Looking to learn the art of Hollywood-style closeups? Explore tips and tricks from eight masterful portrait photographers on how to capture images of sophistication and class.

George Hurrell, an ultimate Hollywood Golden Age photographer, was a pioneer in the field of glamour shots. Long before the days of the beauty dish, he affixed a light to a boom microphone to create a strange, new device for highlighting cheekbones and curves. He even requested his models show up without any makeup to allow for optimal retouching of his negatives. In the end, he transformed Veronica Lake and Jane Russell from actresses into stars.

Decades later, beauty and fashion photographers follow in Hurrell’s footsteps. It’s not enough to have a beautiful model, a high-end wardrobe, and expensive jewels. The magic happens with genius styling, a stroke of luck, or a trick of the light. In fact, in the hands of a talented photographer, costume jewelry and secondhand clothes can become the height of elegance. We asked eight photographers to share their best tips for capturing sophisticated portraits of people dressed to the nines.

1. “When it comes to posing, remember to praise your model; for me, that’s always the best solution.”

Anastasiia Kazakova

8 Photographers Share Their Secrets for Creating Glamorous Portraits — Show the Model's Personality

Image by Anastasiia Kazakova. Gear: Canon 5D Mark II camera, Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens, one softbox. Settings: Focal length 58mm; exposure 1/125 sec; f11; ISO 100.

What’s the story behind this photo?

This model is my best friend in real life, so we do a lot of shoots together. One day, Sandy told me that she had a sexy red dress, and I had a black wig, so we agreed to do a shoot. When she showed me the dress, I was impressed—in this dress, she is an embodiment of passion. For this photo, nothing could suit better than a totally red background with a side light, which made the shadows deep.

8 Photographers Share Their Secrets for Creating Glamorous Portraits — Praise Your Model

Image by Anastasiia Kazakova.

Pro Tip:

For me, all ideas are based on the model’s personality. I usually work with nonprofessional models, but they always have something special. I’m trying to show them from my point of view. I have basic wardrobe pieces; a little black dress, you know, is always a good idea.

I ask my models to bring some basics of their own and a dress that they love, and I always have the ability to mix the model’s clothes with pieces from my wardrobe. I’m always after classic beauty. For me, less is more. I grew up looking at magazines from the ’80s and ’90s, so this is my aesthetic. When it comes to posing, remember to praise your model; for me, that’s always the best solution.

Where do you find inspiration for your photography?

I’m in love with natural, calm, confident beauty. I live in Barcelona, and this is a city of beautiful people. Just a walk through the city fills me with new ideas.

2. “I adhere to the rule of “everything in moderation.” I like to create stylish but laconic images.”

Ekaterina Jurkova

8 Photographers Share Their Secrets for Creating Glamorous Portraits — Make a Statement

Image by Ekaterina Jurkova. Gear: Canon EOS 6D camera, Tamron 28-75mm lens, a single flash with a portrait plate, 2 silver reflectors. Settings: Focal length 63mm; exposure 1/25 sec; f9; ISO 100.

What’s the story behind this photo?

I wanted to create an image with a hat since I love this accessory, and I wanted to play on the contrast of black and white. As a supplement, I used pearl earrings, which do not stand out strongly in color. As a cherry on the cake, I chose red lipstick, which attracts attention and dilutes the monochrome color scale, making the image more interesting. The photo is made on a white background specifically to support the combination of black and white.

Pictured: [1] Image by Ekaterina Jurkova. [2] Image by Ekaterina Jurkova. [3] Image by Ekaterina Jurkova.

Pro Tip:

I adore fashion, and I often look through the work of famous fashion photographers. I do not use the services of stylists, hairdressers, and makeup artists, and I work on the image from scratch, from idea to embodiment. Usually the idea for a future shoot comes suddenly, and the image begins to draw itself in my imagination.

After the image is thought out, the search for clothes and accessories begins. I have a basic wardrobe with clothes for photo sessions, and if the perfect thing is missing, I work with designers who are happy to share things. After that, I select the necessary accessories. I adhere to the rule of “everything in moderation.” I like to create stylish but laconic images.

After the model is ready, it becomes clear what kind of light I’ll need for each specific set. I shoot most often in my small studio. When the model starts to pose, I want her to tell a story. If the image is about glamour, for example, it might call for a slightly arrogant look from above—a cold expression. If the image is flirtatious, then the poses and facial expression are on the playful side. For these photos, different lighting is used so that the colors are brighter.

Where do you find inspiration for your photography?

Inspiration for me comes from the work of photo masters like Patrick Demarchelier, Peter Lindbergh, Annie Leibovitz, and Steven Meisel.

3. “The models and I have a rapport and understand each other, and they trust me.”

Salome Hoogendijk

8 Photographers Share Their Secrets for Creating Glamorous Portraits — Build Trust

Image by Salome Hoogendijk. Gear: Nikon D3X camera, Nikkor f/2.8 80-200mm lens, Profoto D1 kit. Settings: Focal length 86mm; exposure 1/200 sec; f7.1; ISO 50.

What’s the story behind this photo?

This is not a groundbreaking photo at all, but it does illustrate some important points. I wanted to do a shoot with edgy clothing and dramatic makeup. Tanya, the model featured, is someone with a lot of class and natural elegance. I have often found that when working with a sexy theme, it helps to tone the sex down. The subject is already sexy, and emphasizing it makes it vulgar.

I knew she would understand what I wanted. Had I not worked with her several times, I would not have known how she translates on camera, and I wouldn’t have been able to get the image that I had pictured. It was almost a rock-n-roll, Grace Kelly feeling that I wanted. The model also had a cold, but she came out like a pro to do the shoot. It was a cold day in my studio, so she obviously performed better when she was sitting next to a heater placed just outside the shot!

8 Photographers Share Their Secrets for Creating Glamorous Portraits — Have a Strong Vision

Image by Salome Hoogkndijk.

Pro Tip:

I have a strong vision of the end result in mind, and I can work months in advance on mood boards, etc. I have found that although the input of collaborators is important—sometimes their ideas are better than yours—you need to be able to stick to your guns and remain the leader. Too many cooks do spoil the broth. Clearly communicating your end goal is important. That is one of the reasons why stock photography appeals to me: the entire shoot is my baby, and I do not need to consider a specific client, as long as the end result is a sellable image.

Although I run a tight ship on my shoots, I cannot function in a stressful environment. I have a personal relationship with all of my regular models, and some of them have become close friends—I feel like the older sister to many, many gorgeous little sisters. The models and I have a rapport and understand each other, and they trust me. They know that no matter how insane an idea might sound, it will ultimately result in a fabulous image.

I prefer when every model brings something of themselves to a shoot, whether it’s their own personality, choice of wardrobe, or posing; otherwise, it ends up as just another generic photo. Knowing my models allows me to know who can do what and who can pull off which shoot. I like my models to be comfortable, so when we shoot in winter, I make sure that the area is heated and that they have warm gowns for in between shots. I also make sure we have enough to eat and drink because the day gets long for everyone, and sometimes just taking a break makes the difference between success and failure.

Where do you find inspiration for your photography?

I am inspired by the books I read, films and television series I watch, and historical figures. Although I like to keep my finger on the pulse of the fashion and beauty industry, I am not inspired by it specifically. Recently, I watched the Hulu series Harlots, and I fell in love with the opulence, so now I am planning to do a shoot set in that period. Often elements of pop culture strike a chord with me. I love the tribal influence in the History Channel series Vikings and will definitely use it in the future as well.

4. “Try to invite like-minded people to your team—people who work not just for the money but who really enjoy the process.”

indira’s work (Iryna Kalchenko)

8 Photographers Share Their Secrets for Creating Glamorous Portraits — Trust in Teamwork

Image by indira’s work (Iryna Kalchenko). Gear: Canon 60D camera, Canon 24-105 f/4L IS USM lens, bowens GEMINI 500, octabox 150mm, softbox. Settings: Focal length 28mm; exposure 1/200 sec; f11; ISO 100.

What’s the story behind this photo?

This is one of my first shots. At that time, I was experimenting with soft light right behind the model. I found this effect interesting, where the model is almost drowning in the light.

8 Photographers Share Their Secrets for Creating Glamorous Portraits — Evoke Emotions

Image by indira’s work (Iryna Kalchenko).

Pro Tip:

For glamorous photos, it is not enough to just be beautiful. Every picture in this genre is an advertisement, so you must evoke feelings. Everyone who’s looking at one of our photos should want to be like the person in it. These emotions can come from the shadows right behind the model or from the photographer using exactly the right angle or even from a precise lens and specific lights. But all of this will not work if the photographer does not have aesthetic taste. Our taste is formed every minute of our lives, from the books we read to the people with whom we communicate to the movies we watch. So my first tip is: work on your taste.

My second discovery was the importance of a team. Your team is composed of your producers, models, stylists, makeup artists, and assistants. Try to invite like-minded people to your team—people who work not just for the money but who really enjoy the process. I always involve people who understand that awesome output is the result of teamwork, not just the efforts of one participant. Try to keep a positive atmosphere on set, and encourage the models. Give them a lot of your attention. They should feel respected and inspired. The right attitude from the team can create magic!

Where do you find inspiration for your photography?

I’m inspired by people, locations, and interesting lights. I’m inspired by movies, books, music, paintings, sometimes even textures. I’m also in love with works by the great masters of photography. I’m sure that inspiration can be found everywhere. Life itself is an endless stream of inspiration.

5. “Create a friendly and easy-going atmosphere, and explain what exactly you need or, even better, show them yourself.”

Marina Tatarenko

8 Photographers Share Their Secrets for Creating Glamorous Portraits — Build a Friendly Atmosphere

Image by Marina Tatarenko. Gear: Nikon D90 camera, Nikon 28-70mm f/2.8 AF-S lens. Settings: Focal length 50mm; exposure 1/180 sec; f11; ISO 100.

What’s the story behind this photo?

The weather turned out to be unexpectedly hot on the day I took this photo, so we got a milkshake, which nicely emphasized the mood of the scorching day.

Pictured: [1] Image by Marina Tatarenko. [2] Image by Marina Tatarenko.

Pro Tip:

When working on fashion and beauty shots, one of the most important things is the team! A makeup artist, a hair stylist, and a wardrobe stylist will make a huge contribution to the final shot. When you are on the same page with your team and have a common vision of the result, you’re on the way to success.

The model is a vital member of the team. It’s good to have a professional model on the shoot who knows what she’s doing. But if you are photographing one of your friends who’s not a pro, just help them feel comfortable. Create a friendly and easy-going atmosphere, and explain what exactly you need or, even better, show them yourself.

Know your gear. Period. Practice as much as you can with different camera settings and different lighting techniques beforehand. You’ll save yourself and your team plenty of time on an actual shoot. And finally, the location is important. If you’re shooting in studio or indoors, you need to know how to work with studio lighting and get the most out of it. The proper lighting will be able to emphasize your idea, and bad lightning can just ruin it. If you’re shooting outdoors, try to find a location that can add to the general concept.

Where do you find inspiration for your photography?

It can actually come from anywhere. For me, sometimes it can be social media (Instagram and Pinterest are really helpful in this matter), and sometimes it’s images from magazines or movies. I also like to observe old paintings; they can give me ideas on styling and posing. Sometimes it can be just an interesting piece of clothing that I like a lot; in that case, I’ll take it as the basis for a new whole idea in the future.

6. “It is very important to pay attention to small details, as they are crucial components of the final result.”

Alex Halay

8 Photographers Share Their Secrets for Creating Glamorous Portraits — Focus on Small Details

Image by Alex Halay. Gear: Canon 5D Mark II, Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 lens, reflector. Settings: Focal length 51mm; exposure 1/800 sec; f4.5; ISO 100.

What’s the story behind this photo?

Frankly speaking, I went to Tenerife in the Canary Islands just to relax and have a good time. I did not plan any photoshoots, but just in case, I took my equipment with me. I posted my vacation photos on Instagram one day, and I got a message from this model. She saw my photos, and she wanted to do a shoot. We talked for a couple of days. I had some ideas, and I asked her to find a makeup artist, a hair stylist, and a wardrobe stylist.

The weather that day was cloudy, and we went from one part from the island to another in search of sunlight. This model did not speak English at all; she had used a translator when she wrote me on Instagram. Only the stylist spoke a little bit of English. It was funny to try to explain to the model how to pose. I tried to use just simple words, but no one understood me. I decided to show her how to pose, stand, and so on. After that, everyone began laughing, and as a result, the shoot was very funny and cool. We had a good time, and everyone was satisfied with the result.

Pictured: [1] Image by Alex Halay. [2] Image by Alex Halay. [3] Image by Alex Halay.

Pro Tip:

For my photoshoots, I prefer working with a team that includes a makeup artist, a hair stylist, a wardrobe stylist, and an assistant. This team helps me to realize any ideas I might have. It is very important to pay attention to small details, as they are crucial components of the final result.

Where do you find inspiration for your photography?

I try to find inspiration everywhere: traveling, looking through magazines, attending exhibitions, communicating with people, watching films, and so on.

7. “Most important is your communication with the model. Make her laugh!”

Dasha Romanova

8 Photographers Share Their Secrets for Creating Glamorous Portraits — Lighting Matters

Image by Dasha Romanova. Gear: Nikon D8100 camera, Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 lens. Settings: Focal length 46mm; exposure 1/160 sec; f9; ISO 640.

What’s the story behind this photo?

This model was late for the shoot, so I was worried we wouldn’t have much time. But I pulled myself together, and the shoot was a real success.

Pictured: [1] Image by Dasha Romanova. [2] Image by Dasha Romanova.

Pro Tip:

I never do a shoot without good makeup artists and hairdressers. I use simple light schemes with one or two light sources. Most important is your communication with the model. Make her laugh!

Where do you find inspiration for your photography?

My favorite resource for inspiration is Pinterest. But remember: inspiration is not enough for a great shoot. You need to make a plan and put a team together. It is possible to shoot without inspiration, but it is impossible to work without preparation.

8. “I like to talk with my models and explain to them what I have in mind, and then I give them the freedom to work.”

Carlo Dapino

8 Photographers Share Their Secrets for Creating Glamorous Portraits — Give the Model Freedom

Image by Carlo Dapino. Gear: Nikon D800 camera, Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8 lens, Elinchrom 1200w flash on top with a grid beauty dish, 600w from the bottom with a strip light, and another 600w on the back. Settings: Focal length 70mm; exposure 1/125 sec; f10; ISO 50.

What’s the story behind this photo?

I was looking for a different take on the Christmas theme. I was going for something that gave me the sensation of the holidays without being too obvious, so I settled for an elegant red dress, a shining bracelet, and a little bit of old-fashioned hairstyling. It was nice but not good enough! So we decided to put a big red bow on her shoulder. I fixed the red in Photoshop to make it the same tone as the dress.

8 Photographers Share Their Secrets for Creating Glamorous Portraits — Plan Every Detail

Image by Carlo Dapino.

Pro Tip:

You have to plan every detail days before the shoot. The wardrobe is an important and difficult part to manage. You can buy the clothes, but that gets very expensive, so instead you can find a shop and ask the owner if you can borrow the clothes and give them some images return. Of course, you have to keep the dress in good condition, but most of the time, they will say yes if they are not a big chain.

I like to talk with my models and explain to them what I have in mind, and then I give them the freedom to work. Sometimes I go with the same idea but with a different model because every person has a different approach to the same situation, and this makes the work less boring. I don’t have any fixed scheme for the light; I just follow the idea and the situation.

Where do you find inspiration for your photography?

You can find ideas on the internet, by looking at shop windows, or by searching for work by other photographers. Sometimes I go in a bookshop and look at every photobook to get ideas; in my opinion, having a book in your hands is more sensual than looking at the same images on a monitor.

Top Image by Image by Ekaterina Jurkova.