Diverse Beauty Images to Inspire Your Next Photoshoot

Seeking new inspiration for your next portrait session? Uncover eleven behind-the-scenes tips from the pros for shooting beautiful images of diverse models.

Last year, ​The New York Times​ beauty columnist Bee Shapiro ​wrote​ about a sea change in the industry. Thanks to social media, inclusive brands, and pioneering celebrities, the public had started to embrace positive, diverse imagery. Finally, advertising campaigns featured a wide variety of skin tones, genders, and body shapes.

It was a significant moment in history, but it was just the beginning. And as Shapiro noted, photographers have a critical part to play going forward. As we head into the next few years, photographers will have the ultimate power to ensure inclusivity in the beauty industry is more than a “trend.” It’s a movement, and it’s here to stay.

We reached out to eleven photographers of various of backgrounds, from fine art to editorial and everything in between, to learn their secrets for creating inspiring images.

In these photos, you’ll find people from around the world. Many are professional models, but some are not. A few of these pictures can be described as conventional beauty images, while most are simply beautiful portraits. Despite their differences, though, they all share a sense of honesty and authenticity. And in the end, they all capture the enduring grace of the person sitting in front of the camera.

1. “…use your imagination to create a “story” behind the portrait.”
Alba Vitta / Addictive Creative
Diverse Beauty Images to Inspire Your Next Photoshoot — Create a Story

Image by Alba Vitta / Addictive Creative. Gear: Sony Alpha 7II camera, 55mm 1.8 Zeiss FE lens. Settings: Exposure 1/320 sec; f2.5; ISO 500.

What’s the story behind this photo?​

My videographer partner and I had arranged a photoshoot with this Sri Lankan model. As soon as we met, it started pouring, so we had to think of a solution quickly. We ended up inside of a beautiful greenhouse in a park.

We started with casual clothes, and once we all were more comfortable with each other, we did some photos with the typical Sri Lankan dress, as she moved, danced, and posed. That was the moment when I got this shot. She was feeling calm and comfortable and being herself. I asked her to look down and then to look at me. Then I pressed the shutter button, and I got this beautiful capture.

What made this session memorable was that we did something unique: the fact of having her dressed in those beautiful clothes, the contrast and beautiful light shining through the greenhouse, and her talent in front of the camera!

Pro Tip

Prioritize the models’ comfort. Ask how they usually work and if they need guidance or like to pose themselves. Additionally, use your imagination to create a “story” behind the portrait. That will help you to get the mood, the look, and the expression you want.

Website | Instagram

2. “Allow your model to be themselves and show their souls.”
Sus Pons
Diverse Beauty Images to Inspire Your Next Photoshoot — Let Your Models Be Themselves

Image by Sus Pons. Gear: Canon EOS 6D camera, Sigma Art 35mm F1.4 lens. Settings: Exposure ​1/1000​ sec; f2.0; ISO ​100​.

What’s the story behind this photo?​

Working with people gives me energy and happiness. Every single person is special and has something to share, and I will always have a lot to learn.

I actually made this portrait at the end of a photoshoot. I asked Yeray, the model, to sit down and relax on the stairs a little bit before going home. Then the magic happened. There was this perfect light coming from the side, and the atmosphere was relaxed. We were comfortable and chatting, and that’s when I got this portrait.

Sus PonsSus PonsSus Pons

mosaic__mobile-caption">Pictured: [1] Sus Pons [2] Sus Pons [3] Sus Pons

Pro Tip

My most important rule is to go out and take photos every single day. No excuses. You learn from trial and error, and your mistakes help you improve. Allow your model to be themselves and show their souls. Portraits are about capturing the essence of the person.

Website | Instagram | Twitter

3. “Comfort is the most important thing.”
Liz Cooper
Diverse Beauty Images to Inspire Your Next Photoshoot — Make the Model Comfortable

Image by Liz Cooper. Gear: ​Nikon D610​ camera, ​Nikon 50mm f1.4​ lens. Settings: Exposure 1/200​ sec; ​f2.8​; ISO ​100​.

What’s the story behind this photo?​

The woman in this portrait has sat for me several times. There’s often no “purpose” behind these shoots other than to make some beautiful images. She’s a wonderful model because she’s open, loves to be photographed, and takes direction well. She’s a natural. That’s probably why I’m drawn to her over and over again. She just exudes confidence.

Diverse Beauty Images to Inspire Your Next Photoshoot — Portray Confidence

Image by Liz Cooper

Pro Tip

​Comfort is the most important thing. Your subject needs to comfortable in order to be vulnerable. That tension of openness vs. mystery that I strive for can only be created through mutual respect between photographer and subject.

I chat with people a lot during shoots. We talk about life, and I ask them questions about their plans for the day or week, etc. I want them to trust me. And I want to have a dialogue with them that will be reflected in the image. I don’t want them to feel like I’m in control because they are ultimately in control. It’s that ownership that I want to see.

Website | Instagram

4. “A natural atmosphere can be magic, and real moments are more powerful than posed ones.”
David Prado / Addictive Creative
Diverse Beauty Images to Inspire Your Next Photoshoot — Shoot Real Moments

Image by David Prado / Addictive Creative. Gear: Nikon D750 camera, Tamron 70-200 F/2.8 Di VC G2 lens. Settings: Focal length 180mm; exposure 1/1640 sec; f4; ISO 200.

What’s the story behind this photo?​

In the beginning, this was going to be a few days of vacation time with my girlfriend on the coast of Spain. But because of the beauty we saw in this part of the world, it became four days of intense work.

This photo was as the result of the light, the model, and the place all coming together. We decided it was time to work, though we planned return trip later so we could have our vacation. There’s nothing like traveling with your girlfriend to beautiful places.

Diverse Beauty Images to Inspire Your Next Photoshoot — Make Time to Work and Play

Image by David Prado / Addictive Creative

Pro Tip

In my experience, it’s best to work with as little pressure and as much freedom as possible. A natural atmosphere can be magic, and real moments are more powerful than posed ones. The first step is to be comfortable with one another. Try not to see it as a “job.”

Website | Instagram

5. “Have a plan going in, but also be willing to play around with that plan.”
Michae Allen
Diverse Beauty Images to Inspire Your Next Photoshoot — Have a Plan

Image by Michae Allen. Gear: ​Canon 10D​ camera, ​50mm 1.8​ lens. Settings: Exposure ​1/160 sec; f3.5; ISO 100.

What’s the story behind this photo?​

​I specialize in working with plus size women. This was a shoot with one of my favorite models, Asia Marin. Asia always gives such great energy, and she is a blast to work with. We were shooting in a cool location in Miami (Wynwood), and I’d shot there before, so I knew the red swimsuit would pop against the black and white wall. I love that I have the opportunity to play a part in representing the curvy community.

Diverse Beauty Images to Inspire Your Next Photoshoot — Be Flexible

Image by Michae Allen

Pro Tip

Have a plan going in, but also be willing to play around with that plan. I wish someone had told me to slow down and let the shot come to me instead of rushing and chasing it.

Website | Instagram | Twitter

6. “The best advice I can give is to work in a quiet environment.”
Manuel Ruiz Alba
Diverse Beauty Images to Inspire Your Next Photoshoot — Work in a Quiet Environment

Image by Manuel Ruiz Alba. Gear: ​Nikon D750​ camera, ​Nikon 50mm 1.8G​ lens. Settings: Exposure ​1/400​ sec; ​f2.8​; ISO 400.

What’s the story behind this photo?​

This was the third session I did with this model, so we already had a rapport and confidence in each other. He has charisma and knows how to be in front of the camera, so it’s very easy to work with him. We always get good results when we work together.

Diverse Beauty Images to Inspire Your Next Photoshoot — Shoot a Few Photos at a Time

Image by Manuel Ruiz Alba

Pro Tip

The best advice I can give is to work in a quiet environment. Take time to get to know the person in front of the camera. Also, shoot only a few photos at a time—we are not machine guns. And above all, watch the light, and understand how to use it.

Website | Instagram

7. “You won’t get a powerful portrait by holding your camera up and saying, ‘Smile!’”
Jeremy Francis (Geartooth Productions)
Diverse Beauty Images to Inspire Your Next Photoshoot — Get to Know the Model

Image by Jeremy Francis (Geartooth Productions). Gear: ​Canon 5D MKIII​ camera, ​Sigma Art 50mm​ lens. Settings: Exposure 1/125 sec; f4; ISO ​400​.

What’s the story behind this photo?​

This was a portrait session in my California studio with a transgender man. He had reached out to me about a session, and we ended up shooting for several hours that day, going through different looks. What started as more of a men’s fashion shoot turned into a series of quiet and slightly melancholy portraits. They have turned out to be some of my most popular work.

Diverse Beauty Images to Inspire Your Next Photoshoot — Engage with Your Model

Image by Jeremy Francis (Geartooth Productions)

Pro Tip

You won’t get a powerful portrait by holding your camera up and saying, “Smile!” In the case of this session, we sat and talked for some time before the camera came out. And even then, we continued our conversation while I shot.

Instagram | Website

8. “Follow your intuition.”
NeonShot
Diverse Beauty Images to Inspire Your Next Photoshoot — Follow Your Intuition

Image by NeonShot. Gear: ​Canon 5DS​ camera, ​CANON 50mm 1:4​ lens. Settings: Exposure 1/160 sec; f8; ISO 100.\

What’s the story behind this photo?​

Sometimes, we all meet a model on our photographic journey who stays with us longer than we anticipated. That’s how it was with Marta. After our first session, I knew that it was not the last. The most important thing is to be on the same wavelength as the model. That’s what leads to beautiful images. I actually took this photo during a break in our session. Marta looked at me, and I took a picture. It was a fleeting and special moment.

NeonShotNeonShotNeonShot

Pictured: [1] NeonShot [2] NeonShot [3] NeonShot

Pro Tip

Follow your intuition. Take the time to speak with the model. Communicate and establish a way of working together.

Website | Instagram

9. “Keep practicing, don’t give up, and be patient.”
Kyle Monk / Blend
Diverse Beauty Images to Inspire Your Next Photoshoot — Keep Practicing

Image by Kyle Monk / Blend. Gear: ​Canon EOS 5D Mark III​ camera, ​Canon EF 24-70mm lens. Settings: Focal length ​70mm​; exposure ​1/640​ sec; f4.5; ISO ​400​.

What’s the story behind this photo?​

This is a portrait of a young woman named Mackenzie. I created a simple studio setup on location using available light. I used light modifiers such as fill, negative fill, and diffusion to shape the light.

Mackenzie’s look was direct, focused, and emotional. I could feel the strength of her expression while shooting, which does not always happen. I truly felt we had special images, and I wish I could always say that with a shoot. It’s something I strive for. I always try my best to connect deeply with the subject.

Diverse Beauty Images to Inspire Your Next Photoshoot — Don't Give Up

Image by Kyle Monk / Blend

Pro Tip

I wish someone told me to slow down, learn to really ​see​, and be patient. In the beginning, I made the mistake of wrapping up a shoot too soon, hoping I had the shot but not truly knowing I did. I felt the pressure from the subject to hurry up and get the image. You know when you have it, and if you don’t, then keep working at it. For me, it took mistakes and time to become a confident photographer. Keep practicing, don’t give up, and be patient.

Website | Instagram

10. “It’s good to gather visual inspiration, of course, but try not to copy others.”
Kazakova Anastasia (Rudo film)
Diverse Beauty Images to Inspire Your Next Photoshoot — Find Your Own Point of View

Image by Kazakova Anastasia (Rudo film). Gear: ​Blackmagic URSA Mini​ camera, Canon 24-105 L lens. Settings: ISO 400.

What’s the story behind this photo?​

This model is one of my favorite muses, and this photo is actually a frame from a video. The goal of this session was to create subtle, natural imagery with soft light. Colors influence our emotions, and these flesh tones kept the image understated but dynamic at the same time. The final image evokes a sense of harmony and calm.

Kazakova Anastasia (Rudo film)Kazakova Anastasia (Rudo film)

Pictured: [1] Kazakova Anastasia (Rudo film) [2] Kazakova Anastasia (Rudo film)

Pro Tip

When I started as a photographer, I had no one to answer all my questions, and the internet certainly didn’t have all the resources it does today. Maybe that’s the reason I discovered my own point of view. These days, so many images are so similar, and it’s more important than ever to listen to yourself and your instincts.

It’s good to gather visual inspiration, of course, but try not to copy others. When I’m looking for inspiration, for example, I look outside of conventional portrait photography. I look at fine art and even macro photos for ideas about composition and colors.

Website | Instagram

11. “When I’m planning or talking with a model before a shoot, I suggest that they bring a friend or family member to the shoot.”
Adam Hester / Blend
Diverse Beauty Images to Inspire Your Next Photoshoot — Have the Model Bring a Friend

Image by Adam Hester / Blend. Gear: ​Canon 5D Mark III​ camera, ​50mm f/1.2L​ lens. Settings: Exposure 1/250 sec; f5.0; ISO 3200.

What’s the story behind this photo?​

I had parked in this garage a few weeks before this session, so I knew there was nice light there. This model and I walked around the Chinatown neighborhood for a few hours and made some casual images, including this one. We were lucky—the parking garage has since been torn down for condo development.

Pro Tip

When I’m planning or talking with a model before a shoot, I suggest that they bring a friend or family member to the shoot. I also ask that they bring two to three clean and colorful wardrobe options that they feel comfortable in, and I ask what type of music they like.

Once they show up with a friend, wearing clothes that they feel good in, and I’m playing the music they like from a portable speaker off my phone, they feel comfortable, and more natural images are created. Often times, their friend wants to be a part of the shoot as well, and they can also be great subjects.

Instagram | Twitter

Top Image by Manuel Ruiz Alba

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