We stumbled across the impressive work of portrait photographer Alessio Albi the other day and have been scrolling ever since. His photos are ethereal and mysterious, beautifully processed (yet never “over-processed” if there is such a thing) and break the typical portrait mold in so many great ways.

Normally this would inspire us to write up a Spotlight post where we just show you his work, but we had a better idea instead: why not use his work to inspire other photographers to get creative?

Why not indeed. And so that’s what we’re doing. Wonder what made Alessio’s portraits stick out to us? Read on and to find out 5 of the creative portrait styles he’s used to great effect to capture our imagination.

1. Play with Light and Shadow Patterns

One of the ways Alessio adds drama to an otherwise typical portrait of a mysterious, pretty girl is to use light and shadow patterns to his advantage.

Whether it’s the colorful patterns of a nearby stained-glass lamp, the harsh shadow from a leaf falling across his subject’s face, or a distinct light pattern tracing her bone structure, each adds that “something extra” that we’re so often looking for in portraits:

2. Obscured by… Whatever

Unless you’re in the studio, use the shrubbery and your surroundings to your advantage.

Really just a more intense version of number 1 above, instead of letting a shadow or light pattern obscure and accent certain parts of his subject’s face, he uses the grass, or plants, or wildflowers, or their own hair to create the same effect.

Be deliberate about this though. Both what is obscured and what is left showing should be carefully considered. (For example: The hole in the red leaf showing just a single eye below is just brilliant):

3. Framed by… Whatever

Of course, if you want to still capture your model’s full face, you can do that, too. But don’t make the mistake of ALWAYS framing their face in creamy bokeh when there are other options.

Use flowers, shrubs, picturesque plants, or even creepy props like the hands in one of the portraits above to bring another creative dimension into your portrait. And never underestimate the use of long, colorful locks of hair as a way to draw attention to the face in the middle.

4. Introduce Animals

Beyond framing, adding something for your subject to interact with is always a good idea. This can be an inanimate object, but if you can swing it, bring an animal (either with a professional trainer nearby or an exotic pet of the model’s!) along.

One of our favorite sets of images in Alessio’s portfolio is the three-photo series of portraits with a wolf named Silar. Again, there is an element of drama in these portraits that is missing from most portrait work out there.

5. Get Wet

This is, it seems, Alessio’s favorite style of portrait and we suggest you add it to your tool chest right away: he’s not afraid to use water and to use it WELL.

Whether this means laying his model down beneath a waterfall, having him or her submerge their face partway, or integrating props like an umbrella in the shower or a mirror in a river, Alessio is a master at integrating the sultry power of water into his mysterious portraits.

You’ll notice while browsing through Alessio’s profile that this is NOT a comprehensive list. There are photos from above, double exposures, and surreal compositions that make exceptional use of props.

And, of course, he often combines the techniques above. You’ll notice some of the obscured portraits have water in then, light and shadow patterns are occasionally integrated subtly into several other portraits, and more. All of it should help to inspire your on-location portrait work, or at least encourage you to experiment!

To see more from Alessio, follow him on 500px or give his Facebook page a Like.