For all the energy you spend designing and creating, it’s a shame if a photograph fails to capture your effort when you put your pieces out into the world.
Fashion photography is easy to learn but hard to master, and getting the right photo can be incredibly difficult at times.
Don’t worry. This crash course in fashion photography will help you master the art beautifully.
When people dream of a professional photographer’s life, they usually think about fashion photographers—shooting beautiful models on beautiful beaches, travelling to exotic places every season, and rubbing elbows with A-list celebrities and supermodels.
As photographers, we know that professionals like that make up a tiny percentage of the industry.
What might surprise you, though, is how many different types of fashion images there are and how many different ways you can get into the industry.
It is valid in all types of photography, but it is especially prevalent in fashion–photographers become known and discovered for a unique style.
No one cares about the equipment you use or even the models you work with. What they care about is the look of the final images.
Once you’ve ideated and turned your idea into a finished product, you might just want to hire a professional photographer: who wants to put in extra work now, right? Well, bringing in a pro certainly helps to ensure quality, but it can be incredibly expensive if you choose this path.
On the other hand, if you’re looking to take control of everything or are just starting your career in fashion, then we suggest these tips for getting the highest quality photos without having to splash out for pricey equipment and staff.
Table of Contents
- 1 What is Fashion Photography?
- 2 Getting Started
- 3 Fashion Photography Basics
- 4 Styles of Fashion Pictures
- 5 Let’s Talk Equipment
- 6 In Conclusion
What is Fashion Photography?
Fashion images, strictly speaking, is dedicated to showing clothing and other fashion items in the best possible terms.
At its roots, it is marketing. It uses deeply ingrained human psychology to create an interest in and a desire for a product. Fashion images are trendy, hip, sexy, and vibrant.
Fashion photographers use beautiful models, avant-garde modelling poses, and exotic locations to help communicate the brand story and promote the designer’s goods.
But not all fashion is high-end stuff. Open any clothing magazine, and you will see everyday people wearing everyday clothing, and yes, those are fashion photos.
Is it even possible, though, with you living in lower Podunk, to ever break into glamour photography or fashion photography?
It most certainly is. Let’s look at some suggestions designed to help you get a foot – or should we say a lens – into the door of these fascinating photographic genres.
It may not happen overnight, but you can get started by following these key steps in paving the way for your success in glamour photography and fashion photography. Here’s how:
Learn Your Camera’s Features
The very first step is, of course, you. You must get that camera manual out and read it like the Bible, from cover to cover. Then go back and read it again.
You absolutely MUST learn and use all the features of your digital camera, hands down, no question.
You need to be a master of your equipment. Learn and practice a new feature of your digital camera every day or at least every week until you feel you’re ready to move on.
Assemble a Starting Portfolio
Before you can start knocking on celebrities or any other doors for glamour photography or fashion photography gigs, you’ll need to assemble as professional a portfolio as you possibly can by any (legal and ethical) means necessary.
Where are you going to do your photoshoots? Decide on a place or two or three.
Now think about some useful “props” that might come in handy. These needn’t be expensive or bulky.
Some suggestions include colourful scarves, baseball caps, small toys, dolls, large and small teddy bears, imitation fruits, a hand mirror, a telephone, a selection of sunglasses, newspapers, nylon stockings, reading glasses without glass lenses in them, a variety of plain and fancy hair clips, inflatable beach ball, musical instruments (flute, trumpet, guitar, harmonica), glass tumblers, vases, and the list could go on and on. Hopefully, you’ll come up with some useful ideas on your own too.
Now, for your first fashion photography models, get anyone you can from family, friends and neighbours.
You’ll simply exchange a half-an-hour “modelling session” for a set of prints or digital image files.
Try to vary the people a bit too if you can, from elderly to middle-aged, young adults, teens and children too.
Have some fun shooting the glamour photography samples you’re working on. Be imaginative and resourceful. Try new angles, combinations and effects.
Ask for Assignments
Okay, so you have a decent starting portfolio of “glamour photography” shots you’ve taken and assembled to show the possibilities of your range and depth of photographic artistry. Now it’s time for some payoffs.
There are two relatively simple ways to get models to pose for more professional photoshoot sessions. These are:
- Run a small “Photographic Models Wanted” classified ad in your local newspapers explaining that you’re assembling a professional portfolio and will exchange a set of images for a short photo session when people call for more information.
- Go to modelling agencies, talent agencies, charm schools, schools of acting, drama, agents for entertainers and performers, etc. with your starting glamour and fashion photography portfolio to show examples, and offer photo shooting sessions with their “models-in-training” for a small fee plus a series of prints. It’s extremely important in this field to be professional at all times.
Fashion Photography Basics
The Fashion Photography Setting
No, we haven’t jumped into the camera settings yet. First, choosing your shoot location depends on what you want the theme to be.
If you want to take artsy, editorial photos, the location can make or break a shoot. But if you’re into commercial or catalogue pictures, you can pretty much set up anywhere.
As long as you have good lighting, you can use bedsheets and clothespins to make a light-box or a studio background and shoot against it relatively easily.
If you’re shooting outside, make sure you pick a location that suits the ethos of the pieces you’re shooting.
If you can, try to plan the shoot as early as you can in the morning because the natural light will be bright but soft enough to save lots of hassle editing your photos.
Take lots of photos – far more than you think you’ll ever need – from various angles. You can always delete or edit pictures that you don’t love. It’s better to have shots you don’t need than not have ones you do need.
Finding models with who you can work is easier than you might think.
Working with experienced models will require less direction on your part – but if you’re on a low budget, find your most confident friends and recruit them as models.
Hair, makeup, and styling can be as low-effort as you like, or you can even ask them to do their own (but make sure they’re comfortable doing this – if they never wear makeup, you’re better off hiring a makeup artist or recruiting a friend who has some experience applying makeup to others).
Further, if you want the garments to shine, choose a subtle hair and makeup look. This can save time, money, hassle, and distraction.
You can find inspiration from anywhere.
Find advertisements or a campaign you particularly like, and as a simple way to creatively direct your shoot, try to recreate some of the shots and poses. Don’t be afraid to improvise.
If you’re using a digital camera, you can take as many frames as you want, especially if you set up an online photo storage solution to save all your pictures.
You can whip up most of a professional photo studio in a few hours. All you need is a light source and a couple of baffles to reflect light onto your model and reduce shadows.
There are many tutorials online to DIY some supplies and walk you through how to light every possible kind of shot you might want.
You don’t need to feel pressured to spend tons of money on a photo shoot, especially if you’re still in the process of starting and don’t have a lot of cash to throw around.
The Camera Settings
Fashion photography is unlike any other kind of photography. It involves the framing of landscapes, the motion of sports, and the intensity of portraits.
You’ll need a decent camera here because no amount of planning or creativity can compensate for poor resolution.
If you don’t have your own, then just borrow or rent one. Make sure you’re using a medium angle telephoto lens that has a range starting from at least 15mm to 50mm.
If you’re an inexperienced photographer, use a fast shutter speed to reduce blur and make your images crisper, especially if you’re shooting moving models. Using a tripod is ideal for increasing the chances of getting clear, crisp images.
High-quality fashion photography will make your pieces look much more professional and make it easier for you to confidently showcase and sell them.
If you have a free weekend, some clean sheets and a few willing friends, you can produce print-quality fashion photographs with just a bit of creativity and confidence.
Styles of Fashion Pictures
Fashion shoots typically fall into one of these categories.
Editorial Fashion Photography
If the shoot’s purpose is to tell a complete story in a fashion magazine’s pages, it’s considered editorial fashion photography.
These shoots typically follow a model through daily tasks and tell a narrative story. Of course, the designer’s clothing is featured throughout.
The type of photography used for a fashion shoot is seldom wholly at the hands of the photographer.
A photographer may have a specialty for which they are known in the industry. If that’s the case, publications and designers will seek them out for the shoot they want.
Otherwise, the type of fashion shoot will depend on the overall goals of the campaign. Will it be a story in a major fashion publication? Or will it be a billboard or advertisement?
High Fashion Photography
High fashion photography is the most avant-garde of all types of these images. These shoots usually involve supermodels or glitterati celebrities.
They are generally highly stylized, with crazy poses and over the top outfits designed to grab anyone’s attention.
Every element of the composition is chosen for maximum impact, from the location to the makeup and hair design.
These types of images are usually used in single-page magazine advertising or billboard campaigns. The purpose is to grab attention, so commercial models and exotic looking backgrounds are the subjects.
Two types of fashion photography involve models: high fashion and editorial.
This photograph above is a “high fashion” image. This type of work requires advanced skills in lighting, model direction, styling and post-production.
As a beginner, editorial fashion photography will be an easier route for you to give it a try.
You can attempt an editorial fashion shoot with nothing more than a model, camera, and editing software. For that reason, we’re going to skew our tips toward an editorial fashion shoot.
Here are a few points to consider:
- What look are you going for girl-next-door, gothic, sexy, etc.?
- Pick your model, clothes, cosmetics, jewellery, and hairstyle accordingly.
- Decide what story you want to tell. Don’t place a girl-next-door in a grunge location unless it tells your story. Fashion photography is about selling a fantasy. Every aspect of your photograph should be selling that fantasy related to your chosen product (your story).
- When you have your story, pick your location and make it fit the story. Don’t forget to ask for permission from the property owner (if it’s necessary). Nothing will derail your photoshoot faster than an uncooperative property owner. Most owners are happy to oblige. Be polite and clean up after yourself. If they agree to let you shoot at their location, ask them to sign a property release immediately.
- Now comes one of the most important steps – picking your model. As a beginner, you will most likely use friends. This is fine. We know a successful, professional fashion photographer who shot nothing but her friends for the first couple of years of her career. Try to pick a model that fits your theme and pay special attention to their skin’s quality, facial structure, and body type. Someone who is pretty in person doesn’t always photograph well. When your model agrees to the shoot, have them sign a model release immediately.
Now that you’re all set with what you’re going to do, where you’re going to do it, and who will model for you, let’s talk about whether you need additional help.
Will you attempt to produce this shoot alone? The team concept works exceptionally well in fashion photography as there are many details to attend to hair, makeup, clothing, props, lighting and styling. You may also be under a time constraint.
If you’re just starting, grab a model and go. However, if you truly are interested in doing this type of work, begin to think about building a team.
Could someone from your hair salon do the model’s hair? Could an art student from the local college style your set? Could you get your nephew to hold reflectors? Build a team, and you will build success.
At a minimum, you would want your team to include a photo assistant and some type of hair/makeup person.
The more creative people you bring to your shoot, the better your results will be.
You’ll be surprised at how many people will jump at the chance to participate in a fashion shoot just for the experience.
Let’s Talk Equipment
A DSLR is preferable. Fashion photography can be done with a point and shoot initially, but move to a DSLR as soon as possible.
A medium zoom lens will work best when you begin, something in the 18mm – 200mm range.
At first, you may wish to acquire prime lenses which offer a shallower depth-of-field. An inexpensive prime lens you may want to consider for fashion work is the 50mm f/1.4 or equivalent.
An external flash is a real asset. Fashion photography often incorporates direct lighting, so much additional fancy lighting equipment isn’t generally necessary to get started.
Purchase several large (at least 3 feet by 4 feet) white cards from your local art supply store to bounce light around.
If you’re doing the makeup yourself, you’ll need your makeup kit. It never hurts to include a sewing kit, an iron and ironing board, and some small spring clamps to fix and adjust clothing.
All in all, fashion photography is there to enhance your collection after you are done showcasing it.
Remember, your collection is visible to a finite audience – but photography can create the right ripples if done correctly and make you reach the desired numbers. Now that you have read all the tips go break some rules. Experiment and practice!