. While those backdrops were fully utilized I was happy to find a heap of dry palm fronds tossed down by the landscaper from a beautiful mansion above.

Now I wish I would have taken a photo of the heap of branches as I found them. That way I could illustrate how ordinary materials, even trash that would not even be noticed by a “normal” person can be tuned into a photography set by eagle eyed photographers. I took a lot of photos with different shadow patterns, not only portraits but 3/4 body shots too. What I liked about these palm fronds was the way they and their shadows sliced through the picture.

Beautiful German Girl With Dreadlocks

girl with dreadlocks

This portrait of a German girl with dreadlocks is from my very first modeling photo shoot. Inspiration has been the driving force behind my photography.

Even though I cannot recall the exact circumstances, the exotic and beautiful look of her must have been too much to resist and I was able to overcome any anxiety I might have had about formally photographing people. Inspiration is a great ingredient for creating pleasing pictures. Lack of inspiration which might happen when a photographer shoots assignments that are not interesting can be detrimental.

It is fun to look back to pictures from this photo shoot as I can identify certain styles that stayed with me throughout the years. Some are: closely cropped intimate portraits, strong eye contact, appreciation of what I find beautiful, use of geometry and lines (the strands dreadlocks in this case).

Beautiful Mongolian Model With Nikon F2 Camera

mongolian model holding a nikon f2 camera

One of the ways photographers can tell stories is by placing something in the model’s hand. This simple modification works on many levels. The viewer can create his or her own version of the story based on the relationship of the item and the model.

The prop helps the model both consciously and subconsciously to convey more natural moods and emotions. This can be even more useful for firs time or amateur models who may not have the acting or improvisational skills that comes with more experience.

Just like what happened with the above picture of a beautiful Mongolian model holding the old Nikon F2 camera. Photographing on a balcony of an apartment building in Budapest, Hungary we could have created nice images without the camera.

What the camera helps with is that the model no longer has to think where to place her hands, no longer has to imagine the concept she can act it out.

This is an old trick that works with all types photography from modeling, to family to prom to wedding photos. Just by the subject having something in their hand will lessen their nervousness and improve the picture.

How To Take Natural Portraits Of Amateur Model

Amateur fashion model photography

Out of the countless major and minor ingredients needed to create natural intimate portraits I will talk about lens choice regarding the above photo. This picture was taken at 105mm focal length which is long enough to “flatten the subject’s face” resulting in a more pleasing look than wider angle lenses would produce.

The longer the lens the easier it is to create a blurred background which makes the subject stand out better.

The longer the lens the further away the photographer can stand which can be less intimidating for first time or amateur models. This is true especially when using a large DSLR camera and bulky zoom lenses.

For other types of photography (like travel portraits) there is actually such a thing as standing too far. When photographing for example locals in far away counties, keeping a distance of about 15 feet can help build trust and chemistry.

Beautiful Model In Harsh Sunlight

Beautiful Amateur Model In Harsh Sunlight

I not only love the look of backlit pictures, using backlighting is almost a necessity in Hawaii where the magic light of sunrises and sunsets disappear after a few minutes,

Other choices the on location outdoor photographer has is shooting in open shade, use reflectors to fill in the ugly dark shadows of the high sun or go indoors.

Back lighting (placing the sun behind the model) creates beautiful a hair light (halo looking highlight on the hair which is not only visually pleasing but also used to separate the subject from the background). This halo can be used to give whimsical, angelic, romantic, spiritual, fresh, youthful mood to the picture.

The colors of backlit pictures also get less saturated by the scattering rays, along with possible lens flare.
This makes back lighting a great way to light outdoor portraits or fashion photos without the aid of any assistant (which is how I take pictures).

Exotic Portrait Of Japanese Girl

Exotic japanese girl

As I mentioned before under the German girl with dreadlocks photo, I really like closely cropped portraits. I find this style of portrait photography effects the viewer both in a fascinating and an intimidating way. This in part depends on the viewer’s personality and their relationship or emotional attachment to the photographed subject.

Add an exotic element like the beautiful Japanese girl with the messy windblown hair, slightly open lips and I cannot help but be very happy with this photo.

What is even more surprising is that the Japanese girl is not a model, she is just a “girl next door”. Her personality is the typical very shy and a bit child-like … at least around foreigners like me.

To see such a powerful transformation during a few minutes of photography is amazing to me. The effect of the photo is by large due to it’s close-up nature. These tightly cropped portraits give no place and excuse for the viewer’s eye to wonder around and leave the face.

These portraits in a way take over and control the mind of the viewer. I would say that is a much sought after attribute for a picture that every photographer wishes for.

Beautiful Japanese Girl Wearing White Hoodie

asian girl wearing a white hoodie

There are many ways to frame a face to give emphasis to it. Hoodies, handkerchiefs, baseball caps or tucker hats, scarfs, other hats, helmets, the model’s raised arms, her hair, etc. Not every type of face is complimented by framing. I do not have a better assessment but to say beautiful faces can get more beautiful and vice versa.

The same Japanese non-model from the previous picture ids the subject again. I really like this photo of her as well. The white hoodie beautifully frames her face. Her perfect hair nicely cascades down following the lines of the hoodie.

As mentioned above with the Mongolian model, putting something into the hands of a model increases her comfort level resulting in more intimate moods, more natural poses and expressions. Even though I did not ask her to but she instinctively grabbed the fabric of the hoodie. This simple gesture made the photo completely balanced and not posed.

Beautiful Asian Model With Wet Hair

asian model with wet hair

Cropping a face in half is a tricky situation. I can safely say it will not make a face more beautiful so in my opinion this composition only works with really beautiful faces. I was fortunate to photography such Asian beauty in Hawaii.

I have cropped faces in several ways in camera just not in half. For some reason half crop in camera just does not come to me naturally. But I am not against it and making a mental note of it as I am writing this to experiment with it.

The features of this Japanese girl really compliment the half crop. Her high cheekbones make her face round enough but not too round for half crop. Both very round or very long faces would look unattractive when half cropped to me.

This was an on location outdoor photo shoot. The photo was taken in open shade during the harsh sunlight of midday hours. The model’s eyes get a beautiful large sparkly courtesy of the bright sky (a.k.a catch light). Her messy wet her provides additional slight curves and lines which compliment this long tall format of the half crop. For all the above reasons this is a pleasing image in the half crop format.

Dynamic Portrait Of German Dancer

german ballet dancer

Horizontal and vertical lines in photography convey stability, power, strength while diagonal lines suggest perspective and add a sense of action. Diagonal lines can be created by tilting the camera or by arranging the elements or subject in an angled position.

Diagonal lines can also be abused as many beginner (or stuck in the beginning stages) photographers obsessively create angled compositions. Most often this happens with fashion photo shoots where perhaps to substitute missing elements extreme camera tilting is thought to bring some visual excitement into the picture.

All rules of photography can be broken when visually makes sense but one should be especially conscious about the horizon not being level. Bikini model photos with diagonal horizons often seem like the model is about to slide out of the frame. Using diagonal lines results in dramatic and powerful powerful compositions so it definitely should not be the ongoing theme across 100’s of images throughout the photo shoot not to mention a portfolio.

I do like the diagonal composition created by the arm, dress strap, back and neck of the blonde German model and dancer I photographed in Dusseldorf, Germany. I usually do not give too many direction so the model’s current mood and personality is translated onto the image. This model created this diagonal composition all by herself as she picked up the voluminous skirt of her designer dress and leaned forward in the process.

When fashion or portrait photography takes up the characteristics of observational, non-forceful candid or street photography the resulting photos will be a lot more realistic and lot less posed. This is especially a great way to photograph first time or amateur models who are not expert posers.

Asian Model In Pink Cowboy Hat

asian fashion model wearing pink straw cowboy hat

Female models with confidence and attitude can conjure up diverse emotions by the viewer of the photo. Intimidation, envy, admiration, attraction to name a few. For the mood of the image, the concept of the photography to have the maximum impact I must be inspired by the model.

Photography is my hobby and passion not a 9-5 job so I do have the luxury of only taking on projects that truly inspire me. As long as I can remember I have been drawn to female beauty that incorporated strength and drama with femininity and intelligence. No, I do not like bitchy or mean girls, confidence and attitude does not necessary have to have nasty undertones.

I also love strong, chiseled, square, well defined jaw lines. I prefer the androgynous look to the cute and sweet. I would say at least 80% of the models I have photographed posses a strong look.

I used to try to convert sweet and cute models into dramatic vixens but it has been an uphill battle and soon after I started and got nowhere fast the challenge lost its appeal. I only work with first time or amateur models so perhaps lack of experience and nerves might have hindered breaking through the cute barrier as well.

But casting directors are utilized for a reason and they can make or break a project. The lone traveler photographer is also his or her own casting agent and compromises more often backfire than work out.

When it came to the photo of the stunning androgynous Asian model with beautiful lips and square jaw wearing a pink straw cowboy hat everything fell into place providing me with a blueprint for what is needed to create a successful image in the future. Albeit this blueprint contains a lot of areas that depend on intuition and luck nevertheless successful photo shoots can serve as useful guides.

Casting this stunning beauty was a no-brainer as I got inspired by her photos immediately. Living in Hawaii at the time I had several favorite photo shoot locations. But I tend not to reuse locations for the exact same concept too many times.

The usual pre-photo shoot conversation ensured that the model brought with her a diverse wardrobe. I always ask for seemingly odd items, props and accessories especially if the model never took photo with those pieces. The pink straw cowboy hat was such an item.

The setting was imply the beach towards the end of our photo shoot which started at sunrise. The sun was already high and its harsh rays usually blind models by this hour unless she is backlit.

So the pink hat was not only a great accessory but a necessary element for the execution of the picture. The pose and the hand gesture were the model’s idea and accordingly she owns it. I carefully directed her to tilt her head just right so her lips would be in the sun for maximum effect. I also made sure to use a long enough lens and wide enough aperture so the background would get blurred.

Experimental Improvised Portraits

Beautiful Model Holding Brooms

Traveling, backpacking or vagabonding photographers will never find themselves having lack of inspiration. Every location every model will present not only their own set of challenges but also seemingly endless creative opportunities. Many times these coincidences are so “spot on” that they result in photography situations that would have been unthinkable during the planning of the shoot.

Often coincidence and luck can make a photographer appear a lot better than he or she might think of him or herself. This does not take credit away from the photographer. But often times the viewer is kept in the dark and is not aware which photos were taken and which were given (as a gift or opportunity).

The day before this photo shoot I did not know that:

We photographed in that courtyard for hours totally uninterrupted, being able to experiment and improvise with different backgrounds, outfits and lighting conditions. Looking back at the creation of this picture and the end result is one of the best memories and examples of the joys of travel ad photography.

Intimate Portrait Of Hawaiian Girl In Grass

Beautiful Local Hawaiian Girl

For me the success of intimate natural portraits depends on model and photographer chemistry. This is can complicated issue but with a few precautions one can minimize the chances for substandard photo shoots. This subject is more fitting for amateur and first time models who’s comfort level can vary depending on experience and personality. But an unprofessional photographer can ruin a photo shoot with experienced models as well .. and vice-verse.

The first step is to examine each other’s portfolio. If the model finds the photographer’s work unappealing (bad models, locations, poses, creepy setups etc.) she should note those red flags and cancel or not contact the photographer. I have heard some models saying that they hoped that the photographer would not be like that with them.

Recently updated portfolios are in fact a great way to gauge model and photographer compatibility. In turn if the photographer find the models pictures uninspiring (too heavy, too thin, bad skin, no personality, etc.) the same scenario would apply. Without inspiration taking photos can become a chore, a 9-5 job. This is acceptable for some but a passion for photography should not turn into dreadful series of experiences.

The second step would be a face to face meeting. A phone conversation is a lot less satisfactory as chemistry depends on body language as well. This meeting should be conducted at a public place like a coffee shop to put the model at ease. If there are printed portfolios they can be shown or alternately a laptop with a slideshow ready to go.

During the meeting ideas, photo shoot concepts can be exchanged about theme, location, wardrobe, make-up, handling of images on a CD or in a print format. The simple act of time spent conversating makes acquaintances from two strangers.

On the set of the photo shoot if possible the first look should be fashion or the session should start with the style the model is most comfortable with. It is a lot to ask from a first time or amateur model to perform in front of an almost complete stranger wearing bikini or lingerie. The smaller the photo shoot crew the better for beginning models. Not only it is less pressure for the model but it attracts fewer spectators.

The above photo of a beautiful local Hawaiian girl laughing in high grass is such a casual portrait that would not be possible without chemistry between model and photographer. It was a fun and carefree photo shoot, we were moving from one pose to another from location to location. I was taking the pictures by myself as always.

At one point when the model was being photographed in a high grass, an idea popped into my head and I asked her to lay down and see if her face would disappear. The height of the grass was just right framing the model’s face perfectly.

Dramatic Shadows Over Face Of Chinese Beauty

shadows over the face of a beautiful chinese model

Studio photographers have full control over light. Ambient or available light on the other hand control photographers. Giving up control is not for everybody but actually it can be a creative blessing for those of us who cannot afford or do not wish to setup our own studios.

Making the best of every situation and expecting the unexpected are useful guideline when when it comes to outdoor / on location photography. The photographer (and the model as well) needs to be comfortable with going with the flow and practicing non-forceful photography.

When there are no expectations there are no disappointments and all that is given to the photographer is a gift. Being exposed to unforeseen creative opportunities can keep the passion for photography burning for a lifetime.

I cold not have planned that this Hawaiian rainforest location would have dry branched hanging down which would create these wicked shadows on the face of this beautiful Chinese model. All I had to do was carefully position the model’s face so the shadow patterns would zigzag across her face in a way that I found visually balanced and pleasing.

Beautiful Asian Model At Dentist Office

asian model with dark red lips at the dentist office

I get bored very easily and if I would show my boredom during my photo shoots it would effect the model’s and my creativity and the pictures would be disastrous. This is both good news and bad news. I constantly have to think of new concepts but every photo shoot is exciting and challenging.

Planning photo shoots can become an the preoccupation that lasts for hours every day. After a visit to my dentist’s office it was a no-brainer that I would come back to take pictures there.

Luckily I had a chance to work with the extremely talented make-up artist ROSHAR. The resulting pictures due to the combination of the unique location and the fantastic hair, makeup and styling exceeded all my expectations for this project.

What I like most about the above picture is that it’s ambiguous, the location where it was taken is impossible to pinpoint. Because of the futuristic looking lights which are the fluorescent bulbs on the ceiling of the office and a claustrophobic mood I always associated this picture with a space capsule theme. A beautiful astronaut taking a last look at her beloved planet as she’s departing.

I also love that her right eye is not visible. The shadow over the right eye socket is somewhat disturbing. Purely a coincidence that there are two beams of white light shooting out from the dark and empty eye sockets.

In fact the circular window the model is looking through is the dentist’s magnifying glass which was attached to an arm so it could be positioned perfectly for the picture. Utilizing props brought or found is one of the favorite aspects of the creative process during my on location photo shoots. This is the most exciting type of photography: taking pictures without boundaries.

asian portrait

There were many possibilities in a dentists office. Lighting was a challenge as it often happens during on location photoshoots. I always take my pictures alone, no lights, no assistants so I know that my photos will not look like they are professionally lit.

I had to try the dental light shining into the model’s mouth, I though it was a must-do and interesting concept. Fortunately I was able to place a familiar medical symbol in the form of a backlit X-ray which adds authenticity to the picture. We had very limited time, if I remember right not even two hours. With more time the backgrounds could have been improved with dental posters or other accessories that would have strengthened the concept.

Beautiful Asian Model With Lace Glued To Face

asian model wearing glued-on lace

I love dark, mysterious, edgy and creative looks and concepts so when make-up artist ROSHAR glued lace on to the model’s face I knew I would love the look of the resulting pictures.

I took a lot of pictures of the glued lace concept and even though I have been staying away from pictures done with obvious camera tilt, this composition ended up to be one of my favorite. The vantage point is from above which puts the viewer of the photo in a dominant position therefore I find it intriguing.

The wide lens aperture created a shallow depth of field therefore a blurred background which was perfect as it melted the lace on the model’s neck into a painting like backdrop.

Androgynous Asian Model And Oriental Fan

androgynous asian model

I love the strong look of androgyny, a well defined strong chiseled jaw line is one of my favorite features in female models. A side profile view or 3/4 portrait can be more flattering, softening the squareness of the jaw.

But I believe sometimes when the features of the model allow it is best just to go for it and accentuate her androgynous features to their full effect. That is what I did with the picture of a beautiful Asian model with an oriental fan in the background. The fantastic ROSHAR created the retro hairstyle, did the make-up, styling, wardrobe and brought the accessories.

The oriental fan was a great prop, I love lines in my pictures and the sun ray type pattern conveyed an Eastern feel to the photo.

The photoshoot was done in a small hotel room, besides the natural light coming from the windows the room lights were turned on and there was on camera flash bounced from the ceiling. A rather rudimentary setup but just another day in the life of the traveling on location photographer.

From Challenging To Creative Lighting: Beautiful Asian Model In Trucker Hat

Beautiful Asian Model wearing a Trucker Hat

When the available or artificial lighting becomes a challenging part of an on location photo shoot it is best to go for broke and instead of being limited, really exploit the situation.

This photo was taken at Zanzabar Night Club in Waikiki Beach, Hawaii before opening so we only had a few lights turned on. There is no such a thing as bad light per se, it is the same as let’ say calling a color bad. While in the world of complainers these are valid arguments, they will not lead to great pictures.

Understanding the inherit creative potential of any light is crucial for on location non-professional photographers. In a control oriented culture giving up control may sound as a sign of weakness. But by practice and experience the non-forceful photographer can learn to give up that control and go with the creative flow.

I find the lighting perfect for this picture. I like that the right eye of the model is invisible. The lines and the shapes are balanced and pleasing to the eye. I don’t have the budget or the desire to purchase studio lights and spend time to carefully fill in every shadow to a well calculated degree for that “perfect shot”.

Close Range Dramatic Flash Photography: Russian Model On Backseat Of Car

Edgy Russian Model in Backseat Of Car

Continuing the previous “From Challenging To Creative Lighting” discussion this photo was taken in a car where we used for shelter during a rainstorm. I was taking fashion and lingerie modeling photos in the Belgian countryside when a downpour interrupted our session. Instead of waiting the rain out or heading home we made an intimate setting out of the backseat of the model’s car.

I was in the driver seat so the backseat could not have been farther than 3 feet. I used an external flash unit (Nikon SB800) not the built in flash of the camera. If the built in flash would have been used the lens would have cast a shadow in the bottom of the image.

Even though I had an off camera flash cord this time I left the flash on the camera because I wanted a paparazzi like straight on blast of flash. I really like the look of this paparazzi style non-professional flash use. It is revealing, intimate without being pretentious. The resulting pictures look non-staged, natural and spontaneous.

Weird Props And Accessories: Creative Portrait Of Edgy Russian Fashion Model

Creative Portrait of Edgy Russian Fashion Model

When it comes to on location photography props are everywhere. Junk props are great finds with character and nobody will complain about you using them. With weird props the photographer can create unique images that were not planned ahead. Unexpected props give jolts to photo shoots propelling them in new and exciting directions.

I was on the lookout for such props while I was photographing an edgy, dramatic Russian fashion model at the Brepols Factory in Turnhout, Belgium. Some leftover construction material in the form of these rusty coiled wires immediately caught me eyes. The rust color was matching the tanned skin of the model and the color of the brick wall nearby.

I was really sure at first how to incorporate the the wires into the picture. When I don’t have a clear straight forward idea the best way to go forward is by faking confidence. What this means is to sell the idea with conviction. Make the concept appear that it is not an act of desperation but a product of creative thinking.

The right model to sell this fantasy is important and I was in luck this day because the model I was photographing had all the confidence in the world. Body language and eyes don’t lie but thanks to the model this concept and look is rock solid!

Intimate Female Portrait Photography With Beautiful Asian Lingerie Model

portrait of asian lingerie model

To make the best of every photo shoot and to maximize the amount and variety of pictures I like to mix-up styles and themes. I bring the example of this beautiful Asian lingerie model who I was photographing in the Zanzabar Night Club in Waikiki Beach, Hawaii.

While we were taking lingerie modeling pictures there were times when I saw a facial expression or mood that warranted a portrait photo to be taken. Perhaps I could never have been able to take an intimate sensual portrait picture during a standard portrait or fashion photography session. But the atmosphere of a lingerie modeling session provided the necessary ingredients for the creation of special portraits.

Beauty Of Mona Lisa: Portrait Of Whimsical Asian Model In Tropical Rainforest

Whimsical Portrait of Asian Model

The whimsical, calm, quiet, confident beauty of a beautiful Asian model captured in a Hawaiian rainforest always reminded me of the Mona Lisa. Of course everyone will create their own story about pictures they see. But once I have created that story it is almost impossible to change it.

My short attention span and desire to continually create different photos does not allow me to be a studio portrait photographer. The solution is a constant search for new beautiful, intelligent models and inspiring locations.
There are a lot of details I like about the above portrait, one is the contrast between the skin of the model and the rough tree bark in such a close proximity to each other.

A long enough focal length and wide enough aperture ensured the blurred background which is a must for this type of beauty portraiture. To avoid unattractive shadows on the model’s face her back is turned to the sun which creates beautiful hair light that further separates her from the background.

Of course ugly dark shadows can be eliminated by the use of reflector or fill flash. I always photograph alone so setting up reflectors would be inconvenient plus I do not like how fake they can look in most cases.
Same with fill flash, yes it’s use can be mastered but I would not rely on it too often simply because it is not a look I enjoy.

On the other hand I have no problem with a very small amount of flash to add a catch light (sparkle) to the eye of the model.

Peaceful Non-Forceful Portrait Photography: Beautiful Young Mongolian Model

portrait photography with beautiful mongolian model

What I mean by peaceful and non-forceful portrait photography is to create a relaxing and comfortable photography setting and provide minimal direction to the model.

This is not going to work with every model as some of them want every aspect of the photo shoot to be meticulously directed. If someone needs every body part arranged for them it is highly unlikely that the resulting pose and facial expression will be natural.

So right off the bet if a model is asking for too much direction that should raise a red flag with the photographer. On the other hand if a model has confidence, intelligence, open mind and inner beauty, those attributes that are not physical can be the most valuable ones.

I obviously found the Mongolian model beautiful and inspiring. I was pleasantly surprised about her personality and how she showed her true self in front of the camera. We took pictures in an apartment in Budapest, Hungary where she lives. Even simple European apartments have a lot of character so we were able to find furniture, windows, walls, view from balcony that helped us to create distinct sets and images.

The color of the model’s dress and the stones on its strap nicely match the colorful wall in the background. Although I did not think about the connection, the sheep skin covering the couch does tie into her Mongolian heritage.
The soft diffused light coming from the large window was the only light source. The model’s pose, hand position, mood and expression was not directed, it was how she settled into the scene.

Edgy Portrait Picture From The Attic: Russian Model Smoking A Cigarette

russian model smoking a cigarette

I found a perfect attic at the excellent abandoned industrial location of Brepols Factory in Turnhout, Belgium.
The only light source was the large rectangle skylights it the roof. The illumination therefore was highly directional. The Russian model who had dramatic features was the perfect subject for harsh side lighting as opposed to diffused soft beauty lighting.

I do not photograph smoking models too often and don’t create smoking concepts but if they light up a cigarette when we take a break and the surroundings are favorable I don’t mind to take a few pictures. This location, this model and this lighting worked for a smoking shot. Other frames had a more visible trail of smoke but this was the best picture from the batch.

Some photographers might be inclined to transfer the trail of smoke from the other image using Photoshop but I am not that interested in fabricating large parts of a picture.

I love the mood though this is a real portrait considering how real photographs actually are … which warrants a lot longer philosophical discussion. I believe this is her, photo shoot or not, if we were to follow the model with a hidden camera scenes like this could be captured.

Fun On Photo Shoots: Portrait Of Amateur Chinese Japanese Model Laughing

laughing japanese chinese model

I love the natural laugh of this amateur Chinese Japanese model. After seeing 1000’s of online images of models being clearly uncomfortable the least I can try besides providing the model with quality images is to make the process enjoyable.

I do not pay models so there are no time constraints. my photo shoots can easily turn into 5+ hour adventures, indoors or outdoors but always on location and not in a studio. A positive non-creepy atmosphere therefore is a must.
This leads me to one last advice for models looking for photographers. If all the models in the photographer’s portfolio look like they just had their root canal done don’t think that it will be different with you. It might but probably not. Look for inspiring portfolios and have fun shooting!

None of the girls and women on my photos are professional paid models. Some are first time models. I have easier time connecting with amateur or non-models. There is less chance to encounter a diva attitude. And because there is no hourly fee involved the time restraints are also looser providing a more relaxed atmosphere.

I like girls who are just starting. They have not been formed, they have no routine, they have not been in front of the camera.
Helmut Newton

Working always on location and not a studio environment means that my photography is less technical which compliments the fact that my right brain is usually in charge anyways.

I actually find it a contradiction to be able to get immersed in photography while constantly checking camera settings. It does not mean I use my camera as a point ‘n shoot but I do not check aperture and shutter speed after every shot (someone told me that is exactly how he works).

Technically, I have not changed very much. Ask my assistants. They’ll tell you, I am the easiest photographer to work with. I don’t have heavy equipment. I work out of one bag.
Helmut Newton

As a traveling photographer I am responsible for all aspects of planning, production and post production. Most photographers enjoy being in control so this is not a negative.

Some of the many hats a traveling freelance photographer wears:

Perhaps not a full list but an overview of what is involved when photographing and traveling alone.

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