Louise Dahl-Wolfe was born in San Francisco, California, to Norwegian immigrant parents. In 1914, she began studying at the California School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Institute of Art), and moved to New York City to study at Columbia University in 1923. In 1928, she married Meyer Wolfe, a sculptor who constructed the backgrounds of many of her photos. She pioneered the use of natural lighting in fashion photography and shooting on location, and became one of the most famous photographers of the 30s, 40s, and 50s, influencing other photographers such as Irving Penn and Richard Avedon. She did her first fashion shoot for Harper's Bazaar in 1936 and worked with that publication for many years, as well as with Vogue and others. She also opened a freelance photography studio for the advertising and fashion work she did for major department stores, including Bonwit Teller and Saks Fifth Avenue. In 1950, she was selected for "America's Outstanding Woman Photographers" in the September issue of Foto. In 1999, her work was the subject of a documentary film entitled Louise Dahl-Wolfe: Painting with Light.