Portrait photography is focused on capturing the essence of the sitter as the subject matter. Traditionally, portraiture involves the subject in eye contact with the viewer of the image. However, contemporary portraits can reveal a great deal about the subject through different perspectives; down-turned or closed eyes, a rear view or silhouette and even includes self-portraits. In this article we will look at conceptual portraiture, model portfolios, celebrity portraiture for musicians, actors, artist and dancers, and pet portraiture.

Types of Portraiture

The stylistic approach of the photograph may vary depending on the intended use of the portrait. The context of an artistic portrait can be rich in information, both subjective and objective. While a portrait captured for documentary purposes my appear more clinical. By manipulating the lighting, backdrop and pose, the photographer can work towards capturing the desired end result.

Conceptual Portraiture

Conceptual Portraiture is a branch of Fine Art Photography and aims to create keepsakes for your wall or album. The term “Conceptual Photography” derives from Conceptual Art, a movement of the late 1960s and is a type of photography that illustrates an idea. The ‘concept’ is both preconceived and, if successful, will be understood by the viewer in the final image. Conceptual Portraiture is focused on telling that story through the character. The narrative can be captured in a single photograph, a photo-story or as a composite built up out of several photographs.

To create a successful Conceptual Portrait, the photographer should work closely with the sitter, to plan and create a visual representation of their character that is relevant to their personal narrative. Things to consider when brainstorming for ideas would include the basics of storytelling, like the Who? What? Where? When? Why?

Fine Art Photography

In 2015 I created a series of Conceptual Portraits in collaboration with my friend and yogi Sarah Swoon. Sarah was going through a period of transformation in her life, and we wanted to create something that captured that liminal space. We worked around some planned poses, and I had brought along some shells and coral to photograph under the same lighting inspired by ideas around evolution. But there was no fixed plan, our shoot was fluid, and the final results were so powerful the images made it all way to the START Art Fair in London in 2019.

Conceptual portraiture photo-manipulation series of woman with shells and coral growing fromher body on exhibition at the Start Art Fair in London 2019.

However you and your photographer decide to go about creating your conceptual portraits, building sets, styling, creative lighting and artistic retouching can all be time intensive, so when it comes to Conceptual Portraiture, rather focus on capturing a few quality images than pushing for more.  

Model Portfolios

Model portfolios cross genres with Fashion Photography, except that the focus remains on the persona as the subject matter rather than the clothing. Also described as Test Shoots, model portfolios aim to show the range and versatility of the model to potential clients or agencies. It is the model’s most important marketing tool. You only get one shot to make an impression with your Z-card, and there’s a lot of competition out there.  

A good model portfolio should include different facial expressions, images varying from head shots to full body poses and different looks like beauty, commercial and editorial photography. Or perhaps you are a fitness or alternative model, wanting to build a portfolio that appeals to a niche market. Discuss your position in the industry with your photographer so that you can plan your brand strategy together.  

It is important to keep your portfolio up to date with new looks to keep it fresh. When booking your portfolio, choose a package that offers both studio and location images for greater diversity. We also recommend that you book a professional hair and make-up artist to accentuate your best features and compliment your wardrobe.

Model portfolio on location of mocel wearing white dress against blue sky for test shoot with fashion photographer Natalie Field

Celebrity Portraiture

Celebrities working in the arts, like actors, musicians, deejay’s, artists and dancers, also require head shots and portfolio images for their profile, marketing materials and publication alongside articles. As someone passionate about creativity, it is very important to me to capture the core of the personality behind the art.


Although tactile sales of music have decreased, every single and album still requires an image as the thumbnail to the track. As a result, cover art is still alive and well. While some musicians may opt for portraiture on their cover, others may prefer something a little more creative. With our talented in-house designer, we have you covered with the full production of creative imagery with title graphics. And also offer layout design for those still wishing to go to print.

Our most recent images for Ashlinn Gray have been used as single covers, applied to flyers for gigs and featured alongside articles in People SA and Glamour SA respectively.

Studio celebrity portraiture of musician Ashlinn Gray for album cover art with photo illustration by Natalie Field Photography


Professional headshots are a must have in every actors marketing toolkit. Your headshot is your first impression and opens the door for a casting call. A memorable headshot will help casting agents recall previous performances and give your agent something to work with when submitting you for auditions.

Your headshot should always be up to date, reflecting your age, hair style and colour, facial hair, etc. so that the client knows that they will get exactly what they expect. It is recommended that you update your headshot every six months to keep it current.

Branding yourself is also key for your social media and online professional presence. Many actors like to make their celebrity portraits as the profile images for their Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

In 2016 we had the wonderful opportunity to create celebrity portraits for actress Charlene Brouwer from “Dis ek, Anna”, which won Best Picture at the Silwerskermfees and SAFTAs.

Actress headshots and portraiture from celebrity portraiture test shoot with actress Charlene Brouwer by Natalie Field Photography

Visual Artists

Contemporary artists also use celebrity portraiture and profile shots for articles and features about their work. For these sessions I love creating environmental portraits in the artist’s studio. Working in this way places a face with the work, creating a visual connection that can be easily recalled at the next viewing or exhibition. It is also a great opportunity to give the audience a better understanding of the artist’s creative process.

In 2018 I worked with South African artist Daniel Stompie Selibe to capture portraits on request of his gallery representative, Candice Berman.

Colourful environmental portraiture of contemporary artist Daniel Stompie Selibe in his studio showing his process by Natalie Field Photography

Performance Artists

Performance artists like dancers and influencers like yogis also need a portfolio to showcase their talent to the world. These can be captured in studio, on location or even on the stage. These images might be used for documentary purposes of an event, demonstrate a how-to tutorial online, or simply aim to capture the personality or brand of the artist for the social profiles.

In 2015 I worked with dancer Samantha Supra to capture this creative dance sequence using in-camera techniques in front of a live audience at the Photo and Film expo.

Dance photography frozen mid air of female dancer wearing animal mask by Natalie Field Photography

Read more about this photo-story Animal Within | Conceptual Portraiture

Pet Portraiture

Portraiture does not only have to refer to capturing the likeness of people, it can also include animals. Many people are deeply connected to their furry friends and wouldn’t want a family portrait session without them.
A portrait of an animal should be treated much like that of a human. For example, the sitter should be comfortable in their setting, which might be their home or their favourite outdoor space. And the image should capture their personality, whether it be a natural moment or a styled masterpiece.

Pet portraiture showing model with horse, dog and rabbit using moody lighting by Natalie Field Photography

Read more about our pet portraiture photo-story Van Schoor Family.

These are just a few of our favourite examples of the creative portraiture projects we have worked on over the past 11 years. But you can see more in our Portraiture Gallery. We would love to hear your ideas on how you would like to represent yourself. Contact Us.