Miss Aniela: my top tips for creative portrait photography

Miss Aniela: my top tips for creative portrait photography

Photographer-artist Miss Aniela shot to internet fame with her series of heavily stylised images, including many self-portraits. Here are her top portrait photography tips for shooting more creative portraits.

Use props imaginatively

Using a magnifying glass in Tusk (below) enabled me to turn a simple beauty portrait into something quirkier. The blue of the magnified eye made the overall colour palette of the image more interesting, and the reflections in the glass add a further dimension.

Make use of the unexpected

I often develop concepts spontaneously around things that I find. For example in Harmony String (below) I made surreal use of an old painting that I found in the prophouse location.

Be brave and ask!

If you find a great location, there’s no harm in asking if you can use it. It might be a quaint house known by a friend who can introduce you, or a disused building or someone’s orchard; it’s often simply a case of knocking on their door.

Experiment with subjects

If you usually shoot women, try shooting a man or a child. Or try candid portraits if you’re used to contrived setups. Experiments can either open up a new direction, or give us a new conviction in shooting our usual subjects.

Shoot a dancer!

Every photographer should have the experience of shooting someone who can perform in an above-average way. It’s a real treat, and you may find yourself shooting something you didn’t expect, as I did with Linda (below). The images are almost bound to be interesting in some way; graceful, feisty, even surreal.


If you want to shoot a model, perhaps to develop a fashion portfolio, but don’t know where to start with styling, try a site like Model Mayhem (www.modelmayhem.com), which caters for styling and wardrobe as well as models. You could find a costume designer (or a fashion student) who can loan you interesting clothes in return for pictures, as well as a makeup and hair stylist to put together a ‘look’.

Composite images

Creating composite images using software isn’t as difficult as some might think. The possibilities are as open as photography itself, so use it in small ways, then build confidence to be more creative. A Blot On the Horizon (below) is a composite that involved using the same fabric at three points around the model.

Keep yourself inspired

Sometimes your photography can start to feel jaded when you’re shooting regularly in mundane or everyday situations, and tiring the same creative ‘muscles’. Try to find a more dramatic time or situation in which to shoot: at sunrise or sunset for example, or in snow, rain or in the desert.

Try HDR portraits

Experiment with auto-exposure bracketing for HDR images, to capture more of the dynamic range of a scene. This is found under AEB mode in the menu, then set your camera to multi-burst and use a tripod. For portraits, HDR is best done with the subject keeping still and in good lighting conditions. I find that it works best for images of people further away from the camera, in interesting landscape scenes, rather than for close-up portraits.

Keep a generic moodboard

Be it a physical pinboard or a computer folder, fill it with things that inspire you. You’ll come to realise that you only save images that you intend to ‘take’ something from. And you’ll also realise that the importance is not in emulating any one of them, but mixing them together in your own unique way.

Creative Portrait Photography

Miss Aniela’s latest book, Creative Portrait Photography (£17.99) is aimed at photographers who are eager to break the conventions of formal portrait photography and create bold and visually striking images. To see more of Miss Aniela’s work, visit www.missaniela.com.


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