To plan, a fashion photoshoot is incredibly time-consuming and setting aside weeks, and even months, to arrange everything is quite common.
The more time you give yourself, the less stressful the experience.
Once your samples have been produced and have passed all of the fit and quality tests, selling your range and marketing will, no doubt, be next on your list.
However, before this can occur, you will need to start planning your visuals. Without these, it will be challenging to communicate with buyers, the press, and customers.
Most designers underestimate the time it takes to plan a photoshoot. They don’t spend enough time thinking about the kind of images they would need.
So, how should you prepare and plan a fashion photoshoot? What types of photos do you need?
That all depends on where the photographs will be used. If they’re to be used for your website, social platforms and a Lookbook, then a selection of style shots and product shots will be needed.
Follow this guide to help you successfully plan a fashion photoshoot.
Table of Contents
- 1 Organise A Test Shoot
- 2 Create A Mood Board
- 3 Set Up Casting Call
- 4 Build Your Styling Team
- 5 Location And Backgrounds
- 6 Cast A Model.
- 7 Create Model Cards
- 8 Set A Schedule
- 9 Prepare Each Look
- 10 Prepare The Samples
- 11 Contacts & Fees
- 12 Rinse And Repeat.
- 13 Finally, Keep On Shooting.
Organise A Test Shoot
Organise lots of them! Your first several fashion shoots will be “tests.”
Tests are a great way to improve your technique, test creative ideas or equipment, build a styling team you work well with and develop your portfolio.
Create A Mood Board
A mood board is a powerful tool to organise and direct your shoot.
Mood boards consist of inspirational images collected from other sources (often fashion magazines) that will help the model and styling team understand your shoot’s looks, poses, backgrounds, or locations.
I collect images on Pinterest and make a detailed mood board for every shoot.
What is your overall vision for the final images? Before the photoshoot, gather together images and compile a Mood Board.
This will enable you to plan what you would like to achieve. Sketch any styling ideas for the still photographs and think about poses that you’d like your model to focus on.
Once your Mood Board has been created, compile a shortlist of photographs you would like to emulate.
Set up a Pinterest Board to share with your team (which should include the photographer, stylist(s), and the models) before the shoot.
Print the list on the day of the photoshoot and make sure that each pose is ticked off the list once photographed.
This is an important step, as there is nothing worse than wrapping up after a long day only to realise that some shots were not taken.
You will need three types of photographs:
Product Flat Images:
These are full colour and feature your garments/products on a plain white background (laid flat for garments, hence the name).
Show front, back and side details.
Be sure to include close-ups of any important details.
E-Commerce / Linesheet:
These are garment or product shots on a model. No extra accessories should be included in these shots as the items are the stars.
The models should assume the same simple pose for each shot and hold it; this maintains consistency and helps prevent visual fatigue when the images are presented together on a page, such as a website.
Include a complete 360˚ view, if possible, to give viewers a complete picture of the products. Remember that a plain white background should be used, so plan the photo shoot accordingly.
Style shots convey your brand aesthetic and how the pieces can be used in everyday life.
Unlike e-commerce images, style shots should feature more movement and poses from the model(s) and show them enjoying the products.
The setting for these shots depends on your overall vision for the fashion photo shoot. They should include a model or models and can be shot in a studio or on location.
Think through how and where you would be using the images and cross-check with the type of shots you already have listed that you need.
Don’t forget to ensure you have portrait and landscape variations.
Set Up Casting Call
With your vision and look set, selecting the right model should be relatively easy.
Do you know what you are looking for? Are you looking for an olive-skinned brunette, a cool blonde, or an African queen? How many models will you need?
It may be easier to select up to three models, as this will ensure that the photoshoot progresses faster. Are you after group shots of the models walking together, singles or a mixture of both?
Depending on your budget, you can contact a model agency and look through their books for models.
Speak to them as different models have different fees (depending on their experience) and ask if any new faces need exposure and have “better” hire rates.
Alternatively, set up a casting through your social media channels and be sure to include a profile for the type of model you’re seeking.
Also, consider creating a flyer that can be circulated. Don’t forget to include your contact details along with the casting date and photoshoot location.
If you’re on a budget, look for new models who will work for prints but remember that you need models who are confident behind the camera.
A complete novice may be difficult to work with until they’ve gained some experience.
When looking for models, do NOT forget to specify the height, body measurements, size fit and shoe size. Try to arrange for a fitting before the fashion photoshoot to ensure that everything fits on the day.
Build Your Styling Team
Connect with creative professionals who are also getting into the industry and contribute their skills to exchange images from the shoot for their portfolios.
Makeup and hairstyling schools are a great place to meet talented and trained artists. At a minimum, you will need a makeup artist (many makeup artists are also proficient at basic hairstyling).
Eventually, you may add a hairstylist, wardrobe stylist, nail technician, photography assistant and more.
Select Hair and Makeup Professionals
Successful fashion photoshoots are those that have thought about the finer details in advance.
Having the right hair and makeup on the models can make a huge difference to the overall final look.
Finding Hair and Makeup artists (MUA) can be achieved by asking for recommendations from the photographer you’re going to use.
If you’re on a budget, consider contacting students at a college to work with, such as the London School of Makeup.
They may be happy to be paid with photographs. Alternatively, join a college FB group and post an advert there.
You can also contact agencies. Make sure, in all cases, that you see a good sampling of examples of their work before you make a booking.
Chat with them about the looks you’re trying to achieve and send them a mini Mood Board along with images of your models and colour references of your clothes or products.
Ideally, the stylist and makeup artist should have a firm idea of what it is you’re hoping to achieve at least two weeks before the shoot. If they need to purchase additional supplies and do any prep, this should be ample time.
Location And Backgrounds
Plan your locations far ahead of time.
If you’re shooting outdoors in the height of summer, bear in mind that direct sunlight will cast hard shadows, and the models will squint against the glare of the sun.
Either shoot first thing in the morning or late afternoon.
Any location shots that rely on particular trees or shrubbery being in bloom, for example, must be timed to coincide with seasonal changes.
If you’re shooting in a studio, it should be furnished with a selection of backgrounds and different types of lights.
Consider the following when shooting on location:
- Is there somewhere to hang garments? If not, then you must provide a portable rail.
- Is there a bathroom on location or close by?
- Are there changing facilities? If you’re shooting outside, you will need to arrange some type of changing area. It may not always be convenient for the model to use the facilities due to time constraints, so perhaps you could provide a large sheet that could be held up around the model as a makeshift tent.
- If you’re shooting a swimwear collection in winter, it would be wise to provide warm covers to wrap around the model.
Regardless of where you choose to shoot, make sure you have a First Aid kit on hand and ensure you have water and snacks or food to sustain everyone’s energy through the day.
Cast A Model.
“New faces” or “development models” are the newest models signed to an agency; these models seek test shoots to build their book and gain experience.
Reputable agencies will typically ask to see samples of your work before booking a model. An agency may also request a meeting in person before your first shoot with their model.
Before you approach an agency, shoot your most photogenic friends or cast models directly through industry websites like Model Mayhem or Model Management to build your portfolio.
Create Model Cards
It would be a good idea for each look that you shoot to plan each outfit that the model will be wearing. Here are some helpful pointers to bear in mind:
- Begin by taking full-length photographs of each outfit either on a model or flat lay.
- Print out each picture and attach it to a large board.
- Include close-up shots of all shoes and accessories.
- Try to show how each piece is worn in the case of bracelets or rings. Note which hand they should be placed on.
- Next to the photographs, list all of the items that are to be included in each look and include instructions for how the look is achieved.
- Include as much information as possible so that the stylist/model/dresser can just get on with the job. You, as the designer, will be too busy to dress models.
- Finally, add the model’s name, along with the order-of-shot number, at the top of the board and hang it in front of each outfit.
Inform the models whether they will need to bring anything with them on the day of the photoshoot, such as seamless, neutral colour underwear, including strapless and regular bras.
If you need to buy additional items such as shoes, props, accessories or additional clothes, keep the price tags attached. Tape the bottom of shoes to prevent scuffs. These items can then be returned after the shoot.
If you allow plenty of time to plan the fashion photoshoot, it would be a great idea to contact other brands and ask them to lend you props and accessories.
This will save you costs and perhaps even help you promote your brand as the other brands may want to shout out the collaboration.
Set A Schedule
Setting a schedule for the photo shoot is very important. Without a detailed schedule, you may not be able to accomplish your goals.
Each person’s arrival can be staggered, with the photographer arriving first to check equipment and set up.
Alternatively, since hair and makeup take time, especially if the looks you want to achieve are elaborate, schedule the photographer to arrive after the models, so you’re not paying them to wait around fiddling their thumbs while the models are getting ready. Allow 1-2 hours per model.
If you’re shooting outside and an inside, plan which will be done first, basing your decision on light and temperature.
Once you have worked all of this out, type up a list with everyone’s arrival details, including contact numbers, the location address, and email it to everyone involved. Print a copy for yourself.
Don’t forget to plan breaks and a lunch break.
Prepare Each Look
You will need to assemble the clothes and accessories as inspired by your mood board for each look.
Seek out local designers or boutiques that will allow you to “pull” (borrow) clothing and accessories for your shoot in exchange for credit or images.
Fashion photography is a subset of commercial photography, and the purpose is to sell the photographed items.
Be thoughtful in how you select and photograph these items. Eventually, you may work with a talented stylist who will handle this task, but you still have the final word on the overall look as the photographer.
Prepare The Samples
Your samples should be ready well ahead of the fashion photo shoot. Press them well and place them on a hanger in cellophane bags.
These should then be put into a zip-fronted garment bag to alleviate any damage that could occur in the interim. Remember to cut all loose threads and attach buttons securely.
If you leave the garments on the hangers for non-model shots, keep hanger loops out of sight by using double-sided tape on the inside of the garment and sticking the loops to it. This will minimise the need for extra Photoshop work for the photographer.
As much as possible, try to pack and look together rather than individual items. It will help you save time looking for the accessories when you are on location.
Contacts & Fees
When you plan a fashion photoshoot involving more than just one person, firm agreements are required. Whether you’re working with friends or take on professionals, agreeing on how you would work and the payments are super important.
What is even more important is documenting this in writing and ensuring both parties sign on the dotted line. This will ensure that everyone is clear on their obligations and expected them to collect their fee at the end of the day.
You don’t necessarily need a lawyer to draft you an agreement – you can do so yourself by clearly writing all the details (even stating the obvious).
Some of the information such an agreement should cover is:
Date of the agreement and who it is between (you and the stylist, you and the photographer, etc.)
- When and where the photoshoot will take place;
- Who is involved, and what is their role;
- What are their duties? What would you consider as “job is done” at the end of the project?
- Working timings of the project;
- What fee is agreed for the job and when and how it will be paid;
- What you expect to get in return for the fee (number of images, etc.);
- What happens in case of cancellation from either party
Regarding fees – as much as possible, try not to pay all in advance. Fees need to work both ways, and both parties need to feel secure that they will get what they have negotiated.
An acceptable scenario would be where you pay part of the total payment in advance as a deposit and the rest upon completing the work and when you are happy with the result.
Ensure you have agreements with all parties, including venue hire, if you are using a studio.
You don’t want to have unexpected costs as a result of not knowing the rules of engagement.
Rinse And Repeat.
Evaluate your work with a critical eye, and don’t be afraid to ask for your team members’ feedback. I love this entire process, and as soon as one shoot is over, find yourself thinking of and planning for the next one!
Finally, Keep On Shooting.
Coordinate as many shoots as possible to experiment with different techniques and concepts.
Over time, you will be able to harness the skills to start taking your creative risks and develop a personal style. In the meantime, keep practising with friends, family and yourself as well.
Although you may not get the full experience of shooting with a model and crew, you will be able to refine your lighting skills and learn the ins and outs of all of your equipment.
Your output might look like high-end fashion photographs (at first!), but you get a valuable chance to make mistakes and push yourself while growing one shoot at a time.
Experiment with as many different styles as possible while you are learning the ropes and honing your skills.
This will not only give you a greater opportunity to identify your strengths it will also help you broaden your photographic skillset. When you start developing your style, you will be more prepared to handle any photoshoot situation that comes your way.