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.

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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

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.

2. “Allow your model to be themselves and show their souls.”

Sus Pons

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.
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.

3. “Comfort is the most important thing.”

Liz Cooper

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.
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.

4. “A natural atmosphere can be magic, and real moments are more powerful than posed ones.”

David Prado / Addictive Creative

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.
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.”

5. “Have a plan going in, but also be willing to play around with that plan.”

Michae Allen

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.
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.

6. “The best advice I can give is to work in a quiet environment.”

Manuel Ruiz Alba

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.
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.

7. “You won’t get a powerful portrait by holding your camera up and saying, ‘Smile!'”

Jeremy Francis (Geartooth Productions)

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.
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.
View the full list of images here