This is a brief collection of handy fashion photography tips, for those of you who are just beginning to explore this incredibly fun area of photography.
Fashion photography has seen a huge number of changes over the years. It’s grown from something that was originally quite simple and formulaic, to a genre that’s bursting with energy and originality.
There are very few limits on what you can do as a fashion photographer these days. The boundaries are always being pushed back; just look at a fashion magazine from 5 or so years ago!
Hopefully these quick tips will help you to begin your exploration of fashion photography and start creating some brilliant images!
The Objectives of Fashion Photography
So what are the essential objectives of fashion photography? It’s a good idea to know what you are ultimately trying to achieve before setting out on a shoot. These are the basics:
- To show off the clothes the model(s) is/are wearing.
- To grab attention and provoke a reaction on the part of the viewer.
- To sell the clothes! To make the viewer feel like they want them.
- To capture personality and mood that the viewer will associate with the clothes.
- To create shots that editors will want to publish!
Planning a Shoot
There’s a lot going on with a fashion photography shoot: models, clothes, props, set, lighting, assistants etc. So planning things carefully will help you to stay on top of the situation and end up with the shots you want. Here are some simple bits of advice for planning your shoot.
- Plan the shots you want. Pre-visualize some of the images that you really want to create, so you can hit the ground running when the shoot begins. This also enables you to become more creative and experimental as the shoot goes on, having bagged some good ‘pre-planned’ shots.
- Have a selection of poses in mind. Planning poses is crucial; browse photography magazines like Vogue to get some cool ideas and inspiration.
- Prepare the lighting. This is such a big part of fashion photography that it’s pointless going into depth in this article. But just be sure to carefully choose the kinds, and number, of lights you want to work with and to be ready to roll when the shoot kicks off.
- Decide whether you’ll need an assistant. Normally the answer will be ‘yes’. If you’re just beginning to explore fashion photography on your own, then plan how you will go about organizing the shoot by yourself.
- Be sure you have permission, when necessary, to shoot in an outdoors locations. Put in place measures to ensure the shoot won’t be interrupted by people.
Many of you reading this will just be starting to get interested in fashion photography, and probably won’t have access to a studio.
A great way to begin shooting in a studio is to find work as an assisstant for a local photographer. Alternatively, you could sign on to a studio photography course, or even find space at home to begin putting together your own studio set-up.
But actually, most of the fashion photography tips in this article can be employed by anyone, whatever equipment you have. You can make a start by simply using window light, and a bit of improvisation!
- When shooting in a studio you can fine tune the light preciselyand introduce any props that you choose. You can have total control to build up the photograph from scratch.
- When you’re just starting out and are keen to shoot indoors, but don’t want to rent a studio, use some improvization! Find a room at home with a large window letting in lots of natural light, and simply hang a white sheet over it to soften the light.
- Shooting outdoors is a great way to bring energy, personality and atmosphere to fashion photos. Choose a location that helps convey the personality of the model(s) and the style of the clothes they are wearing.
- When shooting outdoors, be careful not to loose the clothes as the centrepiece. Remember, that’s ultimately what the shot’s about.
Models and Poses
One of the reasons very early fashion photography tended to be rather stiff and lifeless was simply the constraints of equipment. Slower shutter speeds and less effective lighting meant the models literally had to hold steady for longer!
But now photographers are free to play around with any ideas and poses they wish. You can interact with the model a lot as you shoot and freeze mid-action without any trouble at all. Here some simple fashion photography tips on dealing with models and poses.
- Fashion photography is about creating an image from your own imagination. It’s often collaborative – people helping out with hair/make-up, the models’ own input, assistants etc – but you have to be in charge. Put your stamp on every stage of the process and make sure the make-up, clothes etc are just as you want them to be.
- Make sure the models really understand what you are trying to achieve. Chat with them and make sure they’re relaxed in your comapany.
- Be sure that the hair and make-up complements the clothes.
- Use pre-planned poses, but also look for new and original ones. Let your imagination take off and don’t stay with a comfort zone. Explore every possible angle. If you have equipment to get really high above the models, great! Try it. Shoot from the ground, left, right and every angle in between!
Allow the models to be spontaneous at times. A lot of models are fantastic at expressing themselves and can bring a lot to a shoot.
Lighting and Equipment
Lighting for fashion photography is a big subject. It would not be worthwhile to go into any depth here. But it’s worth mentioning that you can make a start with pretty much any lighting available to you.
Lots of great fashion photography has been produced with sunlight as the main light source. Indeed, window light is one of the most popular kinds of light for portrait and fashion photography.
So there’s nothing to hold you back. But soon enough you’ll need to begin getting to know the various tried and tested studio lighting arrangements that pro fashion photographers call on day in day out.
Here are some basic introductory fashion photography tips on lighting and equipment:
- Window light can be extremely effective. It’s often worth hanging a white sheet over the window in order to diffuse and soften the light. This can be your main light source, placed at 45º to 90º to the model.
- When you begin using additional lights, either in a studio or at home, it’s often necessary to employ one to ‘fill’ the shadowsthat appear on a model’s face – the other side to the main light source.
- Another common strategy is to place a third light source behind the model(s), which helps to make them stand out from the background.
- Shooting outdoors puts you at the mercy of the weather, and the sun becomes your primary light source. Bear in mind that clouds can be great, acting as giant diffusers!
- Camera: As beginners, any good consumer/prosumer DSLR is absolutely perfect. Should you choose to sell fashion photography on macro stock agencies, or be commissioned to produce photos that will be blown up as huge poster displays, you will need a professional DSLR with sufficient MP’s.
- Lenses: Whilst it’s often been more common for fashion photographers to exclude wide angle lenses from their shooting, this is not so much the case now. Basically, allow yourself to be free to use any lenses that you have available!
Fashion, as well as fashion photography, moves forward pretty fast.Keep up to date with what top fashion photographers around the world are doing by reading magazines like Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar.
Never get stuck shooting in the same style, rolling out familiar poses and lighting arrangements. Experiment and draw inspiration from other photographers’ work that catches your eye.