7 Tips for a Successful Period Piece Photo Shoot

 A period piece photoshoot is a complex endeavour designed to transport viewers back in time through themed photographs. These shoots typically involve detailed setups including intricate costumes, props, and thematic backdrops, all of which must come together to meticulously recreate the aesthetics and atmosphere of a past era. The best period shoots will not only capture the essence of the historical period, but also offer a visual narrative that engages the audience deeply.

Venturing into the realm of period pieces presents a unique set of artistic challenges and opportunities for professional photographers. A successful period shoot requires creative vision in addition to historical accuracy, which makes it an exciting pursuit for those looking to push the boundaries of conventional photography. Should you choose to enter this niche, you’ll develop a distinctive portfolio that showcases superior technical skills and a deep understanding of diverse historical contexts. These, in turn, can help set you apart in a crowded market.

Here are a few expert tips for executing the perfect period photoshoot:

Research Your Era Thoroughly

Before you even touch your camera, dedicate time to understanding the period you wish to portray. A deep-dive into the socio-cultural aspects of the era can help you create a more believable and engaging scene. This research should cover everything from the architectural styles prevalent at the time to the minute details of daily life, such as the types of utensils used or the common street scenes. Your attention to these details will not only enrich the authenticity of your photos, but also serve to create more immersive scenes.

Consider Working with a Studio

A controlled environment can make complex projects like period shoots much easier to execute. Look for photography studios Liverpool photographers trust, which often offer versatile spaces and a variety of backdrops that you can utilise to bring your historical tableau to life. The best studios will also provide competent technical support, which you’ll need to manage the complex setups that period shoots often require. This might include adjustable lighting systems capable of mimicking the light conditions from your era of choice.

Invest in Costumes and Props

The devil is truly in the details when it comes to dressing your set and subjects for a period piece photoshoot. Whether it’s the lace of a Victorian gown or the ruggedness of a 1920s gangster’s attire, every element plays a significant role in the success of your shoot. If you have the budget, consider collaborating with designers who specialise in historical props or apparel. Otherwise, look for reputable fashion houses or costume shops that rent out period-accurate pieces.

Hire Professional Hairstylists and Makeup Artists

Flawless hair and makeup are just as important as props and costuming when it comes to capturing the spirit of a bygone era. With professional hairstylists and makeup artists skilled in historical styles, you can transform your models from just people in costumes into fully realised characters from the past. This transformation goes beyond mere aesthetics; it’s about embodying the spirit of the period through every curl and every stroke of the makeup brush.

Experiment with Lighting and Colour

Lighting can make or break the mood of your period piece photoshoot, so try tailoring your lighting setup to emulate the unique lighting conditions of the time period you are depicting. For example, soft, diffused lighting can mimic the glow of oil lamps in a medieval setting, while harsher, focused lights can recreate the stark contrasts typical of film noir.

Colour schemes are another key consideration for period shoots. Sepia tones might be suited for the early 1900s, whereas vibrant, saturated colours could bring the swinging ’60s to life. Experimenting with these elements in a controlled studio environment allows you to precisely manage how these effects influence the final outcome of your photos.

Guide Your Models

Directing your models is about more than just posing; it’s about helping them inhabit the character and era they represent. This involves coaching them on the body language, social etiquette, and emotional expressions that were typical of the time period. Encourage your models to immerse themselves in the role, perhaps by providing them a list of films from the era that they can watch for inspiration. The more your models know about the period you’re aiming to depict together, the more genuine their portrayals of your shoot’s characters will be.

Post-Process Appropriately

Post-processing provides the final touch to any period piece photoshoot and anything you do in this stage should respect and enhance the historical feel of the images. Techniques like adjusting the colour palette to match the era, adding grain to mimic older film types, or employing vignettes to focus attention can all contribute to the period feel.

However, it’s crucial to maintain a balance and avoid over-processing, which can make the final photos look less realistic. Use these tools to subtly enhance the atmosphere, rather than overshadow the natural elements of your photography.


A period piece photoshoot requires meticulous preparation and creative intuition. By paying keen attention to detail and working with expert collaborators, you can craft photographs that don’t stop at simply depicting a different time period but instead tell stories in vivid and authentic detail. Let each shot be a portal to an era that invites both the photographer and the viewer to explore the depths of history.