Karin Elmers was born in Hamburg as the child of a Swedish mother and a German export merchant. During her school years, she attended evening courses at Hochschule für Bildene Künste (HFBK) in Hamburg. She had a strong desire to study painting. She had a brief stint in the fashion world as well as a one-year stay in Switzerland to improve her French.
Afterwards she began training as an advertising photographer. She completed her apprenticeship, which included spending two years at the Hamburger Kunsthalle, with a scholarship from the city of Hamburg. She assisted fashion photographer Charlotte March with a separate photo studio, where she worked on international campaigns.
This was followed by self-employment with her own studio in Hamburg. Her first campaign was Helmut Kohl's election campaign in 1981. This was followed by the Gauloise campaign with around fifty different motifs. She divided her time between Paris, Miami, and Hamburg. She went on to work on numerous campaigns for international brands such as Nivea, Colgate Palmolive, Effem, Persil, Ritter Sport, Mars Rowentree, Procter & Gamble, Wilkinson, suncare, and cigarettes. She also worked on editorial productions for covers, fashion, and beauty for Vogue, Stern, Brigitte, Petra, and others.
In addition, she worked on independent projects for musicians, artists and politicians (Blixa Bargeld, Brigitte Nielsen, Rodney Orpheus, Horst Janssen, Bernhard Prinz, etc.).
Recently, Karin Elmers' photographic works have been exhibited at the Galerie St. Gertrude in Hamburg, the Armani/Silos in Milan, the Galerie Crone in Berlin, the Horst-Janssen-Museum in Oldenburg, and the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg.