But for his latest project, Scots-born Rankin has turned his back on glamour to capture arresting scenes of poverty and desperation.
The 45-year-old artist visited families in Turkana in northern Kenya, struggling on the brink of starvation, after a seven-year drought that has destroyed crops and decimated most of the livestock.
His photographs are being used in a campaign to urge nations to take action to change the international food system that leaves about a billion people or one in seven hungry each day.
The Grow campaign is launched by Oxfam simultaneously in 45 different countries and aims to fight for a world in which everyone has enough to eat.
"As a photographer my brief was to go out there and take images we could use for a world wide campaign on poverty,” he told STV. “The area has been so badly hit by drought that the people there are surviving on as little as a handful of maize a day. They are unable to grow food and their cattle are dying.
When I got there I was trying really hard to work out how to bring the food into the shot and it just occurred to me that what they are getting for a day's worth of food fits into their hands.”
"That to me was the immediate visual idea that I knew everybody in the world when the saw it, whether in Japan or Africa or Russia, wherever, people would understand it, it is such a simple idea. So it came from that."
It's not just drought that is causing the global food crisis the United Nations has warned about, says Oxfam. Neither is it famine or bad harvests. A combination of interlinked factors such as climate change, land grabs, food price hikes and intensive farming is stopping eight million people, a great majority women and girls, from having enough to eat. By starting to fix the global food problem now, the charity says we can help hundreds of millions of people feed their families.
As well as Rankin, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, actresses Scarlett Johansson and Kristin Davis, supermodel Helena Christensen and international actor Gael Garcia Bernal are also among the names backing the call for governments and big businesses to act now and fix it, to avoid the first ever global food crisis.