Credit: Nipyata

18 Home & Outdoor 21st Birthday Photoshoot Ideas

Planning a 21st birthday? Here are 18 fun 21st birthday photoshoot ideas to make your party a hit! At home or outdoors, here's the photo inspiration you need.

If you’re looking for some 21st birthday photoshoot ideas, you’ve come to the right place.

Turning 21 is a big deal in many countries – you can legally drink, book a hotel room, and get a different driving license. In other words, you’re finally an adult in every sense of the word.

This rite of passage shouldn’t pass without a proper celebration and, of course, an appropriate record of it. That’s why many people organize a birthday photoshoot.

Whether you plan to take the photos yourself or you’re calling a professional – here you’ll find tons of birthday photoshoot ideas to get the best memories.

If you’re a portrait or events photographer that has an upcoming gig shooting the 21st birthday – this article can help you too. So, let’s get the party started!

18 Fun 21st Birthday Photoshoot Ideas for 2023

1. Create a mood board and gather inspiration 

Credit: Pineapple Supply Co.

Search for pics and 21st birthday photoshoot ideas online and allow yourself to get inspired by some classics or the most popular trends. Then, build a mood board that you can share with your photographer.

This will help you find a good color palette for the photoshoot, find some outfit ideas, get the right props, etc.

2. Get a hair and makeup specialist

Credit: Antoni Shkraba

A photoshoot isn’t just about the photos; it’s also about being pampered and dedicating some time to yourself – getting ready is part of the experience.

Many portrait photographers offer packages that include a hair and makeup specialist who knows how to enhance all types of hair and skin for the camera. However, if you have one you trust and like how they make you look, feel free to call them up.

3. Make a save-the-date photo card

Credit: Kristina Evstifeeva

If you’re planning a party for the big day, having your 21st birthday photoshoot ahead of time can be a good idea – this way, you can use one of the photos as an invitation or a save-the-day card.

This is also a great way to set the mood for the party. For example, if you’re hosting a casual outdoor party – you can make a flat lay photo with cute picnic foods.

If, instead, you’re planning a fancy cocktail party, you can make a champagne photoshoot – in any case, it’s the perfect way to let people know how you plan to celebrate.

4. Build a set

Credit: Lina Kivaka

Whether you hired a professional photographer or take the photos yourself, building a set is the perfect birthday photoshoot idea. This will help you make pictures that stay in theme with the party, with lighting that flatters everyone, and generally have a more professional look.

The decoration is up to you. However, some accessories that you’ll need are a phone tripod and an external light – especially if you make it indoors or at night.

5. Use DIY backdrops

Credit: Julie Aagaard

If you decide to build a set or a selfie photo booth, try making your own backdrops. This is not only cheaper, but it will also make it easier to express your personality.

You can use multicolored balloons or shaped ones like champagne bottle balloons. Or you can be more subtle and use flowers, a chalkboard wall, etc. – you can find some fun backdrop ideas in this article.

6. Use numbers

Credit: Vladislav-Murashko (left) / Vidal Balielo (right)

We always like to celebrate our birthdays in some unique way, but the 21st birthday is extra special. So, make sure you’ll never misplace the pics by using ad-hoc props.

Some of the favorite photo props for a 21st birthday photoshoot are number balloons, cake toppers or birthday candles – anything that marks your age.

7. Close-ups for details

Credit: Elizabeth Zernetska

Some of the best 21st birthday photoshoot ideas come from the details. So, make sure you capture a photo of the birthday cake, the decorations, a bottle of bubbly, maybe a family heirloom that your parents give to you, etc.

This article on macro photography may help for closeups.

8. Make a friends photoshoot

Hannah Nelson

A 21st birthday photoshoot doesn’t have to be just the birthday girl (or boy) that’s becoming an adult – it’s more fun if you include all your friends.

Before everybody builds a grown-up life where you have to move away for work, master’s degrees, create a family or whatever – you can use this occasion to take pictures that you’ll treasure forever.

If you want to get some best friends photoshoot ideas, see here.

9. Focus on the action

Credit: Tima Miroshnichenko

The 21st birthday is a special photoshoot where it’s important to capture a photo of the birthday girl – maybe even some portraits with family and friends.

However, it’s important to capture some action pics. For example, the cake smash is always an awesome picture. Another 21st birthday photoshoot idea is freezing the moment when the champagne cork is flying out – this because it’s the day where you turn the legal drinking age.

The friends and family celebrating and dancing are also a big hit in a birthday photoshoot.

10. Don’t forget about the presents

Credit: Tima Miroshnichenko

One of the most classic 21st birthday photoshoot ideas is to capture the presents. A still life of the table with all the gifts is always adorable, but you can also capture people handing out the presents or the moment when they open the presents.

11. Use color smoke bombs

Credit: Trinity Kubassek

If you’re feeling adventurous, one of the most creative 21st birthday photoshoot ideas is to use color smoke bombs.

Of course, these smoke bombs need to be used with great care to avoid causing any harm to yourself or the environment. So, make sure you choose a location where there’s nothing flammable and better approach a photographer who has experience using them.

You can also check Shotkit’s guide to smoke-bomb photography to get a few creative ideas, to learn some safety measures and other helpful information to do smoke bomb photography.

12. Use candle lights for a dramatic portrait

Credit: Zszen John

If you’re looking for birthday photoshoot ideas that can be done in low light, this one is a must.

When you’re celebrating at night or indoors, and you need to work with low light, making a moody portrait with the birthday candles is an excellent 21st birthday photoshoot idea.

This might be a bit tricky to handle for your camera if you’re using it in automatic mode. So, switch to manual or a semi-automatic mode. The spot metering mode will help you get a more accurate light reading for low key images like this.

13. Pool party photoshoot

Credit: Kindel Media

If the weather allows it and you have access to this type of venue, a pool party is one of the most colorful and fun 21st birthday photoshoot ideas.

This gives you the chance to introduce action shots, play with reflections, capture a splash, use different types of props – from a picnic blanket to inflatable signs, etc.

Just remember to take along a waterproof camera!

14. Group hug

Credit: Kampus Production

While posed portraits are always flattering, some candid pics are often the best way to capture emotion.

If people feel a bit stiff in front of the camera, you can always propose activities that are appropriate as 21st birthday photoshoot ideas – such as a group hug.

Other cute activities can be throwing party hats in the air or dancing

15. Choose the right outfit

Credit: Cottonbro

Sometimes the most challenging part of a birthday photoshoot is getting outfit ideas – most people don’t know what to wear.

There are two main trends: dressing up to show that it’s a special occasion or using something more casual that reflects who you are in this moment in life.

Whichever one you choose to do, here are a few tips that can help.

  • Avoid using busy patterns.
  • Try on your clothes beforehand.
  • Make sure the outfit fits you. This might sound obvious, but anything too tight will create unflattering bulges, and anything too loose will make you look wider than you are.
  • Use something that makes you feel comfortable and confident.
  • Choose colors that are flattering for your skin and hair color.
  • Discuss a color palette with the photographer to ensure everything you wear works well with the background, props, etc.

16. Nothing says party like confetti 

Credit: Tima-Miroshnichenko

There are tons of 21st birthday photoshoot ideas you can do if you add props to your photos. For example, throw some confetti, add shaped and number balloons, give everyone champagne glasses and capture the toast, decorate the birthday cake, etc.

17. Go on location

Credit: Mostafa Sannad

A 21st birthday photoshoot doesn’t need to happen at home or at the venue where you’re holding the event. You can go on location to a park, a historical landmark, etc.

If you want to make it clear that it’s a birthday photoshoot, you can still decorate it with balloons or use props like champagne and confetti.

You can even bring some food or do a cake smash shot – in other words; you can use the birthday photoshoot ideas in any setting and completely change the feel of the photos.

18. Practice some poses ahead of time

Credit: Becerra Govea Photo

In a birthday photoshoot, like on any other portrait session – posing is key. It’s not always easy to feel free in front of the camera, so a bit of practice might help.

Look for inspiration online or browsing through magazines, it doesn’t have to be a birthday photoshoot, but any portrait or ads with professional models can help.

Then, practice in front of a mirror and find your best side. This way, you’ll love how you look in the pictures.

Final Words

I hope you found these birthday photoshoot ideas helpful, and I wish you a fantastic 21st celebration if you’re the lucky one!

Let us know in the comments which one was your favorite pic.

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Shotkit Writer & Camera Gear Reviewer

Ana Mireles is a Mexican researcher that specializes in photography and communications for the arts and culture sector.



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