How To Come Up With A Creative Portrait Concept

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Classic portraits are gorgeous. They’re the common thing that everyone expects you to capture. Many families have that classic, framed print on their wall showcasing the group. It’s lovely, but what if you don’t want that? Instead, you want something quirky, fun, creative, or just different? This is where creative portrait concepts come in! The limits are endless – you’ve got so many possibilities. And that’s intimidating for some. Where do you start? How do you find an idea that makes you scream, “That’s it!” when you see it?

I come up with at least one creative portrait shoot a month just for me. My goal is to find concepts that challenge, force me to learn, and push my photography skillset to the next level. And I always get asked, “How did you come up with that idea?” So if you want to know how I come up with concepts for my creative portrait sessions so we can work together, or you can experiment on your own, I’ve broken down my process below!

creative portrait concept list

How to Search For Creative Portrait Concept Inspiration

1. Define Your Vision

Start by clarifying the type of portrait concept you want. Then, consider factors like theme, mood, style, or any specific elements you want to incorporate. For example, I like creative portrait concepts based around food when shooting in November because of Thanksgiving.

2. Keyword Brainstorming

Create a list of keywords related to your vision. Think about characteristics, emotions, or objects that align with your creative portrait concept. For example, if you’re seeking a mystical portrait, keywords like “enchanted,” “mysterious,” or “fantasy” can be helpful.

3. Image Search For Creative Portrait Concept

Enter your keywords into your preferred search engine and browse the results. Take note of the images that resonate with your concept and capture your attention. Pay attention to lighting, composition, poses, and any other elements that inspire you. 

Where to Perform An Image Search

creative portrait concept Pinterest boards

7. Save and Organize

As you come across inspiring images, save them to a dedicated folder to organize your findings. This allows you to refer back to them easily during the creative process. I like Pinterest because I can create a new Board for each concept I’m working on. Pinterest is great because it will recognize a pattern and suggest similar images to develop your concept!

8. Analyze and Adapt

Once you have a collection of inspiring images, analyze them. Look for common elements, techniques, or styles that you find appealing. Then, adapt and integrate these aspects into your own unique concept, adding your personal touch and creativity.

9. Respect Copyright and IP

Remember, while searching for inspiration, respecting copyright and intellectual property is crucial. Use the images you find as a reference point for creating your own unique concept rather than copying someone else’s work.

falling rose petals valentine's atlanta portrait photography

10. Share With Your Collaborators

After you’ve refined the creative portrait concept inspiration images, share the folder or Pinterest Board with your subject or model, the makeup artist, and anyone else who may contribute to crafting the image. This gets everyone on the same page easily, so you have a shared vision and goal regarding the session.

11. Bonus – Constraints For Your Creative Portrait Concept

If you’re a photographer and want an extra challenge, create a concept by starting with a constraint. I love doing this for my concepts because it makes me think of alternate ways to get the final image I want to capture. It’ll also prepare you for client sessions where real-world situations may arise that don’t allow you to work as you usually would.

Constraints To Try

  • Wide angle lens only
  • Natural light only
  • One flash only
  • Only shutter speeds slower than 1/5
  • Camera position one foot from the ground
  • Backlight only
  • Red tones only

12. Ask Your Photographer For Help

If you need help figuring out where to start or have so many ideas that you can’t decide which to pursue, talk to your photographer! You don’t have to start with a concept in mind. Instead, you can work with your photographer to develop a creative portrait concept. The benefit of this approach is that your photographer will help you figure out what’s possible from a logistical standpoint. They’ll also bring in their experience to provide helpful suggestions, including where to find props or pieces you may need to bring your vision to life!


Using this step-by-step guide, you’re equipped with effective techniques and valuable resources to inspire your photography journey. Remember, while seeking inspiration, always respect copyright and intellectual property rights. Let these concepts fuel your imagination as you develop your own artistic vision. Unleash your creativity, and capture breathtaking portraits that tell compelling visual stories.

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