I am known for some pretty lavish creative portraits, but not all of them use high-end designer outfits or expensive props. I too started out small and appreciate a budget-friendly shoot. So here are some great ideas on How to create fabulous creative portraits on a budget, in and out of the studio.

Thrift stores are your friend

You cannot beat a REALLY good thrift store, and often it is for a worthy cause or charity, so win-win, right? I find you either have to approach it one of two ways — know exactly what you want, what your budget is and be ruthless. Or, have a budget and browse … you never know what you might find.

For my 1960s Mod shoot theme it started with one dress randomly found and then the other two outfits I deliberately looked for. Each outfit was under $30.

Get creative

While additional elements in the images below may not be homemade (sword, headpieces, scale armor). the dress is all the same white bedsheet. A little bit of creative tying, clamping and folding make some fabulous dresses. You can also throw them for some movement like the below maternity image.

Using random bits of ribbon and tulle are also terrific for sashes and even tying together to make skirts.

Beg, borrow and steal

Well, maybe not steal, but definitely borrow some choice articles from family and friends. Especially if they have some choice retro outfits, wedding dresses, old suits and hats. The only thing limiting you is YOUR imagination.

Borrow retro stuff from family and friends

The best light is free

While many of the above shots were captured with studio light, there is another alternative and it’s FREE … the sun! Natural light, whether outside or even window light, is beautiful and free. No fancy studio lighting here — just a little imagination and capturing the best light.

A great way to capture natural light is early morning or late afternoon. Place your subject in front of the sun and then with a reflector (or with tin foil on cardboard), bounce the light back onto their face. Just beautiful. Alternatively, place them in the shade and meter for that light, not the bright sunlight.

When all else fails, just make things yourself. I have made wands and headpieces out of cardboard. Skirts out of scraps of tulle fabrics. Made headpieces out of dollar store flowers. We even carved our own pumpkins (not something we Aussies do, by the way). You just need to get creative!