One of the things that is often overlooked in a photoshoot is styling.
One can argue that styling is often expensive and that a good stylist is hard to find, however I disagree. Yes a good stylist is very hard to find, however why not at least try it yourself. Daily I get images from photographers asking me how I like their images, and some images are indeed nice or even cool, often however they are in my opinion “not as good as they could have been” due to a lack in styling. Or in other words, great lighting on a great location but the model is standing there in just jeans and a top…. in this blog post a few pointers to do the styling yourself or with your model without much budget.

The image you see above was shot during one of my workshops.
The whole styling was done by the model Nadine, and trust me it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg, in fact you can do some amazing styling by using things that would maybe normally be thrown away.


1. Think differently
We all know that jeans and a top are good to wear, however when we shoot an image we also know that jeans and a top are seen in EVERY street scene, meaning our eyes are used to it and will not be “surprised”. By just thinking about this you will already get the feel that jeans and a top are not the way to go for an interesting photo… unless you are shooting for a company that sells them of course.


2. Location
One of the things you see a lot in photography is a combination of clothing (or none) that is placed in a location. Let’s take the example of an old train. I have nothing against nude photography (don’t get me wrong) but I also think that nude in a lot of photography is used the wrong way. You could of course put a nude model in an empty train and when you add some styling to this it could work, but what you often will see, is a clean model placed in a dirty train with 100% flat light, and with all due respect this does not work for me personally, add some dirt, some expression and at the very least some nice direction/shadows in your image and make the model “fit” in the location. For me however working with a big contrast is better, I love to shoot the most beautiful dresses in those locations, let’s say a nice long red dress in a dirty warehouse or old train all clean and taking all the attention of the viewer, however “again” make sure the light is fitting for the location…. And of course you don’t have to shoot with a lot of shadows all the time, but make sure there is a sense of “depth” in the image, just placing a strobe a few feet from the side is sometimes enough to do the “trick”.

And yes I will put models in locations in clothing that doesn’t really fit, but that’s also a bit of the fun. You will however never find me shooting a model in jeans and a top in those locations.


3. Do it yourself clothing
Now this is where the fun comes in and where you can see the difference between a good “team” and a “team” that just shoots. We all know the saying “we will see what we’re gonna do, just bring a suitcase with clothes” and although that sometimes can work I also have experienced a lot of models that come in our studio with a suitcase filled with jeans, tops, some more jeans and some more tops “Yeah I really like this pink one, but also the blue one, hummm can we do both ?”…. aaargh. Well ok you already know I hate jeans and tops…… it feels like shooting just someone you picked of the street seconds before the shoot wearing casual clothing, and yes I do LOVE jeans and tops but not in front of my camera.

The simplest thing you can do is plan ahead and maybe do some crazy stuff like the image you see above, this outfit (again by Nadine) was put together by using throw away plastic bags. But you can also put a little bit more effort into it, the following shot was done with Stephanie and Linda our makeup artist and is a dress with some added materials and some artificial spiders, and although I hate shooting at cemeteries I really had to do this in that location and we got permission luckily.

3. Adding other elements
Clothing is one, the model and makeup is another, but one very important element can also be smoke, like you see in the shot above smoke really makes the image complete, and smoke can also sometimes save your shoot. In the next shot I was placed in a location I really did not like for the full 100%, there was a nice reflective background, a cool disco ball but the floor was just normal carpeting and somehow every shot you would have taken there would turn out “simple”, “boring” or “standard” however add some smoke and some crazy DIY styling by Nadine and you’re off.

4. Makeup, and more
Already mentioned it briefly in the 3rd topic, but makeup is also a very crucial part of a photoshoot and styling of the shoot. Don’t think about makeup as being just a part of the process to make sure the model looks nice in the shot, no…. think about makeup as being part of the styling, push your makeup artist to go beyond just using powder or a nice gloss, push her/him to add some nice things, do something with hair etc. In the next images you can see what some simple makeup can do to the styling (and some more advanced)

5. Adding more elements 
Now it’s getting more and more elaborate but again it doesn’t have to cost much, just browse your local second hard stores, ask relatives, friends, etc. and always remember you’re a TEAM so it doesn’t always have to be just you that does all the planning and arranging, three can do so much more than one (model, photographer, MUA).


add some paint, but PLEASE beware of the models health.


again, some paint


last weeks newspaper


Clothing used the "wrong" way


add some toilet paper


They gave these away for free at a local drugstore. (the lips of course)


make it all pink

add some nature

And the list goes on and on, your own creativity and ability to think are the only real limitations.


5. Putting some real work into it
Sometimes you get a really nice chance to shoot in an unique location with an unique model. At that time it’s your job to really put some effort into the preparation of the shoot, think about the location and the model and try to find solutions in which it all fit together, in other words tell a story with your images, because in essence that’s what photography is all about, we are story tellers with light.

If you want YOUR work to stand out, make sure that you do things differently. Sometimes it can be simple, sometimes it will cost you money, however (and really trust me on this one) you WILL get your money back, if you pull the job off correctly. Over here we invest a lot of time and money in our free work shoots, but without those shoots I would probably never be at this point in my career I’m now.

The best advise ?

think outside the box.



7 replies
  1. Anabelle Hamilton
    Anabelle Hamilton says:

    I agree Frank & try to do this myself as much as possible. I find models do often have a reluctance to work with an idea or rather get into the spirit of that or contribute. Of course it depends upon the model but one does struggle to find say find new models ( who don’t have expensive rates) who the camera likes, that are also creatives. I think the idea of taking someone into your own imaginative world can be difficult particularly if one has never worked with the model before and they are not experienced. Experience brings them higher rates and often a stereotyped perception of what to expect which then obviously makes it harder for them to move out of their learned comfort zone. Just my experience, one where things that exist in your mind are very difficult to translate into pixels primarily due to cost of working with really good models who get or want to get the idea as opposed to new models who think that having some pictures done is a nice experience. You have a gift Frank and that includes finding good models who ‘get’ what you are doing.

  2. Nadine Stephan
    Nadine Stephan says:

    You want to hear something crazy….
    Before i’ ve worked with Frank, nobody thougt I was a special model, they thougt I was crazy, but special or good enough? No…
    And now? There are even photographers who are getting nervous by talking to me, because I’ m ‘good’ ??
    It ‘s also about thinking out the box by choosing your model. Yeah, I know, it’s so nice to work with that skinny young blond girl with cup C, she is so beautiful…
    Look around… And you will see there are more special models to find than you think, and giving them a chance don’ t have to be expensive…
    Frank indeed know ‘s that ( Hurray!)

    Knutsch Nadine

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