What exactly is a beauty shot or beauty portrait?

A Beauty shot is a close-up portrait, usually a crop from the bust up or closer. It can range from little to no makeup all the way to dramatic creative makeup with lots of fu-fu surrounding the model.

This is a Beauty Shot…

This is a beauty shot

…and this is a beauty shot

This is another beauty shot

…and this is a beauty shot

also this is a beauty shot

One of my favorite things to shoot is Beauty. Just the other day I received an email from a young photographer who has been following my work and she asked me if I could explain what makes a photo a Beauty Shot.

My first reaction was that’s easy and as I started to type my response I realized that its NOT so simple.

Beauty shots can be very different depending on the context that they are used in.

Webster’s dictionary defines beauty as the quality of being physically attractive. Giving pleasure to the senses…a Beautiful woman.

Beauty shots can be artistic or commercial in nature. As the definition would imply – the woman in the photo generally looks beautiful regardless of the intention.

Beauty shot

The Beauty images that you see in my portfolio and on my website are simply artistic images. They are the result of a great collaboration between a makeup artist, a model and myself. By the way… the important word in that last sentence was “collaboration” it takes all three people to be successful.

So the beauty images that I shoot… are just fun images, generally they are NOT in the models portfolio and if they are – they appear as the last photo in her book. None of these models will be hired to pose for this type of image. Its obviously not because they aren’t attractive enough – they are all beautiful… it is simply because if you look around – you will notice that you don’t see these kinds of images in advertising. Remember – models are hired to help advertise a product.

Now that brings us to the Beauty shots that have a commercial nature and do appear in advertising and modeling portfolios.

This is an example of a commercial beauty shot like those that you might see in a magazine ad…

Commercial Beauty Shot
and this is another commercial beauty shot… that you would frequently see in a models portfolio

Headshot for a modeling portfolio

As you can see… commercial beauty has much less makeup and fu-fu. The looks are clean and the eyes are the focus of the shot.

It is important to note if you are planning to try these kinds of shots… don’t kid yourself by thinking that you can do it without a makeup artist. These images require collaboration between all parties involved and to be clear I am not afraid to admit that in quite a few cases, the makeup artist deserves much more credit for the outcome of the beauty shot than I do.

So there you have it. . . depending on the intended use… a Beauty shot can be two very different things.

Regardless of the use… remember that Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. You won’t be able to please everyone with your beauty shots – so shoot for yourself and your subject – pay attention to the details and you will be surprised at how much people will like your results.

Here are a few photographers whose beauty images I really admire:

Yulia Gorbachenko – New York
Joshua Jordan – New York
Patrick Demarchelier
Michael David Adams – New York
Amber Gray – New York