Who says fashion photography is all about the clothes? Without the right knowledge of exposure, lighting, composition and posing, even the most impressive clothes can look dull and lifeless when printed in a catalog or showcased online.
Fashion photography is a challenging discipline that combines the normal elements of photography – exposure, composition and lighting – with the life and energy of a model and their clothing.
In this guide, you’ll learn how to shoot amazing fashion photos that capture the look and feel of your model and their clothing with ease. From studio shoot to on location photography, read on to learn how to become an expert fashion photographer.
Are you new to photography? Fashion photography requires an understanding of the basics of digital photography like exposure and composition.
The Basics of Fashion Photography
If you’re familiar with how to operate your digital camera in manual mode, you’ll have no trouble adjusting to the basics of fashion photography. Since your subject rarely moves, many photographers find fashion photography refreshingly easy.
Fashion photography takes place in two settings: indoors, in either a studio or an interesting environment, or outdoors. Outdoor shoots are generally mode difficult than indoor shoots, since the weather makes camera adjustment more important.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a huge lighting rig to take great looking fashion photographs. If you’re a beginner with a limited budget, you can take good looking photos with nothing more than a single light source and two reflectors.
Fashion Photography Equipment
You don’t need a huge kit to shoot fashion photography, but it certainly helps if you have a high quality digital camera. Unless you’re going for the raw style that’s used in American Apparel advertisements, make sure you have a quality DSLR camera.
Fashion photographs need to be crisp at a high resolution, so your digital camera’s megapixel count (which usually isn’t particularly important) matter a lot more for fashion photography than it does for street or artistic photography.
Although some fashion photographers swear by film, don’t be put off if you’ve only got a digital camera. Modern DSLRs outperform almost all film cameras for fashion photography, and if you’ve got the right lenses, almost any DSLR camera will do.
Fashion photography is all about having the right lens for the job. If you’re normally a landscape or sports photographer, put away your zoom lens and choose a wide to medium angle telephoto lens that’s adjustable to between 15 and 55 millimeters.
Good lenses for fashion photography include 18-55, 17-40 and 16-50 types with a fast aperture. You should also have a 50mm fixed focal length lens with a very fast aperture – preferably between 1.2 and 1.8 – to use for dark, low-light shoots.
As a beginner, you don’t need to buy any additional flash equipment. For lighting, stick with a pair of 500 watt halogen lights (preferably with barn doors) and two reflectors to spread light evenly throughout your studio.
Fashion Photography Techniques
If you’re used to landscape or street photography, you’ll find the techniques used in fashion photography remarkably simple. Fashion photography is all about lighting and preparation – the photography technique itself is amazingly simple.
Many fashion photographers keep their lens in automatic focus when shooting in a studio. This is because the distance between your camera and the model is constant throughout the shoot, and automatic focus is more accurate than manual control.
Likewise, once you’ve set your exposure settings, it’s time to shoot. Most of the time, you can stick with the same ISO, shutter speed and aperture settings throughout the photo shoot. Some fashion photographers even let their camera manage exposure!
What’s far more important than aperture and focus is lighting. Without the right type of lighting and the perfect intensity, even the best photographer will capture photos that don’t look their best.
Outdoor Fashion Photography
Not all fashion photography takes place in a studio. From catalogs to calendars, a lot of fashion photography is capture outdoors, often in exotic settings like beaches and urban environments.
If you’re familiar with landscape photography, you’ll adjust quickly to taking fashion photos on location. Outdoor fashion photography is normally more demanding than studio photography since you don’t have total control of your light sources.
Editing Fashion Photos
Rarely are fashion photos published without digital editing. From airbrushing over blemishes and wrinkles to making an overly bright photo feel natural, organic and warm, being able to use Adobe Photoshop is essential for fashion photographers.
Even if you’re opposed to airbrushing and photo manipulation, knowing how to use Photoshop will make it far easier for you to optimize your lighting, levels and color to create photos that stand out from the crowd and command attention.