Why Glamour Photography? (15 Types of Portrait Photography)
Portrait photography is a very broad term so in this article I cover 15 sub-genre of portrait photography. Which category does your portraiture fall into and how did I end up becoming a glamour photographer as a lifelong introvert!?
15 types of portrait photography
Let’s first cover the differences between different genre of portrait photography. I define 15 types of portraits but some genre overlap in certain areas. The focus of many photos is actually not the person in the picture and the photographer may only play a small part in creating the final image. Both of these element are important when it comes to my style of portraiture and I explain this at the end of the article.
1) Environmental portraits
This is about capturing the subject in their environment and is as much about the location as the person. These are organised photoshoots where the person is working with the photographer to create the image they both want. The location is as important as the person to tell the overall story. For example an athlete photographed in the gym or a baker photographed in their bakery with bread in the background. The clothing is as important as it needs to help tell the story and fit with the location. A football player wearing their team football kit shot in a stadium or the baker in their work attire next to the ovens. Good environmental portraits are often down to the skill of the photographer composing the scene, posing the subject and evoking an emotion.
> Emphasis: Person in their location
2) Street portraits
This is a broad topic and street portraits include both candid and posed portraits. Similar to environmental portraits, as the name suggests, street portraits are shot on the street. The difference is that you are photographing normal people (strangers) in everyday life and often capturing a moment in time. Street portraits are often opportunist snapshots that over time record a period street fashion, hair styles, vehicles, signage and anything else caught in the frame.
Depending on the lens used it can be a tight shallow depth of field character portrait or a wider scene that better shows the time period. Street photography is a individual sport so the final photo is 100% down to the photographer’s skills and some luck on that day. (An interesting person happens to walk by just as the sun backlights the street and the vintage car drives past).
> Emphasis: A moment of normal people in everyday life
3) Wedding portraits
Wedding portraits are capturing a couple in their wedding day clothes hopefully looking happy. Usually wedding photos are taken on their actual wedding day but some couples plan an additional day just to make beautiful wedding images without the time constraints of a wedding day. They wear their wedding day clothes but travel to a specific location that is often different to the location of their wedding. As the timing of the photos does not need to fit around the standard wedding day schedule, they can benefit from taking photos perhaps at sunrise to capture early morning mist or at golden hour later in the day.
Wedding photography is usually the photographer and the couple, and perhaps an assistance. A successful image is 100% down to the skill of the photographer evoking a happy emotion while posing them elegantly.
> Emphasis: Happy beautiful photos of real people in their wedding day outfits
4) Bridal portraits
Is wedding photography the same as bridal photography? No. Wedding photos are real couples getting married that often don’t like being in front of the camera and may have little interest in having photos taken. Bridal photography is normally beautiful models posing in wedding attire to help sell a wedding dress or wedding venue. This is closer to fashion photography and can include a huge team of people for hair, makeup, product wardrobe, location and set design etc. Bridal photography is designed to show the perfect wedding with beautiful smiling models in elegant clothes posed effortlessly. These bridal photos are then shown to real wedding couples to inspire them as to how they can look on their wedding day. Bridal shoots images are often the result of a team of people and not solely the photographer.
> Emphasis: Wedding product such as clothes or venue
5) Lifestyle photography
LIfestyle photography is what we often see on Instagram. It often includes photographing models or beautiful people in social situations showing them having fun and enjoying a successful and or luxury lifestyle. This might be an elegant model, walking across a street smiling with designer shopping bags in their hand. It could be a coffee shop setting or holiday environment. The focus is to sell that lifestyle and positive emotion captured in the photograph.
Photos might be requested by an individual for their Instagram account to show them enjoying a good life. Lifestyle photography is used by businesses to sell their service (or a certain positive lifestyle); a coffee shop experience, a retirement plan, a holiday destination, private medical care etc. The emphasis is the emotion or positive feeling created around the lifestyle and is usually not about the person and this needs to be directed and captured by the photographer (even if they are working as part of a large team).
> Emphasis: The lifestyle/ vision
6) Commercial fashion portraits
Commercial photography is photography that is used to sell or promote a product or service for a business. Commercial fashion photography is taking photos of models to help sell clothes or accessories. The focus is the product and not the model. There are different sub-genre. Models need a body shape and look to sell the specific clothing. Catalogue photography sometimes doesn’t show the models face and is a tighter crop of the garment or product. For bigger campaign shoots the photos can include lifestyle photography so a beautiful model with a nice smile helps sell the positive emotion around the product.
Models booked for bridal photo shoots are often selected for commercial fashion too as their big bright smiles suit this genre. The overall emphasis for fashion photography is the photo should make you want to buy the product. The photographer works as part of a wider team and the final image will be the result of everyone having their input.
> Emphasis: The clothes/ product
7) Fashion editorial photography
Fashion photography is used to sell a product whereas editorial fashion photography includes storytelling and is often images centred around a particular theme. Unlike commercial fashion and lifestyle photography which often focus around happy smiling models, editorial photography is usually more stylised and thought provoking. A fashion editorial shoot is frequently a collection of perhaps 20 images that include 3 to 5 looks (different outfits/ hair/ makeup) presented as a body of work in a fashion magazine such as Vogue. A summer edition of a publication will include the theme summer and images are created to meet those criteria.
Unlike commercial fashion or lifestyle photos that show a generic location and clothes worn in daily situations (whether for leisure or for work), editorial photography opens the gates for the creative visuals. Photographs can have a fantasy or dreamlike vibe with more extravagant styling, props, makeup and hair. The emphasis is the overall story captured as a result of combining the location choice, the clothing, the hair and makeup and the model as a part of this image. The focus is less about the model themselves and they are just a small part of the overall piece. Equally, the photographer is just a small part of a big team and they press the shutter when everything is in place. (The amount of creative input from the photographer will depend on how big the team is).
> Emphasis: The brand story or theme
8) Beauty photography
As with editorial photography, beauty photography is also not about the model. Yes they need a beautiful or interesting face but the emphasis is on either hair or makeup. The model’s face is just a shape for presenting the hair style or makeup product. Beauty photography is photographing the “final piece” like product photography once the hair or makeup is complete. The photo should to be taken to highlight the skills of the stylist and not the model themselves.
> Emphasis: Hair or makeup
9) Dance photography
Dance photography often has a strong emphasis movement or motion. As the name suggests this is photographing dancers to capture their body shape and form but with motion shown in the image. Timing is important and it might require multiple takes to capture that one frame where everything comes together for the final image. When working 1:1 with the dancer it’s the sole responsibility of the photographer to encourage the dancer to perform for the final image.
> Emphasis: Shape and movement
10) Fine art nude photography
Nude photography or fine art nude photography as it’s sometimes called, is similar to dance photography with the emphasis on shape and the human form. The obvious difference is nude photography is without clothing and is usually shot as a static image without movement. Like photographing a human sculpture, the body shape is the focus and it’s much less about the face. Often models have natural or no makeup or the pose means you cannot see the face in the final image. Models with a dance background are suited to nude photography as they know how to create elegant shapes with their bodies. Often nude photography is just the photographer plus the model so it’s the photographer’s job to bring out the best from the model.
> Emphasis: Creating shape with the human body
11) Boudoir photography
Boudoir photography is often shot in a bedroom style setting or hotel room environment. Unlike some other types of portraits listed, boudoir photos are not made with models. This is normal people that decide to put themselves in front of the camera to capture some special photos for themselves. Unlike some of the photography genres described above that includes a large team of people, boudoir photography is an intimate shoot with just the photographer and the person.
Photos are usually shot with lingerie or similar sexier clothes and the goal is to show the beauty of the sitter and make them feel special. These private intimate photoshoots are often requested to mark a significant birthday as a gift to themselves (“This is how good I looked at 30 years old“) or perhaps as a special gift to their partner. The final image is 100% down to the photographer’s skills to make the person feel relaxed and bring out and capture their beauty.
> Emphasis: Making a normal person look and feel beautiful
12) Glamour photography
So what is glamour photography? Glamour photos focus on the beauty of the person in the photograph (as with boudoir photography) but the difference is glamour photography is normally shot with models or aspiring models. The goal is to take photos to capture their overall beauty which includes their body and face. Hair and makeup are important but they are not the focus of the photo. Hair and makeup should be used to enhance the beauty of the person and not cause distraction. Equally clothing should be selected to amplify the beauty of the person but the interest is not the clothes. Everything should be designed to magnify the beauty of the person (highlight their strengths and hide any weaknesses). Glamour photography can include a team of people or just the photographer working 1:1 with the model (as I work).
> Emphasis: Making a model (usually) look and feel beautiful
13) Basic portraiture
Generic portraits are captured when a photographer works with the sitter to capture an image that tells a story about who they are. Normally these are not models and they feel uncomfortable sat in front of your camera. First you need to build rapport to get them relaxed and perhaps joke around so they start to forget the camera. As they start to open up you can capture the real them. Portraits are often shot in a studio (or on location with a portable studio setup) as a 1:1 session.
A headshot photographer is a sub-genre of portrait photography and focuses purely on the face. This is popular for actor headshots, corporate headshots say for LinkedIn etc.
It’s the photographer’s job to bring out the character of the sitter. The emphasis is usually on the face / face and torso and is less about the clothes (although clothes can be used to show them as who they are). There is often less focus on beauty and smiling and it’s more about expression and interesting character. The final picture is solely down to the photographer’s skills to build a rapport and capture the frame.
> Emphasis: Tells the story of who they are (in an image)
14) Family portraits
Family portraits as the name suggests is photographing a group of people instead of an individual. Similar to the basic portraits of an individual, often these people don’t enjoy being in front of the camera and they are there but they had to be there. (Mum decided they all need a family photo). The goal as the photographer is to try to have fun so the sitters relax enough to smile naturally and then capture a frame where everyone is smiling in the same image with their eyes open. (Similar to wedding group shots). As with portraits the photos are 100% down to the photographer’s skills to build a rapport and capture the frame.
> Emphasis: Happy/ fun photos of normal people
15) Children photography
Often proud parents want to get professional photos taken of their cute child/ children while they are still young. This can be new born baby photography (which is a genre in itself) to any age above this. Taking photos usually involve pulling silly faces, making funny noises and/ or waving their favourite toy around. As they are shorter than us it’s important to get down to their level and then try to catch them looking towards the camera and hopefully looking happy in a natural setting.
The timing of the session is very important as the child needs to be not hungry, not tired, not teething or anything else that makes them cry! The final image is usually teamwork between the photographer seeing and composing the image and the parents trying to make their child perform to the camera.
Emphasis: Cute photos / capturing that part of their life
Why glamour photography?
I often call myself a model photographer or portrait photographer but when I break it down I guess I’m a glamour photographer. In the past I’ve never used that phrase as I think most people assume glamour means cheap looking tacky photos of people in less clothes. So why glamour photography and especially as an introvert? My interest in photography is capturing beauty. I really enjoy making normal people (often pretty people but not models) look and feel amazing.
One of my Patreon posts sees me describe my photoshoots as similar to a luxury spa day. The person should leave with a beaming smile, feeling beautiful, full of confidence and with a spring in their step. This is my goal for every photoshoot.
Try different genre
You won’t know which photography genre you are best at until you try them for yourself. Over the years I think I’ve tried all mentioned styles of photography. I quick realised I didn’t enjoy taking family photos or kids photos as it relies on factors outside of my control. (It doesn’t matter how good you are with a camera, if the child cries from start to end you get a rubbish photos!) Sometimes my work includes aspects of lifestyle photography, fashion, beauty, boudoir, nude, portraits and headshots. You might love to create as part of a larger team. I prefer working 1:1 (I guess because i’m an introvert).
I still work as a wedding photographer so I enjoy bridal photography too. Over time I just found that I mostly enjoy making normal people look and feel extra glamorous for the day (and yes I do look for naturally beautiful people to work with).
What I’m not
I’m not a beauty photographer as my interest is the person not the hair and makeup (though I do use hair and makeup to improve my portraits). My focus is the persons face and body shape and not their clothes so I’m not a fashion photographer (though I use clothes strategically to highlight strengths and hide weaknesses). I’m not a commercial photographer as I prefer to work 1:1 with a sitter to bring their best. My style is not boudoir photography as I tend to use normal clothes and often don’t shoot in a bedroom environment.
I’m not strictly a portrait photographer as I am not trying to show the sitter as them in the image and it’s purely about the beauty aspect. Many famous portrait photographers are known not for beauty portraits but capturing funny, quirky or interesting expressions. This isn’t me.
My style of portraits are slow, staged and directed. There is zero luck in my photography. I micro adjust every element to suit my lighting yet try to make the final image look natural and non-posed. As I rarely use movement in my work (as I don’t like the lack of control) I’m not a dance photographer. Beautiful faces are very important in my work so I’m not an art nude photographer. Yes the body is important but for me it should add to the final image. With the emphasis being partly the face I shoot mostly half body images and try to pose the body to enhance the final image.
I’m not a headshot photographer as I can make people feel more special when I show some of their body too. As I often work with normal people that are not models I’m not strictly a model photographer. I like to work 1:1 as I enjoy creating the images in my head. I wouldn’t have the same creative freedom and ease of building a 1:1 rapport if I worked as part of a larger team.
Using my introvert super power
All through school and university I was too shy to talk to girls (and talk much to anyone). Strangely I found that this has now become my super power. Being quietly spoken and polite I seem to be able to make people feel at ease very quickly in a 1:1 situation. Strangers that I contact have often never had photos before and might not even speak English. Over the last decade of doing 500-1000 photoshoots I’ve honed my approach and now I’m uber-confident working in this environment. Models (or the person in front of the camera) soon relax and then we set to work to make them feel amazing and capture beautiful photos to prove it.
When I grow up I want to be a glamour photographer
As you can probably guess this wasn’t something I planned. It just evolved over the years to where we are today. My parents were both teachers and I love the teaching aspect of my work. I’ve been teaching model photography workshops since 2014 and last year I flew to Dubai to teach my first larger group workshop. I photograph beautiful people for my personal work (I publish annual model photobooks on Patreon each year) and enjoy teaching to fund my lifestyle. (In addition to the YouTube channel, blogging, eBooks and presets).
Model photography workshops
If you are interested in getting into glamour photography I teach model photography workshops both in the UK and overseas. You get to practice directing and photographing beautiful models and can start to build up your model portfolio. You can read workshop testimonials here and get in touch for available dates.